The song of Moses was not completely clear, but much easier than this one.
“And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years” (Jdg 6:1).
The Midianites and the Amalekites had so much cattle and camels that you could not count them, and they decided to come to the children of Israel and let their animals destroy the land.
And as usual, they cried out to God and He sent a prophet to them and he told them what He said:
…Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage;
“And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land;
And I said unto you, I am the LORD your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.
And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.
And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? But now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.
And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.
And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
Depart not hence, I pray thee, until I come unto thee, and bring forth my present, and set it before thee. And he said, I will tarry until thou come again.
And Gideon went in, and made ready a kid, and unleavened cakes of an ephah of flour: the flesh he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot, and brought it out unto him under the oak, and presented it.
And the angel of God said unto him, Take the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and lay them upon this rock, and pour out the broth. And he did so.
Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight” (Jdg 6:8-21).
God then told Gideon to destroy the altar of Baal, so he did. In the morning, the men saw that the altar was destroyed and went to find Gideon in order to kill him.
“And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God,
Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew.
And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground” (Jdg 6:39-40).
The Southern Wilderness
South of Beer-sheba, rainfall amounts drop sharply, and the landscape becomes increasingly rugged. The Bible refers to this area as “wilderness.”
The Wilderness of Zin stretches southeast of Beer-sheba, while portions of the Wilderness of Paran intrude from the Sinai near Kadesh-barnea. Jagged peaks, desolate plateaus, and craterlike depressions punctuate this foreboding land.
During New Testament times the Nabateans, an Arab people, inhabited portions of the Negeb, the southern wildernesses, and the Transjordan. They controlled the Arabian trade routes from Petra to Gaza.
The Nabateans were also adept agriculturalists in marginal desert regions. Their innovative irrigation techniques (e.g., dams, catch basins, etc.) made the southern deserts bloom.
The Jordan Rift
Nature has divided Palestine into two segments by a deep cleft, the Jordan Rift. This cleft in the earth’s surface is part of a great fissure extending from eastern Turkey into Africa. In Palestine most of the Rift lies below sea level, reaching a maximum depth of 1,300 feet at the Dead Sea.
The higher mountains and plateaus to the east and west of the Rift make the effect more dramatic. Most of the perennial rivers and bodies of water of Palestine are found in the Jordan Rift, which drains 70 percent of the land. Five divisions of the Rift should be noted: the Huleh Basin, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, and the Arabah.
The Huleh Basin
The Huleh Basin is a depression caught between Upper Galilee and the Eastern Plateau. Mount Hermon (9,232 feet) flanks the basin on the northeast. Numerous springs dot the area, fed by the melting snows of Mount Hermon.
Principal springs emerge in southern Lebanon (Nahr al-Hasbani), Dan (Nahr al-Qadi), and near Cae-sarea Philippi (Nahr al-Baniyas) and are the source of the Jordan River. In antiquity, the waters collected in the southern end of the basin forming a marshy lake, Lake Huleh.
Today the marshes have been drained, but in ancient times they hindered travel, promoted disease, and foiled settlementin the center of the basin. Yet the climate, refreshing springs, and fertile soil invited the establishment of cities, especially away from the marshes.
Hazor, Dan Abel-beth-maacah, and Ijon all were located along the perimeter of the basin. At the southern end of the basin the Jordan River begins a rapid descent southward.
The name Jordan probably comes from a Hebrew verb meaning “to descend,” appropriate for a river that drops 40 feet per mile in some places.
The Sea of Galilee
This famous body of water is a freshwater lake 13 miles long and 7 miles wide. The surface of the lake is 690 feet below sea level, surrounded on all sides by higher land.
In the Bible, the lake bears several names: Sea of Galilee (Mk 1:16), Sea of Tiberias (Jn 6:1), Sea of Chinnereth (Deut 3:17), Lake Gennesaret (Lk 5:1), or simply “the lake” (Lk 5:2).
A branch of the International Coastal Highway skirted the northwest shore of the lake by the Plain of Gennesaret. Capernaum, Magdala, and Bethsaida were located along the north/northwest shore.
Local towns and villages depended on the fishing industries and agriculture products provided by the lake. Even today the lakes classic beauty calls to mind the miracles and teachings Jesus performed along its shores.
For approximately 70 miles the Jordan River winds its way south from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea through the Jordan Valley.
The volume of the Jordan doubled with the influx from the Yarmuk River in antiquity, but modern water conservation techniques greatly restrict the present water volume. The northern half of the Jordan Valley is well watered and fertile, with numerous traces of ancient settlements.
Key cities (Adam, Succoth, Zarethan, Beth-shan) developed at points where natural routes connected the highlands to the east and west.
The Jordan cut a deep gorge (in Arabic, Zor) that contained dense thickets of trees and shrubs, the “pride of the Jordan” (Jer. 49:19). In biblical times this dense vegetation harbored wild animals, including lions (Jer- 50:44).
The southern Jordan Valley is drier, almost desert like. Jericho flourishes in an oasis nourished by several springs in the midst of this arid.
The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is unique among the bodies of water on earth. About 50 miles long and 10 miles wide, the surface of the sea lies 1,300 feet below sea level – the lowest place on the earth’s surface. The Lisan Peninsula protrudes into the sea from the east, dividing the Dead Sea into two unequal parts.
The larger northern portion of the sea reaches depths of 1,300 feet, but the smaller southern sector averages less than 30 feet. Oppressively hot temperatures and dry climate grip the entire region. The barren, ragged landscape possesses an eerie beauty all its own.
Known in the Bible as the “Salt Sea” or “Sea of the Arabah” (Deut 3:17), the Dead Sea receives water from several freshwater tributaries and springs. Among the larger streams, the Jordan flows in from the north, while the Arnon and Zered enter the sea from the east.
However, the rivers have no exit. The waters absorb salts and other chemicals from numerous deposits in the region. The extreme heat of the region concentrates the chemicals by evaporation with the result that the Dead Sea consists of 26 to 33 percent salts – a ratio several times saltier than normal sea water and almost twice as salty as the Great Salt Lake.
These conditions discouraged habitation except where freshwater springs (En-gedi, Ain Feshkha) made settlement possible. Refugees, like David as he fled from King Saul (1 Sam. 26), found safety in the numerous caves of the region.
Later, the Qumran sectarians hid their library in caves along the northwest shore. Beginning in 1947, shepherd boys discovered scrolls today known as the “Dead Sea Scrolls.” Herod the Great built two fortresses, Masada and Macherus, along the shores of the Dead Sea.
The Jordan Rift continues south of the Dead Sea 110 miles to the Gulf of Aqabah. The Bible calls this region the Arabah, a dry and desolate region.
Occasionally the Bible uses the term Arabah in a broader sense, including parts of the Jordan Valley north of the Dead Sea (Josh. 18:18), but here the more restricted sense is used.
Immediately south of the Dead Sea, the Arabah is below sea level, but a gradual elevation rises above sea level midway to The red Nubian sandstone of Edom on the east and the of the Negeb to the west contrast with the monotonous of the Arabah.
Extremely dry and isolated, the Arabah, nonetheless, strategic importance for several reasons. In biblical Arabah held important copper deposits located near Punon and Timna. Ezion-geber, a seaport built by Solomon on the Gulf of Aqabah, received the wealth of Arabia and Africa the fleet stationed there.
Highways linking Ezion-geber with Judah ran the length of the Arabah. Control of the Arabah was economically important to the court of Jerusalem.