Easton's Bible Dictionary
circuit. Solomon rewarded Hiram for certain services
rendered him by the gift of an upland plain among the mountains of Naphtali. Hiram
was dissatisfied with the gift, and called it "the land of Cabul" (q.v.). The
Jews called it Galil. It continued long to be occupied by the original inhabitants,
and hence came to be called "Galilee of the Gentiles" ( Matthew
4:15 ), and also "Upper Galilee," to distinguish it from the extensive addition
afterwards made to it toward the south, which was usually called "Lower Galilee."
In the time of our Lord, Galilee embraced more than one-third of Western Palestine,
extending "from Dan on the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, to the ridges of
Carmel and Gilboa on the south, and from the Jordan valley on the east away across
the splendid plains of Jezreel and Acre to the shores of the Mediterranean on
the west." Palestine was divided into three provinces, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee,
which comprehended the whole northern section of the country ( Acts
9:31 ), and was the largest of the three.
It was the scene of some of the most memorable events of Jewish history. Galilee
also was the home of our Lord during at least thirty years of his life. The first
three Gospels are chiefly taken up with our Lord's public ministry in this province.
"The entire province is encircled with a halo of holy associations connected with
the life, works, and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth." "It is noteworthy that of
his thirty-two beautiful parables, no less than ninteen were spoken in Galilee.
And it is no less remarkable that of his entire thirty-three great miracles, twenty-five
were wrought in this province. His first miracle was wrought at the wedding in
Cana of Galilee, and his last, after his resurrection, on the shore of Galilee's
sea. In Galilee our Lord delivered the Sermon on The Mount, and the discourses
on 'The Bread of Life,' on 'Purity,' on 'Forgiveness,' and on 'Humility.' In Galilee
he called his first disciples; and there occurred the sublime scene of the Transfiguration"
(Porter's Through Samaria).
When the Sanhedrin were about to proceed with some plan for the condemnation of
our Lord ( John
7:45 - 52
), Nicodemus interposed in his behalf. (Compare Deuteronomy
1:16 , 1:17
.) They replied, "Art thou also of Galilee?.... Out of Galilee ariseth no prophet."
This saying of theirs was "not historically true, for two prophets at least had
arisen from Galilee, Jonah of Gath-hepher, and the greatest of all the prophets,
Elijah of Thisbe, and perhaps also Nahum and Hosea. Their contempt for Galilee
made them lose sight of historical accuracy" (Alford, Com.).
The Galilean accent differed from that of Jerusalem in being broader and more
guttural ( Mark
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
This name, which in the Roman age was applied to a large province, seems to have
been originally confined to a little "circuit" of country round Kedesh-Naphtali,
in which were situated the twenty towns given by Solomon to Hiram king of Tyre
as payment for his work in conveying timber from Lebanon to Jerusalem. ( Joshua
20:7 ; 1
Kings 9:11 ) In the time of our Lord all Palestine was divided into three
provinces, Judea, Samaria and Galilee. ( Luke
17:11 ; Acts
9:31 ) Joseph. B.J. iii. 3. The latter included the whole northern section
of the country, including the ancient territories of Issachar, Zebulun, Asher
and Naphtali. On the west it was bounded by the territory of Ptolemais, which
probably included the whole plain of Akka to the foot of Carmel. The southern
border ran along the base of Carmel and of the hills of Samaria to Mount Gilboa,
and then descended the valley of Jezreel by Scythopolis to the Jordan. The river
Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, and the upper Jordan to the fountain at Dan, formed
the eastern border; and the northern ran from Dan westward across the mountain
ridge till it touched the territory of the Phoenicians. Galilee was divided into
two sections, "Lower" and "Upper." Lower Galilee included the great plain of Esdraelon
with its offshoots, which ran down to the Jordan and the Lake of Tiberias, and
the whole of the hill country adjoining it on the north to the foot of the mountain
range. It was thus one of the richest and most beautiful sections of Pales-tine.
