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I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

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With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Trip Down A River to the Source – Part Four

A Trip Down A River to the Source – Part Four

So, it is easy to see how in an environment of a growing animal herd in an area where you do not have much water like in Jerusalem and the hill country of Ephraim just to the north of Jerusalem where Abraham was living, strife between herders competing for scarce resources for their animals would not be unusual.

So Lot made a decision.

"And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)" (Genesis 13:10 ESV)

This is an important text for a number of reasons. First, the region of the Jordan Valley was at that time relatively speaking "well watered" and was a paradise, "like the Garden of the LORD (Eden)" and very importantly "like the land of Egypt."

Now why is the mentioning of that region being like the Garden of Eden and like the country of Egypt important? It is because of the presence of water mainly from the Jordan River, but also because of one other reason. Notice it right at the end of verse 10: "This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah." This is significant. 

Now, today the region of the Dead Sea, which in ancient times was called the 'Salt Sea' (Genesis 14:3), did not in any way appear like it does today.

When you go to that region and imagine what it might have looked like in ancient times, you really get a feeling of what the Garden of Eden must have been like. It seems fairly clear that the Garden of Eden was located in Southern Iraq just to the North of where the major rivers empty into the Persian Gulf and in that area it is quite warm most of the year. It is the same thing in this region of Jericho today. It is a beautiful desert climate. 

But what we have to understand is that at one time before the Dead Sea came into existence in the time of Abraham and Lot, this area was not the Dead Sea, but it was a beautiful lake with the Jordan River feeding it. 

One cannot determine the precise dimensions of that lake and it is quite hard to say with certainty anything about it exactly, but Genesis 13 says that region was like "the Garden of the Lord."

Let's be clear. This environment is one where mangoes, bananas, date palms, oranges, lemons, even pineapple can and does grow. The dates from this region are particularly prized. Check an artists representation of what we are talking about below.  

Artists representation of the Jordan River in the time of Jesus. 
Taken at the Jerusalem Natural History Museum.

When we realize also that there was a small part of the landscape just to the north of the point where the Jordan River entered the Dead Sea, which was known as a Savannah landscape (called Sudanian Penetration Zone - which in technical terms means a 'mini Africa' type of landscape) which had the lion as the top of the food chain, you get a paradisiacal environment which resembled the Garden of Eden, which also had a great deal of wildlife in its environment. 

Note: This is an icon of St. Gerasimos, who lived very near the Jordan river some 1,500 years ago (a monastery still occupies the spot today where he lived) and we see in the icon, the saint caring for a lion who was his companion. That lion, named Jordan, appears to have accompanied the saint throughout his life. 

But while this is the case, let us be clear, some 20 miles to the west, some 4,200 feet above the bottom of the Jordan valley (which itself is some 1,400 feet below sea level), in Bethel, Abraham lived and the well watered plains of the Jordan were a whole world away and had no impact on Abraham and his lifestyle. In the hill country, the community there was totally dependent upon springs and upon God's bountiful rains that they needed to come in due season, because without them, life was very hard in that area because it was not well watered.

To be continued…

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