Ever wonder why God placed Israel where he did? I think if we look at its geographical location, it will become clear. We are so used to air travel today that we don’t think about geographic issues with mountains, oceans, and rivers. After all, we just fly over them. But think back to this time in history. Foot traffic was the most common form of travel. The land of Israel was at the conjunction of three continents: Africa, Europe, and Asia. The largest trade routes went through this area. Let’s look at each of them.
The Kings Highway went from Egypt, traveled across the Sinai Peninsula, turned northward through the Transjordan staying to the east of the Sea of Galilee and led to Damascus and eventually to the Far East. This was also the road Moses referred to when he told the Kings of Edom and Moab he would stay on as he passed through their land (Nu 20:17; Dt 2:8). Since there were two and a half tribes of Israel on the east side of the Jordan River (Reuben, Gad, and half tribe of Manasseh; Js 13:15-33), Israel had the opportunity to influence those who traveled this route.
On the west side of Israel was a route which went along the Mediterranean coast. It became known as the Via Maris, or Way of the Sea (Is 9:1). Other names given to this route was Derech HaYam, Coastal Road, and Way of the Philistines. It also originated in Egypt, went along the Mediterranean coast and then split at Megiddo where a minor branch continued along the coast northward into Asia Minor and the other major route turned east, traveled along the west coast of the Sea of Galilee, and then also continued into Damascus and then to the Far East.
The third major trade route was the Ridge Route. It was confined within Israel itself, yet connected to the Via Maris in the North and not far from the King’s Highway in the South. This route followed the watershed ridge line of the Judaean and Samarian mountains. It went from Megiddo in the North to Beersheba in the South and traveled through Jerusalem. This is also called the Way of the Patriarchs since many feel Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob often used this route. It is also likely that this route is the route referred to in Judges 19. It is also known to be used during Roman times as well. Could it have been the route the Wise Men took to get to Jerusalem?
There were also other minor trade routes that intersected these major routes. As you can see, God provided the means for Israel to be a way of influence. God had them inherit a land which had influence already built in. All they had to do was obey (Dt 28:1-14). These Gentiles who would travel through Israel would observe all the ways God was blessing Israel: see no want, the land extremely fertile, all nations having great respect for Israel, and Israel as a nation sustaining many other peoples. They would then ask why, and the Israelites would then tell them about God and what God had done for them. Israel would be God’s calling card to the world.
Sadly, that did not happen. Yet, can we think too harshly about them when we have done the same? As Christians, we should be the most positive people in the world by having hope and being able to give that hope to others. Today, God does not promise us such prosperity as he promised to Israel; yet He has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Hb 13:5). Could we really ask for more? What about you? Are you being a good and effective ambassador?
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