THE SEA OF GALILEE
It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea) at levels between 215 meters (705 ft) and 209 meters (686 ft) below sea level.
The lake is about:
- 60 miles from Jerusalem and at one time was
- 13 miles long and
- 8 miles wide at its greatest extent, although recent changes have reduced its length.
It is approximately:
- 33 miles in circumference, (13 miles long, and 8.1 miles) wide.
- Its surface is about 700 feet below sea level.
- Its area is 64.4 sq mi at its fullest, and its maximum depth is approximately 141 to 150 feet.
The lake is fed partly by underground springs in the lake floor, but its main source is the Jordan River, which flows through it from north to south and exits the Sea at the Degania Dam. The fresh waters of the lake are clean, and they have always been well stocked with a variety of fish. (See our video August Personal Get-Away, Yeah for the variety).
If you have visited on any tour group, you will recognize the area pictured above where people get baptized. This is close to the dam as you can see in the back. The dam regulates water levels in the Sea of Galilee and flows into the Lower Jordan River.
The Sea of Galilee has not always been known by that name. It has also been known by the following names:
- Sea of Kinneret
- Lake of Gennesaret (Luke 5:1)
- Sea of Ginosar
- Sea of Galilee (Matt 4:18; 15:29)
- Sea of Tiberias (John 6:1; 21:1)
- Lake Tiberias
- Sea of Minya.
Throughout history, depending on the dominant settlement on its shores, the lake’s name was destined to change. For long periods of history, it was known as the Sea of Kinneret, Kinnerot, Gennesaret, or Ginosar.
Sea of Kinneret
The modern Hebrew name, Kinneret, “harp-shaped” comes from the Hebrew Bible where it appears as the “Sea of Kinneret” in Numbers 34:11 and Joshua 13:27, spelled כנרות “Kinnerot” in Hebrew in Joshua 11:2. Kinneret was listed among the “fenced cities” in Joshua 19:35.
Jos 19:35, “And the fenced cities are Ziddim, Zer, and Hammath, Rakkath, and Chinnereth,…”
In the Hebrew word Kinneret, we find kinnor which means “harp” or “lyre”, because of the shape of the lake. The city of Kinneret may have been named after the body of water rather than vice versa.
Sea of Gennesaret
Gennesaret stood in the northwester shore of the sea. The name is Grecized form of Chinnereth (Num 34:11; Josh 12:3; 13:27). The name is also used for the “Plain of Gennesaret”. For beauty and fertility it is called “the Paradise of Galilee.” Its modern name is el-Ghuweir. This city or area is also a place where Jesus visited and performed healing. In Hebrew, there is no distinction between the words “sea” and “lake”. The word yam (הים) is used to describe any large and wide body of water.
Sea of Ginosar
Ginosar was founded on the eve of Purim in March 1937 by a group of young Socialist Zionists. Ginosar was originally an agricultural community.
Sea of Galilee, Sea of Tiberias, Lake Tiberias
The “Sea of Galilee” is used in the gospel of Matthew 4:18; 15:29, (Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, who were fishermen, were called by Jesus to follow him) Mark 1:16; 7:31, and in the gospel of John 6:1 as “the sea of Galilee”, which is the sea of Tiberias a late 1st century BC name. Be looking for more about the fisherman in Jesus’s day in another post.
Sea of Tiberias is also the name mentioned in Roman texts and in the Jerusalem Talmud, and it was adopted into Arabic as Buḥayret Ṭabariyyā (بحيرة طبريا), “Lake Tiberias”.
Sea of Minya
The lake was known in Arabic as “Bahr al-Minya”, the “Sea of Minya”. This is the name used by the medieval Persian and Arab scholars.
As other places around the lake rose to prominence, such as Tiberias and Qasr al-Minya, the name of the lake also changed to Lake Tiberias or Lake Minya.
Daily monitoring of the Sea of Galilee’s water level began in 1969, and the lowest level recorded since then was November 2001. Today a “black line” of 214.87 meters below sea level shows the water level had fallen lower than the current black line during droughts earlier in the 20th century.
Increasing water demand in Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan, as well as dry winters, have resulted in stress on the lake. Israel has suffered from a chronic water shortage for years.
Since the beginning of the 2018-19 rainy seasons, the Sea of Galilee has risen considerably and by April 16, 2020, just 16 cm below the upper red line, due to the strong rains and a radical decrease in pumping.
As of April 29, 2020, after almost 30 years in which the shrinking lake retreated further and further from the shore, it overflowed its banks. Unfortunately, the coronavirus lockdown has prevented the ability for anyone to enjoy it. (See our brief August Personal Get-Away, Yay video regarding the special activities of the Aqua Kef that people are missing out on.)
We hope you enjoyed this brief history of the Sea of Galilee, the lake that Jesus walked on the water and provided loads of fish for Peter and his brother one special day.