Map of Israel, Van Bochum, 1641
This is an ancient map created by the Belgian cartographer Michael van Bochum in 1641. The title is written in Latin and means “The Wandering of the People of Israel Through the Desert to the Promised Land.” The map was created in Paris and is part of the National Library’s collection of ancient maps.
This map focuses on the Nile Delta, Sinai, and the Land of Israel and portrays the stories that took place during the Jewish People’s journey from Egypt to Israel. Among the illustrations are the crossing of the Red Sea, the gathering of manna, Moses receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai, the Golden Calf, and the war against Amalek. The map tracks in green the route that the Jewish People took, complete with numbers and the names of places where they stopped along the way. In the bottom right corner there is an illustration of their camp with the tents of the tribes and the tabernacle (mishkan) in the centre. The map shows the sites of biblical cities and towns, and van Bochum also included in the sea two large painted warships which seem, due to the depiction of clouds of gunpowder, to be involved in a battle.
The main purpose of this map was to illustrate the journey of the Jewish People through the desert, and it is therefore not geographically accurate. (For example, in Canaan there are no topographical features whatsoever.)
Connection to Parashat Yitro
The highlight of Parashat Yitro is the Jewish People’s arrival at Mount Sinai. Following a lengthy preparatory period, Moses ascends the mountain in order to receive the Torah from God. This important event in Jewish history is shown on this map created by a Christian cartographer in the seventeenth century portraying the common values and history of the Jewish and Christian people.
This image can be used in Jewish Studies lessons to trace the route of the Jewish People from Egypt to the Land of Israel in bible lessons or before Pesach.
History teachers can use this resource to discuss the rich history of medieval cartography and the balance struck between artistic license and historical facts.
Geography teachers can show this map when discussing the history of cartography and as an example of a thematic maps created in Europe describing the holy land and the biblical locations.
Which geographical area is shown in this map?
What is the title of the map?
Which language is it written in?
Using an online dictionary, try to understand the Latin title.
Who drew this map?
When was the map drawn?
Which illustrations appear on the map?
Describe the green path going from the bottom of the map to the top.
Where does it start and where does it finish?
What are the numbers along the part?
What other features stand out on this map?
Which sea appears in the map?
What illustrations are in the sea?
Reading Between the Lines
What events do the illustrations depict, and why are they included in this map?
How accurate is this illustration of the Jewish People’s journey through the desert?
Why did a Christian cartographer create a map of the Holy Land including illustrations of biblical events?
Even though we know the sites of many biblical events, there is no record of where Mount Sinai was located.
Why do you think this is?
What were the most significant events of the Jewish People’s forty years of wandering in the desert?
Using the first chapters of the book of Exodus as your guide, create a map of the Jewish People’s journey after leaving Egypt.
Compare the accuracy of your map with van Bochum’s map.