This section of country has been known by several names. It has been called the "Land of Canaan," the "Land of Israel," the "Land of Promise," the "Land of the Hebrews," and the "Holy Land." Canaan was simply the country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, extending from Mt. Lebanon on the north to the Desert of Arabia on the south. Dan was in the extreme northern part, and Beer-sheba lay in the southern end of the country, one hundred and thirty-nine miles distant. The average width of the land is about forty miles, and the total area is in the neighborhood of six thousand miles. "It is not in size or physical characteristics proportioned to its moral and historical position as the theater of the most momentous events in the world's history." Palestine, the land occupied by the twelve tribes, included the Land of Canaan and a section of country east of the Jordan one hundred miles long and about twenty-five miles wide, occupied by Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh. The Land of Promise was still more extensive, reaching from "the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates," embracing about sixty thousand square miles, or a little less than the five New England States. The country is easily divided into four parallel strips. Beginning at the Mediterranean, we have the Maritime Plain, the Mountain Region, the Jordan Valley, and the Eastern Table-Land.

The long stretch of lowland known as the Maritime Plain is divided into three sections. The portion lying north of Mt. Carmel was called Phoenicia. It varies in width from half a mile in the north to eight miles in the south. The ancient cities of Tyre and Sidon belonged to this section. Directly east of Mt. Carmel is the Plain of Esdraelon, physically a part of the Maritime Plain. It is an irregular triangle, whose sides are fourteen, sixteen, and twenty-five miles respectively, the longest side being next to Mt. Carmel. Here Barak defeated the army of Sisera under Jabin, and here Josiah, king of Judah, was killed in a battle with the Egyptians under Pharaoh-necoh.

The Plains of Sharon and Philistia, lying south of Carmel, are usually regarded as the true Maritime Plain. Sharon extends southward from Carmel about fifty miles, reaching a little below Jaffa, and has an average width of eight miles. The Zerka, or Crocodile river, which traverses this plain, is the largest stream of Palestine west of the Jordan. There are several other streams crossing the plain from the mountains to the sea, but they usually cease to flow in the summer season. Joppa, Lydda, Ramleh, and Caesarea belong to this plain. Herod the Great built Caesarea, and spent large sums of money on its palace, temple, theater, and breakwater.

The Plain of Philistia extends thirty or forty miles from the southern limits of Sharon to Gaza, varying in width from twelve to twenty-five miles. It is well watered by several streams, some of which flow all the year. Part of the water from the mountains flows under the ground and rises in shallow lakes near the coast. Water can easily be found here, as also in Sharon, by digging wells, and the soil is suitable for the culture of small grains and for pasture. During a part of the year the plain is beautifully ornamented with a rich growth of brightly colored flowers, a characteristic of Palestine in the wet season.

Gaza figures in the history of Samson, who "laid hold of the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and plucked them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them up to the top of the mountain that is before Hebron." Ashkelon, on the coast, is connected with the history of the Crusades. Ashdod, or Azotus, is where Philip was found after the baptism of the eunuch. It is said that Psammetichus, an ancient Egyptian king, captured this place after a siege of twenty-seven years. Ekron and Gath also belonged to this plain.

The ridge of mountains lying between the coast plain and the Jordan valley form the backbone of the country. Here, more than elsewhere, the Israelites made their homes, on account of the hostility of the inhabitants in the lowlands. This ridge is a continuation of the Lebanon range, and extends as far south as the desert. In Upper Galilee the mountains reach an average height of two thousand eight hundred feet above sea level, but in Lower Galilee they are a thousand feet lower. In Samaria and Judaea they reach an altitude of two or three thousand feet. The foot-hills, called the Shefelah, and the Negeb, or "South Country," complete the ridge. The highest peak is Jebel Mukhmeel, in Northern Palestine, rising ten thousand two hundred feet above the sea. Mt. Tabor, in Galilee, is one thousand eight hundred and forty-three feet high, while Gerizim and Ebal, down in Samaria, are two thousand eight hundred and fifty feet and three thousand and seventy-five feet respectively. The principal mountains in Judaea are Mt. Zion, two thousand five hundred and fifty feet; Mt. Moriah, about one hundred feet lower; Mount of Olives, two thousand six hundred and sixty-five feet, and Mt. Hebron, three thousand and thirty feet. Nazareth, Shechem, Jerusalem, and Hebron belong to the Mountain Region.

