“Location, location, location.” Anyone familiar with real estate has certainly overheard this mantra at some point. The geographic features of a particular location influence so much of our human experience. Even beyond the aspects of climate, landscape, and natural resources, geography leaves a lasting mark on the development of societies and cultures in any given area.
Many of the most well-known narratives in Scripture are rife with geographical elements that are often overlooked because of our distance from the Holy Land. Many of Jesus’ parables and illustrations are steeped in geographic details, but some of these important and distinctive details are lost in translation—we’re simply too far removed from these locations to understand their geographic significance. Imagine having a personal tour guide of Jerusalem and the surrounding area, giving you an on-the-spot explanation of what you’re seeing and how it informs the biblical text.
Which mountain was Jesus pointing to?
In Matthew 21:18–22, Jesus draws a lesson on prayer from a nearby mountain—not just any mountain but a very specific mountain: Herodium. This man-made mountain is clearly in view from where archaeologists believe Jesus and the disciples were standing and it’s unique shape stood out on the landscape. But, as John Beck explains in his entry from the Lexham Geographic Commentary, there’s another reason why Jesus uses Herodium in his illustration:
The third reason we favor the Herodium is that it is the only mountain in view that had a history of being moved, a fact that Jesus alludes to in his lesson from the landscape. Herod directed his builders to remove the material from the mountain adjacent to the Herodium in order to have the material needed to create an artificial slope, which flowed from the circular hall down to the base of the Herodium. Thus the Herodium with its high elevation, unique shape, distinctive architecture, and history of being moved is the most likely referent of “this mountain” which Jesus includes in his lesson on prayer.
Of course Jesus wasn’t simply pointing out the most distinctive mountain in sight because it was easy to spot. Places have connotations that generate specific thoughts and feelings when they’re seen or mentioned (think about the White House or New York City). Jesus drew out all of these implications in his lesson to the disciples:
Built by Herod the Great, Herodium represented the Roman occupation of the promised land and was the poster-child of pagan corruption. From the disciples’ perspective, the Herodium represented everything that was wrong in their society. But what could they do? They were little more than peasants caught up in the large and menacing machinery of the Roman world. As these men marveled at the sudden withering of a fig tree, Jesus calls for them to lift their eyes from the tree to the horizon, to the mountain that symbolized what needed fixing in the world. If they would pray in faith they could accomplish so much more than causing a fig tree to wither. They could ask that the Herodium and all it symbolized be to thrown into the place where all pagan objects belong—the Dead Sea—and it would happen. Really? Yes, really!
Reveal Overlooked Details with the Lexham Geographic Commentary
The Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels delivers fresh insight by paying attention to an often overlooked component of the Gospel stories—their geographical setting. To create an innovative, digital-first commentary on the geographic and physical background of the Biblical text, we partnered with Dr. Barry Beitzel. This commentary will not only place you in the sandals of the disciples as they traveled throughout Israel with Jesus, but it will explain the significance of the geographic details to the biblical text and your life today.
You’ll see why it was so miraculous that the disciples caught such a horde of fish on the second cast at Jesus’ bidding (hint: it’s more than the number). And you’ll appreciate the significance of Peter’s declaration of “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” when the location of this exchange is identified and its geographical history retold. With more than fifty Gospel stories expounded from this important geographical angle, you’re bound to take away something new from these well-worn stories.
Better Bible study with Logos 7
In the Lexham Geographic Commentary, articles on each passage are enriched with relevant details that integrate the valuable resources of Logos Bible Software. So instead of being bound to the commentary text, you will be encouraged to explore Atlas maps of the region discussed, or conduct a Bible Word Study of a Greek word that was mentioned. And if reading through a commentary isn’t your thing, no worries! The wealth of information throughout the Lexham Geographic Commentary will be accessible from multiple angles within Logos Bible Software. So whether you’re studying a specific pericope using the Passage Guide or simply reading through your preferred Bible with the commentary linked together, the relevant information will be surfaced helping you further explore the Gospels.
This incredible resource is only available in a Logos 7 Library, beginning in Silver on up. Get the Lexham Geographic Commentary—and hundreds of other resources and tools—in the latest release of Logos Bible Software!