Ends of the Earth Part 1
There is a phrase which appears many times in the Bible and it has a quaint ring to it; it is “the ends of the earth.” The question is what and where are they? – especially given the earth is round!
So Where are the Ends of the Earth and What are they like?
Are we given any indication about where these mysterious ends are? By searching various Bible passages we can indeed find some clues about the Ends of the Earth. For starters, God defines where the ends of the earth are in His challenge to Job:
“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the ends of the earth…”
“Interesting,” I hear you say, “but hardly definitive.” I agree, let’s see what else we can find… Isaiah adds:
They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing; for the majesty of the Lord they shall cry aloud from the sea. Therefore glorify the Lord in the dawning light, the name of the Lord God of Israel in the coastlands of the sea. From the ends of the earth we have heard songs: “Glory to the righteous!”
“Listen, O coastlands, to Me, and take heed, you peoples from afar!”
So now we have sunrise, coastlands and sea at the ends of the earth.
Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you coastlands and you inhabitants of them!
At the ends of the earth the people go down to the sea – so they are fishermen and gatherers of seafood… Jeremiah adds in his bit:
“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’”
Ah, now they are not just coastlands but also islands afar off…
David and Jeremiah have an interesting take on the geology at the ends of the earth and in fact Jeremiah repeats what David says twice:
He causes the vapors to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries.
When He utters His voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens: “And He causes the vapors to ascend from the end of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, He brings the wind out of His treasuries.”
When He utters His voice there is a multitude of waters in the heavens: “He causes the vapors to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightnings for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries.”
So now we have vapours ascending - sounds a bit like the ring of fire. And we also have plenty of wind, lightning and rain! So let’s summarise what we’ve learned…
The Ends of the Earth have the following characteristics:
They are “afar” from the place of writing (Israel)
They are where the sun rises
There is sea and coastlands
There are islands
The inhabitants go down to the sea
There are many peoples
Vapour ascends from the ends of the earth
There is wind, lightning and rain
Note: “Ends” is a plural term denoting more than one place/country
So if you leave Israel on your journey to the ends of the earth, you’ll need to go in search of the place where the sun rises, therefore you must travel east. Eventually you will run out of mainland on the eastern seaboard of China. You then start finding islands, starting with Japan (the land of the rising sun) and going south you find the islands of the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, Australia (admittedly a continent but it does have coastlands and is the second furthest country from Israel after New Zealand) and finally down to New Zealand.
These countries are all part of the ring of fire with vapours ascending, they have coastlands where people go down to the sea, they contain many peoples and New Zealand e.g. has plenty of wind (it’s in the roaring 40’s), lightning and rain.
And just in case we need clarification about where the sun rises, the world has set the international dateline right down the middle of the Pacific Ocean so all those nations on the western side of the dateline are technically the first to see the sun - even though the world is round! The city of Gisborne on New Zealand’s east coast has long maintained that it is “the first to see the sun.”
The Very End of the Earth:
The Bible also makes reference to “The remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8) or “to the end (note no plural) of the earth” (Acts 13:47). Both these phrases use the same Greek word meaning “last” or “extreme.” So it appears there is an “end” of the ends of the earth.
David paints us one more graphic picture of the land at the end of the earth:
By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the far-off seas; Who established the mountains by His strength, being clothed with power; You who still the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples. They also who dwell in the farthest parts are afraid of Your signs; You make the outgoings of the morning and evening rejoice. You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, for so You have prepared it. You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth. You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance. They drop on the pastures of the wilderness, and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered with grain; they shout for joy, they also sing.
In verses 5-7 David describes the ends of the earth, they have mountains, seas, waves and peoples. Then in verse 8 he goes on to describe the land “in the farthest parts.” This description fits New Zealand very well. New Zealand has mountains, seas, waves, rivers, plenty of rain, pastureland, hills, grain and sheep. Of the countries who qualify as the “ends of the earth,” only New Zealand and Australia have sheep in significant numbers but it would be a stretch to describe Australian sheep farms as having pastures or to say that her ridges are watered abundantly! New Zealand is famous the world over for her sheep and Christchurch, a city in New Zealand’s South Island is the furthest major city from Jerusalem. On any map if you go to the international dateline and look for the end of the lands, your eye will naturally find itself looking at New Zealand, the islands at the end of the world.
So New Zealand is in the Bible! She is both a part of the “ends of the earth” and is also “THE END OF THE EARTH” – the farthest part. But she’s not just there for an honourable mention. There are some very interesting things the Bible says about her other than where she is and what she looks like. We will look at this in my next article.
Until then, God Bless and pray safe!