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A Commentary on the New Testament
from the Talmud and Hebraica
A Chorographical Century
Within what tribe the lake of Gennesaret was.
By comparing the maps with the Talmudic writers, this question ariseth: for there is not one among them, as far as I know, which does not altogether define the sea of Gennesaret to be without the tribe of Naphthali; but the Talmudists do most plainly place it within.
"The Rabbins deliver: The sea of Tiberias is in the portion of Naphtali; yea, it takes a full line for the nets on the south side of it: as it is said, 'Possess the sea and the south,' Deuteronomy 33:23." The Gloss is; "(Naphtali) had a full line in the dry land on the south coast, that he might draw out his nets." So also the Jerusalem writers; "They gave to Naphtali a full line on the south coast of the sea, as it is said, 'Possess the sea and the south.'" They are the words of Rabbi Josi of Galilee. So that Talmud that was written at Tiberias: so R. Josi, who was a Galilean.
The words of Josephus, which we cited before, are agreeable to these. "The tribe of Zebulon's portion was to the sea of Gennesaret, stretched out also [in length] to Carmel and the sea." On the south, the land of Zebulon was bounded by that of Issachar, extending itself in breadth, "to Genessaret": touching only upon Gennesaret, not comprehending Gennesaret within it. So the same Josephus speaks in the place alleged, that "the men of Naphtali took those parts that ran out eastwardly unto the city of Damascus." It would be ridiculous, if you should so render, "unto the city of Damascus," as to include Damascus within the land of Naphtali. The maps are guilty of the like solecism, while they make Zebulon, which only came, "unto the lake of Gennesaret," to comprise all the lake of Gennesaret within it. Look into Adrichomius, to say nothing of others, and compare these words of Josephus with him.
Hither perhaps is that to be reduced, which hath not a little vexed interpreters in Joshua 19; where Jordan is twice mentioned, in defining the limits of the tribe of Naphtali; verse 33, "the outgoings of the border," hence, "was to Jordan"; and, verse 34, "The going out from thence [that is, from the south border] was to Jordan in Judah towards the sun-rising."
What hath the land of Naphtali to do with Jordan in Judah?
I answer, Judah, that is, Judea, is here opposed to Galilee: Judah is not here spoken of as opposed to the other tribes. Before ever the name of Samaria was risen, the name of Galilee was very well known, Joshua 20:7; and so was the name of Judea: and at that time one might not improperly divide the whole land within Jordan into Galilee and Judea: when as yet there was no such thing as the name of Samaria. The words alleged, therefore, come to this sense, as if it had been said, 'The north bounds of Naphtali went out eastwardly to Jordan in Galilee: in like manner the south bounds went out eastwardly to Jordan now running into Judea'; that is, the country without Galilee, which as yet was not called Samaria, but rather Judea.
The bounds certainly, of the land of Naphtali seem to touch Jordan on both sides, both on the north and the south; and so to contain the sea of Gennesaret within its bosom, according to that which is said by the Talmudists before alleged, and those also men of Tiberias.
While I am discoursing of Jordan, and this lake, let me add this moreover concerning the 'boat of Jordan':--"R. Jacob Bar Aidai saith, in the name of R. Jochanan, Let no man absent himself from Beth-Midrash, for this question was many a time propounded in Jabneh, The boat, or barge, of Jordan, why is it unclean? Nor was there any who could answer any thing to it; until R. Chaninah, the son of Antigonus, came, and expounded it in his city. The boat of Jordan is unclean, because they fill it with fruit, and sail down with it from the sea unto the dry land, and from the dry land into the sea."--The Jews themselves being interpreters, is a small vessel, a little ship. Josephus hath these words; "Having gathered together all the boats in the lake, they were found to be two hundred and thirty, and there were no more than four mariners in each."
All the Jews declare, almost with one consent, that this was a fortified city from ancient times, even from the days of Joshua, and was the same with Rakkath, of which mention is made, Joshua 19:35.
"Rakkath is Tiberias," say the Jerusalem Gemarists. And those of Babylon say the same, and that more largely: "It is clear to us that Rakkath is Tiberias." And when, after a few lines, this of Rabbi Jochanan was objected, "When I was a boy, I said a certain thing, concerning which I asked the elders, and it was found as I said; namely, that Chammath is Tiberias, and Rakkath Zippor"; it is thus at last concluded, "Rabbi said, Who is it, to whom it was said, that Rakkath is not Tiberias? For, behold! when any dies here (in Babylon), they lament him there (at Tiberias) after this manner, The hearse of a famous man deceased in Sheshach (Babylon): whose name also is of note in Rakkath, is brought hither: thus lament ye him,--O ye lovers of Israel, O citizens of Rakkath, come forth, and bewail the dead of Babylon! When the soul of R. Zeira was at rest, thus one lamented him, The land of Babylon conceived and brought forth delights, the land of Israel nourished them. Rakkath said, Woe to itself because she lost the vessels of her delights. Therefore saith Rabba, Chammath is the same with the warm baths of Gadar, and Rakkath is Tiberias."
