... Jerusalem ... 22 Just as the new earth and the new heavens will endure by my power, so your descendants and your name will endure ... Isaiah 66 (GNT), 18 ... Jerusalem will be rebuilt, and its PALACE restored. Jeremiah 30:18 (GNT)


Israel's boarders through ages: maps, kingdoms and empires part 2 of 7

Through millennium the region of the Middle East has been of great importance to the development of civilizations, including the Israeli. It has been the centre stage for kingdoms and empires. 

A maps-overview and history of ancient times shows the origins of these societies, …

… including that of Israel. Where did the Israelites live in ancient times before their conquest of Canaan?

At the time Abraham moved to live in the land of Canaan, that would ultimately become the Land of Israel, there was already a society of city states in Canaan. The emergence of Canaan as a society was part of ancient history.

Ancient history
Ancient history is the history of past events from the beginning of recorded human history to the Early Middle Ages – also referred to as the Post Classical Era - covering a span of roughly 5,000 years, with the discovery of the earliest form of coherent writing - the Sumerian Cuneiform script – around the 30th century BCE.  

An overview of the development of the periods of development in the region of the Middle East.
Prior to 3500 BCE (prehistory to Stone Age), hunter-gatherer societies slowly gave way to farming and herding societies, and early metal-working in the last thousand years.

By the time it was Early Bronze Age (3500-2000 BCE) writing was invented, and city-states were emerging during the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 BCE), followed by the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BCE) in which Egyptian hegemony was realized.

In the Iron Age divided into I and II, village societies of Iron Age I gave way to kingdoms in Iron Age II. After the Iron Age the periods would be named after the various empires that ruled the region, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek (Hellenistic) and Roman.

The pre-Israeli era

The period before the emergence of the Israeli people establishing their society of Israel in Canaan could be indicated as the pre-Israeli era. Where did the ancestors of those who conquered the Land of Israel and made it their home actually come from? 

The world after the flood was according to the biblical narrative in the book of Genesis chapters 6 to 9 given to Noah's sons, to Sham, Ham and Japhet. Noah and his three sons were blessed by God, Genesis 9:1 (NIV), 9 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.

Land of Shem and Ham, source: wikipedia

The Semetic Middle peoples are believed to be descendants of Noah's eldest son Shem. 
Shem's name means: “name”, “renown”, “prosperity and he was the ancestor of all Hebrews. Shem's sons were, Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud and Aram. Asher is associated with Assyriah. Arpachshad, he or his descendants regarded as the founders of Ur of the Chaldees usually identified with the Ur in Mesopotamia.

The Hametic Southern peoples are believed to be descendants of Ham, whose name means “warm”, and his sons were Cush, Egypt, Libya and Canaan. The people of Canaan, initially populated the eastern shore of the Mediterranean sea, today Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

Noah's youngest son Japhet is the ancestor of the Japhetic Northern peoples. His name means “open”.The sons of Japehet were, Gomer, Magog, Madal, Javan, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras. Shem received a blessing from Noah after an incident one of the three sons had with Noah. Contrary to Shem and his sons, Ham's son Canaan was cursed by Noah, Genesis 9:18-29 (NIV).

Allocation of the descendants of Noah's sons Shem, Ham and Japhet according to the 1st century Jewish-Roman historian Flavius Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews. He was one of the first historians who tried to apply known ethnicities to the  Genesis 10 list of names, the Table of Nations or Table of Sons of Noah. Later authors used this as a basis in their work.

Flavius Josephus Table of Nations, source: WikipediaMagog, Meshech and Tubal, sons of Japhet, are all mentioned in biblical scripture in connection with future wars with Israel for example in Ezekiel 38, 39 and Revelation 20. Notice that Magog, Meshech and Tubal are placed in modern-day Turkey and its northern neighbouring countries. Although there is still debate on this subject.

Ultimately the Hebrew Patriarch Abraham, a descendant of Shem, would established himself in Canaan after moving out of Ur of Chaldea situated in Mesopotamia.


Mesopotamia, situated in Modern-day Iraq and parts of the surrounding countries, means “land of rivers”. IT is the area of the Tigris-Euphrates river system, which is generally regarded as the cradle of civilization.

