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Biblical Nations - Midianites

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Midianites Key Scripture: Genesis 25:1-6 Figures: Jethro, Cozbi, Oreb, Zeeb, Zebah, Zalmunna Several weeks ago we studied a group known as the Kenites, who lived in the land of Midian and adopted Moses as one of their own after he left Egypt the first time.  This week we will expand on that story to understand more about the larger nation of the Midianites, as well as something more about their region.  As the land itself was rough and unforgiving, which as best we can tell was situated in what is now the northwest portion of modern Saudi Arabia, the inhabitants were nomadic in order to keep their herds constantly moving in search of water and good grazing.  This understanding, combined with the fact that the Bible and other historical texts provide little detail on the region, means the exact extents of Midian are nearly impossible to define.  But for our purposes we'll work with what we know and consider the assumptions of experts who have studied the Midianites more fully. Settl

Biblical Nations - Syrians (and a note of thanks)

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First, a note of thanks to all my readers - we hit 150,000 views on July 4, which seems quite appropriate given this blog's regular focus on history.  I appreciate every single click! Syrians Key Scripture:  Figures: Cushan-rishathaim, Ben-hadad, Naaman, Hazael, Rezin, Luke Sometimes readers of the Bible get the nations of Syria and Assyria mixed up, and for some good reasons.  Both occupy areas northwest of the land of the Hebrews, both had periods of control or influence throughout the region, and obviously their names sound similar in English.  But the nation we're studying this week, Syria, is much more closely related to the Jews and has endured to modern times.  They are also known as Aram in many translations, which may sound familiar when you remember that Abraham was described as a "wandering Aramean" in Deuteronomy 26:5.  Throughout the Old Testament the land of the Syrians is mentioned, acting at times as friend, foe, or example to the children of Israel, a

Biblical Nations - Egypt

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Egypt Key Scripture: Exodus 20:2 Figures: Hagar, Potiphar, Shishak, Neco This week we turn our attention to Egypt, one of the most famous and historic neighbors of Israel, and one who has appeared consistently throughout the entire Biblical narrative.  I struggled about whether or not to describe them as an empire, as they controlled or influenced vast stretches of territory at times throughout their history, but opted to simply refer to them as a people group.  Because they are one of the earliest nations to impact Abraham and his descendants, but also have continued influencing the Jewish people all the way up to modern times, it is impossible to assign them a single geographic extent.  The one constant throughout history has been the Nile River, which serves as both the symbol and lifeline of one of the world's great enduring civilizations. Noah's son Ham gave birth to Mizraim, which is the original Hebrew name for the land of Egypt.  One of the great difficulties in underst

Biblical Nations - Babylonian Empire

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Babylonian Empire Key Scripture: Jeremiah 50:17 Figures: Merodach-baladan, Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach, Belshazzar It is doubtful that any empire in Scripture is held in more scorn by the Jewish people than Babylon.  As the chosen tool that God used to ultimately destroy Jerusalem, including Solomon's Temple, the mighty Babylonians conquered and laid waste to much of the territory surrounding the Promised Land as they expanded under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.  This week we'll look at their origins, history, and eventual downfall as the last true empire that dominated over the children of Israel during the time recorded in the Old Testament. Known to historians as the Neo-Babylonian Empire, this kingdom of Chaldeans was the second empire that had arisen from the southern Mesopotamian land of Shinar (the first being nearly a millennium earlier around the time of Hammurabi).  As well-known and historically important as it was, however, the dominion of these Babylonians lasted