This city touched on the sea, so that the sea served on one side for a wall to it. Hence is that, in the place but now cited; "Rabh Hezekiah read the Book of Esther in Tiberias, on the fourteenth day (of the month Adar), and also on the fifteenth day (see Esther 9:21), doubting whether it were compassed with walls from the days of Joshua, or not. But who would doubt this of Tiberias? when it is written, 'And the fenced cities were Ziddim, Zer, Chammath, Rakkath, and Chinnereth.' But it is clear to us that Rakkath is Tiberias. The reason, therefore, why he doubted was this, because on one side it was enclosed by the sea instead of a wall. But if it were so, why did he doubt? Because, truly, it was no wall. When the tradition is thus, A city which hath a wall, but not fortified walls, the contiguous houses are for such walls. But Tiberias is excepted, which hath the sea for a wall" So also R. Simeon Ben Jochai, in the Jerusalem Gemara just now alleged: 'Among the cities fortified with walls Tiberias is excepted, as having the sea for a wall.'
What fortune this city underwent under the name Rakkath, remains unknown. Herod the tetrarch put the name of Tiberias upon it, and built the city, for the sake and memory of Tiberius Caesar. The etymology of which place while the Gemarists deduce elsewhere, namely, either from Tob reja, because it was fair to behold, or "because it was Betiborah, in the navel, or middle," &c. they seem rather to sport out of a luxuriant wit, than to be ignorant of the thing itself.
When I read Pliny of the situation of this city, and compare some things which are said by Josephus and the Talmudists with him, I cannot but be at a stand what to resolve upon here. Pliny speaks thus of the situation of it: "The lake [of Genesar] is compassed round with pleasant towns: on the east, Julias and Hippo; on the south, Tarichea, by which name some call the lake also; on the west, Tiberias, healthful for its warm waters."
Consult the maps, and you see Tiberias in them seated, as it were, in the middle shore of the sea of Gennesaret, equally distant almost from the utmost south and north coasts of that sea. Which seems well indeed to agree with Pliny, but illy with Josephus and his countrymen.
I. Josephus asserts that Hippo (in Perea, i.e. the country on the other side Jordan) is distant from Tiberias only thirty furlongs. For speaking to one Justus, a man of Tiberias, thus he saith, "Thy native country, O Justus, lying upon the lake of Gennesaret, and distant from Hippo thirty furlongs," &c. The same author asserts also (which we produced before), that the breadth of the sea of Gennesaret was forty furlongs. Therefore, with what reason do the maps place the whole sea of Gennesaret between Tiberias and Hippo? Read those things in Josephus, look upon the maps, and judge.
II. The same Josephus saith of the same Justus, "Justus burnt the towns of those of Gadara and Hippo. And the towns bordering upon Tiberias, and the land of the Scythopolitans, were laid waste." Note, how the towns of those of Gadara and Hippo are called "towns bordering upon Tiberias"; which certainly cannot consist together, if the whole sea be between, which is so put by the maps.
III. Those things which we learn from the Talmudists concerning the situation of this place cannot be produced, until we have first observed certain neighbouring places to Tiberias; from the situation of which, it will be more easy to judge of the situation of this.
In the mean time, from these things, and what was said before, we assert thus much: That you must suppose Tiberias seated either at the very flowing-in of Jordan into the lake of Gennesaret,--namely, on the north side of the lake, where the maps place Capernaum [illy]; or at the flowing out of Jordan out of that lake, namely, on the south side of the lake. But you cannot place it where Jordan flows into it, because Josephus saith, Tiberias is not distant from Scythopolis above a hundred and twenty furlongs,--that is, fifteen miles; but now the lake of Gennesaret itself was a hundred furlongs in length, and Scythopolis was the utmost limits of Galilee southward, as we shewed before.
Therefore we are not afraid to conclude that Tiberias was seated where Jordan flows out of the lake of Gennesar, namely, at the south shore of the lake; where Jordan receives itself again within its own channel. This will appear by those things that follow.