Upper Galilee embraced the whole mountain range lying between the upper Jordan
and Phoenicia. To this region the name "Galilee of the Gentiles" is given in the
Old and New Testaments. ( Isaiah
9:1 ; Matthew
4:16 ) Galilee was the scene of the greater part of our Lords private life
and public acts. It is a remarkable fact that the first three Gospels are chiefly
taken up with our Lords ministrations in this province, while the Gospel of John
dwells more upon those in Judea. (Galilee in the time of Christ . --From Rev.
Selah Merrills late book (1881) with this title, we glean the following facts:
Size . --
It is estimated that of the 1000 square miles in Palestine west of the Jordan,
nearly one-third, almost 2000 square miles, belongs to Galilee.
The population is between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000. Dr. Merrill argues for the
general correctness of Josephus estimates, who says there were 204 cities and
villages in Galilee, the smallest of which numbered 15,000 inhabitants.
Character of the Country --
Galilee was a region of great natural fertility. Such is the fertility of the
soil that it rejects no plant, for the air is so genial that it suits every variety.
The walnut, which delights above other trees in a wintry climate, grows here luxuriantly
together with the palm tree, which is flourished by heat. It not only possesses
the extraordinary virtue of nourishing fruits of opposite climes, but also maintains
a continual supply of them. Here were found all the productions which made Italy
rich and beautiful. Forests covered its mountains and hills, while its uplands,
gentle slopes and broader valleys were rich in pasture, meadows, cultivated fields,
vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees of every kind.
Character of the Galileans .--
They were thoroughly a Jewish people. With few exceptions they were wealthy and
in general an influential class. If one should say the Jews were bigoted in religion,
he should remember at the same time that in regard to social, commercial and political
relations none were more cosmopolitan in either sentiment or practice than they.
The Galileans had many manufactures, fisheries, some commerce, but were chiefly
an agricultural people. They were eminent for patriotism and courage, as were
their ancestors, with great respect for law and order.--ED.)
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
gal'-i-le (ha-galil, hagelilah, literally, "the circuit"
or "district"; he Galilaia):
1. Galilee of the Nations:
Kedesh, the city of refuge, is described as lying in Galilee, in Mt. Naphtali
(Joshua 20:7; compare Joshua 21:32). The name seems originally to have referred
to the territory of Naphtali. Joshua's victorious campaign in the north (Joshua
11), and, subsequently, the triumph of the northern tribes under Deborah and Barak
(Judges 4) gave Israel supremacy; yet the tribe of Naphtali was not able to drive
out all the former inhabitants of the land (Judges 1:33). In the time of Solomon
the name applied to a much wider region, including the territory of Asher. In
this land lay the cities given by Solomon to Hiram (1 Kings 9:11). Cabul here
named must be identical with that of Joshua 19:27. The Asherites also failed to
possess certain cities in their allotted portion, so that the heathen continued
to dwell among them. To this state of things, probably, is due the name given
in Isaiah 9:1 to this region, "Galilee of the nations," i.e. a district occupied
by a mixed population of Jews and heathen. It may also be referred to in Joshua
12:23, where possibly we should read "king of the nations of Galilee" (legalil),
instead of "Gilgal" (begilgal). Yet it was within this territory that, according
to 2 Samuel 20:18 (Septuagint) lay the two cities noted for their preservation
of ancient Israelite religious customs in their purity--Abel-bethmaacah and Dan.
2. Ancient Boundaries:
There is nothing to guide us as to the northern boundary of Galilee in the earliest
times. On the East it was bounded by the upper Jordan and the Sea of Galilee,
and on the South by the plain of el-BaTTauf. That all within these limits belonged
to Galilee we may be sure. Possibly, however, it included Zebulun, which seems
to be reckoned to it in Isaiah 9:1. In this territory also there were unconquered
Canaanite cities (Judges 1,30).
