Israel’s Promised Land Borders

1885 years before Christ was born God promised Abraham and his seed a land as described here.

“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:” Genesis 12:1-2 (KJV)

That ‘promise’ was reaffirmed with added detailed dimensions (borders) as seen in the Old Testament and as seen herein.

The “Promised Land” is so named because it was territory that God had promised to Abram, who was later renamed as Abraham. The territory was included in what is called the Abrahamic Covenant and it is described in Genesis 12:1-4.  In the covenant God promised Abram that;

1) he would become a great nation,

2) have a land of his own, and

3) bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him.

Scripture tells us that Abram believed God and left the Ur of the Chaldeans, the place of his birth (Genesis 11:31; 15:7).

In Genesis 50:24, Joseph calls “the land” that God promised to Abraham “the land which He promised on an oath to Abraham.” Yet, nowhere in the Bible is that land called the “promised land.” That is a term that has been given by Christians to the land promised to Abram. The New Testament comes very close to using the expression “promised land” when the book of Hebrews says, “land of promise.”

By faith he [Abraham] lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise . . . Hebrews 11:9 (NASB)

General Description of “the Promised Land”

A general and incomplete description of the Promised Land is given in Genesis 12:5-7 and Genesis 24:7.

Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. Genesis 12:5-7

The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me (Abraham) and who swore to me, saying, “To your descendants I will give this land,” He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there. Genesis 24:7

In verse 5 we are told that Abram and his wife Sarai traveled through the land of Canaan only as far as Shechem to the oak of Moreh. The description is a partial or incomplete one. Then God told Abram this is the land that I will give to your descendants.  Genesis 13:12 says that Abram settled in the land of Canaan.

Second General Description of “the Promised Land”

In Genesis 15 God meets Abram again promising him the land of Canaan and defining its boundaries. Now a fuller description of the land was given to Abram. Now the land stretched from the Nile River of Egypt to the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia (Genesis 15:18-21).

On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.” Genesis 15:18–21

Exodus also describes the promised land as stretching from the boundary of the Red Sea to the Euphrates River (Exodus 23:28-31).

Detailed Description of “the Promised Land”

Later in Numbers 34:1-13 God gives Moses a more detailed description of the Promised Land the Israelites would occupy.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance, even the land of Canaan according to its borders. Your southern sector shall extend from the wilderness of Zin along the side of Edom, and your southern border shall extend from the end of the [Dead Sea] eastward. Then your border shall turn direction from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim and continue to Zin, and its termination shall be to the south of Kadesh-barnea; and it shall reach Hazaraddar and continue to Azmon. The border shall turn direction from Azmon to the brook of Egypt, and its termination shall be at the sea. As for the western border, you shall have the [Mediterranean Sea], that is, its coastline; this shall be your west border. And this shall be your north border: you shall draw your border line from the Great Sea to Mount Hor. You shall draw a line from Mount Hor to the Lebo-hamath, and the termination of the border shall be at Zedad; and the border shall proceed to Ziphron, and its termination shall be at Hazar-enan. This shall be your north border. For your eastern border you shall also draw a line from Hazar-enan to Shepham, and the border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain; and the border shall go down and reach to the slope on the east side of the Sea of Chinnereth. And the border shall go down to the Jordan and its termination shall be at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land according to its borders all around.'” So Moses commanded the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the land that you are to apportion by lot among you as a possession, which the LORD has commanded to give to the nine and a half tribes.” Numbers 34:1-13

Promised Land According to Numbers 34

In Numbers 34:2, God explicitly states the Israelites were inheriting the land of Canaan. The western border of the Promised Land started with the coastline along the Sea of Galilee. The northern border is defined by a horizontal line that crossed through Mount Hor, Lebo-hamath, Zeded, Ziphon, and Hazarenan. The eastern border crossed through Hazarenan, Shepham, Riblah, Ain, the Sea of Chinnereth and down to the Dead Sea. The southern border started with the wilderness of Zin on the east side of Edom and extended to the west side of the Dead Sea.[1]

The territory was about 60,000 square miles, 144 miles in length from the north to the south, 40 miles across the southern border, and 20 miles along the northern border.

Full Occupation of the Promised Land

Full occupation of the Promised Land became a reality under King David and King Solomon when the Israelites possessed all of the land that God had promised Abraham in Genesis 12, 15, 18, and 22. However, it was temporary and did not last. At Israel’s height, their land stretched from the border of Egypt to the River Euphrates:

22 And king Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. 23 And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, that God had put in his heart. 24 And they brought every man his present, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and raiment, harness, and spices, horses, and mules, a rate year by year. 25 And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; whom he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem. 26 And he reigned over all the kings from the river even unto the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt... 2 Chronicles 9:22–26

The promised land included Judea, Samaria and Galilee in Jesus’ day. Consequently, it included the land of Canaan (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities I, 7), the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Gennesaret (Luke 5:1) and the Dead Sea.

Palestine Was Promised to Israel

Palestine was a name already in existence and used by ancient writers before Jesus was born. Today, some claim that the Israelites stole the land on which the nation of Israel resides. But the preceding discussion reveals that God gave the land to Abraham and subsequently to Israel. The land was called Palestine during the time of Herodotus, Aristotle, Flavius Josephus, and today. The land was once called Canaan and was later called Palestine. Here are some important quotes.

Here is a quote from Herodotus (440 B.C.),

Between Persia and Phoenicia lies a broad and ample tract of country, after which the region I am describing skirts our sea, stretching from Phoenicia along the coast of Palestine-Syria till it comes to Egypt, where it terminates. This entire tract contains but three nations. The whole of Asia west of the country of the Persians is comprised in these two regions.[2]

Aristotle (350 B.C.) also refers to Palestine and mentions the Dead Sea by mentioning the “lake” that is “bitter” and “makes salt.”

Again if, as is fabled, there is a lake in Palestine, such that if you bind a man or beast and throw it in it floats and does not sink, this would bear out what we have said. They say that this lake is so bitter and salt that no fish live in it and that if you soak clothes in it and shake them it cleans them. The following facts all of them support our theory that it is some earthy stuff in the water which makes it salt.[3]

Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37 – A.D. 100) also refers to the land of Palestine in his Antiquities of the Jews Book XX, Section 11.

I shall now, therefore, make an end here of my Antiquities; after the conclusion of which events, I began to write that account of the war; and these Antiquities contain what hath been delivered down to us from the original creation of man, until the twelfth year of the reign of Nero, as to what hath befallen the Jews, as well in Egypt as in Syria, and in Palestine . . . [4]

Therefore, it is correct to conclude that the modern definition of the term Palestine refers to the entire land of ancient Canaan and that was the land the Israelites possessed during the time of Joshua and King David. Palestine also refers to the land occupied by the Israelites before Christ and during Christ’s time until the Romans defeated the nation in A.D. 70. Therefore, the definition of Palestine includes the ancient land of Canaan, and the land that Herodotus, Aristotle, Flavius Josephus called Palestine. The definition is unchanged today.  Therefore, the term or the name of Palestine has only one meaning.


The Bible prophesied that the Promised Land would be given once again to the Jewish people sometime in the future after the second coming of Jesus, when He reigns over the entire world (Ezekiel 47:13-20). During this time the promised land will finally be realized to its fullest extent and control all of the earth (Daniel 2:35, 44).


1. Yohanan et al. The MacMillian Bible Atlas. MacMillian Publishing Co. 1968. maps 48, 50.
2. Herodotus. The History. Book IV. Melpomene.
3. Aristotle, Meteorology, Book 2, Section 3.
4. Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 541.