We doubt, therefore, of the right pointing of Pliny. Certainly we are not satisfied about it; and others will be less satisfied about our alteration of it. But let me, with their good leave, propose this reading, "On the east Julias, and Hippo on the south. Tarichea, by which name some call the lake, on the west. Tiberias, wholesome for its warm waters." Which reading is not different from Pliny's style, and agrees well with the Jewish writers: but we submit our judgment to the learned.
Chammath and Rakkath are joined together, Joshua 19:35. For they were very neighbouring cities; Rakkath is Tiberias,--and Chammath, the town Ammaus, in Josephus.
Of their neighbourhood, the Jerusalem Talmudists write thus: "The men of a great city may walk" (on the sabbath) "through a whole small city" (which was within a sabbath-day's journey); "but the inhabitants of a small city walk not through a whole great city." And then follows, "Formerly the men of Tiberias walked through all Chammath; but the men of Chammath passed not beyond the arch: but now those of Chammath and those of Tiberias do make one city."
And the Babylonian Talmudists thus, "from Chammath to Tiberias is a mile."
"Chammath is Tiberias. And why is it called Chammath? By reason of the Chammi, warm baths of Tiberias."
It is not seldom called 'Chammath of Gadara'; not only because it was very near the Gadarene country,--for the channel of Jordan only was between;--but because it was built, as it seems, on both the banks of Jordan, the two parts of the town joining by a bridge.
"Rabbah said, Chammath is the same with the warm baths of Gadara, and Rakkath is Tiberias."
"It was lawful for the Gadarenes, R. Judah Nasi permitting them, to go down into Chammath [on the sabbath], and to return into Gadara: but the men of Chammath might not go up into Gadara."
Behold! Tiberias so near to Chammath, that it was almost one city with it: and Chammath so near to the country of Gadara, that thence it took the name of 'Chammath of Gadara.'
"R. Samuel Bar Nathan, in the name of R. Chama Bar Chaninah, said, I and my father went up to Chammath of Gadara, and they set before us small eggs."
"R. Jonathan and R. Judah Nasi went to Chammath of Gadara."
"R. Immai and R. Judan Nasi" [he was grandson of R. Judah Nasi] "went to Chammath of Gadara."
Of the warm baths of Tiberias the Talmudists speak much. Let these few things be collected out of them:--
"R. Josua Ben Levi being sick, washed sometime in the warm baths of Tiberias, leaning on the shoulders of R. Chajia Bar Ba."
"Three warm baths remained from the waters of the deluge." I. The whirlpool of Gadara: that pool of Gadara, it may be, is that, which being drank of, as Strabo relates, cattle lose their hair, horns, and hoofs. II. The great fountain of Biram. Of Biram, see Bab. Rosh hashanah, fol. 23. 2. the first line. III. The warm baths of Tiberias.
"They allowed them the waters of Meara and the warm baths of Tiberias."
So also Josephus: "John (of Giscala) writ to me, praying 'that I would permit him the use of the warm baths which are at Tiberias.'"
And so Pliny before: "Tiberias, healthful for its warm waters."
There was a double Gadara. One at the shore of the Mediterranean sea: that was first called Gezer, 1 Kings 9:15. In Josephus, "Simon destroyed the city Gazara, and Joppe, and Jamnia."--And in the Book of the Maccabees, "And he fortified Joppe, which is on the sea, and Gazara, which is on the borders of Azotus."
At length, according to the idiom of the Syrian dialect, Zain passed into Daleth; and instead of Gazara, it was called Gadara. Hence Strabo, after the mention of Jamnia, saith, "and there is Gadaris, then Azotus and Ascalon." And a little after; "Philodemus the Epicurean was a Gadarene, and so was Meleager and Menippus, surnamed the 'ridiculous student,' and Theodorus the rhetorician," &c.
But the other Gadara, which we seek, was in Perea, and was the metropolis of Perea. "Being come into the parts of Gadara, the strong metropolis of Perea." They are the words of Josephus.
It was sixty furlongs distant from Tiberias, by the measure of the same author.
"Gadara, the river Hieramax [Jarmoc, of which before] flowing by it, and now called Hippodion." Some reckon it among the cities of the country of Decapolis.
Another city, also 'Gergesa' by name, was so near to it, that that which in Mark is called 'the country of the Gadarenes,' chapter 5:1,--in Matthew is 'the country of the Gergesenes,' chapter 8:28: which whether it took its name from the Girgashites, the posterity of Canaan,--or from the clayish nature of the soil, (Gargishta, signifying clay,)--we leave to the more learned to be decided. The Chaldee certainly renders that thick dirt, which is in the Hebrew the clay ground, 1 Kings 7:46.
