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Coasting

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 i.e. "coasting"). 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 Isles Of The Bible

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

John On Patmos

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

"From these the coastland peoples" (Revised Standard Version - the RSV of 1952 is based on the American Standard Version of 1901 which was based on the King James Version of 1611)

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

"The inhabitants of Zidon and Arvad were thy mariners: thy wise men, O Tyrus, that were in thee, were thy pilots" (Ezekiel 27:8 KJV)

"Of the oaks of Bashan have they made thine oars; the company of the Ashurites have made thy benches of ivory, brought out of the Isles of Chittim." (Ezekiel 27:6 KJV)

"And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west." (Acts 27:12 KJV)

"But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land. 28:1 And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita." (Acts 27:43-28:1 KJV)

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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