'Promised land' split five ways at close of Old Testament times

During the time between the Old and the New Testaments, much of the area once known as "the Promised Land" was divided into five provinces:

Galilee: The northernmost region of Palestine was Galilee, a word of Canaanite or Hebrew origin that signifies a "ring" or "circuit," probably in reference to a ring of cities in the hill country.In the system of tribal allotments (recorded in Joshua), the territory of Galilee was divided among Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun and Issachar.

During the time between the testaments, the Maccabees, a family of Jewish patriots who successfully revolted against Syria and ruled during the first century B.C., headed a successful revolt against Syrian rule (175-164 B.C.) to gain control of Palestine. The Maccabees' rule lasted until 37 B.C., during which time Galilee was included in Jewish territory.

Judaea: The name Judaea (also spelled Judea) was given to the southern part of western Palestine after the Jews returned from exile. Judaea extended further north than the old kingdom of Judah and included the southern part of Ephraim.

Judaea, although under Persian rule after the Babylonian exile, generally was administered by a Jewish governor. The Maccabees expanded Judaea until the kingdom embraced all of Palestine, except some Hellenistic cities. The Maccabees' empire was known as the Hasmonean Kingdom.

Samaria: Located in the central district of Palestine west of the Jordan, Samaria had been a subdivision of the Persian empire that was later captured by Syria. The province of Samaria is not to be confused with the city of Samaria, capital of the northern kingdom. After the northern kingdom fell in 721 B.C., many of the Israelites who were deported to Babylon merged with the Assyrians to become the Samaritans of the New Testament.

Idumaea: Idumaea is the Greek equivalent of "Edom," originally the territory east of the Jordan-Arabah valley and south of the land of Moab. At the time of Edom's first mention in the Old Testament, it was inhabited by a primitive race, the Horites, or cave dwellers. They were partly destroyed and partly absorbed by the Bedouin tribes who claimed descent from Abraham through Esau. After the fall of Babylon, the desert Arabs forced the Edomites across the Jordan-Arabah valley, and the people and name were extended westward. By the time of the Maccabees, Hebron was part of Idumaea.

Peraea: This land was referred to as "beyond the Jordan" or Transjordan. It became strongly Hellenistic, or Greek, by culture and tradition, under the Selecuids from 301 to 217 B.C. To preserve Jewish thought, Judas Maccabeus removed the Jews from the area. Later, the Jews attempted to destroy the Hellenistic cities and make the area Jewish. When Alexander Janeus, of the Maccabees, died in 49 B.C., Rome's Pompey the Great seized control of Judaea and Peraea. The area north and east of these provinces was the Decapolis, a league of 10 cities, which came into existence about the beginning of the Christian era. According to Mark 10:1 and Matthew 19:1, Jesus' final journey to Jerusalem was through Peraea.

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