The Jordan Valley is the lowest portion of the earth's surface. No other depressions are more than three hundred feet below sea level, but the Jordan is six hundred and eighty-two feet lower than the ocean at the Sea of Galilee, and nearly thirteen hundred feet lower where it enters the Dead Sea. This wonderful depression, which includes the Dead Sea, forty-five miles long, and the valley south of it, one hundred miles in length, is two hundred and fifty miles long and from four to fourteen miles in width, and is called the Arabah. The sources of the Jordan are one hundred and thirty-four miles from the mouth, but the numerous windings of the stream make it two hundred miles long. The Jordan is formed by the union of three streams issuing from springs at an elevation of seventeen hundred feet above the sea. The principal source is the spring at Dan, one of the largest in the world, as it sends forth a stream twenty feet wide and from twenty to thirty inches deep. The spring at Banias, the Caesarea Philippi of the Scriptures, is the eastern source. The Hashbany flows from a spring forming the western source. A few miles south of the union of the streams above mentioned the river widens into the waters of Merom, a small lake nearly on a level with the Mediterranean. In the next few miles it descends rapidly, and empties into the Sea of Galilee, called also the Sea of Chinnereth, Sea of Tiberias, and Lake of Gennesaret. In the sixty-five miles from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea the fall is about six hundred feet. The rate of descent is not uniform throughout the whole course of the river. In one section it drops sixty feet to the mile, while there is one stretch of thirteen miles with a descent of only four and a half feet to the mile. The average is twenty-two feet to the mile. The width varies from eighty to one hundred and eighty feet, and the depth from five to twelve feet. Caesarea Philippi, at the head of the valley, Capernaum, Magdala, Tiberias, and Tarrichaea were cities on the Sea of Galilee. Jericho and Gilgal were in the plain at the southern extremity, and Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, upon which the wrath of God was poured, were somewhere in the region of the Dead Sea.

The Eastern Table-Land has a mountain wall four thousand feet high facing the river. This table-land, which is mostly fertile, extends eastward about twenty miles, and terminates in the Arabian Desert, which is still higher. Here the mountains are higher and steeper than those west of the Jordan. Mt. Hermon, in the north, is nine thousand two hundred feet high. South of the Jarmuk River is Mt. Gilead, three thousand feet high, and Mt. Nebo, lying east of the northern end of the Dead Sea, reaches an elevation of two thousand six hundred and seventy feet. Besides the Jarmuk, another stream, the Jabbok, flows into the Jordan from this side. The Arnon empties into the Dead Sea. The northern section was called Bashan, the middle, Gilead, and the southern part, Moab. Bashan anciently had many cities, and numerous ruins yet remain. In the campaign of Israel against Og, king of Bashan, sixty cities were captured. Many events occurred in Gilead, where were situated Jabesh-Gilead, Ramoth-Gilead, and the ten cities of the Decapolis, with the exception of Beth-shean, which was west of the Jordan. From the summit of Mt. Pisgah, a peak of Mt. Nebo, Moses viewed the Land of Promise, and from these same heights Balaam looked down on the Israelites and undertook to curse them, Moab lies south of the Arnon and east of the Dead Sea. In the time of a famine, an Israelite, named Elimelech, with his wife and sons, sojourned in this land. After the death of Elimelech and both of his sons, who had married in the land, Naomi returned to Bethlehem, accompanied by her daughter-in-law, Ruth, the Moabitess, who came into the line of ancestry of David and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Once, when the kings of Judah, Israel, and Edom invaded the land, the king of Moab (when they came to Kir-hareseth, the capital) took his oldest son, who would have succeeded him on the throne, "and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall." At this the invaders "departed from him and returned to their own land."

