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GALILEE (găl'ĭ-lē, Heb. hā-gālîl, the ring or circuit, Gr. Galilaia). The most northerly of the three provinces of Palestine (Galilee, Samaria, Judea). Measuring approximately fifty miles (eighty-three km.) north to south and thirty miles (fifty km.) east to west, it was bounded on the west by the plain of Akka to the foot of Mount Carmel. The Jordan, the
An imaginary line from the plain of Akka to the north end of the Sea of Galilee divided the country into Upper and Lower Galilee. “Galilee of the Gentiles” refers chiefly to Upper Galilee, which is separated from Lebanon by the Leontes River. It was the territory of Asher and Naphtali, where the ruins of Kedesh Naphtali, one of the cities of refuge can now be seen (
After the death of Herod the Great in 4 b.c., Herod Antipas governed the tetrarchy of Galilee (
In 1925 the famous “Galilee skull” was found in a cave near the Sea of Galilee, and in 1932, in a cave near Mount Carmel, Dr. Theodore D. McCown discovered a Paleolithic skeleton resembling primitive Neanderthal man.
Bibliography: D. Baly, Geography of the Bible, 1957, pp. 184-92; S. Abramsky, Ancient Towns in Israel, 1963, pp. 174-250; Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible, 1967, pp. 41ff., 121-353.——AMR
GALILEE găl’ ə’ le גָּלִיל, H1664, גְּלִילָה, H1666, ή Γαλιλαία, literally the circuit or district; Galilee). The geographical area in Pal. bounded on the N by the Litani (Leontes) River, the W by the to Mt. Carmel, the S by the northern edge of the (though at times the plain itself is included), and on the E by the Jordan valley and the .
Little information is available to determine the boundaries of Galilee during OT times. The term is first employed during Israel’s conquest of Canaan. In the hill country of Naphtali the town of Kedesh is said to be in Galilee (
The region of Galilee is approximately sixty m. long from N to S and thirty m. wide from W to E. Of all the regions of Pal. Galilee contains the coolest, most picturesque and lush mountainous district. The terrain is diversified, containing volcanic and limestone hills with alluvial fertile plains. It has been compared with portions of the Carolina and Virginia piedmont. The entire region is watered by springs, heavy mountain dew, and an annual precipitation of about twenty-five inches.
Lower Galilee’s natural and historic boundaries include the fault of Esh-Shaghur (present Acre-Safed highway) to the N, the Mediterranean Sea from Acco to Mt. Carmel on the W, the Esdraelon valley or the Carmel and Gilboa ranges (depending upon the historical period) to the S, and the Sea of Galilee and Jordan valley to the E. The region is the most level of all the hill country of Pal. but is divided into sections by a series of four basins which bisect its low mountain ranges latitudinally E to W through cross folding and faulting. None of the names of these four valleys is known from the Bible. The basins begin just to the N of the Nazareth ridge with the Tur’an basin. To its N lies the steep slope of Jebel Tur’an (1,780 ft.). The larger basin of Sahl el-Battuf (Beth Netufa) constitutes the second basin, bordered on its N with hills to the height of 1,710 ft. North of these hills lies the Halazun (Sakhnin) basin with Jebel Kammana (1,950 ft.) rising to its N. The last valley is the long narrow Esh-Shaghur basin (Plain of er-Ramah or Beth Hakerem) which abuts the steep slope which rises almost vertically 1,500-2,000 ft. to the mountain plateau of Upper Galilee. The most distinct landmarks in lower Galilee are the Horns of Hattin, Mt. Tabor, and the.
The plain of Esdraelon, often considered the southern portion of Lower Galilee, is the largest valley bisecting the central mountain range of Pal. and the only one which joins the coastal plain with the Jordan valley. This valley is known as the valley of Armageddon (named after the site of Megiddo,
The plain of Acco (Acre; plain of Asher) on the Mediterranean coast from Carmel to thecrosses the western end of Lower and Upper Galilee. It was Asher’s allotment, but they never possessed it entirely. The ten m. wide section in Lower Galilee lay between Mt. Carmel and Acco (Acre), composed mostly of marshes and sand dunes. The stream Kishon flowed through it, coming from and connecting it to the Plain of Esdraelon.
