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AtlasToursJordanBiblical Jordan

Retracing Biblical History

The biblical history of humankind starts with Adam (pbuh) and Eve, and this is where we first encounter associations with the land of Jordan. Some early biblical interpretations linked Adam and Eve with the area of the Jordan River and the Jordan Valley.

They located the Garden of Eden along the banks of the Jordan River, in the northern Jordan Valley near Wadi Rayyan on the eastern bank and Baysan (Beth-shean) on the western bank of the river. This is not surprising, given the area's lush vegetation and rich animal life.

Wadi Rayyan, Northern Jordan Valley

In the book of Genesis, God calls the Jordan Valley plain around the Dead Sea "the Garden of the Lord" (Genesis 13:10). Some early biblical traditions interpret the Genesis 2:10 account of a river that "flowed out of Eden to water the garden" as a description of the upper Jordan River and the Jordan Valley. After being expelled from the Garden of Eden, these traditions say, Adam stood in the waters of the Jordan River for 40 days, praying and begging forgiveness from God.

Other early biblical interpretations suggested that when Cain killed his brother Abel and was banished by God to the area "east of Eden" (Genesis 4:16), he went to one of three sites east of the Jordan River that would later be designated as Cities of Refuge. A person accused of involuntary manslaughter could seek refuge in the one of these cities until he or she could receive a fair trial.

The next major biblical figure linked with Jordan is Noah (pbuh), described as "righteous and blameless" (Genesis 6:9, Ezekiel 14:14). A tomb/shrine of Noah is locally revered at Kerak, in southern Jordan (today Kerak is best known for its massive Crusader and medieval Islamic castle).

The tomb/shrine of Noah in Jordan is an important reminder of the unbroken continuity of the shared faith principles of the Abrahamic communities from the dawn of history until today.

Prophet Noah's Tomb, Kerak

One of the earliest patriarchal figures in the Bible is Job (pbuh), whose book is one of the world's great masterpieces of religious literature. The city of Salt, northwest of the Jordanian capital Amman, houses the tomb/shrine of Job, the wealthy, righteous man from the Land of Uz who endured hardships with much patience and ultimately was rewarded with God's blessing (Job 1-3; 42:10, Ezekiel 14:14). Biblical scholars have located the Land of Uz in either northern or southern Jordan.

But to those who know the land, the rich biblical description in the Book of Job perfectly describes the varied natural environment, pastoral economy, and patriarchal social structures of ancient southern Jordan, known as Edom in the Old Testament. Job's three friends are identified as being from Teman, Shuh and Naamah, areas located in and near southern Jordan.

The story of Job is thought to have taken place during the Patriarchal Period, in the Early and Middle Bronze Age eras (around 2500-1500 BC). Thus Job's story is regarded as one of the oldest in the Bible placing Jordan squarely in the genesis of human faith on earth. Job's narrative in his home region in southern Jordan contains:

1) the longest recorded speeches by God Himself;
2) the most profound argument or debate between a human being and God;
3) the first explicit appearance in the Bible of Satan, who asks God's permission to test Job's faith.

Equally fascinating is the use of five different names for God in the book of Job: El, Elohim, Shadday, Yahweh and Eloah. Job manifests perhaps the Bible's earliest sign of human movement towards monotheism, the belief in a single God, and is another aspect of the importance of the land of modern Jordan in the development of the monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Continue to: The Patriarchs in Jordan
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