Beginner’s Guide to the Sea of Galilee

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November 21st, 2019
Israel Tour, Photo Documentary / By

The Sea of Galilee is one of the most central areas to the ministry of Yeshua during His life on Earth. It is estimated that nearly 70% of Yeshua’s ministry took place near to, beside, or even on top of (literally) this body of water.

What is the Sea of Galilee?

To start, it’s the largest freshwater lake in all of Israel. It is approximately 8 miles across and, in total, is about 64 square miles in size. If you look at a picture of the sea on a map, it looks like a violin. Because of this, it earned its name “Kinneret” in Israel, which is “violin” in Hebrew.

A boat on the Sea of Galilee, Israel

Kinneret sits around 700 feet below sea level. To the sea’s east lies the borders of modern-day Syria and Jordan. To its west is the region of the Galilee, which is made up of several cities you might recognize including Cana, Megiddo, Magdala, Gennesaret, Capernaum, and Nazareth. In His childhood years, Yeshua would have been only about 20 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.

The sea is part of the Jordan River. The Jordan flows into the northern part of the Sea of Galilee and flows out the southern tip of the sea. A popular analogy says, the Sea of Galilee is like a righteous man, because living water flows into it and living water flows out of it. In contrast, the Dead Sea is likened to an unrighteous man, because though freshwater flows into it, nothing flows out of it. It holds what it receives, and because of evaporation it makes the water undrinkable.

Worship on the Sea of Galilee

So, what happened around the Sea of Galilee?

As mentioned, the vast majority of Yeshua’s recorded ministry in the New Testament places Him in the region around this particular body of water. Going through the Gospels, here are some of the landmark events of Yeshua’s ministry that happened near the Sea of Galilee:

  • Mt. of Beatitudes and Tabgha
    This northern point of the sea is where Yeshua gave His most well-known teaching, known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). A site nearby called Tabgha commemorates Yeshua feeding the 5,000 (Mark 6).
  • Capernaum
    Also on the northern shore of the sea (just south of the Mt. of Beatitudes), Capernaum is the town where Yeshua called Peter and Andrew to be his disciples (Matthew 4). Many see this as the “home base” of Yeshua’s ministry. Here Yeshua healed the servant of the Roman centurion (Matthew 8) and where the paralytic was lowered from the roof and healed (Matthew 9). Today’s Capernaum holds the remains of a synagogue that dates back to the days of Yeshua’s life on Earth, and ruins of what could have been Peter’s home.

  • Bethsaida
    Located near the northeastern area of the sea, the place became known after Yeshua healed a man there who was born blind. Yeshua used His spittle and laid hands on him, giving him sight. This is the same man who first replied to Jesus that he saw men as trees walking. (Mark 8) 
  • Kursi or Golan Heights
    This vast, mountainous region is also northeast of the sea. As we read in the Gospels, this is where the legion of unclean spirits was cast into the herd of swine, which then ran down the banks of the sea and drowned (Mark 5). 

  • Magdala
    This city on the western border of the sea was the hometown of Mary, who had 7 unclean spirits cast out of her and then chose to follow Yeshua (Luke 8). 

  • Mt. Arbel
    This unique cliff stands nearly 600 feet tall, overlooking the entire region of the Sea of Galilee. Many believe this is the most likely location of the Great Commission (Matthew 28). From this cliff you could see most of the areas where Yeshua’s ministry actually took place.
The Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan River
  • Yardenit
    Slightly south of the Sea of Galilee, near the banks where the sea drains and becomes the Jordan river again, is a site dedicated to Yeshua being baptized by His cousin, John the Baptist (John 1). Although the actual event may have taken place much further south on the river, Yardenit gives visitors an opportunity to get baptized themselves.

It’s important to note that two miracles of Yeshua were performed while actually ON the sea. He calmed the storm after being woken up by His disciples in Mark 4, and He walked on water as described in Mark 6.

If you’ve ever wondered, “What is the most central location to Yeshua’s ministry?” Or, “Where should I do a daytrip in the land of Israel?”, we think the Sea of Galilee is the right answer!

You can visit The Sea of Galilee in Israel, along with many other life-changing experiences, during the Jerusalem Encounter Tour. Learn more about Jerusalem Encounter in this video:

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Dustin Herron
Dustin Herron is a men's ministry coordinator at Gateway Church in Southlake, TX, and has a Master’s in Christian Leadership from Moody Bible Institute. He attended a Messianic congregation in southeastern Kentucky while growing up, and through this experience, the LORD cultivated a passion for Israel and for God’s Word in Dustin. He greatly enjoys spending time with his wife, Andrea, and reading in his hammock whenever cooler Texas weather permits.
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