Ancient Near East, source: wikipedia

Sumer, the earliest known civilization in the world is to be found situated in southern Mesopotamia.
The history of Sumer included the prehistoric Ubaid and Uruk periods. An ancient text of the Sumarian language is a list of king listing kings of Sumer including a few foreign dynasties.
The first settlement of Sumer was Eridu in the late 6th millennium BCE, an ancient Sumarian city located 12 kilometers south-west of Ur and the first settlement of Ubaid period. The culture of the first people living in Eridu was from northern Mesopotamia, although it is not known whether they were Sumarians identified with the Uruk period or others associated with the Ubaid period.
Sumer lasted until the rise of Assyria and Babylon in the late 3rd millennium BCE and early 2nd millennium BCE respectively. Both civilizations were the result of the fragmentation of the Akkadian Empire founded by Sargon the Great. This empire lasted from the 24th to the 21st century BCE and is regarded by many as the world's first empire.

Mesopotamia, source: Wikipedia

Initially Mesopotamia was dominated by the Akkadians with Akkad - a city-state – as the capital city of the Akkadian Empire, which is regarded by many as the first empire in human history. Mesopotamia was populated primarily with Summarians and Akkadians and the Mesopotamian Empire (2334-2193 BCE) united all the indigenous Akkadian speaking Semites and Sumarian speakers under one rule. Later on after the fall of the Akkadian Empire two major Akkadian speaking nations emerged, Assyria in the north of Mesopotamia and Babylonia in the central-south.
Babylonia was an ancient Akkadian-speaking Semetic nation state and cultural region. The capital of Babylon became an independent state c.1894 BCE. The first mention of the city of Babylon dates back to the 23rd century BCE. Both the cities of Akkad and Babylon are mentioned in
Genesis 10:10.

Mesopotamia is also where the site of the Tower of Babel is considered to be situated either in the city of Babel or that of Eridu. King Nimrod was mentioned in the Table of Nations or Sons of Noah - Genesis 10 and 1 Chronicle 1 - as the first man of great power, a mighty worrier and conqueror after the flood - 1 Chronicle 1 - a son of Cush and a great-grandson of Noah. Biblical tradition associated him with the Tower of Babel, believed to be built in the city of Babel or in the vicinity of it. The Babylonian civilization is regarded as the one with the earliest system of commercial banking. While the Sumarian people developed the first system of loans and credit in their temples.


The Chaleans started out in a homeland country in the far south of Mesopotamia at the Persian Golf that was relatively poor. The Chaldeans are mentioned in several biblical passages, Nehemiah 9:7 (Acts 7:4),
“You are the Lord God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham.

Chaldea, source: Wikipedia

In the 8th century BCE the Chaldeans - Marduk-apla-iddina II (the Biblical Merodach-Baladan) of Bit-Yâkin - allied themselves with the powerful Elamite kingdom and briefly they seized control of Babylon in 721 BCE. Until then Babylon was ruled from Nineveh by the Assyrian king Sahlmaneser V who died. In 620 BCE the Chaldeans gained control over Babylon under Nabopolassar - was succeeded by Nebuchadnezzar II in 604 BCE - and founded the Chaldean Dynasty that at that time ruled all of Mesopotamia, and the former Assyrian possessions of Aram (Syria), Phoenicia, Israel, Cyprus, Edom, Philistia, and parts of Arabia, while the Medes took control of the former Assyrian colonies in Iran, Asia Minor and the Caucasus. The Chaldeans became masters of reading and writing, and according to some they were familiar with magic. Ultimately the Babylonian Empire was absorbed into the Persian Achaemenid Empire. Through time the name Chaldean came to mean astrologist and astronomers. Today Chaldeans see themselves as people of Sumarian, Akkadian and Aramaean descent, and not of Arabian origins.

Ur Empire

The biblical scripture states that Abraham's origins, with his birth traditionally believed to be in sometime in the 2nd millennium BC, lay in Ur Kasdim, Ur of the Chaldees, which is regarded by many as the Sumerian Ur south of the Euphrates in Mesopotamia.

Abraham was a descendant of Shem, whose descendants were living on the geographical allocation of the descendants of Noah of Flavius Josuphus c. 100 CE based on Genesis 10, in the territory of Mesopotamia not modern-day Turky. The Chaldean people was already settled in the vicinity of Ur but they didn't rule over Ur until the Chaldean Dynasty of Babylon gained control over Ur in late 7th century BCE. Mentioned in Genesis 11:27-28, 11:31, 15:17, Nehemia 9:7.