Upper Galilee differs from Lower Galilee in many ways. While the mountain elevation of Lower Galilee remains below 2,000 ft. the highest peaks of Upper Galilee surpass 3,000 ft., Jebel Jermuk the highest at 3,900 ft. From these high mountains N of the Esh-Shaghur basin the mountain plateau of Upper Galilee slopes to about 1,500-1,800 ft. above sea level in the N before dropping into the gorge of the Litani (Leontes; Kassimiyah) River which separates Upper Galilee from the Lebanese mountains. This mountain plateau is not uniform as in Lower Galilee and is not divided by a series of valleys. It is composed of bare ridges of hard Cenomanian limestone and flat-topped mountains of softer Senonian chalk. Rugged contours, broken by many peaks, divide the area into natural pockets. Most people feel that this area was more wooded in the past than it is today. Rainfall is heavy and consistent, helping to create small rivers: major ones are the Ga’aton, Keziv, Amud, and Litani.
The upper Jordan valley forms the eastern sector of Upper Galilee. The valley begins at the Biblical site of Ijon (c. 1,800 ft. elevation), initially bounded on the W by the Litani River and on the E by Mt. Hermon (c. 9,100 ft. elevation). This valley, fertile and well-watered, is prob. the land or valley of Mizpah (
As in Lower Galilee, the plain of Acco forms the western region of Upper Galilee. It runs along the coast from Acre to the Ladder of Tyre (Rosh Haniqrah) for about twenty m., its average width being two m. The shore is rocky and without sand dunes, offering no natural harbors of any significance.
Though the records are scanty concerning the occupation of Galilee prior to Israel’s conquest of Canaan, there are traces of settlement and occupation as early as the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages (c. 4,000 to 2,000 b.c.) at such sites as Megiddo and Beth-shan. The Egypt. Execration texts of the 20th and 19th centuries b.c. curse certain towns in the Galilean area of Pal. (e.g. Acco, Achshaph, Beth-shan; possibly Kedesh and Bethshemesh). Later Egypt. control over this region is demonstrated by the campaign lists of Thutmose III, Rameses II, et al. Subsequent loss of control by Egypt and the confusion among the Palestinian city states is evidenced in the El-Amarna letters (c. 14th cent. b.c.) of Egypt.
Israel gained initial supremacy in Galilee through Joshua’s victory over the Canaanite league at the
Saul, the first king of Israel, unified the tribes and thereby brought Galilee and the Via Maris (the major trade route) under his control. The balance of power soon shifted to the Philistines who proceeded to shut up the Israelites in the hill country. David freed Israel from the Philistine threat and made Israel the leading nation of the Near E. Galilee came under David’s control. In payment for helping to construct the Temple, Solomon offered Hiram of Tyre twenty cities in Galilee. When Hiram examined those towns, he was not pleased with them and appears to have returned them to Solomon (
Following the Babylonian captivity, information about the history of Galilee is sparse, though the area was continually inhabited. It was ruled by Babylon, Persia, Greece, and the Seleucid empire until the Maccabees conquered parts of it and began the process of Jewish resettlement. Jews were already in Galilee in 165 b.c. when Simon the Maccabee brought numbers of them to live in Judea (
Under Rome Herod the Great was made military commander of Galilee in 47 b.c. He subdued the various bands of thieves which plagued the country (Jos. Antiq. XIV, ix, 2). When Herod came to his throne in 37 b.c., a period of peace and prosperity came to Galilee which continued until the banishment of his son Antipas in a.d. 40. At Herod’s death in 4 b.c., Galilee fell to Antipas who made his capital at Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, naming it after the emperor.
Herod Antipas reigned over Galilee throughout
Galilee was added to the territory of Herod Agrippa I in a.d. 40. Zealots were arising in Galilee, some found among the disciples of both and Christ. In a.d. 40 Caligula ordered Petronius, the governor of Syria, to erect the emperor’s statue in the Temple at Jerusalem. Thousands of Jews gathered for forty days at Tiberias and Ptolemais in protest of this proposed sacrilege. Such reactionary pressure caused Petronius to give up the idea. Agrippa I died in a.d. 44 and parts of Galilee came under the dominion of Herod until a.d. 100. As Rome continued to administer the remainder of Galilee, the Galileans struggled for independence. With Vespasian’s invasion around a.d. 70, the whole area came under Rom. rule. After Herod Agrippa II’s death in a.d. 100, Galilee was joined to the Rom. province of Syria.
