|Cities of Ancient Israel|
E5 on the Map.
Jesus grew up in Nazareth, which was a very small village near the Plain of Esdralon in Galilee. Although it is not mentioned in the Old Testament, there have been excavations revealing settlements in the area dating back to the Bronze Age, and tombs dating from the iron age to the Hasmonean period. The Biblical narrative reveals that Joseph and Mary lived here after their betrothal, in the announcement of Jesus' birth came to Mary here in Nazareth (Lk 1:26). Joseph made his living here as a carpenter possibly because it was near Sepphoris, a Hellenistic city being built by Herod Antipas.
Jesus left here at age 30 to be baptized by John (Mk 1:9), and returned to Nazareth before beginning his public ministry (Matt 4:13) and was violently rejected by the people of His town, and thus He moved on to Capernaum (Lk 4:16-30). There is no mention of Him ever returning back to His home town of Nazareth, but he was always identified with it (Matt 21:11), having been called a "Nazarene" which comes from the Hebrew root meaning "branch", in accordance with the promises made to David that King Messiah would be a descendant (branch) from the royal line of King David.
Nazareth was right on the Roman Road to Jerusalem and therefore contact with the whole known world could be made from this small village. In Jesus' time there is a synagogue located there (Lk 4:16), and Jews were living there after the destruction of the second Temple. Eusebius makes mention of a small village called Nazareth in the 4th century A.D. It's first church was built they are during the Time of the Emperor Constantine.
"Nazareth is like a rose, having the same rounded form, enclosed by mountains, as the flower is by leaves."
NAZARETH pronounced nad-zar-et and possible means "the guarded one." Harpers defines it separated; crowned; sanctified
- E 5 on the map.
-strongs # 3478 in the Greek NT Dictionary.
- KJV uses the term Nazareth.
Location and Scenary
- The little town of Nazareth was one of the most beautiful places in all of Galilee.
- It is situated on the most southern of the ranges of lower Galilee, among the hills which are referred to as the south ridges of Lebanon, just before they sink down into the plain of Esdraelon (about 10 miles away). A rocky gorge descends southward to a plain between two craggy hills.
- It was situated on the southeast slope of a hollow pear shaped basin, which descends gradually from the elevated plateau 1500 feet above sea level and opens out through a steep winding way (the stem of the pear) into the plain of Esdraelon, 1000 feet lower.
- It is a secluded village lying in a basin, surrounded by the Nazareth limestone hills, which were said to "rise round it like the edge of a shell to guard it from intrusion."
- On the hill five hundred feet above the town, a most wonderful panorama opens to view of the beauties and historic scenes of the land.
- To the north one could see the plateaus of Zebulun and Naphtali, and the mountains of Lebanon with snow-covered Hermon towering above them all
- To the west one could see the coast of Tyre and the blue waters of the Mediterranean.
- From a hilltop in Nazareth one could see Mt. Carmel, the historic scene of the struggle of Elijah with the prophets of Baal.
- To the south one could see Megiddo and the whole plain of Esdraelon which was the scene of many of the most memorable battles of Israel, to Tabor and the hills of Gilboa where Saul and Jonathan lost their lives. Mt. Ebal and the land of Shechem in the background with the uplands of Gilead and Samaria.
- To the east, across the sea of Galilee and the Jordan Valley, Gilead and Jaulan with Tabor, the Mountain of Bashan
- What thoughts Jesus must have had sitting upon these hilltops.
- At the foot of the hill passed the Roman road, "the Way of the Sea," which connected the ancient city of Damascus with the Mediterranean sea-ports.
- To the south there was a road that went all the way to Egypt.
- A mile and a half away was the caravan route to Jerusalem
- The town itself was built of the white limestone from the quarries of the calcerous mountains which encircle the basin.
- Sepphoris, the capital of Herod Antipas and strongest military center in Galilee, was only five miles to the northwest across the rolling hills.
- Tiberias, Capernaum, Bethsaida and other towns were only a few miles away on the margin of the Sea of Galilee; and even Jerusalem itself was not a great distance from Jesus' home in Nazareth.
- "You cannot see from Nazareth the surrounding country, for Nazareth lies in a basin; but the moment you climb to the edge of this basin . . . what a view you have. Esdraelon lies before you, with its twenty battlefields-the scenes of Barak's and of Gideon's victories, of Saul's and Josiah's defeats, of the struggles for freedom in the glorious days of the Maccabees. There is Naboth's vineyard and the place of Jehu's revenge upon Jezebel; there Shunem and the house of Elisha; there Carmel and the place of Elijah's sacrifice. To the E the valley of Jordan, with the long range of Gilead; to the W the radiance of the Great Sea. . . . You can see thirty miles in three directions" (Smith, Hist. Geog., p. 432).
