Jordan History & Scripture Reference
The part of the Holy Land on the eastern side of the Jordan River, in the country of Jordan, is blessed with the rich spiritual heritage of the full story of Salvation as recorded in the Bible. The Biblical history of Abraham, Job, Moses, Ruth, Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, Paul and other leading figures from the Bible is found etched in the ancient landscape now within the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
In and around southern Jordan, God first manifested Himself to mankind. Subsequently, this land witnessed the missions of numerous prophets, the completion of the Covenant through Moses and the Israelites, the increased revelation of the Christian faith heralded by John the Baptist and completed through Jesus Christ. Jordan is also where Jacob wrestled with the angel of God, Job suffered and was rewarded for his faith, and Elijah ascended to Heaven.
The very name of the country and its famous river of baptism and spiritual commitment - Jordan retains the unique heritage of the land.
The heartland of this spiritual landscape that witnessed the unfolding of God's Salvation History is the area alongside the Dead Sea and the Jordan River, in today's west-central Jordan. This area was called the "Plains of Moab" in the Old Testament and formed part of the region of "Peraea" in the New Testament. This is the only area in the Holy Land that combines the traditions of Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ, key figures in God's redemption of mankind.
This is where Moses delivered God's Law to mankind and here is where Jesus was baptized by John and anointed by God, where he called his first disciples, and where the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit manifested itself explicitly during the baptism along the Jordan River.
In the land of Jordan, God frequently appeared and encountered mankind in the form of a whirlwind, a cloud of light or dust, an angel, or a voice speaking with the prophets. One biblical passage (Habbakuk 3:3) says explicitly that "God come from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran". Deuteronomy 33:2 notes that "The Lord come from Sinai, and dawned down on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran". Teman, Seir and Paran are in the area of Edom, in southern Jordan.
God repeatedly designated Jordan as a land of peace and refuge, where Ruth, Elijah, David, Jesus, John the Baptist and the first Christian communities, among others, found safety and peace. Most of the great biblical prophets journeyed from the east bank of the Jordan River to the west, symbolically moving from the "wilderness" where men and women are tested, to the promised Holy Land, the Kingdom of God.
Ammonites occupied the tableland east of the Jordan Valley that
stretched into the Arabian Desert. The capital of the Ammonites
was Rabbah (sometimes called Rabbath-ammon), current-day Amman, Jordan.
By New Testament times, Rabbah had become the southernmost city in the
league of cities called the Decapolis, and it's name had been changed to
On the Eastern bank
of the Jordan River is "Bethany Beyond the Jordan," the place
associated with John the Baptist's baptism of Jesus.
The Edomites were the descendants of
Jacob's twin brother, Esau (Gen. 25:21-26: 36:9). The name Edom
comes from the word meaning "red", and it described Esau's physical
characteristics at birth (25:25). It also became his nickname
because of his fondness for red lentil stew, the "red stuff" for which
he bartered away his birthright (v. 30-31 NASB). Finally, the
name is an apt description of the land occupied by the Edomites with its
red sandstone rock. Because the Edomites descended from Jacob's
brother, they were considered a "brother" nation to Israel. Moses
commanded Israel, "Do not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother"
(Deut. 23:7). The northern border of the land of Edom was the Wadi
Zered which flows from east to west and joins the Arabah at the
southeastern tip of the Dead Sea. The land of the Edomites
extended south to the Red Sea, or Gulf of Aqaba.
2 Kings 3:4-27 – The kings of Judah, Israel, and Edom led their armies
through the Desert of Edom in a surprise attack against the king of
Kings 14:7; 16:6 – King Amaziah of Judah defeated ten thousand Edomites
in a major battle and captured the city of Sela. Later the king of Aram
captured Elath from Judah, and drove out the people of Judah. The
Edomites moved back to populate the city.
Isaiah 34:1-11; 63:1-3 – In picturing God’s final judgment on the earth
as He intervened to judge sin and restore His people Israel, Isaiah
recorded that God’s sword “descends in judgment on Edom” (34:5). The
prophet pictured God coming from Edom with His robe stained in the blood
of His enemies.
The Book of Obadiah – The prophet Obadiah described God’s judgment on the prideful people of Edom.
Psalm 137:7 – The psalmist asked God to judge the Edomites for their
boastful taunting over
when it fell to the Babylonians.
Restoration Malachi 1:4 – God vowed the Edomites would not be allowed to rise again. Instead they would remain under the wrath of the Lord.
Meaning: the giant's
backbone (so called from the head of a mountain which runs out into the
Here Solomon built ships, "Tarshish ships," like those trading from Tyre to Tarshish and the west, which traded with Ophir (1 Kings 9:26; 2 Chr. 8:17); and here also Jehoshaphat's fleet was shipwrecked (1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chr. 20:36). It became a populous town, many of the Jews settling in it (2 Kings 16:6, "Elath"). It is supposed that anciently the north end of the gulf flowed further into the country than now, as far as 'Ain el-Ghudyan, which is 10 miles up the dry bed of the Arabah, and that Ezion-geber may have been there.