The political geography of Palestine is so complicated that it can not be handled in the space here available. Only a few words, applicable to the country in New Testament times, can be said. The provinces of Galilee, Samaria, and Judaea were on the west side of the Jordan, while the Decapolis and Perea lay east of that river. The northern province of Galilee, which saw most of the ministry of Jesus, extended from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee, and a much greater distance from the north to the south. It was peopled with Jews, and was probably a much better country than is generally supposed, as it contained a large number of cities and villages, and produced fish, oil, wheat, wine, figs, and flax. "It was in Christ's time one of the gardens of the world - well watered, exceedingly fertile, thoroughly cultivated, and covered with a dense population." - Merrill.

Samaria, lying south of Galilee, extended from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, and was occupied by a mixed race, formed by the mingling of Jews with the foreigners who had been sent into the land. When they were disfellowshiped by the Jews, about 460 B.C., they built a temple on Mt. Gerizim.

The province of Judaea was the largest in Palestine, and extended from the Mediterranean on the west to the Dead Sea and the Jordan on the east. It was bounded on the north by Samaria, and on the south by the desert. Although but fifty-five miles long and about thirty miles wide, it held out against Egypt, Babylonia, and Rome.

The Decapolis, or region of ten Gentile cities, was the northeastern part of Palestine, extending eastward from the Jordan to the desert. Perea lay south of the Decapolis, and east of the Jordan and Dead Sea. The kingdom of Herod the Great, whose reign ended B.C. 4, included all of this territory. After his death the country was divided into tetrarchies. Archelaus ruled over Judaea and Samaria; Antipas ("Herod the tetrarch") had control of Galilee and Perea; Philip had a section of country east of the Sea of Galilee, and Lysanius ruled over Abilene, a small section of country between Mt. Hermon and Damascus, not included in the domain of Herod the Great. Herod Agrippa was made king by Caligula, and his territory embraced all that his grandfather, Herod the Great, had ruled over, with Abilene added, making his territory more extensive than that of any Jewish king after Solomon. He is the "Herod the king" who killed the Apostle James and imprisoned Peter. After delivering an oration at Caesarea, he died a horrible death, "because he gave not God the glory." At his death, in A.D. 44, the country was divided into two provinces. The northern section was ruled by Herod Agrippa II. till the Jewish State was dissolved, in A.D. 70. He was the "King Agrippa" before whom Paul spoke. The southern part of the country, called the province of Judaea, was ruled by procurators having their seat at Caesarea. When Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, the country was annexed to Syria.

The climate depends more upon local conditions than on the latitude, which is the same as Southern Georgia and Alabama, Jerusalem being on the parallel of Savannah. In point of temperature it is about the same as these localities, but in other respects it differs much. The year has two seasons - the dry, lasting from the first of April to the first of November, and the rainy season, lasting the other five months, during which time there are copious rains. One authority says: "Were the old cisterns cleaned and mended, and the beautiful tanks and aqueducts repaired, the ordinary fall of rain would be quite sufficient for the wants of the inhabitants and for irrigation." The summers are hot, the winters mild. Snow sometimes falls, but does not last long, and ice is seldom formed.

Palestine is not a timbered country. The commonest oak is a low, scrubby bush. The "cedars of Lebanon" have almost disappeared. The carob tree, white poplar, a thorn bush, and the oleander are found in some localities. The principal fruit-bearing trees are the fig, olive, date palm, pomegranate, orange, and lemon. Grapes, apples, apricots, quinces, and other fruits also grow here. Wheat, barley, and a kind of corn are raised, also tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, and tobacco. The ground is poorly cultivated with inferior tools, and the grain is tramped out with cattle, as in the long ago.

Sheep and goats are the most numerous domestic animals, a peculiarity of the sheep being the extra large "fat tail" (Lev. 3:9), a lump of pure fat from ten to fifteen inches long and from three to five inches thick. Cattle, camels, horses, mules, asses, dogs and chickens are kept.