Major Trade Routes
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While Palestine had few natural harbors it had three important trade routes—the Way of the Sea, the Ridge Route, and the King’s Highway. These facilitated commerce between Anatolia, Egypt, and Mesopotamia, but the downside was that their exploitation and control not only enticed foreign occupation but provided invasion routes for competing powers.

The coastal route along the eastern Mediterranean was known as the "Way of the Sea", or from the Latin, Via Maris from the Latin. The road was a main trade route connecting Egypt with Anatolia and Mesopotamia. There were two branches, one near the coast and one inland, in the area of the Philistine Plain. These came together at Aphek and only a single branch continued through the Sharon Plain, around the swamp area, through the Aruna Pass to Megiddo. This provides a clue as to why Megiddo was a significant fortification in Solomon’s day. It was an important route for travel and trade. The Via Maris cuts across the Jezreel Valley, through the hills of Lower Galilee, skirts the shore of the Sea of Galilee, heads northeast to Damascus from Hazor.

The regions and principal trade routes of ancient Palestine

The Ridge Route, along connecting mountain tops in the interior, ran along the central mountain ridge. To its east were deep wadi valleys leading to the Jordan Valley and the Arabah (Aravah). To its west were the foothills leading to the Mediterranean Sea (anciently the Great Sea). Moreover, there were secondary, but still important routes, that connected the Via Maris and the Ridge Route in the southern part of the country. There are certain valleys where it is easier to ascend to the hill country than in other places. One of the most important secondary routes leaves the Via Maris just northeast of Ekron, comes by Timnah and Beth-shemesh through the Sorek Valley, then up into the Valley of Raphiem ending in Jerusalem (Jebus). Another important valley is the Valley of Lachish. It leaves the city, heads into the hill country, and then reaches the Ridge Route near Hebron. A major valley circled the city of Gezer. Travelers could leave the Via Maris, go right by Gezer, and ascend up the Aijalon Valley to what is called the way of Beth-horon. This was another important route on which biblical personages traveled on many occasions.

The King’s Highway, the valley route, traverses the eastern tableland. Its name comes from the road linking the capitals of Edom (Sela), Moab (Kir-moab), and Ammon (Rabbath-ammon). Several east-west routes connect the Coastal Plain and the King’s Highway. One of major importance begins on the Via Maris at Aphek and goes to Shechem and then to Jericho and Rabbath-ammon. There are two additional important routes but not of the same significance. The first is the route from northern Gilead that comes down to the Jordan Valley at Beth-shean (Bet-she'an, also anciently Scythopolis), swings around Jezreel Valley to Dothan, and then joins the Via Maris at Gath. The second from the center of the country from Lebonah comes down to Dothan and then extends to the Via Maris.

Moreover, the southern part of the Levant forms a land bridge linking the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. While not a commonly acknowledged dimension, it is a feature of the land often directly related to the prosperity of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah in their periods of national greatness. For example, without exploring this connection one cannot adequately account for the alliance made between King Solomon and King Hiram of Tyre to their mutual profit.

A working knowledge of Levantine geography remains an indispensable research tool which frequently provides the key to explaining specific biblical events As geography largely shaped Levantine history, so also understanding the history of Jerusalem and determining the authentic locations of its biblical sites, necessities a working familiarity with its topography and geographical features.

Page last edited: 04/06/06 09:18 PM

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