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Places & Cities of the Bible: Profiles of Places & Cities in the Bible

For many, the Bible is a historically accurate record and a reliable guide to people, places, and events in the past. For most scholars, the Bible records events from the past but only through the filters of religious, political, and social agendas - filters thick enough to make it difficult at best to disentangle fact from fiction. Despite this, most if not all places described in the Bible not only existed then but also exist today - and continue to play a part in religion and politics.

Tyre, Lebanon: Photos & Images
Located in Lebanon north of Acre but south of Sidon and Beirut, Tyre was one of the most important of the ancient Phoenician cities. Today Tyre contains excavations of ruins dating to Crusader, Byzantine, Arab, Greco-Roman, and earlier eras. Tyre is also referenced quite a few times in the Bible, sometimes as an ally of the Israelites and...

Sidon, Lebanon: Photos & Images; Religion, History, Culture of Sidon
Sidon is the third-largest city in Lebanon. Located 48 km south of Beirut, Sidon was one of the most famous cities of the ancient world but today it is one of the least well known - its archaeological relics have either been stolen and scattered or covered over by modern construction. There is evidence of human settlement at least as early as...

Wilderness: Profile of the Wilderness, Frequently Described in the Bible -...
The general term 'wilderness' may sound like it refers only to desolate or desert areas, but in the context of Palestine it has wider connotations. Wilderness isn’t just a type of place, it’s also a concept when it comes to biblical texts. The Hebrew word used for wilderness, midbar, doesn’t just mean 'a desolate and deserted place,' it also...

Arch of Titus: Profile of the Arch of Titus in Rome - History, Geography,...
The Victory Arch of Titus commemorates Titus' victorious conquest of Judaea, leading the sacking of Jerusalem and ending the Jewish wars. The arch was constructed after Titus's death in 81 CE, after his becoming a god. It was probably built by this brother and successor, emperor Domitian, but some believe that it was actually built by emperor...

Bethlehem: Profile of the City of Bethlehem in Palestine - History,...
The earliest human habitation in Bethlehem (today: Bayt Lahm, Arabic for 'house of meat') dates back to the Paleolithic era, but the earliest reference to Bethlehem appears in Egyptian diplomatic correspondence from the 14th century BCE. Jewish tradition has it that Ruth, great-grandmother of David, moved to Bethlehem. The village became his...

Bethsaida: Profile of Bethsaida by the Sea of Galilee - History, Geography,...
Bethsaida was a small fishing village on the Sea of Galilee that was made a "city" by tetrarch Philip and renamed Bethsaida-Julias after the daughter of Caesar Augustus some time before 2 BCE. Philip himself spent a lot of time here and died in Bethsaida in 34 CE.

Caesarea (Maritima): Profile of the City of Caesarea (Maritima) - History,...
Originally a fortified Phoenician port named Strabo's (or Straton's) Tower, Caesarea became part of the Roman province of Syria under Pompey and would serve as the seat of Roman government in Palestine for over 600 years. Herod the Great was responsible for expanding the city in 10 BCE and naming it Caesarea Maritima after Caesar Augustus...

Caesarea Philippi: Profile of the City of Caesarea Philippi - History,...
Caesarea Philippi was a Gentile town where ancient Greek and Roman shrines to the god Pan were once located. Josephus records that Herod the Great was given the town by his Roman patron, Caesar Augustus (Octavian). It got the name Caesarea Philippi when Herod's son Philip acquired control and named it after Caesar.

Capernaum: Profile of Capernaum - Did Jesus Teach Here? History, Geography,...
The name 'Capernaum' is Hebrew for 'village of Nahum' and is the name for a small village on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Today it has been identified with the modern site of Tel Hum which has been excavated off-and-on for over a hundred years. Human habitation can be traced back to around the 2nd century BCE and it was abandoned...

Citadel & Tower of David: Profile of the Citadel & Tower of David in Jerusalem
Often called 'David's Citadel' and 'David's Tower,' these names are erroneous because David didn't have anything to do with them. The cylindrical tower was built during the 16th century and the square tower (citadel) dates back to Herod. Today the site is a museum that teaches about the history of Jerusalem's Old City.

Dead Sea: Profile of the Dead Sea - History, Geography, Religion
The Dead Sea is a lake which the Jordan River empties into and in ancient times it was known by many names: Salt Sea, Eastern Sea, and Sea of Sodom for example. Most of the names reference the fact that its salt and mineral content is over 30% (compare with the oceans having a salt content of 6%). This is because water only leaves by evaporation...

