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Holman Bible Dictionary

Galilee, Sea of

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(Gal' ih lee) Place name meaning, “circle.” A freshwater lake nestled in the hills of northern Palestine. Its surface is nearly 700 feet below the level of the Mediterranean, some thirty miles to the west. The nearby hills of Galilee reach an altitude of 1,500 feet above sea level. To the east are the mountains of Gilead with peaks of more than 3,300 feet. To the north are the snow-covered Lebanon mountains. Fed chiefly by the Jordan River, which originates in the foothills of the Lebanon Mountains, the sea of Galilee is thirteen miles long north and south and eight miles wide at its greatest east-west distance. Because of its location, it is subject to sudden and violent storms which are usually of short duration.

In the Old Testament this sea is called Chinnereth. See Matthew 5:1 ); the Jewish historian Josephus always called it by that name, and so did the author of First Maccabees. Once John called it the “sea of Tiberias” (Matthew 6:1 ).

In the first century the sea of Galilee was of major commercial significance. Most Galilean roads passed by it, and much travel to and from the east crossed the Jordan rift there. Fish was a major food in the area, and the fishing industry flourished because there was no other significant freshwater lake in the region. Capernaum, which played a major role in the ministry of Jesus, was a center of that industry. The other lake towns of importance were Bethsaida, which means “the fishing place”, and Tiberias, a Gentile city constructed by Herod Antipas when Jesus was a young man.

Roger Crook

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Galilee, Sea of'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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