Sea of Galilee: A Beginner’s Guide
The Sea of Galilee is one of the most central areas to the ministry of Yeshua during His life on Earth. Nearly 70% of Yeshua’s ministry took place near to, beside, or even on top of (literally) this body of water.
What is the Sea of Galilee?
To start, it’s the largest freshwater lake in all of Israel. It is approximately 8 miles across and, in total, is about 64 square miles in size. If you look at a picture of the sea on a map, it looks like a violin. Because of this, it earned its name “Kinneret” in Israel, which is “violin” in Hebrew.
Kinneret sits around 700 feet below sea level. To the sea’s east lies the borders of modern-day Syria and Jordan. To its west is the region of the Galilee, which includes several cities you might recognize. They are Cana, Megiddo, Magdala, Gennesaret, Capernaum, and Nazareth. In His childhood years, Yeshua would have been only about 20 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.
The sea is part of the Jordan River. The Jordan flows into the northern part of the Sea of Galilee and flows out the southern tip of the sea. A popular analogy says, the Sea of Galilee is like a righteous man; because living water flows into it and living water flows out of it. In contrast, the Dead Sea is likened to an unrighteous man, because though freshwater flows into it, nothing flows out of it. It holds what it receives, and because of evaporation it makes the water undrinkable.
So, what happened around the Sea of Galilee?
As mentioned, the vast majority of Yeshua’s recorded ministry in the New Testament places Him in the region around this particular body of water. Going through the Gospels, here are some of the landmark events of Yeshua’s ministry that happened near the Sea of Galilee:
Mt. of Beatitudes and Tabgha
This northern point of the sea is where Yeshua gave His most well-known teaching. It is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). A site nearby called Tabgha commemorates Yeshua feeding the 5,000 (Mark 6).
Also on the northern shore of the sea, Capernaum is the town where Yeshua called Peter and Andrew to be his disciples (Matthew 4). Many see this as the “home base” of Yeshua’s ministry. Here Yeshua healed the servant of the Roman centurion (Matthew 8). And also where the paralytic was lowered from the roof and healed (Matthew 9). Today’s Capernaum holds the remains of a synagogue that dates back to the days of Yeshua’s life on Earth. Its ruins could have been Peter’s home.
Located near the northeastern area of the sea, the place became known after Yeshua healed a man there who was born blind. Yeshua used His spittle and laid hands on him, giving him sight. This is the same man who first replied to Jesus that he saw men as trees walking. (Mark 8)
- Kursi or Golan Heights
This vast, mountainous region is also northeast of the sea. As we read in the Gospels, this is where Jesus cast the legion of unclean spirits into a herd of swine. The pigs ran down the banks of the sea and drowned (Mark 5).
This city on the western border of the sea was the hometown of Mary. Known as Mary Magdalene (Mary of Magdala), she chose to follow Yeshua, after He cast out 7 unclean spirits out of her (Luke 8).
- Mt. Arbel
This unique cliff stands nearly 600 feet tall, overlooking the entire region of the Sea of Galilee. Many believe this is the most likely location of the Great Commission (Matthew 28). From this cliff you could see most of the areas where Yeshua’s ministry actually took place.
Slightly south of the Sea of Galilee, the sea drains and becomes the Jordan river again. It is today a site dedicated to Yeshua being baptized by His cousin, John the Baptist (John 1). However, the actual event may have taken place much further south on the river. In any case, Yardenit gives visitors an opportunity to get baptized themselves.
It’s important to note that two miracles of Yeshua were performed while actually ON the sea. He calmed the storm after being woken up by His disciples in Mark 4, and He walked on water as described in Mark 6.
If you’ve ever wondered, “What is the most central location to Yeshua’s ministry?” Or, “Where should I do a daytrip in the land of Israel?”, we think the Sea of Galilee is the right answer!
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