While Jerusalem is the “City of God” and the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the Sea of Galilee was where most of Jesus’ life and ministry occurred. The region is in Northern Israel, north of the Mount Carmel–Mount Gilboa ridge.
The name immediately brings to mind its most notable feature: The Sea of Galilee.
The Sea of Galilee is a large body of freshwater mainly fed by the Jordan River. It is the lowest freshwater lake in the world and second only to the Dead Sea for the lowest lake of any kind. It is 33 miles in circumference.
While largely known as “The Sea of Galilee”, its official name is actually the Sea of Kinneret in modern Hebrew. This name is actually from the Old Testament. It is referred to as this in Numbers 34:11, Joshua 13:27 and Joshua 11:2. The lake’s name is one of several it’s been referred to in history, typically being dependent on who is in control of the area. Other names the lake has been called include Lake of Gennesaret, Sea of Ginosar, and the Sea of Minya.
During Jesus’ time the lake was the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Tiberias. Tiberias was the second emperor of the Roman Empire. A town along the shores was also established in his name around 20 AD. Today, Tiberias is still a city along the lake, with around 44,000 in population. It is known now for being a hub of hotels, so if you visit the Galilee, there is a good chance you will stay in Tiberias.
If you’ve ever been to the Sea of Galilee you may be struck by its gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, it’s beautiful shorelines surrounded by hills and agricultural fields and the serenity of the area. The famous historian Flavius Josephus said of the area, “One may call this place the ambition of nature, where it forces those plants that are naturally enemies to one another to agree together; it is a happy contention of the seasons, as if every one of them laid claim to this country…”. With a description like that, is it any wonder Jesus spent his life here?
This body of water is perhaps the biggest illustration point, both in physical size and amount of use used by Jesus. Most of Jesus’s ministry took place right on these shores. When he went and called his disciples; Simon, Andrew, John and James, they were fishermen on the Galilee. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men!” (Matthew 4:19). A boat referred to as the “Jesus Boat” is on display at the kibbutz Nof Ginosar that is 2000 years old and was discovered in the mud nearly fully intact. It is now preserved and viewed by visitors from around the world. It is possible that the boat that Jesus called to with his command was similar to this common fishing boat. Perhaps Jesus even saw this particular boat!
The famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthews 5-7) took place overlooking the lake. Imagine a beautiful hill with flowers overlooking the large blue lake listening to Jesus give instructions on how to live . What a picture!
Many of Jesus’s miracles took place with this lake as the focus including the feeding of five thousand with fish from the lake (Mark 6:30-44), Jesus calming the storm (Matthew 8:23-27), Jesus walking on water (John 6:16-24), and the miraculous catching of fish (John 21:6).
Today the beautiful Sea of Galilee is still a central figure to God’s promised land. The lake provides about 10% of the country’s drinking water needs. There has been great concern over the lake due to droughts in the past decade, however since the winter (Israel’s rainy season) of 2019, there has been a tremendous increase in the levels of the lake thanks to record breaking rainfall. In fact, the sea is at it’s highest level currently in 16 years! Praise God!
Fishing is still an important activity on the lake which has over 20 species of fish, 10 of which have commercial importance. Sardines and carp varieties are included in this number. Magdala was known for its fishing of Sardines. The carp is commonly used for Jewish shabbat meals and feasts. One fish is well-known by Christian pilgrims and is a common special meal while they are in the Galilee, St. Peter’s fish. This fish is the fish that Peter pulled the coin out of it’s mouth as recalled in Matthew 17:24-27. This fish is seen on many a person’s social media posts for its whole fish presentation at St. Peter’s Fish lunches around the region. Don’t worry, you are usually able to get just a filet of it if the whole fish is a bit intimidating!
We look forward to you falling in love with the sea, its beauty and history. In the meantime, take a virtual sail across the sea on our 2 minute Youtube video and be sure to subscribe for other videos! If you are interested in planning a Christian Holy Land Tour for late 2020, 2021 or 2022 contact us and start planning today!