When Jerusalem fell in a.d. 70, Galilee became the seat of Jewish learning. The Mishnah was compiled and written in Tiberias followed later by the composition of the Talmud. Later Tiberias became the center of the Massoretes’ work of preserving the OT text. The Sanhedrin likewise moved to Sepphoris after a.d. 70 and then to Tiberias.
The major trade route from Damascus to Egypt is called the Via Maris (the Way of the Sea). From Egypt this route enters Galilee from the SW through the pass of the Wadi ’Ara at Megiddo (alternative passes were at Taanach and Jokneam). At Megiddo the road branches: one way runs NW to the plain of Acco along the Phoen. coast to Anatolia; the second artery moves E to Damascus between the Hill of Moreh and Mt. Tabor to Kinneret on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee, then N to Hazor where one branch of it continues due N to Ijon and the other branch crosses the main ford of the Jordan River about two m. S of Hazor and continues to Damascus; the third route leaves Megiddo heading E to Beth-shan, past Ashtoreth, the capital of Bashan, and joins the King’s highway to Damascus. Canaanite fortresses guarded this route: Hazor in the N; Bethshan at the junction of the Esdraelon and Jordan valleys; Ibleam in the Esdraelon valley; and Megiddo, Taanach, and Jokneam at the passes leading S. Most minor routes throughout Galilee run E-W following the E-W basins crossing Lower Galilee. N-S traffic is most difficult due to the many ranges and faults which run in every direction in Upper Galilee. Roads in Galilee usually follow the spurs rather than the valleys when climbing on to the mountain plateau, because a wadi leaving a plateau usually becomes a steep valley, often impassable. The main road from Acco (Ptolemais) to Tiberias went just N of Sepphoris across Lower Galilee joining the Nazareth-Tiberias road. Another significant artery ran through Upper Galilee from Tyre to Abel-beth-maacah at the base of Mt. Hermon. This highway system put the region of Galilee in contact with the entire Near E.
Flora and fauna.
The Galilean hills are considered to have been heavily forested in early times with an abundance of trees: olive, fig, oak, walnut, cedar, cypress, balsam, fir, pine, sycamore, bay, mulberry, and almond. The valleys were fertile and well-watered. Wheat was abundant in the upper Jordan valley; pomegranates thrived near Mt. Carmel; and the grapes of Naphtali were famous. Grains were plentiful.
The major fauna of Galilee is fish. At least twenty-two species have been classified from the streams and the Sea of Galilee.
Galilee was open and easily accessible to the outsider. Yet Upper Galilee and portions of Lower Galilee with their rugged terrain made sections of the area easily fortified and naturally defensible. Almost any group could defend themselves. As a result many varied groups did survive. The population became heterogeneous with Jews, Aramaeans, Itureans, Greeks, and Phoenicians living together. Upper Galilee gave the northern portion of Pal. an area of escape during troubled times.
Josephus estimates at his day that the population of Galilee was about 3,000,000. Many villages had a population of at least 15,000, he says (Jos. War III. iii. 2). This could help explain the crowds that followed Jesus. In the valleys the villages often kept to the edges of the basin or up the slopes due to flooding in winter. In Lower Galilee two sub regions proved less attractive to habitation than any other: the SW area between the present Nazareth-Sheparam road and the Jezreel valley; the SE region from Tiberias to the N edge of the Beth-shan valley which includes four steep scarps. Neither area is easy to cultivate nor has ever been thickly populated. The more notable cities of Galilee have been Kedesh, Hazor, Korazim, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Bethshan (Scythopolis), Nazareth, Megiddo, Jokneam, Ibleam, Acco (Ptolemais), Sepphoris, Jotapata, Cana Nain, Achziv, and Tiberias. Sepphoris and Tiberias were Rom. administrative centers in Galilee, Sepphoris being located about four m. NW of Nazareth. The NT does not record Jesus’ presence in either of these two cities.
The men of Galilee were known to be courageous (Jos. War III. iii. 2). The OT notables were Barak, Gideon, Jonah, and Elijah. Eleven of Jesus’ twelve apostles were Galileans.