3. Before the Exile:
At the instigation of Asa, king of Judah, Benhadad, son of Tabrimmon of Damascus,
moved against Israel, and the cities which he smote all lay within the circle
of Galilee (1 Kings 15:20). Galilee must have been the arena of conflict between
Jehoahaz and Hazael, king of Syria. The cities which the latter captured were
recovered from his son Benhadad by Joash, who defeated him three times (2 Kings
10:32; 13:22). The affliction of Israel nevertheless continued "very bitter,"
and God saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Joash, the great warrior monarch
of the Northern Kingdom, under whom Galilee passed completely into the hands of
Israel (2 Kings 14:25). But the days of Israel's supremacy in Northern Palestine
were nearly over. The beginning of the end came with the invasion of Tiglath-pileser
III, who took the chief cities in Galilee, and sent their inhabitants captive
to Assyria (2 Kings 14:29). Probably, as in the case of the Southern Kingdom,
the poorest of the land were left as husbandmen. At any rate there still remained
Israelites in the district (2 Chronicles 30:10); but the measures taken by the
conqueror must have made for the rapid increase of the heathen element.
4. After the Exile:
In post-exilie times Galilee is the name given to the most northerly of the three
divisions of Western Palestine. The boundaries are indicated by Josephus (BJ,
III, iii, 1). It was divided into Lower and Upper Galilee, and was encompassed
by Phoenicia and Syria. It marched with Ptolemais and Mt. Carmel on the West.
The mountain, formerly Galliean, now belonged to the Syrians. On the South it
adjoined Samaria and Scythopolis (Beisan) as far as the river Jordan. It was bounded
on the East by Hippene, Gadara, Gaulonitis and the borders of the kingdom of Agrippa,
while the northern frontier was marked by Tyre and the country of the Tyrians.
The northern limit of Samaria was Ginea, the modern Jenin, on the south border
of Esdraelon. Lower Galilee, therefore, included the great plain, and stretched
northward to the plain of er-Rameh--Ramah of Joshua 19:36. Josephus mentions Bersabe,
the modern Abu-Sheba, and the Talmud, Kephar Chananyah, the modern Kefr 'Anan,
as the northern border; the former being about a mile North of the latter. The
plain reaches to the foot of the mountain chain, which, running East and West,
forms a natural line of division. Upper Galilee may have included the land as
far as the gorge of the LiTany, which, again, would have formed a natural boundary
to the N. Josephus, however, speaks of Kedesh as belonging to the Syrians (BJ,
II, xviii, 1), situated "between the land of the Tyrians and Galilee" (Ant., XIII,
v, 6). This gives a point on the northern frontier in his time; but the rest is
left indefinite. Guthe, Sunday and others, followed by Cheyne (EB, under the word),
on quite inadequate grounds conclude that certain localities on the East of the
Sea of Galilee were reckoned as Galilean.
5. Character of the Galileans:
In the mixed population after the exile the purely Jewish element must have been
relatively small. In 165 BC Simon Maccabeus was able to rescue them from their
threatening neighbors by carrying the whole community away to Judea (1 Macc 5:14).
Josephus tells of the conquest by Aristobulus I of Ituraea (Ant., XIII, xi, 3).
He compelled many of them to adopt Jewish religious customs, and to obey the Jewish
law. There can be little doubt that Galilee and its people were treated in the
same way. While Jewish in their religion, and in their patriotism too, as subsequent
history showed, the population of Galilee was composed of strangely mingled elements--Aramaean,
Iturean, Phoenician and Greek In the circumstances they could not be expected
to prove such sticklers for high orthodoxy as the Judeans. Their mixed origin
explains the differences in speech which distinguished them from their brethren
in the South, who regarded Galilee and the Galileans with a certain proud contempt
(John 1:46; 7:52). But a fine type of manhood was developed among the peasant
farmers of the two Galilees which, according to Josephus (BJ, III, iii, 2), were
"always able to make a strong resistance on all occasions of war; for the Galileans
are inured to war from their infancy .... nor hath the country ever been destitute
of men of courage." Josephus, himself a Galilean, knew his countrymen well, and
on them he mainly relied in the war with Rome. In Galilee also the Messianic hope
was cherished with the deepest intensity. When the Messiah appeared, with His
own Galilean upbringing, it was from the north-countrymen that He received the
warmest welcome, and among them His appeal elicited the most gratifying response.
