There are not very many places in Palestine where Jesus could be more in the bustling center of political and commercial business than at Capernaum, which Jesus Himself described as "exalted unto heaven". It was large enough to always be called a city and had its own synagogue in which Jesus frequently taught. This prosperous fishing port on the northwest shore of the Lake of Galilee was 2 1/2 miles southwest of where the Jordan river enters the lake. To the south and west of Capernaum stretched the fertile Plain of Gennesaret.

The population of Capernaum was mostly Jews and was made up of native families and others from different lakeside towns or from villages throughout Galilee. It stood near the border between the territories of Herod's sons, Antipas and Philip, and a custom house and Roman military outpost were located near the edge of town.

Capernaum was one of the chief stations on the great caravan route from Damascus to the Mediterranean ports and Egypt with the exports of famous fish from the sea and similar famous wheat from the land. At Capernaum we find the busy markets, the custom-house, the tax-gatherers, the Roman Garrison and the toll collection station which gathered the tax revenue from caravans en route. At this customs station the dues were gathered both by stationary, and by itinerant officers.

Particularly lovely is this portion of Galilee watered from a most fertile fountain. The fresh blue waters of the lake abounded with a variety of fish, including perch, carp sardines and catfish. During the day the fishermen mended their nets and repaired their boats along the shore, but at sunset, when the wind had died down and the water was more tranquil, they launched their wooden crafts and set out to take their daily catch. In the fading late afternoon light, their muscular, suntanned figures could be seen casting huge nets out over the water and hauling them back in, filled with fish. James and John, the sons of Zebedee often fished here with their companions Peter and Andrew, brothers from the nearby city of Bethsaida.

The gatherings of Jewish teachers for their conferences and a constant flow of traffic passed across the border and along the main streets of Capernaum. Arab caravans, Jewish pilgrims, Roman soldiers, townspeople and couriers with news of the whole world must have made it a thriving center of cosmopolitan life.

Jesus' home was in this little city of Capernaum, beside the sunlit waters of the Galilean Lake. Capernaum is called Jesus' own city and His favorite town by the sea. Jesus used Capernaum as his headquarters during most of His Galilean ministry. It was His town as well as Nazareth was Joseph's. He seems to have lived there in a house that he shared with some of his followers, most likely located along one of the steep, narrow streets that wound upward from the busy lakeshore. Jesus attracted a small group of disciples, mostly from the region around Capernaum. Here at Capernaum were done those mighty works that drew to the Master the attention the entire lakeside and bound to him a deathless loyalty his little group of followers. Jesus healed the paralytic here as proof of his deity: scribes, copyists and theorists realized but refused. Its inhabitants were thus exalted to heaven, but their unbelief and impenitence cast them down to destruction.

The Passover was approaching, and Jesus wanted to be in Jerusalem for it. Yet curiously, he travelled to Jerusalem by way of Capernaum. Capernaum took them a day's journey out of their way, and not an easy journey. The disciples accompanied Jesus on his travels throughout Galilee. By now his reputation preceded him wherever he went. Often impossible to teach in the local synagogues, because of the size of the crowd, so he preached in the open air.

The city of Capernaum is identified with modern Tell Hum where there are extensive ruins. The mounds of the city indicate a populous community with gardens and the sound of rustling branches and the lap of waves upon the beach. Archaeologists working in Capernaum have uncovered a large portion of a second or third century synagogue. Beneath its ruins revealed an earlier synagogue, which has been excavated and suspected to be the one visited by Jesus. It was built by the Centurion of the detachment of Roman soldiers, which appears to have been quartered in the place at the time of Jesus. It was the Roman Centurion in this very town who in Jesus' day had commended himself to the favor of the Jews by embellishing the City with a synagogue. The uncovered synagogue was of the finest white limestone in Palestine, ornamented with motifs of Centaurs, lions, eagles, palms trees and vines.

Capernaum was a chief city in Palestine in the time of Jesus but it is mostly only a memory now.
[309, 318, 320, 339, 345, 377, BD, 380, 415, Mark 1:21]

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