Page:A Brief Bible History (Boyd and Machen, 1922).djvu/13

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Before Abraham

Genesis, Chapters 1 to 11

That part of the globe which comes within the view of the Old Testament is mostly the region, about fifteen hundred miles square, lying in the southwestern part of Asia, the southeastern part of Europe, and the northeastern part of Africa. This is where the three continents of the Eastern Hemisphere come together. Roughly speaking it includes Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt, with a fringe of other lands and islands stretching beyond them.

The heart of all this territory is that little strip of land, lying between the desert on the east and the Mediterranean Sea on the west, known as Syria and Palestine. It is some four hundred miles in length and varies from fifty to one hundred miles in width. It has been well called "the bridge of the world," for like a bridge it joins the largest continent, Asia, to the next largest, Africa. And as Palestine binds the lands together, so the famous Suez Canal at its southern end now binds the seas together. To-day, therefore, as in all the past, this spot is the crossroads of the nations.

Palestine has long been called the "Holy Land," because it is the scene of most of the Bible story. Yet it would be a mistake to suppose that that Bible story is limited to Palestine. The book of Genesis does not introduce the reader to Canaan (as it calls Palestine) until he has reached its twelfth chapter. There is a sense in which the history of God's people begins with Abraham, and it was Abraham who went at God's bidding into the land of Canaan. The story of Abraham will be taken up in the second lesson; but the Bible puts before the life of Abraham all the familiar story that lies in the first eleven chapters of Genesis and that forms the background for the figures of Abraham and his descendants.

The location of this background is the basin of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. These two streams are mentioned in Gen. 2 : 14 (the Tigris under the form "Hiddekel") as the third and fourth "heads"