Thursday, July 12, 2012

Biblical Geography: Coastal Plain – Introduction

Biblical geography is a great tool to understanding your Bible better.  In a post last year, I suggested using the following schematic map to get a grasp on the big picture of biblical geography:
In this map, the land is broken into 10 separate regions, each with its own unique characteristics.  It is my intention to eventually work my way through each of these regions on this blog, providing you with a general introduction to each one as well as a discussion of the most significant biblical events which happened there.  In the next few posts, we will begin our study with the coastal plain on the far left of the map.

The first thing to note about Israel’s coastline is that it is extremely flat.  With the exception of the peninsula created by Mount Carmel in the northern half of the country, there are no major breaks in the coast and no natural harbors.  Although there was a small harbor at Joppa during the Old Testament period (see Jonah 1:3), the land as a whole did not encourage overseas trading in antiquity.  During the Roman period, Herod the Great did his best to change that by creating a large, man-made harbor at Caesarea, but eventually that harbor was eroded away by the sea and the harbor there today is only a fraction of the size it once was.

Yet not only is the coastline flat, but the land itself is flat in this part of the country.  Tracts of open plains provided rich agricultural land and also provided an easy route for international traffic to pass through the country north to south.

The coastal plain as it is marked on our schematic map can be divided into two sections, with the Nahal Yarqon separating them.  (Nahal is Hebrew word that means “stream” or “small river.”)  The Sharon Plain is north of the Yarqon and the Philistine Plain is south of it.  A third section that is included in the Coastal Plain is the Plain of Asher, but is not indicated in our schematic map.  It is located north of Mount Carmel and west of Galilee.

In the next few posts we’ll further explore these coastal regions.

Photo courtesy of