IT is thought that the child Jesus could not have been more than a year old when Joseph and Mary returned with him to Nazareth. The little town, with its white stone houses, lay on a hillside among the highlands of Galilee; and in one of these quiet homes Jesus lived until he was nearly thirty years old.

Looking from the top of the hill on which Nazareth was built, one obtains a very pleasant view. Here, without doubt, Jesus often stood, and gazed over the green plains and valleys, wooded hills, and the shining sea. A few miles north lay the village of Cana, which was afterward to be the scene of his first miracle; and not far from Cana was Sepphoris, which, during the childhood of Jesus, was rebuilt as the capital of Herod Antipas. Still north, as far as the eye could reach, rose the countless hills of Galilee.  On the east rose Mount Tabor, where the army of Sisera had been defeated by Barak and Deborah. Four or five miles south of Tabor, just across a narrow valley, stands Little Hermon. On the northern slope of these hills lay the village of Nain, where the young man was one day, at the word of Jesus, to rise up from his bier alive; and about two miles farther to the east was Endor, where Saul went to inquire of the witch concerning the fate of his kingdom. On the southwestern slope of Little Hermon was Shunem, where Elisha raised the son of the woman who had made a home for him; and about three miles farther south, on a spur of Mount Gilboa, stood Jezreel, the city of Naboth, whom the wicked Jezebel had slain in order to obtain his vineyard. To the southeast lay Megiddo, on the southern edge of the great plain; and then came the range of Carmel, with the Kishon flowing at its base. Away to the west were the blue waters of the Mediterranean, shutting off Farther view. All this and more might Jesus see from the hill of Nazareth.

But when the time came for him to commence his public ministry, he must needs go beyond the secluded town of his childhood; so "leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the seacoast."  The Jewish rabbis were wont to say that God had made seven seas in the land of Canaan, but had chosen only one for himself, the sea of Galilee. And indeed this sea was chosen by our Lord for himself, and honored above all other seas of the earth, in a sense, which the rabbis little dreamed. The men who dwelt there, and even the fields and valleys around it, were made sacred by their association with the Saviour. As will be seen, this place was in many ways peculiarly fitted to be the center of the great work upon which Jesus was now to enter.

On the western shore of the lake lay the Plain of Gennesaret, so noted for its fertility. The description, which Josephus gives of this little plain is interesting, as showing what Palestine once was. He says: "A region of the same name borders the lake Gennesar, admirable for its character and beauty. The soil itself, on account of its richness, refuses nourishment to no plant, and all varieties are accordingly cultivated here by the inhabitants, the happy temperature of the air suiting those of different kinds; for nut bearing trees which flourish in the coldest climate, thrive here in endless profusion; then again, palms, which are nurtured by heat, and figs and olives, which belong to a temperate climate, grow by their side."

It was in Capernaum that Jesus chose his home, "beside the gleaming lake, embosomed deep on this its western shore, in soft, terraced hills, "laughing with fruitfulness." Capernaum was the home of his three chief apostles, Philip, John, and James, also of Andrew. When Jesus first came to dwell in Capernaum, it would appear that he dwelt with his mother and brethren; but his stay at this time was short, for he presently went to Jerusalem to the Passover, immediately after which he spent more than half a year in preaching throughout Judea. The result of this ministry seems not to have been very encouraging. The proud, self-sufficient Jews, vain of their rabbis and their schools of learning, were unwilling to accept the teachings of the humble Galilean, upon whom they looked with something of contempt; and we may well deem that Jesus would gladly return to his more honest, open-hearted countrymen of the north.

On his return it seems that the family of Jesus had gone back to Nazareth to live; for there he went to stay until the time should come for him to resume his work. During his public ministry he appears to have made his home at Capernaum more than at any other place; and from several passages we are led to think that he stopped at the house of Peter and Andrew.  In those days the whole landscape around the sea was full of life. Busy towns and villages crowded the shores, and the waters swarmed with boats employed in the fisheries, which gave their names to several of the towns. Capernaum itself was then a thriving, busy town, on the great highway from Damascus to the Mediterranean. The people were no doubt proud of their city, little dreaming of the ruin, which would one day make even its site a question.

Herod Antipas, grown tired of his capital far off among the hills of Galilee, had at this time just completed a new city on the shores of the sea. The site of Tiberias, for such the new capital was called, was one of the most beautiful on the lake, on a southerly bend of the shore, and about half way down the lake from Capernaum. Herod had spared no pains or expense to make Tiberias a beautiful place; and there stood the city, with its splendid palace, grand public buildings, huge arsenal, and famous baths, glittering in the bright sunshine; while beyond still rose town after town. At the head of the lake, on the other side of the Jordan, lay Bethsaida Julias, the capital of Philip the tetrarch, the husband of Salome, this, too, fresh from the hand of the builder.  All these, and more, were familiar to the eyes of Jesus, as, in the course of his ministry, he passed to and fro from Capernaum, across the sea or along its pebbly shores. But all is now changed. Tiberias, then so magnificent, has shrunk into a small, decaying town; the white towns and villages once reflected in the clear waters have disappeared; the fleets of vessels that crowded the lake are now represented by one solitary fishing boat; the richly wooded hills are bare, and the beautiful plain is overgrown with thorns and thistles. 

E. B.