Chorazin (Korazim) – Israel

The Lord spent a good portion of His ministry in the northern Galilee towns of Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin. All received a tremendous amount of light from Him and saw the miraculous on display as the Lord performed some of the most profound miracles. In fact the area has come to be known as the “Gospel Triangle” or “Evangelical Triangle” given how much time and effort the Lord spent there.

This fulfilled that which had been anticipated by the prophet Isaiah:

Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, As when at first He lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more heavily oppressed her, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. Isaiah 9: 1 – 2

Scriptural Significance

Despite all of the work the Lord had done there, Chorazin (along with her sister cities of Bethsaida and Capernaum) rejected the divine witness they received. The King of Kings denounced them as a result:

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you; it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you. Matthew 11: 20 – 24

Many structures in Chorazin are made from black basalt, a volcanic rock found locally. It serves as a visual illustration of the death that encompasses the area. All three of the cities are now uninhabited – felled by a major earthquake believed to have taken place in 363 AD. 

One important set of ruins is the Synagogue – this particular one dates from the 2nd Century. In other words, it is from the time after the destruction of Jerusalem. Typical characteristics of post 70 AD synagogues include:

  • An entrance with an archway that faces Jerusalem
  • Central hall with two side aisles
  • Men and women sitting separate from one another

The Chorazin synagogue stood on an elevated area in the town center. It also had a broad staircase leading to its façade, which faced south towards Jerusalem. The structure was comprised of one large hall, with stone benches around the walls for the congregation to sit during gatherings.

The most important feature in this synagogue would have been the Seat of Moses. The original seat is housed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, but a copy remains in the ruins at Chorazin. This was carved out of a single basalt block, from which the Torah would have been read. The Lord speak of this seat in Matthew 23: 2 when he speak of the “Scribes and Pharisees sitting in Moses’ seat.”

Decorations carved in the stone include Jewish motifs, geometric designs and patterns incorporating local flowers and animals. There are also some pagan symbols evidencing the influence of Greco-Roman art. The builders were clearly skilled in using the basalt stone, which is brittle and easily broken.

Archeological Significance

The 1st Century synagogue has been identified by archaeologists as lying about 600 feet away from the 2nd Century one (most likely across the modern road). This is possibly a synagogue the Lord would have preached in.

Near the synagogue is a ritual bath or a Mikveh. Some have debated whether this might not have simply been a vat for collecting rainwater.

There is also a large millstone found in the town. This illustrates well the Lord’s warning regarding the proper treatment of children:

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Mathew 18:6

Did You Know?

To the east of the synagogue are some larger family homes dating from the 2nd and 3rd Centuries. These buildings enable us to have a better understanding of Jewish life in and around the time of the Lord. By understanding historical background, it can greatly increase the understanding of Scripture.

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you’. Mark 2: 1 – 5

The story of the paralytic as found in Mark 2 took place in nearby Capernaum. The homes there would have been very similar in construction to those in Chorazin.

The paralytic’s friends let him down through the roof to get him to the Lord. If you didn’t understand historical context, you might be drawn to the erroneous conclusion that they destroyed property (broke through the roof) to accomplish this. Some have even used this story to justify breaking the law or destroying property in the name of Gospel.

Nonsense…the paralytics friends simply removed tiles that easily were put on and taken off in order to gain access. There was no destruction afoot here. Jesus saw their faith (and the paralytic’s) and was moved to heal the man and forgive his sins.

The Bible doesn’t teach you can break the law here. It does teach that we should use creative ways to reach others with Christ. The Lord honors our faith. The Lord Jesus Christ will honor the work we go through on behalf of the Gospel. The friends of the paralytic brought him to the Lord. Jesus did the healing however. The same is true for us as His witnesses in the world today, our job is to bring people closer to the Lord as it were – He is the One Who will do the healing, if they respond in faith.