The Children of Israel encamped in Asiongaber in their journey through the wilderness (Numbers 33:35). The ships of Solomon and Hiram started from this port on their voyage to Ophir. It was the main port for Israel's commerce with the countries bordering on the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Josaphat, King of Juda, joined himself with Ochozias, the wicked King of Israel, to make ships in Asiongaber; but God disapproved the unholy alliance, and the ships were broken in the port (2 Chronicles 20:37).
Ezion-Geber was one of the places the Israelites migrated through during the Exodus.
The modern city of Jerash in Jordan preserves the name of the ancient city of Gerasa, one of the most important cities in the region of the Decapolis. The city is located about twenty-five miles north of Amman and about forty miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee. Jerash has some of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the Middle East. The only possible reference to Gerasa in the New Testament occurs in the account of Jesus casting the demons into the herd of swine. Matthew 8:28-34 records the exact location where the miracle occurred. Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience more familiar with the geographical details of the land, could record the specific village along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. However, Mark (writing to a Roman audience) and Luke (writing to a Greek audience) recorded the nearest large city that would be familiar to their readers. While there is a textual problem that divides scholars, the two possible cities named by Mark and Luke are Gadara (a smaller city six miles from the Sea of Galilee) or Gerasa (the larger city forty miles from the Sea of Galilee). If Gerasa is the correct textual reading, then Mark and Luke were pointing to the region dominated by the city called Gerasa (modern Jerash).
The dramatic hilltop/fortress of
Machaerus, known today as Mukawir, is the place where John the Baptist
was beheaded. This promontory allows for a view of the Dead Sea
from the Eastern shore.
The Medeba of the Bible is today the
Arabic town of Madaba. Also known as "the City of Mosaics", the
town is famous for its spectacular Byzantine-era mosaics, which are
scattered throughout the town's homes and churches. Located on the
king's highway just nineteen miles south of Amman, Madaba is best known
for the sixth-century mosaic map of the Holy Land, in which Jerusalem
and its surrounding regions are depicted.
The Moabites descended from a son born to Lot and his oldest daughter following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:30-38). Because the Moabites descended from Lot (Abraham’s nephew), they were considered a “related” nation to Israel. “Do not harass the Moabites or provoke them to war, for I will not give you any part of their land. I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession” (Deut. 2:9). The Moabites occupied the tableland east of the Dead Sea. Their northern boundary extended to the Arnon River, and their southern boundary extended to the Zered River. However, in times of strength their territory did expand northward beyond the Arnon River. Thus, the place where Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land was called the “plains of Moab.” The national god of the Moabites was Chemosh.
Patriarchal Period Genesis 19:30-38 – Lot’s oldest daughter got her father drunk and had sexual relations with him. The child born of that union was named Moab, and the Moabites descended from him.
Period of the Exodus
Numbers 21:11-13; Judges 11:17-18 – Israel skirted past Moab on its
journey northward along the eastern side of the
Period of the Judges
Judges 3:12-30 – Eglon, king of Moab, oppressed Israel for eighteen
years and controlled the city of
until he was defeated by the judge Ehud.
1 Samuel 14:47 – King Saul conducted military campaigns against
2 Kings 1:1 – After King Ahab’s death, Moab rebelled against the
northern kingdom of
Jeremiah 48 – Jeremiah presented God’s prophecy of destruction against
the people of Moab for their prideful self-reliance and their gloating
over Judah’s destruction.
Restoration Nehemiah 13:23-27 – Nehemiah rebuked the people of Judah for mixed marriages, including marriages to women of Moab.
Mount Nebo, also identified with Pisgah,
was located northeast of the Dead Sea overlooking the Jordan Valley
opposite Jericho. A town with the same name was nearby. It
is unclear whether the town was named for the mountain or the mountain
named for the town.
Petra, the rose-red capital of the
Nabateans, was originally a city of the Edomites (2 Kings 14:7).
Some believe the Old Testament city of Sela (from the Hebrew word
meaning "jagged cliff, craggy rock") is the same as the Nabatean city of
Petra (from the Greek word meaning "the rock"). The city of Petra
is located in a semi-landlocked valley on the eastern side of the Arabah,
approximately fifty miles south of the Dead Sea. The normal
entrance to the city of Petra is through the Siq ("cleft"), a winding
fissure in the eastern ridge. At the end of the Siq, the path
opens up to a canyon... and a spectacular view of a temple carved into
the face of the rock. Some Bible teachers believe the people of
Israel will flee to Petra during the period of tribulation immediately
preceding the return of Jesus Christ to earth to set up His kingdom.
These teachers cite several passages of Scripture to support their view.
Those Scriptures are listed below.
Excerpts taken from: The New Christian Traveler's Guide to the Holy Land, Dyer/Hatteberg