Gennesaret According to Josephus

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Read Josephus' description of the plain of Gennesaret.

Revised: 6-Sep-2012

The famous, first-century A.D. Jewish historian Josephus obviously was moved by the beauty of the fertile Plain of Gennesaret, as his rapturous description makes clear:

Skirting the lake of Gennesar [Sea of Galilee], and also bearing that name, lies a region whose natural properties and beauty are very remarkable.

There is not a plant which its fertile soil refuses to produce, and its cultivators in fact grow every species; the air is so well-tempered that it suits the most opposite varieties.

This photo was taken towards the NE from the Arbel cliffs. Spread before us is the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. Along the seacoast lies the picturesque Plain of Gennesar (Gennesaret). Photograph by Todd Bolen. Photo ©

The walnut, a tree which delights in the most wintry climate, here grows luxuriantly, beside palm-trees, which thrive on heat, and figs and olives, which require a milder atmosphere.

One might say that nature had taken pride in thus assembling, by a tour de force, the most discordant species in a single spot, and that, by a happy rivalry, each of the seasons wished to claim this region for her own. For not only has the country this surprising merit of producing such diverse fruits, but it also preserves them: for ten months without intermission it supplies those kings of fruits, the grape and the fig; the rest mature on the trees the whole year round. Besides being favoured by its genial air, the country is watered by a highly fertilizing spring, called by the inhabitants Capharnaum [Capernaum]…. This region extends along the border of the lake which bears its name for a length of thirty furlongs [5.6 kilometers] and inland to a depth of twenty [3.8 kilometers]. Such is the nature of this district (The Jewish War 3:516-521, translation by H. St. J. Thackeray in Vol. II of Josephus [London: William Heinemann, 1927], in the Loeb Classical Library series).

This photo was shot in the opposite direction, to the NW, towards the Arbel cliffs (in the distance on the left) that form the southern boundary of this plain. In the foreground are the remains of the port of Tabgha (ancient Heptapegon). Photograph by Todd Bolen. Photo ©

This article originally appeared in issue 23 of the Jerusalem Perspective magazine. Click on the image above to view a PDF of the original magazine article.

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  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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