G. A. Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land (1896), 379-481; W. Ewing, “Galilee,” ISBE (1929), 1163-65; D. Baly, Geography of the Bible (1957), 184-192; S. Abramsky, Ancient Towns in Israel (1963), 174-250; D. Baly, Geographical Companion to the Bible (1963); Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible (1967), 19-33, 41-49, 121-353.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(ha-galil, hagelilah, literally, "the circuit" or "district"; he Galilaia):
1. Galilee of the Nations:
2. Ancient Boundaries:
There is nothing to guide us as to the northern boundary of Galilee in the earliest times. On the East it was bounded by the upper Jordan and the
3. Before the Exile:
At the instigation of Asa, king of Judah, Benhadad, son of Tabrimmon of Damascus, moved against Israel, and the cities which he smote all lay within the circle of Galilee (
4. After the Exile:
In post-exilie times Galilee is the name given to the most northerly of the three divisions of Western Palestine. The boundaries are indicated by Josephus (BJ, III, iii, 1). It was divided into Lower and Upper Galilee, and was encompassed by Phoenicia and Syria. It marched with Ptolemais and Mt. Carmel on the West. The mountain, formerly Galliean, now belonged to the Syrians. On the South it adjoined Samaria and Scythopolis (Beisan) as far as the river Jordan. It was bounded on the East by Hippene, Gadara, Gaulonitis and the borders of the kingdom of Agrippa, while the northern frontier was marked by Tyre and the country of the Tyrians. The northern limit of Samaria was Ginea, the modern Jenin, on the south border of Esdraelon. Lower Galilee, therefore, included the great plain, and stretched northward to the plain of er-Rameh--Ramah of
5. Character of the Galileans:
In the mixed population after the exile the purely Jewish element must have been relatively small. In 165 BC
6. Later History:
In 47 BC, Herod the Great, then a youth of 25, was made military commander of Galilee, and won great applause by the fashion in which he suppressed a band of robbers who had long vexed the country (Ant., XIV, ix, 2). When Herod came to the throne, 37 BC, a period of peace and prosperity for Galilee began, which lasted till the banishment of his son Antipas in 40 AD. The tetrarchy of Galilee was given to the latter at his father’s death, 4 BC. His reign, therefore, covered the whole life of Jesus, with the exception of His infancy. After the banishment of Antipas, Galilee was added to the dominions of Agrippa I, who ruled it till his death in 44 AD. Then followed a period of Roman administration, after which it was given to, who sided with the Romans in the subsequent wars, and held his position till 100 AD. The patriotic people, however, by no means submitted to his guidance. In their heroic struggle for independence, the command of the two Galilees, with Gamala, was entrusted to Josephus, who has left a vivid narrative, well illustrating the splendid courage of his freedom-loving countrymen. But against such an adversary as Rome even their wild bravery could not prevail; and the country soon lay at the feet of the victorious Vespasian, 67 AD. There is no certain knowledge of the part played by Galilee in the rebellion under Hadrian, 132-35 AD.
At the beginning of the Roman period Sepphoris (Cafuriyeh), about 3 miles North of Nazareth, took the leading place. Herod Antipas, however, built a new city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, which, in honor of the reigning emperor, he called Tiberias. Here he reared his "golden house," and made the city the capital of his tetrarchy. See Tiberias. After the fall of Jerusalem, Galilee, which had formerly been held in contempt, became the home of Jewish learning, and its chief seat was found in Tiberias where the Mishna was committed to writing, and the Jerusalem Talmud was composed. Thus a city into which at first no pious Jew would enter, in a province which had long been despised by the leaders of the nation, became the main center of their national and religious life.
7. Cities of Galilee:
Among the more notable cities in Galilee were Kedesh Naphtali, the city of refuge, the ruins of which lie on the heights West of el-Chuleh; Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, North of the Sea of Galilee; Nazareth, the city of the Savior’s youth and young manhood; Jotapata, the scene of Josephus’ heroic defense against the Romans, which stood at Tell Jefat, North of the plain of Asochis (BJ, III, vii, viii);; and Nain, on the northern slope of the mountain now called Little Hermon.