Biblical Nations - Assyrian Empire

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Assyrian Empire Key Scripture: Isaiah 10:5-12 Figures: Tiglath-pilesar, Shalmaneser, Sargon, Sennacherib This week, as we continue looking into the people groups that held control of the Hebrew people at some point during their history, we come across an empire that grew from one of the earliest locations to be mentioned in Scripture.  When describing the rivers that flowed from the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2 records that the Tigris was located east of Assyria.  As the region lies immediately south of the Ararat mountains at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent, it was one of the first to be populated by the descendants of Noah after the Flood.  The Assyrians experienced several rises and declines, like most long-standing civilizations, but the period we are most interested in for our current study is described by scholars as the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Although it was Ham's grandson Nimrod that founded many of the important cities there, the region gets its name from one of Shem&

Biblical Nations - Persian Empire

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Persian Empire Key Scripture: Daniel 5:25-28 Figures: Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes Last week we looked at the final empire to rule over the Jewish people prior to the start of the New Testament, and this week we will learn about the kingdom they conquered, the Persians.  While they factor into the Biblical account fairly late in the Old Testament, not being discussed until after the children of Israel had already been taken into captivity and removed from their homelands, they play a significant role in showing mercy to the dispersed Jews and allowing them to return to rebuilt and repopulate Jerusalem.  In fact, it can be argued that the Jewish people had fewer problems from the Persians' period of rule than they had from any other group during the Biblical narrative.  At its greatest extent, the Persian Empire was larger than any known kingdom on earth up to that point. Historians refer to the Persian kingdom as the Achaemenid Empire and target their rise as beginning in appr

Biblical Nations - Greek Empire

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Greek Empire Key Scripture: Daniel 8:21 Figures: Alexander the Great, Ptolemy, Antiochus This week, as we begin to turn our attention towards the empires and kingdoms that ruled over the Hebrew people, we will look at Greece.  In this study we discover one of the most influential people groups that almost entirely missed the time frame of the Biblical narrative.  It was, however, spoken of on several occasions and left an indelible mark on the psyche of the Jews during the time of the New Testament.  It is also worth noting that the Greek Empire was the first European power to hold political sway over the descendants of Israel. The people who settled in what would one day become Greece were descended from Noah's son, Japheth.  This is likely the same name that they identify with their ancestor, Iapetos.  They did not call themselves Greek - that is a name that the Romans would later give them after their empire came to an end.  Instead, they referred to themselves as Hellenes.  The

Biblical Nations - Obscure People Groups

Now that we have completed our look at the early inhabitants of Canaan prior to its conquest by the children of Israel, I want to take one post to address some of the minor groups who are mentioned in Scripture.  Although we are given names of many tribes and nations, sometimes there simply isn't enough information or history to conclusively place or identify.  In fact, some of them may actually represent titles or designations that do not refer to genealogy or location at all, although I have attempted to remove some of the names that seem to fit that description. Ashurites - 2 Samuel 2:8-9 - After the death of Saul, his son Ish-bosheth engaged in a lengthy war of succession against David.  Despite the similar name, this group of people is probably not descended from Abraham's son, Asshurim, who was born to Keturah after the death of Sarah.  The Ashurites were listed, however, as one of the tribes under the rule of Ish-bosheth alongside the people of Israel. Elkoshites - Nahum

Biblical Nations - Canaanites

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Canaanites Key Scripture: Genesis 12:5 Figures: Rahab, Bera, Jabin, the Syrophoenician woman This week we pick up our study of Biblical people groups with the last of the names given to the inhabitants of the Promised Land.  The name "Canaanites" is, and probably always was, something of a catch-all term for the rest of the various nations living throughout the region that were descended from Shem's son, Canaan.  Because the land that God promised Abram had already adopted the name of Canaan by the time he departed Ur, which took place approximately 420 years after the Great Flood, it is also likely that the children of Israel used that name to describe all the non-Hebrew inhabitants they encountered.  Among the people groups that the term may have included, in addition to the names we've already explored, are the Sidonians, Arkites, Arvadites, Sinites, Zemarites, and Hamathites.  These names represent groups that were either too small or remote to merit significant r

Happy Mother's Day!