6. Later History:
In 47 BC, Herod the Great, then a youth of 25, was made military commander of
Galilee, and won great applause by the fashion in which he suppressed a band of
robbers who had long vexed the country (Ant., XIV, ix, 2). When Herod came to
the throne, 37 BC, a period of peace and prosperity for Galilee began, which lasted
till the banishment of his son Antipas in 40 AD. The tetrarchy of Galilee was
given to the latter at his father's death, 4 BC. His reign, therefore, covered
the whole life of Jesus, with the exception of His infancy. After the banishment
of Antipas, Galilee was added to the dominions of Agrippa I, who ruled it till
his death in 44 AD. Then followed a period of Roman administration, after which
it was given to Agrippa II, who sided with the Romans in the subsequent wars,
and held his position till 100 AD. The patriotic people, however, by no means
submitted to his guidance. In their heroic struggle for independence, the command
of the two Galilees, with Gamala, was entrusted to Josephus, who has left a vivid
narrative, well illustrating the splendid courage of his freedom-loving countrymen.
But against such an adversary as Rome even their wild bravery could not prevail;
and the country soon lay at the feet of the victorious Vespasian, 67 AD. There
is no certain knowledge of the part played by Galilee in the rebellion under Hadrian,
At the beginning of the Roman period Sepphoris (Cafuriyeh), about 3 miles North
of Nazareth, took the leading place. Herod Antipas, however, built a new city
on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, which, in honor of the reigning emperor,
he called Tiberias. Here he reared his "golden house," and made the city the capital
of his tetrarchy. See TIBERIAS. After the fall of Jerusalem, Galilee, which had
formerly been held in contempt, became the home of Jewish learning, and its chief
seat was found in Tiberias where the Mishna was committed to writing, and the
Jerusalem Talmud was composed. Thus a city into which at first no pious Jew would
enter, in a province which had long been despised by the leaders of the nation,
became the main center of their national and religious life.
7. Cities of Galilee:
Among the more notable cities in Galilee were Kedesh Naphtali, the city of refuge,
the ruins of which lie on the heights West of el-Chuleh; Chorazin, Bethsaida and
Capernaum, North of the Sea of Galilee; Nazareth, the city of the Savior's youth
and young manhood; Jotapata, the scene of Josephus' heroic defense against the
Romans, which stood at Tell Jefat, North of the plain of Asochis (BJ, III, vii,
viii); Cana of Galilee; and Nain, on the northern slope of the mountain now called
8. General Description:
In physical features Galilee is the most richly diversified and picturesque district
in Western Palestine; while in beauty and fertility it is strongly contrasted
with the barren uplands of Judah. Cut off from Mt. Lebanon in the North by the
tremendous gorge of the Litany, it forms a broad and high plateau, sinking gradually
southward until it approaches Cafed, when again it rises, culminating in Jebel
Jermuk, the highest summit on the West of the Jordan. From Cafed there is a rapid
descent by stony slope and rocky precipice to the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The mountains of which Jebel Jermuk is the Northeast outrunner stretch westward
across the country, and drop upon the plain of er-Rameh to the South. Irregular
hills and valleys, with breadths of shady woodlands, lie between this plain and
that of Asochis (el-Battauf]). The latter is split from the East by the range
of Jebel Tor'an. South of Asochis rise lower hills, in a cup-like hollow among
which lies the town of Nazareth. South of the town they sink steeply into the
plain of Esdraelon. The isolated form of Tabor stands out on the East, while Carmel
bounds the view on the West. The high plateau in the North terminates abruptly
at the lip of the upper Jordan valley. As the Jordan runs close to the base of
the eastern hills, practically all this valley, with its fine rolling downs, is
included in Galilee. The plain of Gennesaret runs along the northwestern shore
of the Sea of Galilee. From the uplands to the West, stretching from Qurun Chattin
(the traditional Mount of Beatitudes) to the neighborhood of Tabor, the land lets
itself down in a series of broad and fertile terraces, falling at last almost
precipitously on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The descent toward the
Mediterranean is much more gradual; and the soil gathered in the longer valleys
is deep and rich.
