The Old Testament is more than just a chronicle of faith; it’s a tapestry of stories that transport readers to another era, to lands shaped by divine interventions and legendary leaders. Set against a backdrop of eternal beauty, each landscape is a tangible step back in time, a place where the biblical world unfurls before your eyes.
Even in places that may seem remote, the significance of ancient prophets and their timeless truths and lessons is ever present. Navigating these captivating locales, visitors can deeply immerse themselves in the stories of the Old Testament.
Mount Nebo, Jordan
High above the lands of Jordan lies Mount Nebo, a serene expanse of earth and sky. According to the Old Testament, Moses spent his final days here, climbing the mountain’s rugged terrain to gaze upon the Promised Land.
“Moses died and was buried here in Moab by God himself,” says Zina Ammari, trade partnerships manager for the Jordan Tourism Board, “but the site of his grave remains unknown.”
Today, visitors can stand on the same grounds and breathe in the panoramic vistas Moses gazed at across the river to Canaan. Although the small fourth century church built here by early Christians no longer exists, visitors can still see some of the stones from that church in their original place in the wall around the apse.
“The new limestone and pale wood church houses more than 8,600 square feet of beautiful mosaics,” Ammari said. “And the Serpentine Cross statue nearby stands tall as both a symbol of the serpent taken by Moses in the desert and the cross on which Jesus was crucified.”
Outside, visitors can use a viewing platform to enjoy panoramic views of the Holy Land around the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea and the distant hills of Jerusalem. After sharing prayers in the on-site chapel, groups can explore the intricate mosaics, artifacts and rich historical archives preserved at the church.
Mount Sinai, Egypt
Deep within the rugged terrains of Egypt, Mount Sinai is where heaven touched earth. It was here that God, among thunder, lightning and the blare of a trumpet handed Moses the Ten Commandments.
Today, Mount Sinai beckons pilgrims and adventurers alike. At the mountain’s foot, the sixth century St. Catherine’s Monastery offers church groups a serene haven for reflection. This is where Moses saw the burning bush and heard the voice of God, as well as where he met his future wife, Zipporah, near a well. The “Well of Moses” is still here and remains one of the monastery’s primary sources of water. A bramble (prickly shrub) in the monastery’s courtyard is believed to be the original holy bush seen by Moses and can be approached as long as visitors take their shoes off — just as Moses once did.
Climbing Mount Sinai, especially in the predawn hours, offers an ethereal experience — a blend of mysticism, history and the grandeur of nature. Church groups can retrace Moses’ steps in the two-hour hike to the top under the guidance of a professional Bedouin guide (solo hikes are not allowed) and stand where Moses once did, eyes to the sky, to hear the voice of God.
Red Sea, Egypt
The blue stretch of the Red Sea cradles the story of a miraculous Exodus. According to the Old Testament, Moses parted these very waters, paving a path for the Israelites to escape captivity in search of the Promised Land. The general consensus is that the parting of the seas likely occurred at the northern end of the Gulf of Suez, not far from Mount Sinai — a place where sandy plains and rocky outcrops meet the sparkling waters of the gulf.
Today’s Red Sea is a vibrant hub of activity, from diving among the corals to cruising on its serene surface. While many come here for the modern attractions, the waters also whisper ancient tales to those in quiet contemplation, painting vivid images of biblical miracles.
Groups can charter boat tours, combining biblical reflections with the natural beauty of the sea. The serene beaches are an ideal spot for gatherings, prayer sessions or simply contemplating the miracle of the waters. For those wanting to retrace Moses’ steps, guided tours are a better option to help history come alive as visitors stand on the spot where the seas once parted.
The golden city of Jerusalem, with its tangled cobblestone alleys and sacred domes, is steeped in history and spirituality. It’s here that Abraham willingly agreed to God’s request to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.
“That’s at the Temple Mount, where David purchased the threshing floor of Aruna, the location where Isaac was supposed to be sacrificed until God intervened,” said Matthew Ryan Tally, Israel Ministry of Tourism’s public relations director for the Midwest Region.
Today, Jerusalem’s Old City reverberates with prayers from synagogues, mosques and churches. Every stone and every cobbled path of Jerusalem holds a story, making it an unparalleled experience for any traveler. Jerusalem has changed little over the past few thousand years, and many of the spots mentioned in the Old Testament can still be visited.
Groups should start their visit at the Haas Promenade, Jerusalem’s most famous lookout point.
“Tradition has it that this is the place from which Abraham saw Mt. Moriah, the Temple Mount, where he was to bind his son, Isaac,” said Tally. “It’s such a beautiful vista, like a landscape museum. There are olive trees all over; there are stone walkways; and there are wonderful outcroppings.”
Up on Temple Mount, where the Ark of the Covenant once stood, visitors can tour the grounds, admire the beauty of the Dome of the Rock and find spiritual treasures at every turn.
“Whenever I go up there, it’s the center of the universe, where everything is,” said Tally. “I feel the presence of God personally when I go up because it’s where His eye is always fixed; it’s where His name was placed for forever.”
Bethlehem, West Bank
Nestled within the West Bank’s rolling hills, Bethlehem is most commonly associated with the New Testament and usually considered Jesus’ birthplace. However, Bethlehem’s history goes back thousands of years to the ancient tales of Rachel, who in Genesis marries Jacob — whose sons would become the leaders of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. It was also here that we first meet Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David, who would go on to kill Goliath and become a holy prophet and the third king of the Kingdom of Israel.
Once a tranquil pastoral town, today’s Bethlehem is a fusion of the ancient and the modern, filled with narrow alleys brimming with local crafts, sounds of church bells and the allure of age-old traditions. For groups searching for Bethlehem’s biblical charm, Rachel’s Tomb, right next to the northern entrance to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, is an important stop.
Although best known as the spot where the announcement of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds by the angels took place, Shepherd’s Field is also the area where widower Ruth gathered barley to feed herself and her former mother-in-law, Naomi, and where she would eventually meet Boaz, a rich landowner who would become her second husband.
For church groups, guided tours can help bring the city’s biblical landmarks to life. Participating in local prayer sessions or organizing group readings in this backdrop adds layers to the spiritual experience.