Decapolis: Profile of the Cities of the Decapolis - History, Geography, Religion
The 'Decapolis' was a federation of ten hellenized cities. This league was originally the creation of Alexander the Great and his successors. According to Pliny the Elder, the cities of the Decapolis included Canatha, Gerasa, Gadara, Hippos, Dion, Pella, Raphaana, Scythopolis, and Damascus. Of these, four were most important: Gadara, Pella,...

Fertile Crescent: Profile of Fertile Crescent Region - History, Geography,...
The Fertile Crescent begins in southern Iraq where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers empty into the Persian Gulf and extends north along with the rivers, turns west in what was ancient Assyria, then turns south in modern Syria.

Gadara: Profile of Gadara - Where Did Jesus Cast Out Demons? History,...
Gadara is the site where Jesus exorcised demons from a man and sent them into a herd of swine which then proceeded to jump into the sea. The exact name of the place is a matter of dispute among the gospel authors. Mark says it happened Gerasa, Matthew says it happened Gadara, and Luke says it happened in Gergesa.

Galilee: Profile of the Region of Galilee - History, Geography, Religion
Galilee (Hebrew galil, meaning either 'circle' or 'district') was one of the major regions of ancient Palestine, larger even than Judea and Samaria. The earliest reference to Galilee comes from Pharaoh Tuthmose III, who captured several Canaanite cities there in 1468 BCE. Galilee is also mentioned several times in the Old Testament (Joshua,...

Gehenna: Profile of Gehenna - Is This Where People are Punished for Eternity?
The name Gehenna comes from the Hebrew ge-hinnom which means 'valley of Hinnom.' Today it's more generally used to refer to hellfire, but it is an actual location that only acquired a metaphorical meaning during the intertestamental period - probably because it was associated with forbidden religious practices and condemned by Jeremiah.

Golden Gate of Jerusalem: Profile of the Golden Gate of Jerusalem - History,...
The wall surrounding Jerusalem's Old City has 11 gates, seven of which are open: Jaffa, Zion, Dung, St. Stephen's (Lions'), Herod's, Damascus (Shechem) and New. The most famous of all Jerusalem's gates may be the Golden Gate, which is sealed.

Idumea (Edom): Profile of the Region of Idumea (Edom) - History, Geography,...
Idumea (Idumaea) is the Greek word for 'Edom' that is used in the Septuagint. The name 'Edom' comes from the Semitic root for 'red' or 'ruddy' and was probably created in reference to the red sandstone in the region. Almost nothing is known about ancient Edom. No inscriptions have been found and thus far only a few seals have been identified....

Jaffa (Joppa): Profile of the City of Jaffa (Joppa) - History, Geography,...
Joppa is Hebrew for 'beauty' and was generally known as Jaffa in ancient times. It is the oldest and perhaps the most famous seaport on Israel's coast. It served the needs of Jerusalem and much of the inner Judean hill country. The earliest occupation of Jaffa has been dated to around 1900 BCE and the earliest reference occurs in a list of...

Jericho: Profile of Jericho - Did the Hebrews Destroy its Walls? History,...
The city of Jericho, now identified with Tel es-Sultan, is thought by some archaeologists to be as much as 11,000 years old, making it one of the oldest sites of human settlement in the world. The earliest evidence of human occupation is a Mesolithic shrine and there is evidence one city build overtop of another for several millennia.

Jerusalem: Profile of the City of Jerusalem in Palestine - History,...
Jerusalem is a key religious city for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The earliest habitation that has been identified is a walled settlement on the eastern hill that had a populace of around 2,000 people during the 2nd millennium BCE in an area known today as the 'City of David.' Some evidence of settlement can be traced back to 3200 BCE, but...

Jordan River: Profile of the Jordan River - History, Geography, Religion
The name 'Jordan' comes from the Hebrew word 'descender' because of the way it descends from its sources. The Jordan is the world's lowest river, flowing well below sea level for most of its course: although it starts at more than 1,000 feet above sea level, it ends at 1,300 feet below after traveling 104 miles (straight line -- the winding...

Judea: Profile of the Region of Judea in Palestine - History, Geography,...
Judea is the Greco-Roman form of Judah, the region in Palestine named (according to Genesis) after the fourth son of Jacob and his first wife, Leah. Political authority over Judea was often located in Jerusalem, but Roman rulers were typically based in Caesarea on the coast. It was economically dependent on Jerusalem and provided little...

Kidron Valley (Qidron Valley): Profile of the Kidron Valley Outside Jerusalem
The Kidron Valley is one of the major geographical features around Jerusalem. At one time the spring of Gihon followed through the Kidron, creating the valley, but the spring was diverted by Hezekiah's tunnel and the waters are now brought up to the Pool of Siloam within the city.

