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During Jesus’ public ministry, Palestine was divided into three principal regions: Galilee in the north, Judaea in the south, and Samaria in between. Jesus’ ministry focused primarily on Galilee and Judaea. In Judaea, the presence of conservative Jews, the Sanhedrin, and the Temple posed significant threats to His life. Consequently, Jesus centered His ministry at Capernaum in Galilee, which included towns like Nazareth, Capernaum, and Tiberias. Although Jesus was popularly known as Jesus of Nazareth, He was also recognized as a Galilean (Lk 23:6). The name Galilee is also associated with the Sea of Galilee.

Historical Background

When the Israelites first inhabited the Promised Land, Joshua assigned Galilee to the tribes of Asher, Naphtali, and Zebulun. These tribes failed to completely expel the native Canaanites, resulting in ongoing Gentile influence and frequent attacks from neighboring Gentiles. In 733 BC, the Assyrians conquered the land, exiled many Israelites, and scattered them to prevent potential revolts. Consequently, many foreigners settled in Galilee, transforming it into a region inhabited by a mixed group of Israelites and Gentiles. In 104 BC, Aristobulus conquered Galilee for the Jews and forcibly converted its inhabitants through circumcision.

Galilee of the Gentiles

The name Galilee derives from the Hebrew word “galil,” meaning circle. The full name was “Galilee of the Gentiles,” as it was surrounded by Gentile nations: Phoenicians to the west, Syrians to the north and east, and Samaritans to the south. This encirclement by Gentiles made the Jews in Galilee more open to new ideas compared to other parts of Palestine, leading to better receptivity for Jesus’ teachings from both Jews and Gentiles.

The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee, also known as the “Sea of Kinneret” (Num 34:11; Deut 3:17, Josh 11:2), the “Lake of Gennesaret” (Lk 5:1), and the “Lake of Tiberias” (Jn 6:1), is a freshwater lake. It is pear-shaped, thirteen miles long from north to south, and eight miles at its widest point. Its circumference is thirty-three miles, and it reaches a maximum depth of 141 feet. It is the lowest freshwater lake on earth and the second lowest lake in the world after the Dead Sea. The Jordan River is its main water source, supplemented by springs and streams from the surrounding hills of Galilee. Over the centuries, the water level and size of the lake have decreased.

The Sea of Galilee’s beaches and valleys, with hills in the background, created a natural amphitheater effect, making it an ideal location for Jesus to preach to large crowds from a boat, utilizing natural sound amplification.

Violent Storms on the Sea of Galilee

Due to its low-lying position, seven hundred feet below sea level, and being surrounded by hills, the Sea of Galilee is prone to sudden and violent storms. These storms occur when cold winds from the snow-covered eastern mountains funnel through narrow valleys and clash with the warm air over the lake. Jesus and His disciples experienced such a storm while traveling by boat (Mt 8:23-27; Mk 4:35-41; Lk 8:22-25; Jn 6:16-21).


The Galileans, influenced by their Gentile neighbors, were more progressive compared to the conservative Jews of Judaea. Jesus began His ministry in Galilee and concluded it in Judaea. Out of the twelve apostles, all except Judas Iscariot were Galileans. Jesus received more acceptance in Galilee than in Judaea, though He faced opposition and rejection in both regions.

As Christians, we can draw several lessons from Jesus’ ministry in Galilee:

1. Openness to God’s Message: Just as the Galileans were more open to new ideas, we should remain open to the teachings of Christ and the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

2. Facing Opposition: Jesus’ ministry faced both acceptance and rejection. As His followers, we should expect to encounter both positive and negative responses when working for the Kingdom of God. This should not deter us but strengthen our resolve.

3. Resilience in Ministry: Despite opposition, Jesus continued His ministry with perseverance and dedication. We too must remain steadfast in our faith and commitment to spreading the Gospel, even in the face of challenges.

4. Inclusivity: The mixed population of Galilee symbolized a broader reach of Jesus’ message. We are called to be inclusive, sharing the love of Christ with all people, regardless of their background.

May we, as followers of Christ, draw inspiration from His ministry in Galilee, remaining open, resilient, and inclusive in our journey of faith. Let us continue to spread the message of God’s love, knowing that we will face both acceptance and opposition, and trusting that God is with us in all circumstances.

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