Where is the location of the story – A worksheet
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Where involves the physical location of the story. While this may seem straight forward it can be important to really understand the location and it’s significance, historically, physically, spiritually, politically and culturally .
For example, hearing Jesus is in Galilee lets us know he is near his home town, but knowing he is currently in the middle of the lake, on a fishing boat, in the middle of the storm brings a different understanding to the narrative than knowing he is in a friends house having a meal on a sunny day.
The location of the story isn’t just a matter of the geographic physical location but also its location historically, spiritually, politically and culturally.
Some initial questions to ask:
What is the geographic location of the story?
What country are they in?
What part of the country are they in?
What are the physical characteristics of the part of the country they are in.
Physical terrain such as hills, mountains, rivers, seas, forests etc gut also the state of the terrain. For example, the Israelites crossed the Jordan when it was in full flood, bank to bank rushing water, not in the middle of summer when it was a trickle – changing the size of the miracle God performed
Weather (hot, cold, fine, stormy, rain, windy). Examples – Jesus disciples in the boat were in fear for their lives, which means the storm they were in must have been pretty bad as they were seasoned fishermen. The crowd listening to Jesus braved the sun and exhaustion to see him, prompting the disciples to express concern that Jesus needed to dismiss them otherwise they would struggle to make it home safely.
Flora (plants) – Plants, or the absence of plants can play a large part in a story. Jonah sat in a shadeless desert with no plants waiting for Ninevah to be destroyed, Noah’s access to wood would have affected the story.
Fauna (animals) – For example, Daniel in the lions den wouldn’t be much of a story without the lions, the Garden of Eden without a snake or Noah’s ark without 2 of every animal.
What is around them, both in close proximity but also further away that may affect this story. Examples – Once the Israelites crossed the Jordan and it closed behind them, they were trapped with an impassible river behind them and an entire land full of hostile cities and armies ahead of them. They were trapped with no where to go. If there was a way back it would have made their decision much easier to make.
Are they in building, a vehicle, outdoors, up a mountain, near a lake?
What is the climate like?
Often a location has historical significance that brings meaning to the current story, or sometime in the future the area the story is told in will bring significance to this story.
One example – It is suggested that the location where Abraham went to sacrifice his son, was the location Jesus was crucified. If this is true then Abrahams faith in sacrificing his only son was mirrored when God sacrificed His only son. Further more when God stopped Abraham from killing Isaac he provided a ram (sheep) instead – again mirrored by the ‘Lamb of God’ taking our place and dying for us.
The Bible is a spiritual book and many of the storys have a spiritual significance. This is especially true of the Old Testament where the religious significance of many actions had a major effect on the participants in the story. A classic example is the 10 Plagues of Egypt where God systematically challenged every major Egyptian deity and showed He was God alone.
The politics of who rules whom and the relationships this implies between different states and people effects many Biblical stories. As an example, Jonah, wouldn’t have run away if the people he was sent to where friends or political allies. He ran away because God had sent him to his nations worst enemies. He would rather disobey God than help them as he knew God was a forgiving God and wanted nothing to do with helping his enemies.
The crucifixion is also a very subtle piece of politics with Jesus being sent from person to person, because the right to crucify / sentence to death belonged to Pilot but the issue was a religious one and Jesus was a subject of Herod.
One of the most difficult thing to do in a Bible study is to determine the significance of events and people to the participants of the story. Often the cultural significance of an action or event is crucial to understanding the story. When Jesus healed a cripple on the Sabbath he offended the Pharisees but he was furious that they would let a man help his donkey on the Sabbath but were offended when Jesus helped a cripple. A woman bleeding was considered highly unclean and shouldn’t have been out in public but one woman dared risk punishment to get healing from Jesus. Without understanding the cultural implications of an action or event, the true or deeper meaning is often lost on us.