“but in the latter time [God] has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations … The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone …. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:1, 2, 6)
The Sea of Galilee dominated the economy of the north. This vast freshwater lake, fifteen miles long and six miles wide, is the lowest in the world. It lies almost seven hundred feet below sea level, and is fed by the river Jordan to the north. That river then flows out of the southern end of the lake, and winds its way down to the Dead Sea near Jerusalem.
During the time of Christ, there were four main centres of fishing. You could go out on the Mediterranean with the fishermen of Tyre, and sell your salted fish in Jerusalem. The Nile was another source of fishing, and was important for the Egyptians as can be seen by the different types of fishing recorded in their artwork. The Jordan itself contained fish, but the banks were clustered with thickets and fishing was not easy work. Best to go the the Sea of Galilee where you can find eighteen different species of fish, many of which were local delicacies. Josephus, writing in the first century, commented that “the lake contains species of fish different, both in taste and appearance, from those found elsewhere”.
The vast lake is surrounded by mountains and ridges. Mount Tabor stands two thousand feet high, and both the Golan Heights and Mount Arbel can always be seen from the lake. Together these cause the strong airstreams which are notorious for whipping up storms, seemingly from nowhere.
In ancient times, the sea was known by a number of names. In the New Testament you might find it referred to as the Sea of Chinnereth, Sea of Gennesaret or even the Sea of Tiberias. Many of the early disciples made their living on the sea, and next week we’ll look at the life of the fisherman. For now, we’ll simply note that centuries before Christ this area was earmaked for great things. Read once more the quote at the top of this page.