We started our day in the town of Nazareth. We went up to the top of Mount Precipice where it is believed the people of Nazareth tried to throw Jesus from the top after he had claimed to be the fulfillment (Luke 4) of Isaiah’s prophecy. Jesus essentially says, “I am Jubilee.” It was a backwater town of about 250 people, and the least likely place in which the Messiah would grow up. But He never shed that past, and it was always a part of God’s plan.
Situated inside a bowl atop the Nazareth ridge north of the Jezreel valley, Nazareth was a relatively isolated village in the time of Jesus with a population less than two hundred. Today Nazareth is home to more than 60,000 Israeli Arabs; Upper Nazareth is home to thousands more Jewish residents.
The Jezreel Valley is “the bread-basket” of Israel, and the most fertile land. It was the setting of the story of the wicked King Ahab & Queen Jezebel who murdered a man named Naboth and took his field. It is also the location where Saul, King of Israel, consulted the witch at Endor, and raised the spirit of Samuel. It’s a great reminder of the consequences of disbelief, and trying to forge our own path as a result. It never works out well.
The spacious Jezreel Valley spreads out to the north and east from Mount Carmel, providing convenient passage for international travelers in ancient times. The fertile alluvial soil makes this the country’s breadbasket as well. The Bible speaks of the gathering of armies in this valley at the place of Armageddon.
We stood by the spring at Ein Harod and hear the story of Gideon. It was here that God narrowed Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300. God wanted to ensure that the glory was His, and that Gideon didn’t misunderstand where power was found. All of us will frequently find ourselves surrounded by Midianites in some way or another, but God has already won that battle, and we have only to follow His leading.
Bet She’An sits at the crossroads of the only major east-west road in Israel. It is a very ancient city; the Egyptians inhabited the city 3,500 years ago. It was the place where the Philistines hanged a decapitated King Saul on the city gate. It soon became a center of Roman civilization in Israel. Every Roman city is comprised of 7 essential elements: Religion, Luxury, Philosophy, Education, Commerce, Athletics, & Entertainment. These still make up the system of worldliness in western civilization today. Even still, they are not the ingredients of an eternal kingdom. Bet She’An was completely destroyed by earthquake in A.D. 749.
Located 17 miles (27 km) south of the Sea of Galilee, Beth Shean is situated at the strategic junction of the Harod and Jordan Valleys. The fertility of the land and the abundance of water led the Jewish sages to say, “If the Garden of Eden is in the land of Israel, then its gate is Beth Shean.” It is no surprise then that the site has been almost continuously settled from the Chalcolithic period to the present.
Susita was our final site visited today. It sits on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, and is one of the 10 cities of the Decapolis. It is here that Jesus encountered and freed a demon-possessed man. The whole region was captivated by that one man telling his story of rescue and redemption.
~ Eric Barton – Tyler, TX
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