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Bethsaida Overview

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Places of Interest

Bethsaida Overview




1. Currently, there are two leading candidates for the true location of Bethsaida. Both are located on the northeastern side of the Sea of Galilee. The traditional site is called Et-Tell, and the newest site is called El Araj.


2. We know from the Bible that Bethsaida was in a desolate, remote place with little population.
Luke 9:10: The apostles, when they had returned, told him what things they had done. He took them, and withdrew apart to a deserted place of a city called Bethsaida.


3. The northwestern side of the Sea of Galilee was densely populated in Jesus’ time, but the northeastern side where Bethsaida was located was desolate.


4. Bethsaida was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. In fact, its name means “House of Fishing.”


5. In John 1:44, we find that at least 3 disciples were from here, “Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.” We also know that at least Peter and Andrew were fishermen, so they lived in Bethsaida to be close to the sea.


6. The traditional site of Bethsaida is located almost 2 miles from the Sea of Galilee.


  • This presents a challenge as Bethsaida was a fishing village right on the Sea of Galilee.


  • Some have suggested the water level was higher back in Jesus’ day, but this is not the case as Capernaum, Magdala, and other towns are right on the sea. If the water level had been higher, these other towns could not have existed.

  • Pliny the Elder, a first-century Roman writer, called Bethsaida “One of four lovely cities on the Sea of Galilee.”


7. New archaeologic evidence is pointing to the El Araj location as the true site of Bethsaida. It is located close to the inlet of the Jordan River into the Sea of Galilee.


8. This new location of El Araj fits better with the biblical narrative, and the historical and archaeological evidence, than the traditional site of Et-Tell.


Historical Background


1. Bethsaida was a fishing village with several hundred inhabitants during the time of Christ.


2. At least 3 of the 12 disciples were from Bethsaida.
John 1:44: Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.


3. Later on, however, it appears these disciples moved to Capernaum to be closer to where Jesus lived.  
Mark 1:21: And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 
Mark 1:28: And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.


Places of Interest


1. Et-Tell site of Bethsaida – Traditional Location


2. El Araj site of Bethsaida – New Location


3. Feeding of the 5,000


4. Approximate place Jesus walked on the water.


5. Capernaum


Bethsaida in the Bible


1. Philip, Andrew, and Peter were from Bethsaida (John 1:44).


2. Jesus healed a blind man at Bethsaida.

Mark 8:22–25: And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.


3. Bethsaida was one of the 3 towns Jesus cursed because of their unbelief in Him after witnessing all His miracles.
Matthew 11:21: Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.


4. It was close-by to Bethsaida where Christ fed the 5,000.
Luke 9:10–17: When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done. Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. 11 But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing. 12 Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 And they did so, and had them all sit down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.


5. Not far from Bethsaida is where Jesus walked on the water and calmed the sea.
Mark 6:45–51: Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night [the last watch before dawn], he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded.


Faith Lesson from Bethsaida


1. Like the healing of the blind man, often Jesus heals in different and strange ways. Do we have faith and trust in God regardless of how, or if He chooses to heal?


2. Christ cursed the town of Bethsaida because its inhabitants were apathetic, showed unbelief in Christ, and chose not to follow and obey Him. Are we oftentimes slow to trust and obey Christ as well?


3. Christ fed the 5,000 in the area of Bethsaida to reveal He was the true bread of life from heaven and that His Word is our spiritual food. In the same way there were 12 baskets of food left over, Christ, as our Bread from Heaven, is also abundant and overflowing in feeding us spiritual food through His Word. Are we eating daily and finding our life from the true Bread of Life?


4. Not far from Bethsaida Jesus walked on the water and calmed the sea. Am I finding rest and peace in Jesus in the midst of my personal storms of life?
Isaiah 26:3–4: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.


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