Sea of Galilee – Israel

There’s something about seeing the Sea of Galilee for the first time that leaves you breathless. There’s an excitement to it that can’t be described. You know the Lord walked along these very shores and saw the same hills that you are looking at. As beautiful a place as you expected this to be, it is even more so!

The Sea itself is remarkable. It is the lowest fresh water body in the world (some 680 feet below sea level) and is 150 feet at its deepest point. Roughly 30% of its water originates from the Golan Heights. The remainder comes from sources of the Jordan River or from springs in the lake floor. Further, the Sea of Galilee is the primary source of water for the Nation of Israel.

Scriptural Significance

There are four different names used in the Bible for this Sea:

  1. The Sea of Galilee – as named for the province in which it is located (see Matthew 4:18; 15:29).
  2. The Sea of Chinneroth – coming from the Hebrew word ‘kinneret’ meaning “harp”, this moniker referred to the body of water’s shape (see Numbers 34:11; Joshua 12:3; 13:27).
  3. The Lake of Gennesaret – as named for the plain on the north-eastern side of the lake (see Luke 5:1).
  4. The Sea of Tiberias – as named for the village found on its eastern shore (see John 6:1; 21:1).

A number of important villages mentioned in the New Testament are to be found near or along its shores, including:

• Bethsaida
• Capernaum
• Chorazin
• Gadara (the Gadarene Demoniac was from here)
• Magdala (Mary Magdalene was most likely from here)
• Tiberias

The Via Mare as mentioned in Isaiah 9: 1-2 (also known as the Way of the Sea) ran past here. This was the primary route leading to Damascus for travelers. It was logical that customhouses would be established in this area. No doubt, it was at one of these where Matthew served as a tax collector. In fact, all of the disciples were Galilean.

Heights, such as the Cliffs of Arbel, provide steep drop-offs leading down to this Lake, which resides below sea level. This coupled with abrupt changes in temperature, often leads to sudden and violent storms, including those noted in Mark 4:35-41; 6:45-52; and John 6:16-21.

Of the 33 miracles performed by the Lord, 18 of them took place in this vicinity (for example, Matt. 4:18; 15:29; Mark 1:16; 7:31; and John 6:1). Perhaps none of the miracles that occurred here though, capture the imagination so much as when the Lord walked on water (see Matthew 14: 22-33; Mark 6: 45-52; and John 6: 15-21).