What is Judea?:
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 agriculturally aside from olives and grapes.
Where is Judea?:
Judah was a region encompassed the Palestinian highlands between Hebron and Jerusalem, thus most of southern Palestine. Under the Persians, Judea was a small area around Jerusalem. Under Maccabbeean rule Judea was expanded into an independent Jewish state. Politically, Judea could refer to the entire Palestine region under Roman control or it might simply mean the area around Jerusalem, distinguishing it from Samaria and Galilee.
Why is Judea important?:
Judea is mostly desert and wilderness today, but when the Israelites first arrived it was heavily forested. Trees gradually disappeared both because of the demands of growing urban centers and the hunger of sacrificial rituals that lasted for a millennia. Once the trees disappeared, people began to plant olive trees and a few grain crops on the hills.
Judea is the central location for many of the most important events in the Bible. From these highlands the ancient Hebrews looked down upon invaders from Egypt, from the sea, and from Rome. It is also from these highlands that Palestinians looked down upon the return of the Jews. The highlands of Judea have long been, geographically and politically, the heart of the region.
Judeas political center was Jerusalem and Jerusalem was the religious, political, cultural, and social center for the Israelites. Judea was also strategically located between several great powers: Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria to name a few. Many battles were fought here between these powers and everyone wanted to make sure that the region was under their influence, not the influence of their political rivals.