Parable of the Good Samaritan: Three Cities of Galilee
First Century Synagogue, Capernaum

Parable of the Good Samaritan: Three Cities of Galilee

In my last blog post, I asked you to look up the eight cities named in Luke 10. I also asked you to look up the classes of people and the customs we encountered in the chapter. One thing I neglected to mention, however, is that not all of the information we gather during the observation phase of the inductive method will end up providing insight into our studies.

Even so, we should not limit ourselves to looking up what we think might be relevant. The observation phase is much like a brainstorming session in which no idea is too off-the-wall to consider. As you learn the inductive method, get into the habit of asking lots of questions, and look up everything you can. The knowledge you gain might not yield fruit immediately—in this case as we study the Parable of the Good Samaritan—but it will eventually provide you a depth of background knowledge that will come in handy as you dig into God’s Word.

Today I’ll mention what I learned about three of the eight cities, leaving the remaining cities, as well as the people and customs, for future posts. Here is some of what I learned:

Condemned by Christ

Bethsaida and Chorazin were small towns or villages on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum, also on the north side of the lake, was significantly more important. The population of all three was predominantly Jewish.

The first two towns are mentioned only twice in Scripture. In addition to the passage in Luke, Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 11:21-24) quotes Jesus condemning them in similar wording to Luke’s quote, although without any connection to the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which appears only in Luke. Capernaum is also mentioned in this passage.

Bethsaida, which means “house of fishing” or “house of hunting,” was the home of Andrew and Peter as well as the disciple Phillip (John 1:44). Scholars believe the area surrounding Bethsaida may have been the site of the feeding of the 5,000. Chorazin, which was surely close to Bethsaida, remains a bit of a mystery to biblical historians. Even its precise location is in doubt.

The larger Capernaum, though not of the magnitude of Jerusalem, was important enough to be home to a “royal official” (John 4:46), whose sick son Jesus healed. It is worth noting that before Jesus told the official that his son would live, he condemned the people of the city, pointing out that they would not believe in Him unless they first saw signs and wonders. This condemnation matches the condemnation in Luke 10.

Home to Miracles

Capernaum, in fact, was home to a multitude of miracles, including Christ healing Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 7:1-10), healing the centurion’s servant (Luke 4:38-39), and raising Jairus from the dead (Luke 8:40-56). There are others that could be listed, but the point is, Capernaum saw more than its share of miracles.

Jesus seems to have regarded Capernaum as His “own town” (Matthew 4:13; 9:1). The family of Zebedee, the father of James and John, were residents. Peter, whose home was Bethsaida, also had a home in Capernaum. And Matthew collected taxes there, perhaps because of the city’s location along a trade route leading north out of Galilee.

In contrast to these three relatively unimportant towns of Galilee are the other five cities mentioned in Luke 10. To give them justice, we’ll leave them to our next blog post.

I’ll close with a note about a difference between using a concordance and a Bible encyclopedia to look up people and place names, among other entries. A concordance, particularly an exhaustive concordance, will provide you with every reference to a word. It will not provide any additional information. A Bible encyclopedia, such as the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, will give you background information, citing relevant passages that support its conclusions. It’s the difference between using a shotgun and a rifle.

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