What Biblical Geography Can Do for Your Spiritual Life

How the land of the Bible helps you understand the Bible.

We live in an age where avoiding obstacles, traveling great distances, and finding something to drink no longer prove a challenge.

With a transportation system that requires little more than a basic understanding of road signs and airline gates, our world gives little attention to the importance of geography.

But think about the times you visit a place you’ve never been before. It’s all strange.

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee

(Photo: Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee)

The unfamiliar landmarks, the sudden turns, and the unexpected potholes are impediments to your progress. It’s the same with Bible study.

Those of us who seek to understand the meaning of the Bible strongly believe in interpreting a passage in its context. But context is more than words. When one reads the Bible, it becomes clear how geography is the stage on which the redemptive narrative takes place.

The land God chose was not arbitrary, for He designed even the land itself to develop the spiritual lives of His people. The land was never intended to be just a place to live.

The same is true where you live.

A Land Where Life Depends on Faith

One of God’s stated purposes in bringing the Hebrews from Egypt was to give them a land that fostered faith (Deuteronomy 11:10-15).

The aqueduct at Caesarea

(Photo: The aqueduct at Caesarea)

In his excellent volume, The Land Between, James Monson observed:

This land served as God’s testing ground of faith. It was here, in this land where both personal and national existence were threatened, that Israel’s leaders and people were called upon to learn the true meaning of security and well-being, of trust in the Lord their God.

Studying the Bible’s geography has permanently marked my life and changed the way I understand the Bible.

  • Places and names, which I used to pass over, now immediately bring to mind a site’s history, its geographical pros and cons, its scenery, and even its smells.
  • Having knowledge of a passage’s geography gives me a head start as I attempt to understand why events took place—sometimes repeatedly—in certain locations.

Walking in the land of Israel has provided me with a deeper appreciation of God as Lord of world history and of seemingly minor details—both of which bring comfort to my life.

Floating on the Sea of Galilee

(Photo: Floating on the Sea of Galilee)

Research Shows It’s No Coincidence

My experience is not unique. I have conducted and videotaped a number of interviews with those who have both studied geography and also been to Israel.

My research revealed that those who understand and experience biblical geography enjoy:

  • Sharper comprehension of the Bible
  • Clearer direction to its application
  • More effective communication of truth
  • Greater confidence in the Bible as God’s Word
  • Greater love for the God of the Bible

Those who study geography, coupled with time in the land, experience an even greater benefit than those who simply read books. The more one understands the land of the Bible, the more he or she will understand the Bible itself. Its message then has a more profound impact on one’s spiritual life and ministry.

Experiencing the Holy Land adds a dimension of authenticity and confidence to our faith. (Tweet that.)

Solomon's gate at Megiddo

(Photo: Solomon’s gate at Megiddo)

Helps Your Memory

A knowledge of biblical geography serves as an additional way to retain the truth of a passage. Remembering what a location looks like enables you to picture the action, to remember the event, to imagine its occurrence in a way that helps you remember. Also many events took place in the same location, which also helps to tie the Bible together better.

Wondering where to start? Here are two suggestions:

  1. Get a good atlas and read it. Keep it handy when you read your Bible.
  2. Take a trip to Israel with a group that knows their stuff. Prepare before you go. It will change your life.

It may seem an overstatement to claim that you must study biblical geography to understand the Word of God. But it is fair to say that the study will take you much further toward an accurate understanding of God’s Word.

God used the land of the Bible to mold the lives of His people in the biblical narrative, and God uses it to shape the lives of people today.

Question: How important is biblical geography to you? To leave a comment, just click here.

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  • Thanks Wayne for drawing out these implications. Studying biblical geography has certainly changed my entire life!

    • You’re welcome, Larry. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how much understanding the land of the Bible gives us insight into the Bible itself—which does change our lives more and more? Thanks, Larry.

      • FaithTravelFocus

        You are so right, Wayne. Biblical geo study makes many things in Scripture much clearer. I am a dedicated faith traveler, and appreciate your insight and posts. Ruth Hill @faithtravelfocus.com

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  • DanLloyd

    JUC posted this article on FB. Great stuff, Wayne! I teach Biblical Geography at Tacoma Bible College, and I travel to Israel often. I love your website/blog. Thanks for providing it!

    There is hardly a page of Scripture without some kind of geographical reference. So, understanding geography is truly a part of understanding the Bible.

    Dan

    • Your comment is encouraging for a couple of reasons, Dan. I’m really glad you like the blog (thanks for that), and I’m even more glad that Tacoma Bible College teaches historical geography! You more than most know how rare that is! Even most seminaries sidestep this essential part of biblical “context.” Thanks again for your comment, but especially, Dan: thank you for your vital contribution to biblical education.

  • Jesse Joyner

    Went to JUC in Fall 2000 and just returned with my family for a 2.5 week trip this past May. It was so refreshing to stand in the midst of such history. Yes, I agree that when I read the Bible, there is dimension and context from having been there. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. For what it’s worth, I wrote down some of my own thoughts about how traveling there deepens my faith here: http://jessejoyner.com/is-the-holy-land-really-holy/

    • Jesse, I checked out your post about traveling to Israel with your family. You nailed it. Thanks for adding those valuable insights. God bless you, brother.

  • Carl Rasmussen

    Jim Monson is the best and most creative Biblical Geographer alive. His new materials can be accessed at http://www.bibback.com/RS_Maps.html and I believe more are in “the pipe line.”

    IMHO, all Evangelicals who are interested in the geography of the Bible today are either his “children,” “grandchildren,” or even his “great grandchildren”—whether they know it or not.

    • Your opinion, Carl, is of greater weight that most (IMHO). Indeed, we all owe Monson a debt of gratitude. God has used him in our lives to open our eyes to the oft-neglected, yet tremendous, insights that come through geography. I’m grateful to you for that reminder—as well as for the link to his new resources.

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