The district may be described as comparatively well watered. The Jordan with its
mighty springs is, of course, too low for purposes of irrigation. But there are
many perennial streams fed by fountains among the hills. The springs at Jenin
are the main sources of the river Kishon, but for the greater part of its course
through the plain the bed of that river is far below the surface of the adjoining
land. The dews that descend from Lebanon and Hermon are also a perpetual source
of moisture and refreshment.
Galilee was famous in ancient times for its rich and fruitful soil, "full of the
plantations of trees of all sorts, insomuch that it invites the most slothful
to pains in its cultivation by its fruitfulness; accordingly it is all cultivated
by its inhabitants, and no part of it lies idle" (BJ, III, iii, 2). See also GENNESARET,
LAND OF. The grapes grown in Naphtali were in high repute, as were the pomegranates
of Shikmona--the Sykaminos of Josephus--which stood on the shore near Mt. Carmel.
The silver sheen of the olive meets the eye in almost every valley; and the olive
oil produced in Galilee has always been esteemed of the highest excellence. Its
wheat fields also yielded an abundant supply, the wheat of Chorazin being proverbial.
The great plain of Esdraelon must also have furnished rich provision. It cannot
be doubted that Galilee was largely drawn upon for the gifts in kind which Solomon
bestowed upon the king of Tyre (2 Chronicles 2:10). At a much later day the inhabitants
of Tyre and Sidon depended upon the produce of Galilee (Acts 12:20).
Galilee was in easy touch with the outside world by means of the roads that traversed
her valleys, crossed her ridges and ran out eastward, westward and southward.
Thus she was connected with the harbors on the Phoenician seaboard, with Egypt
on the South, with Damascus on the Northeast, and with the markets of the East
by the great caravan routes (see "Roads" under PALESTINE).
10. Contact with the Outside World:
In the days of Christ the coming and going of the merchantmen, the passing of
armies and the movements of the representatives of the Empire, must have made
these highways a scene of perpetual activity, touching the dwellers in Galilee
with the widening influences of the great world's life.
The peasant farmers of Galilee, we have seen, were a bold and enterprising race.
Encouraged by the fruitfulness of their country, they were industrious cultivators
of the soil. Josephus estimates the population at 3,000,000. This may be an exaggeration;
but here we have all the conditions necessary for the support of a numerous and
prosperous people. This helps us to understand the crowds that gathered round
and followed Jesus in this district, where the greater part of His public life
was spent. The cities, towns and villages in Galilee are frequently referred to
in the Gospels. That the Jewish population in the centuries immediately after
Christ was numerous and wealthy is sufficiently proved by the remains from those
times, especially the ruins of synagogues, e.g. those at Tell Chum, Kerazeh, Irbid,
el-Jish, Kefr Bir'im, Meiron, etc. Near the last named is shown the tomb of the
great Jewish teacher Hillel.
Galilee was not without her own heroic memories. The great battlefields of Megiddo,
Gilboa, and the waters of Merom lay within her borders; and among the famous men
of the past she could claim Barak, Ibzan, Elon and Tola of the judges; of the
prophets, Jonah and Elisha at least; possibly also Hosea who, according to a Jewish
tradition, died in Babylon, but was brought to Galilee and buried in Cafed (Neubauer,
Geog. der Talmud, 227). When the chief priests and Pharisees said, "Search,
and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet," it argued strange and inexcusable
ignorance on their part (John 7:52). Perhaps, however, in this place we should
read ho prophetes, "the prophet," i.e. the Messiah. It is significant
that 11 out of the 12 apostles were Galileans.
For detailed description of the country, see ISSACHAR; ASHER; ZEBULUN; NAPHTALI;
see also GALILEE, SEA OF.
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, bread of life, define, disciples, galil, galilee, galilee of the gentiles, jesus, miracles, sermon on the mount, teachings, transfiguration