Nazareth – Israel

Nazareth is presently divided into upper and lower districts.  The upper portion is heavily Jewish whereas the lower area is a mixture of Arab-Christians and Muslims. At the time of Christ, perhaps less than 500 lived here. The city was considered quite strategic as it could be used to control travel among Europe, Asia and Africa. Greek invaders (such as Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanes) are known to have stopped off here during their various conquering exploits. The Jews settled here during the time of the Maccabees. 

Scriptural Significance

The village of Nazareth holds a prominent place in Scripture:
  • The angel Gabriel announced to Mary the Messiah’s conception here (Luke 1: 26 – 27)
  • Joseph brought Jesus and Mary to Nazareth after their sojourn in Egypt (Matthew 2: 19 – 23)
  • Jesus was reared here by Mary and Joseph (Matthew 2: 23) and lived here till He was about 30 years of age (Luke 4: 16)
  • Joseph most likely worked nearby in Zippori
  • Jesus left here to be baptized by John and begin His public ministry (Mark 1: 9)
  • Jesus dedicated His ministry when He taught in the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4: 14 and ff)
  • The people of Nazareth rejected the Lord and attempted to kill Him after He read in the synagogue (Luke 4: 28 – 30)
  • Jesus was referred to as a prophet from Nazareth (Matt 21: 11) and His followers were called ‘Nazarenes’ (Acts 24: 5)

Nazareth Village

Nazareth Village is a non-profit organization that brings to life a typical farm and Galilean village that would have existed during the 1st Century. This has been designed to further research and support archeological work related to the life of Christ.  More importantly, the village serves as a Gospel outreach to Arabs and Jews alike. 

The first part of the tour is the visitor’s center.  If you do visit, this is where you will be prepared for your move back in time.  You will learn about life of the time and particularly what it was to be a carpenter or mason during the 1st Century. 

Next, you will move outside to a hillside farm, set up similar to one that would be found during the New Testament era.  Here you will learn of the important function that terrace farming held. 

The tour continues on to what is called the ‘Parable Walk’.  Here you walk past cultivated terraces, ancient winepresses, stone quarries, grapevines, and olive trees.   It was easy to see why the Lord used the features of the land to color and illustrate His teachings. 

The path leads to the buildings of the village.  There you will see a typical home of the time, a mason’s shop, a place where fabrics were woven together and a synagogue.  All during your visit, you will be treated to costumed villagers engaged in all sorts of activities that one would find during the period.  And, you will enjoy a wonderful meal – 1st Century style. 

Did You Know?

Matthew 2: 23 presents one of the more interesting and complex prophecies that the Lord fulfilled: “And He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.”

When looking at the Old Testament, there does not appear to be a direct prophecy that says Jesus would be from Nazareth. Importantly, Matthew doesn’t refer to a singular prophet – instead, he says this fulfills what multiple prophets spoke of.  What is going on here? 

Well, one of the great titles ascribed to the Messiah by the Old Testament prophets is that of the “Branch”.  For example, Jeremiah uses this title: “Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.  In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” – Jer. 23: 5 – 6  

“In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up to David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.  In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely; and this is the name wherewith he shall be called, The LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” – Jer. 33: 15 – 16  

Zechariah uses this title: “Hear now, O Joshua the High Priest, you, and your fellows that sit before you: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth My servant the Branch.” – Zechariah 3: 8  

“And speak to him, saying, Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the Temple of the LORD.” – Zechariah 6: 12  

And Isaiah said: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots; And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; … And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek; and his rest shall be glorious.” – Isaiah 11: 1, 2, 10  

According to these passages, the One who is “the Branch,” will be from the house of David. He will be a Judge, a King, and a Priest. He will be called the “Lord Our Righteousness” and will save Israel and Judah. He will build the Temple of God. And, in Him will the Gentiles trust! It is clear that the Branch is being equated by the prophets of old with Messiah!

There are two Hebrew words translated ‘Branch’ in these prophecies: one is “Tsemach” (transliterated ‘Zemach’) which is used in most of the verses referenced above. However in Isaiah 11:1, the other word, “Natser,” (transliterated ‘Nazer’) is used. The Messiah is called this latter word directly. The prophet Isaiah is particularly noted for his use of double entendre – i.e., he uses words that often have dual meanings.

In Hebrew, “Natser” is actually only three consonantal letters: NZR. Note that the town NaZaReth contains the same three letters (along with an ending often attached to nouns). In the Aramaic form of Nazareth, it comes very close in sound to the Hebrew word for “Branch.” Note: Aramaic was the common language spoken by most Israelites during the 1st Century; some have suggested that Matthew originally wrote his Gospel in Aramaic rather than Greek.

Matthew is picking up on the prophet’s dual use of the word “Natser,” and sees it as a clear prophecy that the Lord would be from Nazareth.