« הקודםהמשך »
THE LAKE OF GENNESARETH.
equally clash with the sacred, tender associations of the spot where “most of His mighty works were done,” most of His "gracious words” were spoken. The stage is empty, and there is nothing to prevent our peopling it with hallowed memories of Him who spake as “never man spake,” who was Himself “the way, the truth, and the life.”
The contrast between the silence of Scripture as to our Lord's life at Nazareth and the ample details which it gives of His life here is very striking. To mention them all would be to quote the larger part of the first three Gospels and some of the most striking incidents of the fourth. He “dwelt in Capernaum,” which was “His own city.” On the shores of the lake He called Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew to be His disciples. In the villages and towns around it “most of His mighty works were done."; In a mountain overlooking it, from a boat upon it, and in a town on its banks, He taught the people in His most memorable discourses.+ Over its waters He often sailed, on them He walked, hushed its storm to a calm, and rescued His faint-hearted disciple who was sinking beneath them. In a desert place on its shore He twice fed the assembled multitudes. But
space is wanting to enumerate all the mighty deeds and gracious words of I which this hallowed spot was the scene, and which culminated in that | affecting interview when He manifested Himself to His disciples after His
resurrection and restored Peter to the place from which he had fallen in the apostolic band.
In the Old Testament the lake is known as the Sea of Chinneroth, or Chinnereth, from a city which stood on its north-western shore. Gennesareth is probably a Grecised form of the earlier name, though its etymology (a garden of riches) suggests a very suitable derivation. By this name or by that of the Sea of Galilee it is commonly known in the New Testament, John, writing after the city of Tiberias had risen to importance as the capital of Galilee, speaks of it as “the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.”, a fact which is not without importance as fixing the date of his Gospel.
The road from Nazareth to Tiberias leads over the low ridge which bounds the valley on the north-west, across a broken table-land, and through the village of Kenna, already spoken of as the traditional site of Cana in Galilee. Sefurieh, the ancient Sepphoris, is passed. It played an important part in the heroic but unsuccessful resistance of the Jews to the Romans under Titus, and hither the Sanhedrim retired after the fall of Jerusalem. The battle-field of Hattin is likewise distinctly seen, where the last great battle was fought between the Crusaders and Saladin, issuing in the total destruction of the Christian army and the establishment of the Moslem power i Matt. iv. 13; ix, 1.
? Ibid. iv. 18-22 ; ix. 9. * Ibid. ix., xi. 20-24. Luke x. 13-15.
* Matt. v., vii., xiii. Mark iv. John vi. 24-71. * Matt. viii. 23-27 ; xiv. 25. Mark iv. 37-41 ; vi. 48. Luke viii. 23-25. John vi. 19.
John xi. 1 ; xxi, 1.
• Matt. xiv. 15-21 ; XV. 32-39. $ Num. xxxiv. 11.
in the East. The hills which inclose the lake soon come into view, but the lake itself is not seen till we reach the summit of the steep descent which leads down to Tiberias, a thousand feet below us. The clear, blue, placid waters lie in a deeply depressed basin nearly seven hundred feet below the level of the sea. Some geologists have supposed it to be the crater of an extinct volcano. More careful investigation, however, proves that this is a mistake. It is but a part of that long line of depression which, starting from the sea-level near the Lake Hûleh, sinks down along the whole Ghor or Valley of the Jordan, till at the Dead Sea it has reached the unparalleled depth of thirteen hundred feet.
The lake is about thirteen miles in length by about six or seven in breadth at the widest part. The mountains on the eastern side rise to a height of two thousand feet, but they are flat and monotonous, destitute alike of colour and of foliage. The scenery has neither the bold outline of the Swiss lakes, nor the rich verdant loveliness of our own.
The tamer parts of Windermere, stripped of their glorious mantle of forests, the grey hillsides bleak and bare, would give a not unapt illustration of the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
We do not read that our Lord ever entered Tiberias. The reason is doubtless to be found in the fact that it was practically a heathen city, though standing upon Jewish soil. Herod, its founder, had brought together the arts of Greece, the idolatry of Rome, and the gross lewdness of Asia. There was a theatre for the performance of comedies, a forum, a stadium, a palace roofed with gold in imitation of those in Italy, statues of the Roman gods, and busts of the deified emperors.
He who “was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” might well hold Himself aloof from such scenes as these.
Modern Tiberias is a village of about two thousand inhabitants. A large proportion of these are Jews, who regard it as one of their holy places and have here a rabbinical school. It is filthy and squalid beyond even the average of eastern towns. From the swarms of vermin with which it is infested, the Arabs have a proverb that “the king of the fleas lives at Tiberias." Wilson says that on spending a night here he was literally covered with them and plucked them from his coat by handfuls. In common with other places in the Valley of the Jordan it suffers severely from earthquakes. In the great shock of January, 1837, the Turkish walls which surround the town were shattered, and in many places laid prostrate. As under the present government nothing is ever repaired, the fortifications remain in the dilapidated condition in which they were left nearly forty years ago.
Northward from Tiberias the hills on the western side slope gently down nearly to the edge of the lake. The strip of shore is of extraordinary fertility. Though now uninhabited and uncultivated, it is easy to believe that the glowing descriptions of Josephus were in no degree exaggerated. In about
an hour after leaving Tiberias we find the hills gradually recede, leaving a broad open plain-that of Gennesareth. The only sign of human habitation is a cluster of mud hovels near the water's edge. There are a few remains of other buildings, one of which seems to have been a watch-tower (Migdol). A palm tree rises from the centre of the village, and a few thorn bushes cluster round it. The modern name Mejdel reminds us that this was MAGDALA, the place where our Lord came ashore after feeding the multitude on the opposite bank,' and the home of Mary Magdalene. Into the disputed questions as to her history we do not enter here. We know how great a debt of gratitude she owed to her Lord, who had delivered her from demoniacal possession in its most aggravated form ; and how fondly and devotedly she attached herself to His service, ministering to Him of her substance,
waiting at His cross, present at His entombment, watching at His sepulchre, and first to welcome her risen Lord when He had burst “the bonds of death " and “ led captivity captive." As we stand amongst these crumbling ruins and squalid hovels we cannot but reflect upon the fact that through her the name of this spot has passed into all the languages of Christendom, is commemorated in the noblest ecclesiastical edifice of modern France, and holds a conspicuous place in our military history as that of the almost impregnable stronghold of a bloodthirsty Abyssinian tyrant.
Every step we took in this district, hallowed by so many sacred associations, seemed to furnish a fresh commentary on the discourses of our Lord.
· Matt. xv. 32-39. ? Matt. xxvii. 56-61 ; xxviii. 1. Mark xv. 40 ; xvi. 1-11. Luke viii. 2, 3; xxiv. 10. John xix. 25 ; xx. 1-18.