Ur Empire, source: Wikipedia Ur has been a growing urban centre during the fourth millennium. The Third Dynasty of Ur was established by Ur-Nammu, ruled 2047-2030 BCE, who improved agriculture through irrigation and built temples including the Ziggurat which still stands amid the ruins of Ur. His code of law, the Code of Ur-Nammu is known as one of the oldest - preceding the code of Hamurabi by 300 years - of that type of documents. He was followed by Shulgi, who became the greatest king of Ur ruling for at least 42 years. He reformed the empire into a highly centralized bureaucratic state. Ur had one of the earliest known systems of writing, on clay tablets – cuneiform, the writing system of ancient Mesopotamia – documents mostly of the Third Dynasty of Ur. During this Dynasty the houses were two-storied villas high with 13 or 14 rooms and with plastered interior walls. According to one estimate, Ur was the largest city in the world with a population of about 65,000 from c. 2030 to 1980 BCE. Ur lost its political power after the demise of the Third Dynasty of Ur in the 21st century, before the end of the Early Bronze Age of Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium BC.

The Empire of Ur came under the control of the Semetic Akkadian Empire founded by Sargon the Great, whom ruled over the Sumerians and much of the ancient Near East/Middle East between the 24th and the 22nd¢uries BCE. It continued to through three kings with Semetic Akkadian names before it fell to the Elamites around 1940 BCE. The city retained its economical importance during the second millennium because it provided access to the Persian Gulf. From the 10th to the 7th centuries the city and the rest of southern Mesopotamia and other parts of the Middle East fell to the north Mesopotamian Assyrian Empire. Under the rule of the Chardean Dynasty of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar the II, there were new construction in Ur in the 6th century. From around 500 BCE, the Alchaemid Empire took the Babylonian over, the city of Ur started to decline. Ultimately Ur's demise was due to perhaps drought, changing river patterns and the silting of the outlet to the Persian Gulf. Since 2009, Global Heritage Fund organization has been working to protect and preserve Ur, today ancient ruins.

Canaan 14th century BCE

Canaan situated on the southern cost of the Mediterranean Sea, gave access to merchants to the Middle East, through which they could reach the Near and Far East. According to the report of the twelve Israelite scouts that Moses send to make a reconnaissance on Canaan, it was populated by different peoples.

29 Amalekites live in the southern part of the land; Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country; and Canaanites live by the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan River.” Numbers 13:29 (GNT)

In a period before Moses time Canaan was already repeatedly mentioned in the Bible, with the oldest parts of the Hebrew Bible being of the Iron Age (c. 1200 BCE-700 CE). The reference started in Genesis with the story that pre-dates the Bronze Age about Noah and his sons that would inhabit the world after the flood. The land of Canaan is named after Ham's son Canaan, Genesis 9: 22-25 and 10:6.

Centuries after the flood one of the descendants of Shem - Genesis - 11:10-26 - Abraham (Abram) would be chosen by God to be the Patriarch of the people of Israel, that would inherit the Promised Land from him. The chronology of the Bible places Abraham at around 2000 BCE. Abraham and his ancestors came from Mesopotamia where they lived in Ur of the Chaldees (since 3800 BCE) an important Sumarian city-state (since 26th century) in Southern Mesopotamia.

31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there. 32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran. Genesis 11:31-32 (NIV)

On their way to Canaan they stayed in Harran (since 3000 BCE) a major ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia, situated in today's Turkey. From there Abraham moved to Canaan. He was seventy five years old when he arrived in Canaan - Genesis 12:4 - and died there aged one hundred and seventy five years, Genesis 25:7-8.

… 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. … Genesis 12:1-9 (NIV)

Canaan, source: Wikipedia

Map: Zoom into this map to find Jerusalem, and in North Canaan: Byblos and Tyre (Phoenicia)

City state in Canaan: Jerusalem

Abraham also visited Jerusalem, at the time one of the city-states located in Canaan ruled by king and priest Melchizedek - Genesis 14, Psalm 110, Hebrews 7 - and also known as Salem in ancient times.