The Bible and Nazareth
- Nazareth is not mentioned in the OT or by Josephus, although the presence of a spring and the convenience of the site make it probable that the place was occupied in old times.
- To be called a "Nazarene" was having an evil reputation (Matthew said this was in accord with the prophecy of Isaiah 53) and pictures the Messiah as a "root springing up out of the dry ground."
- One of the most well known names for the Messiah among the Jews was Tsamech or Branch, based on Isaiah's prophecy (Isa 11:1). The word Netzer is the exact equivalent. The title Nazarene not only stood for the reproach which Jesus bore, but was a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. He was a Branch (Netzer) sprung out of David's roots.
- it is within the limits of the province of Galilee (Luke 4:29)
- Nazareth was the home of Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:39)
- It was where the angel announced to Mary the birth of the Messiah (1:26-28).
.- It was where Joseph brought Mary and Jesus after the sojourn in Egypt (Matt 2:19-23).
- It was where Jesus grew up to manhood for about 30 years (Luke 4:16)
- He was therefore called Jesus of Nazareth.
- His disciples were known as Nazarenes.
- In Nazareth Jesus first taught in the synagogue (Matt 13:54; Luke 4:16)
- The evil reputation attached to Nazareth (John 1:46) has generally been attributed to the Galileans' lack of culture and rude dialect. Nathanael, who asked, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" was himself a Galilean. He may have said that because Nazareth was such a common term of contempt among the more "righteous" Jews in Judea. (See Galilee)
- In Nazareth, Jesus preached His first recorded sermon (Luke 4:16 ff).
- Once Jesus finished preaching about the Kingdom of God and the Nazarenes became violent. "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matt 13:58) and He made His home in Capernaum.
- It is near Cana, where Jesus turned the water into wine (Mark 1:9)
- Scholars believe there were approximately 15,000 to 20,000 inhabitants during the time of Christ
- Most of the houses were very similar in style even with the rich and poor.
- A bountiful spring furnished the water supply for the whole population and was a favorite place.
- Nazareth did not have the best of reputations even in Galilee. Nathaniel of Cana was but speaking a common opinion when he said: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
- The violence of the Nazareth crowd shows their hostility and religious ferver when Jesus preached there in the beginning of His ministry?
- All Classes of people for Jesus to observe (home, weddings, funerals, the carpenter shop, synagogue, etc.
- His childhood days brought innumerable illustrations for His later teachings such as the leaven hid in three measures of meal, women grinding at the mill, sowing and reaping, the sparrow and the lily, the children in the market place playing at wedding and funeral, etc.
- Educators say that the child learns more in the first three or four years than in all the rest of life.
- Nazareth was secluded by its natural location but it was not cut off from the outside world.
- All the inhabitants of Galilee were looked upon with contempt by the people of Judea because they spoke a cruder dialect, were less cultivated and were more exposed by their position to contact with the heathen.
- The location of the ancient site of Nazareth is very certain.
- Quaresimus learned that the ancient name was Medina Abiat, in which we may recognize the Arabic el-Medinat el-baidtah, "the white town." Built of the white stone supplied by the limestone rocks around, the description is quite accurate.
- There is a reference in the Mishna (Menachoth viii.6) to the "white house of the hill" whence wine for the drink offering was brought.
- An elegy for the 9 th of Abib speaks of a "course" of priests that settled in Nazareth.
- Near this town Napoleon once encamped (1799), after the battle of Mount Tabor.
- It lies right between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean at Haifa.
- The modern name is en-Nazirah, which is built mainly on the western and northwestern slopes of a hollow among the lower hills of Galilee, just before they sink into the plain of Esdraelon.
- It belongs to the better class of eastern villages. It has a population of about 7,000; some Muslims, and the rest are Latin and Greek Christians.
- There is one very remarkable hilltop, almost perpendicular and near the Maronite church, which may well be supposed to be the identical one where the angry Nazarenes attempted to hurl Jesus off from.
- A Jewish community has settled on the heights above the city.
- Tourism is very important to the economy.
- The chief attraction of Nazareth is the new Church of the Annunciation (1966) built on the traditional site of Mary's house, which is shown under the church.This church replaced an earlier one built in 1730, which in turn was constructed on the site of a twelfth-century Crusader church.
- Nearby is the Church of St. Joseph (constructed in 1914), which stands on the traditional site of Joseph's carpenter shop (located below the church).
- Between the two churches is a Franciscan monastery.
- Not far away is Mary's well, which has provided water for the village from the first century to the present day.
- There are apparently no Jews living there today.
- It is the chief market town for the pastoral and agricultural district that lies around it.
- The only site in Nazareth that can be definitely identified as dating back to New Testament times is the town well, now called St. Mary's Well; others are in dispute between the various churches.
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