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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
was one of the most extensive provinces into which the Holy Land was divided. It exceeded Judea in extent, but probably varied in its limits at different times. This province is divided by the rabbins into, 1. The Upper; 2. The Nether; and 3. The Valley. Josephus divides it into only Upper and Lower; and he says that the limits of Galilee were, on the south, Samaria and Scythopolis, unto the flood of Jordan. Galilee contained four tribes, Issachar, Zebulun, Naphtali, and Asher; a part, also, of Dan, and part of Persia, that is, beyond the river. Upper Galilee abounded in mountains. Lower Galilee, which contained the tribes of Zebulun and Asher, was sometimes called the Great Field, "the champaign,"
Deuteronomy 11:30 . The Valley was adjacent to the sea of Tiberias. Josephus describes Galilee as very populous, and containing two hundred and four cities and towns. It was also very rich, and paid two hundred talents in tribute. The natives were brave and good soldiers; but they were seditious, and prone to insolence and rebellion. In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the inhabitants of Galilee and Peraea are scarcely mentioned, whether they were Jews returned from Babylon, or a mixture of different nations. The language of these regions differed considerably from that of Judea; as did various customs, in which each followed its own mode. Our Lord so frequently visited Galilee, that he was called a Galilean, Matthew 26:69 . The population of Galilee being very great, he had many opportunities of doing good in this country; and, being there out of the power of the priests at Jerusalem, he seems to have preferred it as his abode. Nazareth and Capernaum were in this division. From such a mixture of people, many provincialisms might be expected. Hence, we find Peter detected by his language, probably by his phraseology, as well as his pronunciation, Mark 14:70 . Upper Galilee had Mount Lebanon and the countries of Tyre and Sidon on the north; the Mediterranean Sea on the west; Abilene, Ituraea, and the country of the Decapolis, on the east; and Lower Galilee on the south. Its principal city was Caesarea Philippi. This part of Galilee, being less inhabited by Jews, was thence called Galilee of the Nations, or of the Gentiles. Lower Galilee had the upper division of the same country to the north; the Mediterranean on the west; the sea of Galilee, or lake of Gennesareth, on the east; and Samaria on the south. Its principal cities were Tiberias, Chorazin, Bethsaida, Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum, Nain, Caesarea of Palestine, and Ptolemais. This district was of all others most honoured with the presence of our Saviour. Here he was conceived; here he was brought back by his mother and reputed father, after their return from Egypt; here he lived with them till he was thirty years of age; and, although after his entrance on his public ministry he frequently visited the other provinces, it was here that he chiefly resided. Here, also, he made his first appearance after his resurrection to his Apostles, who were themselves natives of the same country, and were thence called men of Galilee.
GALILEE, Sea of. This inland sea, or more properly lake, which derives its several names, the lake of Tiberias, the sea of Galilee, and the lake of Gennesareth, from the territory which forms its western and south-western border, is computed to be between seventeen and eighteen miles in length, and from five to six in breadth. The mountains on the east come close to its shore, and the country on that side has not a very agreeable aspect: on the west, it has the plain of Tiberias, the high ground of the plain of Hutin, or Hottein, the plain of Gennesareth, and the foot of those hills by which you ascend to the high mountain of Saphet. To the north and south it has a plain country, or valley. There is a current throughout the whole breadth of the lake, even to the shore; and the passage of the Jordan through it is discernible by the smoothness of the surface in that part. Various travellers have given different accounts of its general aspect. According to Captain Mangles, the land about it has no striking features, and the scenery is altogether devoid of character. "It appeared," he says, "to particular disadvantage to us, after those beautiful lakes we had seen in Switzerland; but it becomes a very interesting object when you consider the frequent allusions to it in the Gospel narrative." Dr. Clarke, on the contrary, speaks of the uncommon grandeur of this memorable scenery. "The lake of Gennesareth," he says, "is surrounded by objects well calculated to heighten the solemn impressions made by such recollections, and affords one of the most striking prospects in the Holy Land. Speaking of it comparatively, it may be described as longer and finer than any of our Cumberland and Westmoreland lakes, although perhaps inferior to Loch Lomond. It does not possess the vastness of the lake of Geneva, although it much resembles it in certain points of view. In picturesque beauty, it comes nearest to the lake of Locarno, in Italy, although it is destitute of any thing similar to the islands by which that majestic piece of water is adorned. It is inferior in magnitude, and in the height of its surrounding mountains, to the Lake Asphaltites." Mr. Buckingham may perhaps be considered as having given the most accurate account, and one which reconciles, in some degree, the differing statements above cited, when, speaking of the lake as seen from Tel Hoom, he says, that its appearance is grand, but that the barren aspect of the mountains on each side, and the total absence of wood, give a cast of dulness to the picture: this is increased to melancholy by the dead calm of its waters, and the silence which reigns throughout its whole extent, where not a boat or vessel of any kind is to be found. The situation of the lake, lying, as it were, in a deep basin between the hills which enclose it on all sides, excepting only the narrow entrance and outlets of the Jordan at either end, protects its waters from long-continued tempests: its surface is in general as smooth as that of the Dead Sea. But the same local features render it occasionally subject to whirlwinds, squalls, and sudden gusts from the mountains, of short duration; especially when the strong current formed by the Jordan is opposed by a wind of this description from the south-east, sweeping from the mountains with the force of a hurricane, it may easily be conceived that a boisterous sea must be instantly raised, which the small vessels of the country would be unable to resist. A storm of this description is plainly denoted by the language of the evangelist, in recounting one of our Lord's miracles: "There came down a storm of wind on the lake, and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water; and they ceased, and there was a calm,"
Luke 8:23-24 . There were fleets of some force on this lake during the wars of the Jews with the Romans, and very bloody battles were fought between them. Josephus gives a particular account of a naval engagement between the Romans under Vespasian, and the Jews who had revolted during the administration of Agrippa. Titus and Trajan were both present, and Vespasian himself was on board the Roman fleet. The rebel force consisted of an immense multitude, who, as fugitives after the capture of Tarichaea by Titus, had sought refuge on the water. The vessels in which the Romans defeated them were built for the occasion, and yet were larger than the Jewish ships. The victory was followed by so terrible a slaughter of the Jews, that nothing was to be seen, either on the lake or its shores, but the blood and mangled corpses of the slain; and the air was infected by the number of dead bodies. Six thousand five hundred persons are stated to have perished in this naval engagement, and in the battle of Tarichaea, beside twelve hundred who were afterward massacred in cold blood, by order of Vespasian, in the amphitheatre at Tiberias, and a vast number who were given to Agrippa as slaves.
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Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Galilee'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/g/galilee.html. 1831-2.