As a backdrop to the material we cover this week, it is important to understand the political and geographical situation of the times; in particular, it is not a world of simple borders and completely governed land.
Today we grow up in a world where for the most part national boundaries are clearly defined, and countries exercise control over all the land within those boundaries, regardless of how desolate or uninhabited it might be. In the days of ancient Israel, however, sovereignty was usually only exercised over cities, which might be widely scattered, and among "enemy" cities as well. Confederations and alliances among these city states were not only common but constantly changing and rather volatile. Furthermore, it was seldom possible or wise to attempt to control land in between walled communities.