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For Bible Study Nerds

The Sea of Galilee is an important location in the history of Jesus, particularly because it was there he once demonstrated divine mastery over creation by miraculously calming a deadly storm. (Matthew 8:23-27). Here’s what we know about that body of water:

  • Although it’s called the “Sea” of Galilee, it’s actually a large, freshwater lake. As such, it’s sometimes referred to as Lake Galilee by modern folks. Others have also called it the “Lake of Gennesaret” (Jospehus), the “Sea of Tiberias” (naming it after a city on its southwestern shore), and “Sea of Kinnereth” (its ancient Hebrew name).
  • Measuring about 16 miles from north to south, and about 9 miles from east to west, the Sea of Galilee calls to mind the shape of a harp. Perhaps that’s why ancient Israelites tagged it the “Sea of Kinnereth,” which may be a reference to the Hebrew word kinnor, which means “harp.”
  • The location of the Sea of Galilee makes it particularly susceptible to storms. It sits about 640 feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea, and is surrounded by steep hillsides along most of its shores. Ravines on the west side funnel cool air into the bowl-like basin where the sea sits. When cool air rushes into hot air rising from the valley lake, it can create sudden, fierce winds that stir up waves big enough to swamp a boat.
  • In Jesus’ day, the Sea of Galilee supported a thriving fishing industry—it was where Peter, James, and John earned their living as fishermen. The great lake held three kinds of fish: Sardines, Barbels (named for the barb-like feelers on their upper lips), and a tasty Bass-like fish. The latter still lives in the Sea of Galilee and has been re-named “St. Peter’s Fish” in honor of Jesus’ famous disciple. Today, restaurants on the shores of the Sea of Galilee serve this fish as part of their menus.
  • In 1986, a drought shrunk the water levels of the Sea of Galilee for a short time. Two men on a walk spotted the outline of a sunken boat in the mud of the shrunken lake. After experts excavated it, they discovered it was a fishing vessel about 2,000 years old—likely from the time of Christ. Many theorize that Jesus calmed the storm in a boat very similar to this one. The excavated boat measured about 24 feet long and six feet wide, large enough to hold a sleeping Jesus and all twelve of his disciples.

 

Works Cited:

[WWA, 340-341; ISJ, 66-67]

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