The Lands of the Bible
The Extent of the Land
The actual territory occupied by the ancient Hebrew/Jewish people varied from time to time. For the sake of comparison, its maximum extent covered an area a little larger than Wales in the United Kingdom or about the area of Vermont in the USA. A familiar biblical phrase describes the land as stretching ‘from Dan to Beer‐sheba’ (for example, Judges 20: 1 ), a distance of some 150 miles (about 240 km). In 2 Kings 23: 8 the area occupied by the towns of Judah is said to stretch ‘from Geba to Beer‐sheba’. Elsewhere, the southern boundary is envisaged as extending as far as Kadesh‐barnea (Num. 34: 4 ) some 45 miles (72 km) further south. The northern extent of territory occupied by Israelites is sometimes described as Lebo‐hamath (for example, Num. 34: 8 ), a phrase which may mean ‘Entrance to Hamath’ and designate the area between the Orontes and Leontes rivers, or else a town (Lebweh) on the Orontes. In 1 Kings 8: 65 , a festival in the time of Solomon involving ‘all Israel’ is said to have involved people ‘from Lebo‐hamath to the Wadi of Egypt’. The biblical narrative also suggests that some Israelite tribes occupied territory in Transjordan. Deuteronomy 3: 8 mentions the territory from Mount Hermon in the north to the River Arnon in Moab. There are also suggestions that there were times when Israelite control included the whole of Moab and Edom (cf. 2 Sam. 8 ). The account of the reign of Solomon envisages the territory under his control as reaching as far south as Ezion‐geber on the Gulf of Aqaba and thus including an important commercial outlet (1 Kgs. 9: 26 ); this territory would also have included the rich copper deposits of the Arabah. Even much later, the designation ‘from Dan to Beer‐sheba’ conveys a reasonably accurate designation of the Kingdom of Herod, which stretched from the vicinity of Beer‐sheba in the south and encompassed Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, reaching almost as far north as Paneas close to the site of Dan, and included land in Transjordan. The same is true of the time envisaged in the Gospels, when the Roman province of Judea and the tetrarchies of Herod Antipas and of Philip stretched from Beer‐sheba to Paneas, renamed Caesarea Philippi.