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Islands

The ancient Israelites were generally not a seafaring people. The Hebrew word of the Old Testament, pronounced ee, while sometimes translated as island or isle, actually meant dry land, or coastland - as the word is sometimes also interpreted ("seafaring" was a somewhat limited term in ancient times, since ships very often sailed along coastlines as much as possible, deliberately never losing sight of land). By the time of the New Testament however, the people of Judah (the "Lost Ten Tribes of Israel" were long-gone centuries before - see When Israel Became "Israel" and "Judah"), such as the apostle Paul who traveled widely throughout The Mediterranean Sea on his missionary journeys (see Paul's First Missionary Journey, Paul's Second Missionary Journey, Paul's Third Missionary Journey and Paul's Journey To Rome) were more familiar with the modern meaning of island as "land completely surrounded by water," just as was the apostle John who was imprisoned on, or by, an island by the Romans (see the Fact Finder question below), where he was given to write the Book of Revelation. In the Scriptures, island was also used as an analogy for people, or nations.

The Islands Of The Bible

John On Patmos Translation of the same original Hebrew word, which literally means dry land, or coastland, varies. For example, Genesis 10:5 in the KJV and RSV:

"By these were the isles of the Gentiles" (King James Version)

"From these the coastland peoples" (Revised Standard Version - the RSV is based on the American Standard Version)

Some examples of actual islands that are mentioned in the Scriptures by their ancient, or modern, names:

"The inhabitants of Sidon and Arvad were your rowers; skilled men of Zemer were in you, they were your pilots." (Ezekiel 27:8 RSV)

"Of oaks of Bashan they made your oars; they made your deck of pines from the coasts of Cyprus, inlaid with ivory." (Ezekiel 27:6 RSV)

"And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to put to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, looking northeast and southeast, and winter there." (Acts 27:12 RSV)

"He ordered those who could swim to throw themselves overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all escaped to land. After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta." (Acts 27:43-28:1 RSV)

Island was also used as an analogy or symbol of nations:

"Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment." (Isaiah 41:1 KJV)

"My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust." (Isaiah 51:5 KJV)

"Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him [see The Gathering of Israel and Judah], and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock." (Jeremiah 31:10 KJV)

Fact Finder: What was the name of the island where the apostle John was imprisoned, and where he was given to write the Book of Revelation?
Revelation 1:9
See also The Island Of Patmos


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