Few biblical commentators have a more fruitful mind than Peter Leithart. Sometimes his observations take off on a flight of fancy; other times they open fresh vistas of biblical glory. In both cases, the judicious reader will find plenty to chew on. Personally, I have frequently initially disagreed with his reading only to be convinced later. Make no mistake, however, you should read his commentaries.
Right now I am reading his commentary on 1–2 Samuel, entitled A Son to Me. In it he makes a compelling argument for seeing Saul as a New Adam (81). He shows many ways how Saul, as a royal figure, falls from grace and repeats the fall of Adam—the first royal son. To set up his argument, he makes a compelling argument with regard to the land, and it is that argument I want to cite here.
What Leithart suggests is that the whole of biblical history (and geography) must be understood according to a tripartite division of the land. I have seen this kind of argument before (cf. G. K. Beale, T. D. Alexander, etc.) with regards to three parts of the tabernacle/temple, but I haven’t seen it so concisely described with regards to the “three environments” of the land.
Because the temple is made to mirror the rest of creation and vice versa, this argument should not surprise us. But, for most of us situated over three millennia from Moses and David, it is likely that we haven’t thought of the land in the way Leithart describes. Therefore, to better understand God’s geography, it is vital to have our minds renewed by the Bible when it comes to understand the world we inhabit.
Consider Leithart’s illuminating comments:
In the original creation, the world was divided into three environments. The garden was east in Eden (gen. 2:8), not identical with the land of Eden but a section of Eden in the eastern part of the land. This implies that there was a separate environment called the land of Eden. In Genesis 2:10–14, moreover, we learned that there were other lands as well. The original creation was divided into garden, land, and world ,and these correspond to the three environments of later biblical history: the garden became the sanctuary, the house of God; the land of Eden corresponded to the land of promise; and the outlying lands were analogous to the Gentile nations.