Patriarchs in Canaan

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all of Jacob’s sons lived in Canaan, the land that the Lord promised to give to Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 12:1-9; 15:1-21), and several of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and their wives were buried in the family burial cave that Abraham purchased in Hebron (Genesis 23:19; 25:9; 50:1-14). Abraham built altars at Shechem, Bethel, and Hebron (Genesis 12:6-8; 13:18), and Isaac built an altar at Beersheba (Genesis 26:23-25). Jacob built another altar at Shechem (Genesis 33:18-20) and also at Bethel (Genesis 35:6-7). After Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers at Dothan and taken to Egypt, he rose to become second in command to Pharaoh himself (Genesis 37-41). Before he died, however, Joseph instructed his brothers to bury his bones back in Canaan (Genesis 50:25). This request was later fulfilled by the Israelites when they left Egypt during the Exodus and placed his bones in a tomb at Shechem (Joshua 24:32).

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The Moabite Alliance Attacks Judah

2 Chronicles 20

During the reign of Jehoshaphat of Judah, the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites on the east side of the Dead Sea formed an alliance to attack Judah. By the time Jehoshaphat was informed of the situation, the alliance had already reached Hazazon-tamar (also called En-gedi). Jehoshaphat prayed to the Lord for help, and the Lord promised to deliver the people of Judah without them even having to fight. All they needed to do was to trust in the Lord and show up for the battle in the desert near Tekoa. Jehoshaphat positioned the Levites at the head of the army to sing praises to the Lord as they marched. As they began to sing, the Lord caused the members of the alliance to begin attacking each other until there was no one left, and the armies of Judah collected a vast amount of plunder from them.

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Judges of Israel

Judges 2-16

Under Joshua’s leadership the Israelites conquered and occupied most of Canaan, but Canaanites continued to occupy many parts of the land, particularly the valleys and the coastal areas. From time to time these Canaanites oppressed the Israelites, and the Lord raised up local leaders to help the Israelites fight against them. Often these local leaders then continued to serve as civic judges over the people throughout their lifetime. The book of Judges details the exploits of twelve of these leaders: Othniel, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, Samson, and Ehud.

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Jesus’ Birth and Escape to Egypt

The story of Jesus’ birth begins in the village of Nazareth, where Joseph and Mary lived (Luke 2:1-7). The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary there and announced to her that she would give birth to the Messiah. As the time drew near for Jesus to be born, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem, the town of their ancestor David, to be counted in a Roman census. There Mary gave birth to Jesus. Perhaps as much as two years later astrologers called Magi came from the East to worship the newborn king of the Jews, because a star in the heavens signaled that he had been born, and it directed them to Jerusalem (Matthew 2:1-2). The Magi asked King Herod where the child was, and he asked the leading priests and teachers of the law, who pointed them to Bethlehem. So the Magi traveled five miles south to Bethlehem, and the star directed them to the house where Jesus and his family lived. There the Magi worshiped Jesus and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:3-12). An angel then warned Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt with his family to escape Herod’s plan to kill the newborn king (Matthew 2:13-18). After Herod died, an angel told Joseph to return to Israel with Mary and Jesus, and they settled in their quiet hometown of Nazareth to avoid being discovered by Herod’s son Archelaus (Matthew 2:19-23).

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Jerusalem during the New Testament

By the time of the New Testament, the ancient city of Jerusalem had been transformed from the relatively small fortress of David’s day (2 Samuel 5:6-10; 1 Chronicles 11:4-9) into a major city with a Temple that rivaled the greatest temples in the Roman world. Just prior to Jesus’ birth, Herod the Great completely renovated and expanded the Temple of the Lord, and he also built a lavish palace for himself, various pools (where Jesus occasionally performed healings), public buildings, and military citadels, including the Antonia Fortress, which overlooked the Temple. Wealthy residents, including the high priest, occupied extravagant houses in the Upper City, while the poorer residents were relegated to less desirable areas like the Lower City. The Essene Quarter was so named because many of its residents belonged to the Essenes, a strict religious sect that was known for its careful attention to the law of Moses. Across the Kidron Valley lay the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus often met with his disciples (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-53; John 18:1-14). Further east was the Mount of Olives, where Jesus began his triumphal entry one week before his crucifixion (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19), taught his disciples about the last days (Matthew 24-25; Mark 13), and eventually ascended to heaven after his resurrection (Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:1-11).

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