The Bible claims to be a record of the way God showed Himself to man – at a particular time and in a particular place.
The fact that the events happened in one particular area creates problems of understanding for people living in a totally different environment. But it has the great advantage of giving the Bible story a real location. A real history needs a real setting. It says, more clearly than any words, that the Bible is not a series of folk myths that relate only to some legendary country. The land and the people were real, and so, says the Bible, the coming of God to that particular place was real, too.
But why did God select the land of Israel for His ‘chosen people’? It was a small, unimportant corridor-land. The national capital, Jerusalem, was third-rate trade center in a world which already, even then, possessed some great cities. But the very fact that Israel was a land to pass through, rather than to stop in, made it an ideal place from which new ideas – or new revelations – could spread. It lay between two of the great cultural centers of the early world, Egypt and Mesopotamia. It was a land through which many people passed on the great trade-routes.
It also provided a good environment in which to learn lessons about God, the Creator and Provider. The land depended on Him sending the all-important rains, and keeping away locusts and famine. And the landscape quickly showed up any folly or greed on the part of the people who occupied it. Soil erosion, the loss of trees and shrubs, wells drying up, or fields losing their fertility, all showed things were going wrong among the people in a land that was supposed to ‘flow with milk and honey’. Whatever the reasons for God’s choice, the geography of the land of Israel is always relevant to the story of the Bible.