Masada: Profile of the Fortress of Masada in Palestine - History, Geography,...
The name Masada comes from the Hebrew mesadah, which means 'stronghold.' It was the last and most fortified Jewish fortress during the Jewish War. It is believed that the first fortifications were built here around 150 BCE by Johnathan, brother of Judas Maccabeus, but these were rebuilt and expanded by Herod the Great around 40 BCE.

Megiddo: History, Geography, Religion of Megiddo - Will Armageddon Occur Here?
Megiddo is an ancient city which is today associated with the Tell el-Mutesellim. Occupation of the site can be traced to the early 4th millennium BCE. It is most famous for its association with Armageddon, a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew for 'Mount Megiddo.' No such mountain exists, but the book of Revelations describes the site as that...

Mount of Olives: Profile of the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem - History,...
The Mount of Olives (also: Mt. Olivet) is part of a limestone ridge protecting Jerusalem that splits north of the city and unites again to the south. The area around the Mount of Olives is pretty desolate today; in ancient times, though, it was heavily wooded with olive trees - thus the name 'Mount of Olives.' Olives were an important industry...

Nazareth: Profile of Nazareth - Did Jesus' Mother Mary Come From Here?...
Nazareth was a small agricultural village of no importance and which would have disappeared from all memory if not for its associations with Jesus in the gospel traditions. If it was occupied on a permanent basis, it wouldn't have held much more than 1,000 people and possibly only as many as 500. Luke describes it as a 'city' rather than...

Palestine: Profile of Region of Palestine - History, Geography, Religion of...
Palestine is one of the traditional names for the 'Lands of the Bible.' Other names include: Holy Land, the Promised Land, Israel, and Canaan. The name Palestine stems from the Philistines, enemies of the Israelites in ancient times, and was originally used just for the southern coastal area where they settled. Greek historian Herodotus was the...

Perea: Profile of the Region of Perea Beyond the Jordan River - History,...
The name 'Perea' is Greek for 'beyond' and refers to the region east of the Jordan River -- in other words, 'beyond the Jordan River.' Perea isn't mentioned in the Bible except for once in Luke, but it's possible that other gospel authors who describe things occurring 'beyond the Jordan' had Perea in mind. Perea is well attested in other...

Qumran (Khirbet Qumran): Profile of Qumran, Origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Khirbet Qumran is thought to have been an Essene colony. Archaeological excavations have found evidence of human habitation going back to at least the 2nd and possibly even the 9th century BCE when it may have been a fortress. Studies indicate the presence of kitchens, storerooms, and more which would have been built by John Hyrcanus (135-140 BCE).

Samaria: Profile of the Region of Samaria in Palestine - History, Geography,...
Samaria (Hebrew: somron) was a region of Palestine comprising the northern kingdom of Israel created when north and south split after the death of Solomon (c. 930 BCE) The region was named after its capital city, Samaria. Assyria captured Samaria in 721 BCE and it was at this time that the general usage of 'Samaria' for the region appears to...

Sea of Galilee - History, Geography, Religion
The Sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake 150 feet deep and 700 feet below sea level. Technically it is a lake, but the Hebrew yam can mean either a freshwater lake or a proper sea. Surrounding cities include Bethsaida, Capernaum, Tiberias, and Hippos. The Hebrew name is Kinneret, from the Hebrew word for harp (kinnor), a reference its harp shape.

Tiberias: Profile of the City of Tiberias - History, Geography, Religion
The city of Tiberias was constructed around 20 CE by Herod Antipas and dedicated to Caesar Tiberius. It replaced Sepphoris as the capital of Galilee, which Herod ruled. Tiberias became the first Jewish 'polis,' the Greek term for 'city' which meant that it was sovereign in both external and internal matters.

Tombs of Jerusalem: Profile of the Tombs of Jerusalem - History, Geography,...
Jerusalem is surrounded by tombs and graves - mostly Jewish but also many Muslim tombs as well. It has been said that Jerusalem's population of the dead is a large as that of the living. Burials within Jerusalem were forbidden under Jewish custom, so the hills around the city were filled by burial plots. It was believed that in the final days...

Zion: Profile of Zion, Physical and Metaphorical City of David in Judaism
The word Zion has no precise meaning in Hebrew but was often used to refer to something like a 'citadel' or 'fortress.' Some argue that it comes from the Hebrew ziya, which means 'waterless, parched.' Eventually, though, it ended up referring to the city of Jerusalem in some fashion - physically or metaphorically.

Major Sources
List of major sources used in writing profiles of places and cities in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible

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