Galilee was the northern section of Palestine. It was a mountainous region that extended from the Lake of Galilee north to the Lebanon Ranges and west to the coastal plain. The Old Testament barely mentions it by name, since it was not in those days a distinct political territory. When the Old Testament refers to places in Galilee, it usually mentions them according to their location in the tribal areas of the region – Dan, Naphtali, Issachar, Zebulun and Asher (Josh 20:7; Isa 9:1; cf. Matt 4:12-15). In New Testament times Galilee was a clearly defined region and a province of the Roman Empire. It fell within the sub-kingdom of Herod Antipas (Mark 6:14-29; Luke 3:1; 23:6-12) and his successor Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:20), but was under the overall rule of Rome. (For details see HEROD.)

The population of Galilee was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles, and this was one reason why the strict Jews of Judea despised the Galilean Jews (John 7:41,52). Added to this, Galilee was cut off from Judea by the territory of the Samaritans, a people of mixed blood and mixed religion who hated, and were hated by, the Jews (Luke 9:51-56; John 4:3-4,9). Jesus grew up in Galilee (see NAZARETH) and spent most of the three and a half years of his public ministry there (Matt 2:22-23; 3:13; 4:12-16,23; 15:29; 17:22; 19:1; 21:11; 26:32,69; 27:55; 28:7,16). Towns of Galilee that feature in the story of Jesus are Caesarea Philippi in the far north (Matt 16:13), Capernaum, Bethsaida, Chorazin, Magdala and Tiberias around the Lake of Galilee (Matt 4:13; 11:21-23; 27:56; Mark 6:45; John 6:17,23), and Nazareth, Cana and Nain in the hill country south of the lake (Luke 2:39; 4:16; 7:11; John 2:1-11; 4:46; 21:2). (For further details see separate entries under the names of these towns. For details of the physical features of Galilee see PALESTINE.)

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