Gali’ilee (circuit). This name, which in the Roman age was applied to a large province, seems to have been originally confined to a little “circuit” of country round Kedesh-Naphtali, in which were situated the twenty towns given by Solomon to Hiram king of Tyre as payment for his work in conveying timber from Lebanon to Jerusalem. Josh. 20:7; 1 Kings 9:11. In the time of our Lord all Palestine was divided into three provinces, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Luke 17:11; Acts 9:31; Joseph. B. J. iii. 3. The latter included the whole northern section of the country, including the ancient territories of Issachar, Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali. On the west it was bounded by the territory of Ptolemais, which probably included the whole plain of Akka to the foot of Carmel. The southern border ran along the base of Carmel and of the hills of Samaria to Mount Gilboa, and then descended the valley of Jezreel by Scythopolis to the Jordan. The river Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, and the upper Jordan to the fountain at Dan, formed the eastern border; and the northern ran from Dan westward across the mountain ridge till it touched the territory of the Phœnicians. Galilee was divided into two sections, “Lower” and “Upper.” Lower Galilee included the great plain of Esdraelon with its offshoots, which run down to the Jordan and the Lake of Tiberias, and the whole of the hill country adjoining it on the north to the foot of the mountain range. It was thus one of the richest and most beautiful sections of Palestine. Upper Galilee embraced the whole mountain range lying between the upper Jordan and Phœnicia. To this region the name “Galilee of the Gentiles” is given in the Old and New Testaments. Isa. 9:1; Matt. 4:15. Galilee was the scene of the greater part of our Lord’s private life and public acts. It is a remarkable fact that the first three Gospels are chiefly taken up with our Lord’s ministrations in this province, while the Gospel of John dwells more upon those in Judea.
(Galilee in the time of Christ.—From Rev. Selah Merrill’s book (1881) with this title, we glean the following facts:
Size.—It is estimated that of the 6000 square miles in Palestine west of the Jordan, nearly one-third, almost 2000 square miles, belongs to Galilee.
Population.—The population is between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000. Dr. Merrill argues for the general correctness of Josephus’ estimates, who says there were 204 cities and villages in Galilee, the smallest of which numbered 15,000 inhabitants.
Character of the country.—Galilee was a region of great natural fertility. Such is the fertility of the soil that it rejects no plant, for the air is so genial that it suits every variety. The walnut, which delights above other trees in a wintry climate, grows here luxuriantly, together with the palm tree, which is nourished by heat. It not only possesses the extraordinary virtue of nourishing fruits of opposite climes, but also maintains a continual supply of them. Here were found all the productions which made Italy rich and beautiful. Forests covered its mountains and hills, while its uplands, gentle slopes and broader valleys were rich in pasture, meadows, cultivated fields, vineyards, olive groves, and fruit trees of every kind.
Character of the Galileans.—They were thoroughly a Jewish people. With few exceptions they were wealthy and in general an influential class. If one should say the Jews were bigoted in religion, he should remember at the same time that in regard to social, commercial, and political relations none were more cosmopolitan in either sentiment or practice than they. The Galileans had many manufactures, fisheries, some commerce, but were chiefly an agricultural people. They were eminent for patriotism and courage, as were their ancestors, with great respect for law and order.—Ed.)