8. General Description:
In physical features Galilee is the most richly diversified and picturesque district in Western Palestine; while in beauty and fertility it is strongly contrasted with the barren uplands of Judah. Cut off from Mt. Lebanon in the North by the tremendous gorge of the Litany, it forms a broad and high plateau, sinking gradually southward until it approaches Cafed, when again it rises, culminating in Jebel Jermuk, the highest summit on the West of the Jordan. From Cafed there is a rapid descent by stony slope and rocky precipice to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The mountains of which Jebel Jermuk is the Northeast outrunner stretch westward across the country, and drop upon the plain of er-Rameh to the South. Irregular hills and valleys, with breadths of shady woodlands, lie between this plain and that of Asochis (el-Battauf]). The latter is split from the East by the range of Jebel Tor`an. South of Asochis rise lower hills, in a cup-like hollow among which lies the town of Nazareth. South of the town they sink steeply into the plain of Esdraelon. The isolated form of Tabor stands out on the East, while Carmel bounds the view on the West. The high plateau in the North terminates abruptly at the lip of the upper Jordan valley. As the Jordan runs close to the base of the eastern hills, practically all this valley, with its fine rolling downs, is included in Galilee. The plain of Gennesaret runs along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. From the uplands to the West, stretching from Qurun Chattin (the traditional) to the neighborhood of Tabor, the land lets itself down in a series of broad and fertile terraces, falling at last almost precipitously on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The descent toward the Mediterranean is much more gradual; and the soil gathered in the longer valleys is deep and rich.
The district may be described as comparatively well watered. The Jordan with its mighty springs is, of course, too low for purposes of irrigation. But there are many perennial streams fed by fountains among the hills. The springs at Jenin are the main sources of the river Kishon, but for the greater part of its course through the plain the bed of that river is far below the surface of the adjoining land. The dews that descend from Lebanon and Hermon are also a perpetual source of moisture and refreshment.
Galilee was famous in ancient times for its rich and fruitful soil, "full of the plantations of trees of all sorts, insomuch that it invites the most slothful to pains in its cultivation by its fruitfulness; accordingly it is all cultivated by its inhabitants, and no part of it lies idle" (BJ, III, iii, 2). See also GENNESARET, LAND OF. The grapes grown in Naphtali were in high repute, as were the pomegranates of Shikmona--the Sykaminos of Josephus--which stood on the shore near Mt. Carmel. The silver sheen of the olive meets the eye in almost every valley; and the olive oil produced in Galilee has always been esteemed of the highest excellence. Its wheat fields also yielded an abundant supply, the wheat of Chorazin being proverbial. The great plain of Esdraelon must also have furnished rich provision. It cannot be doubted that Galilee was largely drawn upon for the gifts in kind which Solomon bestowed upon the king of Tyre (
Galilee was in easy touch with the outside world by means of the roads that traversed her valleys, crossed her ridges and ran out eastward, westward and southward. Thus she was connected with the harbors on the Phoenician seaboard, with Egypt on the South, with Damascus on the Northeast, and with the markets of the East by the great caravan routes (see "Roads" under PALESTINE).
10. Contact with the Outside World:
In the days of Christ the coming and going of the merchantmen, the passing of armies and the movements of the representatives of the Empire, must have made these highways a scene of perpetual activity, touching the dwellers in Galilee with the widening influences of the great world’s life.
The peasant farmers of Galilee, we have seen, were a bold and enterprising race. Encouraged by the fruitfulness of their country, they were industrious cultivators of the soil. Josephus estimates the population at 3,000,000. This may be an exaggeration; but here we have all the conditions necessary for the support of a numerous and prosperous people. This helps us to understand the crowds that gathered round and followed Jesus in this district, where the greater part of His public life was spent. The cities, towns and villages in Galilee are frequently referred to in the Gospels. That the Jewish population in the centuries immediately after Christ was numerous and wealthy is sufficiently proved by the remains from those times, especially the ruins of synagogues, e.g. those at Tell Chum, Kerazeh, Irbid, el-Jish, Kefr Bir`im, Meiron, etc. Near the last named is shown the tomb of the great Jewish teacher Hillel.
Galilee was not without her own heroic memories. The great battlefields of Megiddo, Gilboa, and the waters of Merom lay within her borders; and among the famous men of the past she could claim Barak, Ibzan, Elon and Tola of the judges; of the prophets, Jonah and Elisha at least; possibly also Hosea who, according to a Jewish tradition, died in Babylon, but was brought to Galilee and buried in Cafed (Neubauer, Geog. der Talmud, 227). When the chief priests and Pharisees said, "Search, and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet," it argued strange and inexcusable ignorance on their part (