Nazareth and Its Surroundings

The apostle Paul noted that God often chooses the lowly to accomplish his will and humble the great (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). This was never more evident than when God selected Nazareth as the town where Jesus would grow up. At this time, the tiny village of Nazareth was so insignificant that, besides the New Testament, it was not referenced in any ancient writings until about 200 years after Jesus’ birth. Even the disciple Nathanael, upon hearing of Jesus’ hometown, retorted, “Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46). Yet it was in this small town that God placed his Son, the Messiah, to grow and mature before launching his public ministry. Nazareth was perched atop one of the low lying hills of Lower Galilee overlooking the great Esdraelon (Jezreel) Valley, the scene of so many momentous battles throughout Israel’s history (Judges 4-7; 1 Samuel 28-31; 2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-27). Nazareth lay about three miles (5 km) southwest of Gath-hepher, the hometown of the prophet Jonah (2 Kings 14:25), and about the same distance southeast of Sepphoris, a sizeable administrative center during Jesus’ time. When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38; 2:4), Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth, and then they traveled south to Bethlehem of Judea, their ancestral town, for a census. There Mary gave birth to Jesus (Luke 2:1-7). After fleeing to Egypt for a time to escape Herod’s soldiers, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus eventually returned to Nazareth, where they could find safety in the town’s relative obscurity (Matthew 2). After Jesus grew up, he performed his first miracle at a wedding in the village of Cana (John 2:1-12) about 8 miles (13 km) north of Nazareth, and he raised a widow’s son from the dead in the village of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) about 6 miles (9 km) across the valley from Nazareth.

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