... 18 And Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and also a priest of the Most High God, brought bread and wine to Abram, 19 blessed him, and said, “May the Most High God, who made heaven and earth, bless Abram! 20 May the Most High God, who gave you victory over your enemies, be praised!” And Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the loot he had recovered. … Genesis 14 (NIV)

Evidence concerning settlements in Jerusalem can be found through ceramic findings, the Amarna letters and the Execration Texts also called Proscription Lists.
The ceramic evidence indicates that there was an occupation of the City of David within present-day Jerusalem during the Copper Age, c. 4th millennium BCE, and a permanent settlement during the early Bronze Age, c. 3000-2800 BCE. During the Bronze Age Jerusalem was the capital of an Epyptian vassal city-state, a modest settlement with a small Epyptian garrison gouverning a few outlying villages by appointee kings such as Abdi Heba. At the time of Seti I and Ramesses II prosperity increased and major construction took place there.

The Execration Texts, c. 19th century BCE, are Egyptian hieratic texts, listing enemies of the Pharaoh and or of the Egyptian state or troublesome neighbours. The first published collection of texts are inscribed on pottery shreds , and contain the names of about 20 places in Canaan and Phoenicia and over 30 rulers of that period. They mention a city that could be transcribed into Rušalimum/Urušalimum/Rôsh-ramen, that could mean Jerusalem, which could be the first known mention of Jerusalem.
Amarna letters, source: Wikipedia
The Amarna letters with the ú-ru-sa-lim inscription, c. 14th century BCE, or Amarna tablets, were found in Upper Egypt at Amarna, founded during the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt by pharaoh Akhenaten (1350s-1330s BCE) and named at that time Akhetaten. The letters are mostly diplomatic correspondence over a period of at most thirty years, between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru during the New Kingdom archived on clay tablets. They were mostly written in Akkadian cuneiform, rather than of ancient Egypt. These tablets shed much light on Egyptian relations with other nations at the time and establishing both the history and the chronology of that period. Egypt had relations with Babylonia, Assyria, the Mitanni, the Hittites, Syria, Canaan and Alshiya, modern-day Cyprus. A Middle Eastern group known as Habiru is also mentioned, which has a possible connection with the Hebrews due to the similarity of the words and their geographic location. But, to this day this remains debatable under scholars.


North Canaan: Phoenicia (1200-939 BC)

An ancient Semetic civilization in the north of Canaan, and situated on the coastline of modern Lebanon, with all its major cities on the eastern Mediterranean coastline. Their civilization was organized in city-states with Byblos (1200-1000 BCE) and Tyre (1000-333 BCE) as major cities.

Its believed to have originated from the early Canaanite inhabitants, they didn't have a culture, language, religion, that would set them apart from the other Semitic cultures of Canaan, but they did have a remarkable achievements when it came to seafaring. There was no difference neither in archaeological terms, and they didn't see themselves as having a Phoenician identity. The term Phoenicia was a Greek Classical term used to refer to the major Canaanite port town at the time, and it didn't correspond to an exact identity.

They spoke a Canaanite dialect later also referred to as Phoenician, and when comes to the use of the alphabet, they were the first state-level society to use it extensively. Through their maritime trade they passed their Phoenician phonetic alphabet, which didn't have vowels, on to North Africa and Europe. In Europe it went first to the Greeks, whom added vowels to it, and passed it on to the Etruscans – ancient civilization of Italy - whom in turn passed it on to the Romans.

The Ahiram epitaph is the oldest Phoenician alphabet inscription found engraved on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram from c. 1200 BCE. Until the mid 11th century it has become conventional to refer to the alphabetic script as “Proto-Canaanite” when it was first attested on inscribed bronze arrowheads, and after 1050 BCE it was referred to as “Phoenician “.

The Paleo-Hebrew alphabet dates back to the 10th century BCE or earlier and is an abjad - a writing system where each symbol always of usually stands for a consonant, the appropriate vowel is supplied by the reader - offshoot of the ancient Semitic alphabet and closely related to the Phoenician alphabet. It was used by the Israelites to write Hebrew. In the 5th century BCE the Israelites adopted the Aramaic alphabet, from which the present Jewish “square-script” Hebrew alphabet descends, as their writing system and the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet fell gradually out of use. The small number of Samaritans continue to use a derivative of the Old Hebrew alphabet, known as the Samaritan alphabet.

Other seats of power in the region of the Middle East were ancient Egypt - where the descendants of Abraham's son Israel (Jacob) lived for four centuries - and the Hittite Empire.

