"Galilee of the nations" (Isa. 9:1)
Galilee was a region in northern Palestine that was controlled at different
times by the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Egyptian, and Roman Empires.
Under the Romans it became a fixed administrative area (ca. 57 B.C.). Herod
Antipas, for example, was tetrarch of Galilee after the death of his father,
Herod the Great (4 B.C.; see Luke 3:1). Because the Israelites never succeeded
in driving out the Canaanites who "dwelt among them" (Judg. 1:30-33),
and since Galilee was surrounded by foreign nations whose populations mixed
freely with the Jews, this region was called by Isaiah, "Galilee of
the nations" (Isa. 9:1). The name "Galilee" comes from the
Hebrew galil which means a circle. The word "nations" is from
the Hebrew goim, which can also be translated "gentiles." Thus
the phrase "Galilee of the nations" might also be translated "in
the district (or region) of the gentiles," reflecting the fact that
Galilee often comprised a mixed population of Jews and gentiles.
Galilee is composed of several subregions, including Upper Galilee (most
of which is in Lebanon today), Lower Galilee, and the Sea of Galilee (see
Sea of Galilee). Upper and Lower Galilee are distinguished by differences
in altitude, climate, and vegetation. The mountains of Lower Galilee are
less than 2,000 feet high; whereas those of Upper Galilee attain almost
twice that height. Upper Galilee is fragmented into isolated hills and deep
valleys. Lower Galilee is more open: the valleys run between and parallel
to the mountains, connecting the coast with the Jordan Valley and the Sea
of Galilee. These valley roads carried the commerce and military might of
the ancient world, making Lower Galilee a focus of international concern.
According to Josephus (lst century A.D.), "the cities [of Galilee]
lie here very thick; and the very many villages ... are everywhere so full
of people, by the richness of their soil, that the very least of them contain
above fifteen thousand in habitants" (III Wars iii.2). The figures
provided by Josephus seem high (else where he mentions some 200 towns and
villages, making a total of more than 3,000,000 inhabitants in Galilee!),
but his description of a highly populated region accords with what is known
about Galilee in that period. What was true of Galilee, in general, applied
more specifically to Lower Galilee because of its rich soils and abundant
rainfall and because there was more level ground. Lower Galilee was one
of the favored regions for settlement. Here, also, "Jesus went about
all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching
the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity"
Selected Views of Lower Galilee
volcano called the "Horns of Hattin" where, in 1187 A.D., Saladin
handed the Crusaders their final defeat. The narrow valley leading to the
Plain of Gennesaret (northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee), was also called
the "Valley of the Robbers." Bandits used to plunder caravans
as they travelled up and down this strategic pass. Herod the Great (38 B.C.),
for example, I gathered a force at the village of Arbela to purge Galilee
of the "robbers that were in the caves" above the pass (I Wars
xvi.2-5). This was also the way of the in ternational highway called the
Via Maris, and the road used by Jesus when he traveled from Nazareth to
Capernaum (see Sea of Galilee). The Plain of Gennesaret was the place where
Jesus and his disciples landed after a severe storm on the lake. As they
| traveled through the plain on their way to Capernaum, there was brought
to Jesus many who were sick, "and as many as touched [his garment]
were made well" (Mark 6: 53-56) .
The Turan Valley is just north of the mountains of Nazareth. The valley
carried the most important highway through Lower Galilee, connecting the
port city of Acco/Ptolemais with the Sea of Galilee and Jordan Valley. According
to tradition, the incident of Jesus' disciples plucking ears of corn on
the Sabbath took place in this valley (see Matt. 12:1-8). In the foreground
are the ruins of Sepphoris, an important city of Lower Galilee. It was located
5 miles northwest of Nazareth. Herod Antipas "built a wall about Sepphoris"
and made it the capital of Galilee before he moved the capital to Tiberias
(XVIII Ant. ii.1). The mostly Jewish population Sepphoris supported the
Romans in the First Jewish Revolt (66-73 A.D.).
Cana of Galilee
was the home of Nathanael, the same who inquired of Philip, "Can anything
good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46). When Jesus saw Nathanael coming
to meet him, he said: "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!"
(John 1:47; 21:2). In this same Cana of Galilee, Jesus performed his first
public miracle by changing water into wine at the wedding feast: "And
[Jesus] manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him" John
2:1-11). Later from Cana, Jesus healed the nobleman's son, who was sick
in Capernaum (John 4:46-54). Kefar Kana is 4 miles northeast of Nazareth.
A FRANCISCAN CHURCH is built over the spot where it is believed Jesus turned
the water into wine. The SAINT NATHANAEL CHURCH is built where, according
to tradition, Nathanael was born. Archaeologists, however, identify Cana
of Galilee with Khirbet Qana which is in the Netofa Valley, about 9 miles
north of Nazareth (see Holy Land map).
Nazareth was the home of Joseph and Mary, as well as the town in which Jesus
grew up. In his day, it was a small agricultural village with about 2,000
inhabitants. When Philip said to Nathanael, "We have found him, of
whom ... the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth," Nathanael promptly
asked of Philip,"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John
1:45-46). Nazareth itself was small, but its position between two international
highways gave it a good view of the ancient world. To the south was the
Jezreel Valley where many events from Israelite history took place. Through
this valley passed the merchants, as well as the armies of Rome (see Bible
Study- Lower Galilee).
Bible Study- Lower Galilee
Nazareth was the village of Jesus' youth, where "Jesus increased in
wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:51-52).
It is significant to note that Nazareth was only 5 miles southeast of the
Roman capital of Galilee, Sepphoris, and that Nazareth overlooked the Jezreel
Valley. George Adam Smith, in his Historical Geography of the Holy Land
(1894), described Nazareth and its relationship to the valleys around it:
"The village lies on the most southern of the ranges of Lower Galilee,
and on the edge of this just above the Plain of Esdraelon [Jezreel Valley].
You cannot see the surrounding country, for Nazareth rests in a basin; but
the moment you climb to the edge of this, which is everywhere within the
limit of the village boys' playground, what a view you have! ... The pressure
and problems of the world outside must have been felt by the youth of Nazareth
as by few others; yet the scenes of prophetic missions to it, Elijah's and
Elisha's, were also within sight. A vision of the kingdoms of the world
was as possible from this village as from the mount of temptation. But the
chief lesson which Nazareth teaches is the possibility of a pure home and
a spotless youth in [the] face of [an] evil world" (Smith, pp. 282-283).
The following passages from the New Testament reflect only a few of the
events that took place in Lower Galilee.
-- Isa.7: 14; Luke 1 :26-38; Matt. 1: 18-25. Gabriel announced
the coming of Christ, who was to be named Jesus.
-- Matt. 2:21-23; Luke 2:1-7. Mary and Joseph left Nazareth to go to Bethlehem
where Jesus was born. After returning from Egypt, Mary and Joseph made Nazareth
-- Matt. 2:23; Luke 2:39, 51-52. Jesus grew up in Nazareth.
-- John 2:1-11. Jesus' first miracle was performed in Cana of Galilee.
-- Luke 4:16-30. Jesus gave his first recorded sermon in the synagogue of
Nazareth. Not only was he rejected, but the people threatened to take his
life by throwing him from the mountain known today as the Mount of Precipitation.
-- John 4:46-54. From Cana, Jesus healed the nobleman's son, who was in,
-- Matt. 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6. Jesus was rejected a second time in Nazareth,
"and he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands
upon a few sick people and healed them."