Scenes From the Promised Land
Nazareth—Home of the Prophet
“THE crowds kept telling: ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee!’” Yes, even during Jesus’ ministry, mere mention of him brought to mind the now famous city of Nazareth. Thus, those coming to arrest him did not say that they were looking for Jesus but for “Jesus the Nazarene.”—Matthew 21:11; 26:71; John 18:3-5; Acts 26:9.
The picture above shows what you will find if you visit Nazareth today. It is much larger than when an angel came “to a city of Galilee named Nazareth” to tell Mary that she would bear God’s Son. (Luke 1:26-33) Back then, Nazareth was more like the village shown on the next page, square houses grouped on a hillside. Joseph and Mary probably lived in a home similar to these. But just before Mary was to give birth, they had to go south to Bethlehem, and there Jesus was born. They later fled to Egypt to protect the child from Herod’s murderous designs. After that, “they went back into Galilee to their own city Nazareth.”—Luke 2:4, 39; Matthew 2:13-23.
Jesus thus grew up, not in a bustling center like Jerusalem or Tiberias, but in a quiet spot. Nazareth was in a basin surrounded by the hills of Lower Galilee, where grain, grapes, olives, and figs flourished. It enjoyed pleasantly cool summers, yet the winters were not as severe as in Upper Galilee.
Joseph supported his wife, sons, and daughters by working as a carpenter, perhaps having a shop like this one in modern Nazareth. He might have prepared roof beams and wooden doors for houses in town, or tables, stools, and other wood furniture. We know that Jesus watched and learned, for he too came to be called “the carpenter.” (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55) The agricultural work around Nazareth likely led to other jobs. Perhaps Jesus shaped a yoke like that seen on these animals. Meanwhile, Joseph may have been using his tools to make plows or threshing sledges to be pulled behind the yoke.—2 Samuel 24:22; Isaiah 44:13.
As a lad, Jesus probably hiked in the area around Nazareth, such as to “Cana of Galilee,” eight miles [13 km] north, where he later performed his first miracle. (John 2:1-12) Walking about six miles [10 km] southeast toward the Valley of Jezreel and the Hill of Moreh, Jesus would reach the city of Nain, seen on page 17.* (Judges 6:33; 7:1) Recall that during his first preaching tour, Jesus came upon a funeral procession near Nain. Moved with pity, he resurrected a widow’s son.—Luke 7:11-16.
Nazareth was not located on any main routes through the land, yet it had easy access to such roads. You can see this from the cover map of the 1990 Calendar of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which also has a larger picture of Nazareth today. The east-west route through the Valley of Jezreel linked the seaport of Acre, or Ptolemais, with the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan Valley. Intersecting that was a route coming south from Damascus and running down through Samaria to Jerusalem.
Nazareth had its own synagogue, and early in his ministry, Jesus went there “according to his custom.” He read Isaiah 61:1, 2, applying it to himself. How would the townspeople respond, some of whom had seen him grow up and may even have paid him for carpentry work? They were enraged and tried to throw him off a cliff, but Jesus escaped. (Luke 4:16-30) Evidently, word of what he later did in Nain and elsewhere reached Nazareth, for when he came back and taught in the local synagogue, no one talked of killing him. Still, “he did not do many powerful works there,” for acquaintances in Nazareth did not put faith in him as a prophet.—Matthew 13:53-58.
Mark records Jesus’ reaction: “A prophet is not unhonored except in his home territory and among his relatives and in his own house.” What a pity that this was true of many in Nazareth. Still, we can think of that city as the home of the Prophet whom we choose to honor.—Mark 6:4.
Nazareth is #2 on the cover map of the 1990 Calendar of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Hill of Moreh is visible just below #3.
[Picture Credit Line on page 16]
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.
[Picture on page 17]
[Picture on page 17]
[Picture on page 17]