Biblical Jordan – the ‘other’ Holy Land

Rich in Bible history, Jordan is sometimes referred to as “the other Holy Land” offering tourists of all faiths and denominations an opportunity see, feel, and experience first-hand locations mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments.

Dating as far back as the Middle Bronze Age (c.2000-1600 BCE[1]), the Bible refers to regions in Jordan such as:

  • the hill country of Gilead in the north,
  • the plains of Moab in center, and
  • the priests of Midian in the south.

Included in these regions are the Biblical cities and villages of:

The Israelites were recorded in Exodus to have wandered for 40 years through the southern regions of Jordan (c.1250 BCE[2]). A journey that brought them into contact, and in some cases confrontation, with the at least three of the 7 nations of Canaan; including the:

Conflicts and encounters with these cultures continued through the early Iron Age (c.1200-1000 BCE[3]) marked by David’s conquest of these nations, including the dramatic capture of Rabbath Ammon or Rabbah that cost Uriah his life and his wife.

With the dawn of the second Iron Age (1000-539 BCE) came Solomon’s reign, whose massive wealth was supported in part by the copper mines of Wadi Arabah, near the port city Aqaba, known then as Ezion-geber. A few hundred years later King Amaziah captured Sela – now modern day Petra – on behalf of a divided kingdom; a period of time that also saw Elijah called to Heaven from the eastern banks of the Jordan river.

A few hundred years later, the entire region was reunited through the conquest of the Assyrians under Adanirari III and later Itglath-pileser III, both whom allowed the kingdoms of Ammon, Moab, and Edom retained their independence for the price of tribute[4].

With the turn of the 6th Century BC, came the Babylonian Empire under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar – a tumultuous time frame in which the Nabataeans took advantage of the confusion to infiltrate Edom, forcing the Edomites into the area of southern Palestine known as Idumaea[5].

While Cyris II of Persia brought an end to this disruptive era in 539 BCE, history still records conflicts between the Moabites and Ammonites – whom under the leadership of Tobiah, eventually put aside their differences to campaign unsuccessfully against resettled Jews under the protection of Darius I of Persia (522-486 BCE).

In fact it was not until the Hellenistic rule of the Selucids and Ptolemies that a short-lived stability came back to the Jordanian region, with Rabbath Ammon renamed Philadelphia, and Jarash Antioch-on-the-Chrysorrhoas, or Gerasa. The Nabateans again extending their kingdom northward when the Seleucids and Ptolemies engaged in civil conflict.

Eventually Rome stepped in under Pompey (64-63 BCE), establishing the league of 10 cities referred in the Gospels of Christ as the region of the Decapolis, that included the following Jordanian cities of:

  • Gerasa, modern day Jerash
  • Philadelphia, modern day Amman, the capital of Jordan
  • Gadara, modern day Umm Qays or Umm Qais
  • Pella, now Tabaqat Fahl
  • Arbila, modern day Irbid

Subsequent to this, the Nabatean kingdom was eventually absorbed into the Roman Empire as was the rest of Jordan up until the Byzantine Empire helped bring about the early foundations of the Christian church starting in 313 AD – this last period punctuated with establishment of several churches whose remnants are now archaeological findings that dot the modern day country of Jordan; many built onBiblically significant sites such as:

  • Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John Baptized Jesus;
  • Mount Nebo – where Moses is laid to rest after seeing the promised land;
  • Machaerus – where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded;
  • Madaba – whose 5th century mosaic floor offers a map of Biblical Jordan; and
  • Gadara (Umm Qais ) – where Jesus cast out the demons into a herd of swine;

Hence the reason Jordan is sometimes referred to as “the other Holy Land” – and why, as of today, we’re launching the new category of ‘Biblical Jordan’ on both this blog and its associated Wiki

… and an interactive map I just posted …

… and perhaps why you need to talk to your Church about a Biblical pilgrimage there?-)

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