Also see Sea of Chinnereth. (Matthew 4:18; Mark 7:31; John 6:1). So called from its washing the E. side of Galilee. In Luke 5:1 "the sea of Gennesaret," called so from the fertile plain of Gennesurer at its N.W. angle, three and a half miles long by two and a half broad (Matthew 14:34). In Old Testament "the sea of Chinnereth" or Cinneroth, from the town so named on its shore (Joshua 19:35), of which Gennesaret is probably the corruption, though others derive it from gannah, a "garden," and Sarown, a plain between Tabor and the lake. "The sea of Tiberias" is another designation, from the city (John 6:1). All its names were drawn from places on the western side. Now Bahr Tubariyeh (Tiberius, S.W. of the lake). Close to it was "His own city" Capernaum (Matthew 4:13). Nine cities stood on the shores of the lake, of which only two are now inhabited, namely, Magdala, consisting of a few mud huts, and Tiberias, sadly changed from its ancient prosperity.
Silence now reigns where formerly the din of industry was heard. On its shore Jesus called His first disciples (Matthew 4:18; Matthew 9:9; Luke 5:1-11; John 1:43, etc.). The bed of the lake is but a lower section of the great Jordan valley. Its depression is 653 ft. below the level of the Mediterranean, according to Lt. Lynch. Its length is about 13 miles, its breadth is about five or six. The view from the Nazareth road to Tiberias is beautiful. The hills from the eastern side rise apparently out of the water with a uniform slope, to the height of 2,000 ft., destitute of verdure, and shut in the lake; while far to the N. is seen snowy Hermon. The eastern hills, which are flat along the summit, are the wall that supports the table land of Bashan; from which on the N. there is a gradual descent to the valley of the Jordan, and then a rise to a plateau skirting the mountains of upper Galilee.
The hills on the W., except at Khan Minyeh, where there is a small cliff, are recessed from the shore. On a western recess stands Tiberias. The whole basin betrays its volcanic origin, which also accounts for the warm spring at Tiberius The cliffs are hard porous basalt. The vegetation is tropical; the lotus thorn, palms, indigo, etc. The water is sweet, sparkling and transparent; the fish abundant as of old, many species being those of the Nile, the silurus, mugil, and sparers Galiloeus. Dr. Tristram says: "the shoals of fish Were marvelous, black masses of many hundred yards long, with the black fins projecting out of the water, as thickly as they could pack. There are the European loach, bethel, blenny and cyprinodont; the African chromis, hemichromis, and eellike clarias; and the Asiatic discognathus. The cyprinodonts are viviparous, and the sexual differences marked; they can live in cold water, or hot springs up to 90ø, fresh, brackish, or briny water.
This marks a former connection between these waters and those of N.E. and S.E. Africa, the Nile, the Zambesi, and the great lakes in the interior. The papyrus also, no longer found in the Nile, is found on the shores of the sea of Galilee. As Asia, Africa, and Europe respectively were represented at Christ's cross by the Jews, Simon of Cyrene, and the Romans respectively, so the Asiatic, African, and European fish in the sea of Galilee represent the various races of mankind gathered by the spiritual fishermen into the one gospel net. Only one little boat represents the fleets of fishing vessels that once covered the lake. The fish are now taken with a hand net jerked round the fish by the fisher, usually naked, along the shore (John 21:7); or else crumbs of bread mixed with bichloride of mercury are scattered to poison the fish, and the floating dead bodies are picked up for the Tiberias market (Porter, Handbook, p. 432).
Sudden and violent storms agitate the waters, sweeping down the ravines and gorges converging to the head of the lake, from the vast naked plateau of the Jaulan and the Hauran and mount Hermon in the background. It was such a storm that Jesus stilled by a word, as He had a few hours before rebuked and cast out demons. Mark 4:39, "Peace, be still," Greek "Be silent, be muzzled"; addressing the sea and warring elements as rebel forces; compare Revelation 21:1.
The apostles were trying to reach Bethsaida on the western coast, when the gale from. the S.W. that brought vessels from Tiberias to the N.E. coast (John 6:23) delayed the vessel of the former, until at the fourth watch Jesus came walking over the tempest tossed waves; then followed Peter's temporary walking through faith and sinking through unbelief in the same waters, and his rescue by Jesus; then they immediately reach their desired haven for which they had set out the evening before (Matthew 14:28-29; Matthew 14:33; John 6:17; John 6:21; Mark 6:45).
So impressed were the disciples that "they worshipped Him, saying, Of a truth Thou art the Son of God." Bethsaida Julias, the city of Andrew and Peter, lay on the E. bank of the Jordan where it enters the sea of Galilee on the N. Close by, and on the E. of the river and N.E. of the lake, stretched the "green grass" (Mark 6:39) plain of Batihah, the scene of feeding the 5,000. Gergesa (now Kersa) lay E. of the lake. The Jordan's outlet is at Kerak, the S.W. extremity of the lake. The lake, mirroring heaven in its union of rest and energy, represents Him who best combined the calm repose which reflected His Father's image with energetic labors for God and man.
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