The oldest name for the Sea of Galilee is “Chinnereth.” The name means, “harp,” and the lake likely took the name because of the shape of its perimeter.
Driving around the northern side of Sea of Galilee causes the neck of most folks to turn back and forth a lot. There’s so much to see without ever leaving the vehicle! For example:
- The Mount of Beatitudes tops a conspicuous slope. You can’t miss the chapel on top.
- If Capernaum weren’t obvious because of its road sign, the throng of tour buses turning in would give it away.
- The towering Mount Arbel orients every person to the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee.
But several other sites are less easy to see. That’s because they look like little more than a turn in the road, an inlet in the lake, or a gated-off sidewalk.
All 3 sites are worth tapping the brakes—and even worth the trouble of getting out and enjoying.
Question: What major site in Jerusalem can a visitor see after the sun goes down that still requires men to wear a hat? (Okay, so you could wear a yarmulke instead of a hat. Most men remove the hat anyway.)
Answer: The Western Wall Tunnel.
When you say the words “The Western Wall,” most folks think of the Western Wall plaza:
- It’s the place where bar- and bat-mitzvahs regularly occur and where soldiers are inducted.
- It’s the spot where ultra- and orthodox Jews come to pray—as well as many tourists—and the place of national prayer gatherings.
- It’s Judaism’s most sacred site.
But like the tip of an iceberg, the Western Wall plaza represents only a small part of the whole. There’s much more of the wall to see.
Most of the Western Wall lies buried beneath the rubble of time and hasn’t seen the light of day for centuries.
But a tunnel lets you see the entire length of the wall today.
Google Maps Street View serves us well with directions, helping us to see what the turns in our journey actually look like. But the Web site also allows a virtual peek at some key biblical sites.
There’s nothing like traveling to Israel to see the land of the Bible firsthand. Experiencing the Bible with all your senses is an unforgettable way to learn it. You’ll never be the same.
But until your first (or next) trip, you might enjoy a virtual walk through a few biblical sites via Google Street View.
I have chosen 7 biblical sites that allow you to do a little exploring.
The straight line of Israel’s seacoast has never lent itself to significant harbors. For centuries, only Joppa in the south and Acco in the north provided modest havens for ships. But in 22 BC, work began on a new port—a vast harbor befitting the grand ideals of its visionary, King Herod the Great.
At Caesarea today, a modern harbor rests in the same location as the ancient one. The few fishing vessels and pleasure boats moored to the modern pier do little justice to the port of the first century.
I shot the following video while flying in a helicopter over Caesarea.
From a distance, the place seems as if it’s hiding. I don’t blame it for trying. After all, it remains one of the three cities in Galilee that Jesus rebuked for failing to respond to His message and miracles.
The basalt ruins of Chorazin appear little more than a pile of rocks among so many thousands of others. Clumps of grass and volcanic rock offer a variegated green and gray to the hillside above the Sea of Galilee.
Unless you look carefully, you may not even see the city.
But Jesus saw it. So should we.
One visit to Masada is not enough. Neither are a dozen. As many times as people go there, they always want to go back.
Towering 1300 feet above the Dead Sea, Masada looks as intimidating today as it did to those who stood at its base thousands of years ago. This natural mesa looms tall across from the Lisan at the southern half of the Dead Sea.
Steep cliffs on all sides make the mountain look virtually impregnable. And it was.
Do you know where you’ll be buried? The place where someone chooses to get buried is always significant.
- A hometown family plot is common.
- The place where one’s ashes are scattered or stored often holds a special association.
- Even unknown soldiers who die in battle occasionally receive a prominent interment.
But in Israel, a burial place often exposed one’s faith. The tombs beside the Kidron Valley bear witness to this truth.
Each one offers a connection to resurrection.
Sometimes Israel’s archaeology offers marvelous vindications to its history and the Bible.
Gravel pathways of the ancient site of Tel Dan lead to a large, rock wall—a city gate that dates from the time of Solomon’s temple. Likely built by King Ahab in the ninth century BC, this Iron Age entrance helped to fortify the city of Dan.
Photo: Tel Dan Iron Age gate near where the stele
was discovered. Courtesy of BiblePlaces.com
And for good reason. The ninth and early-eighth centuries BC saw many battles between the northern kingdom of Israel and the expanding kingdom of Aram.
In the courtyard of Tel Dan’s gate complex, archaeologists unearthed sections of a large engraved stone—an ancient basalt stele.
Its discovery gave hard evidence that King David was no Robin Hood legend of Hebrew history.
Most travelers to Jerusalem never think to come to Nebi Samwil. The minaret towering above the hill looks like a misplaced lighthouse searching for the sea. On a clear day, a visitor can spy the Mediterranean to the west.
Very few come here today. And yet, there were few more important places in David’s and Solomon’s time—if any.
In fact, it signified Solomon’s most defining moment.
What’s more, it represents the potential for ours as well.
One man told his brother, “The Sea of Galilee will give us a treasure one day.” Turns out, he was right. In 1986, Yuval and Moshe Lufan, two sons of a fisherman in Kibbutz Ginosar, were walking the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
(Photo: Yuval and Moshe Lufan beside the Sea of Galilee. Courtesy of the Jesus Boat)
The drought that year dropped the level of the lake lower than the men had seen in years. One brother noticed something odd protruding from the mud.
It was an ancient nail. As he poked around with his finger, he found another one. Then another. More digging unearthed pieces of ancient wood.
While they didn’t realize it at the moment, they had discovered a fishing boat that dated to the time of Jesus.