Today we’re talking about maps in the Bible, because even though I used to use maps all the time when I was … you know, a little kid in church and bored with the sermons, I haven’t really used them since. But in the last few months, I did! I started turning to them in my Bible, and it’s really helped me go deeper into the text. So I wanted to talk about how to use maps in your Bible study and why you’d want to do that.
First of all, maps really help us understand the text better. This right here (see video) shows the roads in Jerusalem in Israel. This is my She Reads Truth Bible, and you can kind of see that there is a road from Jerusalem all the way to Nazareth going straight up. But most Jews would go either this way right here, or go around the other way and that’s because they wanted to avoid that area of Samaria.
So when we read that Jesus had to go through Samaria to meet with a Samaritan woman and have that conversation with her, when you see it on the map that there was a straight road but most people went around, it’s just such a powerful illustration of how Jesus upends cultural customs and goes straight to the heart, straight to the woman that he wanted to meet.
And it’s easy to understand that when you see on a map, when you realize that He went straight there and most people avoided it because they wanted to avoid Samaritans. And that’s one thing you might not necessarily know just by reading the text, but when you see it on the map, it’s easier to understand that way. It also helps you engage the text.
Again, here is a map in my She Read Truth Bible showing the Passion week of Jesus. And it plots out the different things that happened on His last few days, like Friday morning, Friday daybreak, and some things on Thursday and Sunday — all these things to kind of see, “Okay, where did Jesus travel in that last week, and what is the significance in some of these places?”
Especially if you’re a visual learner, using maps will help the Bible come alive because you’ll understand it in a whole different way than just reading words on a page.
This map (see video) will show you the topography, so it will show you the mountains and rivers and seas, so you’ll better be able to understand the geography and what life would have been like to travel that way. All these are different ways to understand stories better.
Another way to take it to the next level, and this is what I started to do a few months ago, is in our Simply Bible study (if you’re doing this with us if you’re watching this video right when it comes out) in the Gospel of John, we have a place for the map of Israel. And so, I sketched it out. Now let me say, disclaimer: I am not an artist. I don’t like to color. I don’t like to draw. It’s not my strength.
And so I really resisted doing this for a long time, but finally I was like, “You know what? I’m just going to give myself permission for it to not be perfect.” And it’s not even drawn to scale. Some of the distances are off. But I found it really helped me to just go ahead.
I started out by kind of mapping out the Mediterranean Sea, and then these two bodies of water, the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. Those are kind of like the two big things, and then I mapped out Jerusalem and Nazareth. Just those two to start with. And then every time Jesus traveled to a new city in the Gospel of John, I would plot it on here. So I would look it up in my Study Bible, and then it put it over here.
And that has really helped me to remember details of the text because now when I look at some of these cities it’s like, “Oh yeah! I remember that story!” or I’ll read that He went back. He crossed the sea from here to here, back here from up there, and I can better visualize it and remember these details because I’m taking the extra step to kind of map it out and chart it on my map.
So this is a practical encouragement to you. Whatever you choose to do, I encourage you this week to use maps in your Bible study, whether it’s turning to a map in your Bible, sketching out a map, or maybe jotting notes on a map that you already have. I’d love to hear in our Facebook group if you would jot that down, take a picture, post a little note, saying, “Hey, this is how I use maps in my Bible study,” or “This is how it’s helped me.” I would love to hear from you. It’s been a fun adventure. So I can’t wait to hear what you think.