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I had a few technical issues this week on my computer while preparing the latest post, so I'm going to postpone it until next week.  In the meanwhile, I would like to wish all of the amazing moms out there a very happy Mother's Day.  May you all feel loved and appreciated, and not just one day of the year!  For those of you who are separated from your mom today or may have a mother whose time has passed, I hope you took time to smile about all she has meant to you and thank God for putting her in your life.  I'll be back next Sunday night with another Biblical nation (and if you've been following along, you can probably make a solid guess on who it will be).  Until then, have a terrific week!  The Geographist

Biblical Nations - Amorites

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Amorites Key Scripture: Genesis 48:21-22 Figures: Mamre, Og, Sihon This week we'll delve into the history of the Amorite people, who are more recognized by historians and archaeologists than several of their neighbors across the Canaanite region.  In fact, they were well known by many nearby contemporary kingdoms, and almost universally disliked.  As nomadic tent-dwelling people, the Amorites affected or even controlled the political situations in some of the greatest ancient civilizations, and were documented in various writings that have survived from several more.  That said, however, the term "Amorite" may have had different meanings and connotations to writers - those speaking the Semitic language of the same name, those worshipping the deity known as "Amurru", or those either originating from or settling within a geographic area bearing that god's name.  With such a notable level of potential uncertainty, however, we'll try to investigate what is b

Biblical Nations - Hivites

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We cruised past 130,000 hits last week - thank you all, and let's keep pushing towards 150k!! Hivites Key Scripture: Exodus 23:22-24 Figures: Shechem, Hamor, Oholibamah This week's subject is somewhat different from the rest of the people groups who lived in the Promised Land, as all of the named Hivite individuals come from Genesis rather than the time of Joshua.  They did play an important role during the war of conquest, however, but while their cities were identified we are not given the names of any specific people.  Over time, the Hivites were connected to various locations within the region where the twelve tribes would settle, and in particular their cities would eventually be settled by Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh (interestingly, these are the three tribes descended from Jacob's younger wife, Rachel).  But they were also said to have possessed regions to the north, including portions of modern Jordan and Syria, and according to one theory may also be linked to

Biblical Nations - Girgashites

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Girgashites Key Scripture: Joshua 24:11 Figures: none You may have noticed there are a variety of "Key Scriptures" that all deal with the inhabitants of the Promised Land, rather than a simple repetition the same passage each week.  It's been my hope that by looking up each one of these you'll get to see a wider range of God's communication with his people, first promising to provide a place for them, then commanding them how to act, and finally following through on His side of the covenant.  This week we delve into the mystery of the Girgashites, a group of people who are listed among the nations who Israel is to destroy and dispossess.  Biblically and historically, however, not much is known for certain about the group.  As such, we'll look into where they came from and explore some of the ideas that have been developed about their movements and ultimate destiny. Like other groups inhabiting the land where Joshua and the Hebrew people invaded, the Girgashite

Biblical Nations - Hittites

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Hittites Key Scripture: Exodus 3:7-8 Figures: Heth, Ephron, Ahimelech, Uriah This week we will delve into another one of the people groups who lived in the Promised Land prior to the people of Israel invading under the leadership of Joshua.  But this study is more complicated and uncertain that others, because historians, linguists, and archaeologists have long disputed and wrestled with the identity of one or more civilizations that have held the name of "Hittite".  Scripture may ultimately reference two separate groups with the same name in the translations we now use, so in this lesson we'll break down the information available and allow the reader to draw conclusions on identity.   The first reference to the Hittites could be written as "Heth-ites", as they are listed in Genesis as the offspring of Heth, the son of Canaan.  This family tree is obviously closely related to the other inhabitants of the land that God promised Abraham, and the patriarch himself

