• View of the Keshet Cave near Kibbutz Adamit, Northern Israel | Photo: Anat Hermony FLASH90

Introducing Jesus’ Land

Rev Kameel Majdali - 8 June 2021

Jesus was from the House of Judah and born in Bethlehem Judaea, but He lived His life in Galilee. It is where He conducted much of His ministry. For those who want to ‘walk where Jesus walked,’ a sojourn in Galilee is a must. In this article, we will learn about the region mentioned 72 times in the Bible (66 times in the New Testament).

“Whenever you read the name ‘Galilee,’ in the New Testament, think ‘Lower Galilee”

Galilee, which means ‘ring’ (of nations), stretches from the Sea of Galilee in the east to the Plain of Acre/Asher on the Mediterranean coast to the west. It can be divided into two parts: Upper Galilee in the north, much of it now in the southern part of Lebanon. The northern border is the Litani River. Upper Galilee elevation is high, the soil is fertile, the rain at 600-1,000mm a year adequate. Yet, it is scarcely mentioned in Scripture.

Whenever you read the name ‘Galilee,’ in the New Testament, think ‘Lower Galilee.’ The hills are no higher than 610 meters, made of Cenomanian limestone, with East-West transversal valleys that collect rich alluvial soil. Its main cities include Nazareth, Cana, Sephhoris, Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum and Safed.

Contrast between Judah and Galilee

Galilee in the Old Testament

Judges 4: Deborah and Barak had a stunning victory over General Sisera, servant of Jabin King of Canaan, who dwelt at Hazor. The actual battle was in the Armageddon Valley, Mount Tabor and the Kishon River, all by the southern border of Galilee. Hazor is in the Huleh Basin by Upper Galilee.

1 Kings 15:20: Prodded by King Asa of Judah, Ben Hadad of Syria attacked the Northern Kingdom of Israel and smote the cities of Galilee. Syria and Israel tussled over Galilee more than once.

2 Kings 13:22-25: Joash recovered the cities of Galilee from Syria by defeating their king three times.

2 Kings 14:25: (Northern Kingdom of) Israel’s affliction was very great, so God raised Jeroboam II, who recovered the lost cities of Galilee. After the Babylonian exile, the name ‘Galilee’ was assigned to the entire northern third of Palestine.

Sea of Galilee | Photo: Unsplash

Galilee in the New Testament

During the entire earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth, a ‘Herod’ would be ruling Israel in the background. The Herodian dynasty were Roman-appointed puppet kings who did Caesar’s bidding over their own people, Israel.

The grand patriarch of the clan was Herod the Great, who ruled Israel from 37-4 BC. A ruthless tyrant and able administrator, Herod was denied by Rome of having a military of his own. So, he ‘conquered by construction,’ building fine edifices and cities across the land. These included Caesarea, Maccherus, Sebastiyah, Herodian, the Temple and Temple Mount in Jerusalem, unforgettable Masada, and more. Herod suffered from acute paranoia and tried to kill the toddler Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 2.

“During the entire earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth, a ‘Herod’ would be ruling Israel in the background”

Herod died in 4 BC, and the holy family returned shortly afterwards. The country was partitioned for his three sons: Archelaus ruled in Judea, Philip in Golan, and Antipas in Galilee. Antipas was only a tetrarch, not a king. The latter ruled from 4 BC – 39 AD, married his brother’s Philip’s wife Herodias, executed John the Baptist, and built the city of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee.

‘And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.’ Matthew 4:23

‘And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about (Lower) Galilee.’ Mark 1:28

‘And he preached in their synagogues throughout all (Lower) Galilee and cast out devils. Mark 1:39.

When it comes to the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, Galilee was His home and stage. After His rejection in Nazareth, Jesus set up headquarters at Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This move literally fulfilled prophecy. Isaiah 9 speaks of the land of Zebulon and Naphtali, the way of the sea (Via Maris), Galilee of the Gentiles. These same people who lived in darkness (recall the verses in 1 and 2 Kings) have seen a great light. Beautiful, quiet Galilee, ringed by nations, could be the object of military conflict and occupation. Jesus’ coming heralded the start of a perfect kingdom of peace – Matthew 4:15-16.

Galilee’s central and accessible location caused His fame to quickly spread through ‘all Syria’ (Matthew 4:24) and attracted people from the Decapolis (10 Greek cities, mostly east of the Jordan River), Jerusalem, Judaea, and beyond the Jordan River.

Galilee was blessed to enjoy the ministry of Jesus; however, in the absence of repentance, it was severely rebuked. The cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were condemned because they refused to repent. Tyre, Sidon and Sodom were promised an easier time in the day of judgement than for these three Galilean cities. – Matthew 11:21-24

Want to experience Jesus’ Galilee by foot? Consider hiking on the Jesus Trail from Nazareth to Capernaum, 68 km or 42 miles. It can be done in 2-4 days with a group of average fitness. You will be re-enforced in faith as you walk through His land.

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