Egyptian Empire (3150 - 30 BCE)

Before the Hebrew established themselves in Canaan as a people that would govern that land, they lived as prophesied - Genesis 15:12-16 - approximately four centuries in ancient Egypt after which they left a people of 600,000 men strong with their women and children, and all their cattle, under the leadership of Moses assisted by his brother Aaron and sister Miriam, according to the narrative of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, to live in the Promised Land, where the land of Israel is situated.


Ancient Egypt, the Middle East 1400 BCE, source: Wikipedia

The ancient Egyptian civilization was located at the north eastern part of Africa concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in modern-day Egypt. The Egyptian civilization of Upper and Lower Egypt unified under the first Pharaoh around 3150 BCE. Ancient Egypt's history knew periods of instability, characterised by invasions of foreign powers, called Intermediate Periods and periods of stable kingdoms with in the Early Bronze Age the Old Kingdom, in the Middle Bronze Age the Middle Kingdom and during the Late Bronze Age the New Kingdom. Slightly before the First Dynasty an Egyptian colony was stationed in southern Canaan, where pottery were produced and exported back to Egypt. Egypt reached the hight of its power during the New Kingdom in the Ramesside period. At this time it rivaled and strengthened its diplomatic ties with Canaan, the Hittite Empire, Assyrian Empire and Mitanni Empire, after which a period of slow decline set in.

Ancient Egyptians success came in part with their ability to adapt to the conditions of the fertile river valley by exercising control over the irrigation of the fertile valley producing a crops which fuelled the economy and development of Egypt with a strong military force. The Egyptians engaged in trade with several countries in the Middle East, Far East, Africa and Europe. They mainly exported grain, gold, linen, papyrus and finished goods such as glass and stone objects, while importing several goods from their neighbouring trade partners and those in the Far East. 

Egypt 1450 BCE, source: Wikipedia

The achievements of the Egyptians include their construction techniques, system of mathematics, practical and effective system of medicine, irrigation systems, agricultural production techniques, the first known ships, glass technology, new forms of literature, the earliest known peace treaty with the Hittites.

In 30 BCE the Kingdom of Egypt became a Roman province when Queen Cleopatra of the Ptolemaic Dynasty - family of Greek origin - and being the last acting Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, lost it the Roman Empire. The Romans relied heavily on grain shipments from Egypt. The city of Alexandria became an increasingly important centre on the trade route with the orient for the luxurious products which were in high demand in Rome. Today Egypt is an independent nation with a world renown legacy.






Hittite Empire (c.1600-1178 BCE)

The Hittites are mentioned in several passages starting from Genesis in biblical scripture. Genesis 10 links them to Ham's son Canaan through their ancestor Heth, so they were counted under the Canaanites. They were usually depicted as people living among the Israelites – Abraham purchased the Patriarchal burial-plot of Machpelah from a Hittite, and Hittites served as high ranking officers in David's army - but also as people with their own kingdoms - 2 Kings 7:6 - located outside the geographic Canaan and powerful enough to fight a Syrian army.

The Hittites, an ancient Anatolian people, established an empire at Hattusa in norht-central Anatolia around 1600 BCE, which reached its height under Suppiluliuma I during the mid 14th century BCE. The empire ruled over most of Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, parts of the northern
East-Mediterranean coast and Upper Mesopotamia. The empire came to an end after c. 1180 BCE, while splintering into several independent city-states during the Bronze Age at the time of the arrival of the Sea Peoples. Some of these city-states survived until the 8th century BCE.
The history of the Hittite civilization is known through cuneiform texts found in the area of the Hettite kingdom, diplomatic and commercial correspondence found in Egypt's archives, and such archives found in the Middle East. But, whether these Hittites were the people referred to in biblical scripture as the Hittites or other peoples is still a mater of considerable debate amongst scholars.

The descendants of Abraham's grandson Jacob, son of Isaac, would become the tribes of Israel that would conquer and inhabit the Land of Israel in the Promised Land for ages, after which they would be exiled only to return centuries later to establish the State of Israel in our modern-day, all as prophesied centuries earlier. Canaan, would ultimately be succeeded by the Land of Israel.

The Israeli Era: the conquest of Canaan and the Israeli kingdoms

Author: © Mrs A. vd Laan-LeitoPosted in: History