Galilee is a generally fertile region of mountains, rolling hills, and plains in northern Palestine. Lebanon lies to the north, Syria to the east. Because of its position it was called "Galilee of the nations" (Isaiah 9:1). In Old Testament times, the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, Issachar, and Zebulun settled in Galilee. Later, the tribe of Dan also settled there. Deborah and Barak defeated the Canaanite forces led by Sisera in a battle near Mount Tabor in southern Galilee (Judges 4-5). Later, the Prophets Elijah and Elisha were active along Galilee's southern border.
Jesus and many of his early followers were from Galilee. Jesus spent his early life in Nazareth before moving to Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee. Peter, Andrew, James, John and other disciples came from other Galilean towns. Most of Jesus' public ministry took place in this area, around the northwestern shore of the sea. Although Jesus was favorably received in parts of Galilee, towns such as Chorazin and Bethsaida rejected him (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13). During Jesus' lifetime, Galilee was ruled by the Herodian family, which built the city of Tiberias there.
The Galilee of Jesus' time was a crossroads for commerce. With the rise of new cities and expansion of old cities in the Galilee, the agricultural and fishing markets relied heavily on the region's ability to produce. Roman taxation was also a reality in Galilee, as it was elsewhere in the Roman Empire. Some estimates of the extent of Galilean taxation run as high as forty percent of a peasant's production.
AUTHOR: Robert Brusic, Seminary Pastor Emeritus