“Palestine” and “The Levant” are not names found in the Bible1, but you’ll frequently see them on maps and in articles and other study resources.

Records containing the name Palestine go back to the Greeks, with the historian Herodotus (5th century BC) being the earliest. There are a few theories about where the Greeks got the name. The borders were not clearly defined until the 2nd century AD. Throughout the Greek era, Palestine was an informal name for the strip of land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, ending around Syria in the north (a little north of the Sea of Galilee) and Egypt in the south (around the tip of the Gulf of Suez).

From 63 BC on, the area fell under Roman control. The original Roman province of Judea was roughly synonymous with Palestine and governed by Herod the Great from 37 to 4 BC. The kingdom was broken up into smaller areas (Idumea2, Judea, Samaria, Perea, Galilee, Decapolis, and other regions in the northeast) upon the death of Herod the Great. These were ruled by various members of his family and later governed directly by Romans, such as Pilate.

In 132 AD, the Romans merged a few regions, creating the province called Syria Palestina. This was the first time Palestine was used in an official name of a region with definite boundaries.

The region has since been under the control of Mulsims, crusaders, the Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire. Since 1948, the region has been divided into the state of Israel and the Palestinian territories. Arabs in this area are identified as Palestinians.

The Levant

The Levant refers to the area extending from Syria to the Sinai peninsula (the eastern part of the Euphrates River to the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba). “Levant” comes from Latin and refers to the rising of the Sun, thus the east. The eastern part of the Mediterranean between Turkey and Egypt is also called the Levantine Sea. In the past, the term referred to a larger area including the coastal nations and islands of the eastern half of the Mediterranean.

The small nations of the Levant were a coveted prize in many wars. Israel conquered the Canaanites there. Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Arabs, crusaders, and Jews have all fought over this strip of land around the Jordan River. It was a major trade route at the intersection of Africa, Asia, and Europe.

God promised Abraham that his descendants would rule the Levant. Due to Israel’s disobedience, they only had dominance over the entire Levant during Solomon’s reign.  Genesis 15:18-20; 1 Kings 4:21

The Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”  Genesis 15:18-20

Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.  1 Kings 4:21


1 The KJV has “Palestina” or “Palestine” in four verses of the Old Testament, but all other English translations, as well as the Hebrew and Septuagint, have “Philistines.” The NASB95 has “Palestine” in the footnotes for two verses in Daniel, but the 2020 update has “Israel.” The EXP, AMPC, and AMP have Palestine as an explanation in their bracketed expansions.
2 Idumea was the Greek name for Edom, located directly south of Judea.

~ SR

Ruhmann, Scott. “Places of the Past: Palestine and the Levant.” 27th Street Church of Christ. Access date: .