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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Galilee, Sea of

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1. Situation , etc. The Sea of Galilee is an expansion of the Jordan, 13 miles long, about 8 miles in maximum breadth; its surface is 680 feet below that of the Mediterranean; its maximum depth is about 150 feet. In shape it is like a pear, the narrow end pointing southward. Like the Dead Sea, it is set deep among hills, which rise on the east side to a height of about 2000 feet. At the emergence of the Jordan, however, the Lake impinges on the plain of the Ghôr.

2. Names . The original name of the Sea seems to have been Chinnereth or Chinneroth , which a hazardous etymology connects with the Heb. kinnôr , ‘harp.’ The name is supposed to be given to the Sea on account of its fancied resemblance to such an instrument. It more probably takes its name from an as yet unrecognized town or district in Naphtali (which bordered the Lake on the west side) referred to in Joshua 11:2; Jos 19:35 , 1 Kings 15:20 . By this name it is referred to in assigning the border of the Promised Land ( Numbers 34:11 ), in stating the boundary of the trans-Jordanic tribes ( Deuteronomy 3:12 , Joshua 13:27 ), and in enumerating the kings conquered by Joshua ( Joshua 12:3 ). The Lake is referred to also by the name Gennesar in Josephus (always), and in 1Ma 11:67 (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ). This name also is of uncertain origin; strong grounds exist for questioning its derivation as a corruption of the earlier appellation. In the Gospels it is referred to under a variety of names: besides such general terms as ‘the lake’ ( Luke 8:22 etc.), or ‘the sea’ ( John 6:16 ), we find Lake of Gennesaret (only in Luke 5:1 ), Sea of Tiberias ( John 21:1 , and also as an explanatory or alternative name in John 6:1 ), but most frequently Sea of Galilee , which seems to have been the normal name. The modern name is Bahr Tubarîya , which is often rendered in English as ‘Lake of Tiberias,’ by which name the Sea is now frequently described (as in Baedeker’s Syria and Palestine ).

3. Importance in NT Times . The Sea in the time of Christ was surrounded by a number of important cities, each of them the centre of a cultured population. Such were Tiberias, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Chorazin, Magdala, and others. The fishing industry was extensive, and where now but a few small boats are to be seen, there evidently were formerly large fleets of fishing vessels. The fishing trade of Galilee was of great importance, and was renowned throughout the world. Owing to the great height of the mountains surrounding the Lake, differences of temperature are produced which give rise to sudden and violent storms. Two such storms are mentioned in the Gospels one in Matthew 8:23 , Mark 4:36 , Luke 8:22 , the other in Matthew 14:22 , Mark 6:46 , John 6:16 . The repetition of the event within the narrow historical limits of the Gospels indicates that such tempests, then as now, were matters of frequent occurrence.

R. A. S. Macalister.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Galilee, Sea of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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