Biblical Nations - Jebusites

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Jebusites Key Scripture: Joshua 3:10 Figures: Melchizedek, Adoni-zedek, Araunah As we continue digging through the people groups of the Bible, this week we learn about the second nation within Canaan that the Israelites encountered.  The Jebusites were the final group mentioned specifically by God to Abraham when describing the Promised Land, and were one of seven nations that He commanded the twelve tribes to destroy during their conquest.  Because they are listed last, it may be that they were numerically the smallest of the inhabitants.  Geographically, the Jebusites are only associated with the area immediately surrounding Jerusalem, and were known to live in the hill country for centuries.  Culturally, they have a complicated history, with religious beliefs that may have changed over time from a worship of God to pagan practices that included idolatry, immorality, and possibly even child sacrifice. First mentioned in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, we know that the Jebusites w

Biblical Nations - Perizzites

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Perizzites Key Scripture: Genesis 15:18-20 Figures: Adoni-bezek After getting to know the Kenites last week, I thought it would be interesting to find out more about the inhabitants of the Promised Land prior to its conquest by Israel under the leadership of Joshua.  There are several distinct groups that are mentioned frequently as living in the land that God had promised Abraham, and to lead off the list I've chosen the Perizzites.  Very little is known for sure about this group, but they lived alongside those descended from Canaan in the family of Ham, and are never referenced separately from one or more of their Canaanite co-inhabitants.  Geographically, they occupied some of the areas where the Kenites could also be found, with the book of Joshua pointing out that they occupied some of the hill country areas that would eventually be allotted to Judah and Ephraim.  Culturally, they were associated with the worship of Phoenician deities such as Baal and Ashtoreth.  This people g

Biblical Nations - Kenites

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First off, a quick note that the blog has quickly surpassed 120,000 views - thank you all for the continued support and encouragement!  Kenites Key Scripture: Judges 1:16 Figures: Jethro, Jael, Rechab If you read last week's post, you're already acquainted with a group that continually opposed the children of Israel.  This week, let's look at a family that is related to the story of those Amalekites but maintained a long-standing friendship with the Jewish people.  Readers first encounter the Kenite people group during the exile of Moses, when he fled Egypt and stayed in Midian.  While there, he met the family of a man who is referenced by two names in Scripture - Jethro and Reuel - and married his daughter, Zipporah.  Thus the Kenite people became the third separate nation that Moses could legitimately claim as family, being born to a Hebrew couple and raised by the Egyptian princess.  Thus began a relationship that was one of the few mutually beneficial friendships that t

Biblical Nations - Amalekites

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Amalekites Key Scripture: Exodus 17:8-16 Figures: Amalek, Agag, Haman One of the earliest people groups the children of Israel encountered after leaving Egypt were not-so-distant relatives.  The Amalekites were a semi-nomadic group that were descendants of Amalek, a grandson of Esau (Israel's twin brother).  They are not specifically associated with the Edomites who settled in the region of Mount Seir, which could mean they maintained a separate identity due to some unknown conflict.  They were not friendly towards Moses and his followers, and earned a series of curses and rebukes over the course of many years for their hostility.  The Negev, an expansive desert at the southern extent of Canaan, was where the Amalekites wandered during the time of the Exodus, and they remained in that area until the time of Israel's first kings. Amalek was the son of Esau's oldest son, Eliphaz, and a concubine named Timna.  He is listed as the seventh in order of the chiefs of Edom (the ter

Biblical Nations - Nephilim

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Nephilim Key Scripture: Genesis 6:4 Figures: The Anakim, possibly related to the Rephaim (including Og and Goliath) This week we will explore a people group is mysterious and controversial, simply because of a lack of specific Biblical information.  During the pre-Flood account of history between Adam and Noah, we are introduced to individuals who are famous during their time for being mighty.  They are called the Nephilim, which has been translated as "fallen ones" in English, but their description is enigmatic at best and has resulted in a number of theories and challenges about their true identities.  In this case, the precise wording in Scripture is especially useful, and I will use the NASB translation: "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of mankind, and they bore children to them.  Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown." Genesis 6:4 The first detail that must be det