Biblical Travels: How Far And Long Have They Gone, With Or Without The Donkey?
In the biblical time, among the only mentioned means of land transportation were chariots, horses and donkeys. But for most people, including Jesus (except for the short time He rode the donkey during His famous entrance in Jerusalem), walking was the only option for traveling to another city. While the Bible has recorded countless travels treaded by different characters, could the readers really imagine how far and how long exactly did it take for these people to reach another place?
The Bible seems to make ancient travels sound so easy, wrote former Lutheran pastor Russel Saltzman. In his article in the news website Aleteia, Saltzman provides a realistic view of some of the popular biblical travels done by several characters.
In the Book of Luke, the author wrote that Mary "hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea" when she got the news of bearing the Son of God. So how fast was Mary's 'hurried' exactly, given the 90-mile distance from her hometown Nazareth to the Judean Hill Country? Consider the fact that she was pregnant and having morning sickness.
According to Saltzman, an average pace of a human is 2.5 mph. That makes it about 20 miles for an eight-hour tread a day. This means it is about a four-day-and-a-half trip from her house to her cousin Elizabeth, who was living in the village of Ein Karem.
This could also make people calculate how long it took Joseph and Mary, who was about to give birth to Jesus at that time, to travel an 80-mile distance from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea. But if Mary did ride a donkey, Saltzman assumed it took them seven to 10 days considering the donkey's stubbornly slow pace and a few stops.
The Book of Mark mentions that "Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve." (Mark 11:11) The distance between Jerusalem to Bethany is two miles, making it nearly two hours for Jesus to escape the Pharisees and soldiers' desire to arrest Him. However, in the fulfillment of the prophecies given centuries prior to His life and death, He was betrayed by Judas and got arrested by Roman soldiers just after He was grieving and praying at the Garden of Gethsemane.
While the Bible rarely describes the length of people's travels, it does mention it took 40 years for the Israelites to travel 240 miles from Egypt to Israel after God delivered them from Egyptian slavery. Their unbelief caused them to wander for such length of time when it could have only taken them 12 days including rest.