The Jerusalem writers say, that the Girgashites, when Joshua came, and proclaimed, "He that will go out hence, let him go,"--betook themselves into Africa.
Not far from Tiberias and Chammath was Magdala. You may learn their neighbourhood hence:--
"If a man have two floors, one in Magdala and another in Tiberias,--he may remove his fruits from that in Magdala, to be eaten in that of Tiberias."
"R. Simeon Ben Jochai, by reason of certain shambles in the streets of Tiberias, was forced to purify that place. And whosoever travelled by Magdala might hear the voice of a scribe, saying, Behold! Bar Jochai purifies Tiberias."
"A certain old shepherd came, and said before Rabbi, I remember the men of Magdala going up to Chammath, and walking through all Chammath" (on the sabbath), "and coming as far as the outmost street, as far as the bridge. Therefore Rabbi permitted the men of Magdala to go into Chammath, and to go through all Chammath, and to proceed as far as the farthermost street, as far as the bridge."
Josephus hath these words of Magdala; "King Agrippa sends forces and a captain into Magdala itself to destroy the garrison." We meet with frequent mention of the Rabbins, or scholars, of Magdala:--
"R. Judan of Magdala."
"R. Isaac of Magdala."
"R. Gorion saith, The men of Magdala asked R. Simeon Ben Lachish," &c.
It is sometimes called 'Magdala of Gadara,' because it was beyond Jordan.
You may suppose, upon good grounds, that Hippo is the same with Susitha in the Talmudists, from the very signification of the word. Inquire. Of it there is this mention:--
"R. Joshua Ben Levi saith, It is written, And Jephthah fled from the face of his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tobh...which is Susitha." If you would render it in Greek, it is Hippene.
This city was replenished with Gentiles, but not a few Jews mixed with them. Hence is that, "If two witnesses come out of a city, the major part whereof consists of Gentiles, as Susitha," &c. And after a few lines, "R. Immai circumcised from the testimony of women, who said the sun was upon Susitha." For it was not lawful to circumcise, but in the day-time.
Hippo was distant from Tiberias thirty furlongs only.
Among the towns, neighbouring upon Tiberias, Tarichee is especially commemorated in Josephus, a city thirty furlongs distant from Tiberias: you will find in him the history and mention of it very frequent.
In the Talmudists we meet with other names also.
I. Beth-Meon. "The men of Tiberias, who went up to Beth-Meon to be hired for workmen, were hired according to the custom of Beth-Meon: the men of Beth-Meon, who went down to Tiberias to be hired, were hired according to the custom of Tiberias."
This place is also called, as it seems, Beth-Mein. In the place noted in the margin, they are treating of the town Timnath: of which it is said, that "Samson went up to Timnath"; and elsewhere, that "the father-in-law of Samson went down to Timnath": so that there was both a 'going up' and a 'going down' thither. R. Aibu Bar Nigri at last concludes, and saith, "It is like to Beth-Mein, by which you go down from Paltathah; but by which you go up from Tiberias."
In Josephus, "Beth-Maus [Beth-Meon] is distant from Tiberias four furlongs." The maps place it too remote from thence.
II. There as also a place not far from Tiberias, or Magdala, whose name was Caphar Chittaia: which we may guess at, from this story:--"R. Simeon Ben Lachish said thus, They whip a prince, that offends, in the sessions of the three men. R. Judah Nasi hearing these words was angry, and sent to apprehend him. But he fled without Magdala: but some say, Without Caphar Chittaia."--Ziddim (Josh 19:35) is Caphar Chittaia. Zer is neighbour to it.
Josephus thus describes it: "By the lake Gennesar, is a country extended, of the same name, of a wonderful nature and pleasantness. For such is the fruitfulness of it, that it denies no plant," &c. "The temper of the air suits itself with different fruits: so that here grow nuts, a more winter fruit; there palms, which are nourished with heat; and near them figs and olives, which require a more moderate air," &c.
The Talmudists speak like things of the fertility and pleasure of this place.
"The Rabbins say, Why is it called Gennesar? Because of the gardens of princes. Those are the great men who have gardens in that place. And it was of the lot of Nephthali" (they are the words of the author of Aruch), "as it is said, 'And a thousand princes were of Nephthali.'"
The fruits of Gennesaret are mentioned as being of great fame. "Wherefore (say they) are there not of the fruits of Gennesaret at Jerusalem? The reason is, that they who came to the feasts should not say, We had not come but to eat the fruits of Gennesaret."
And elsewhere, where it is disputed, what is the more noble part of food, something seasoned with salt, or a morsel,--and it is concluded, that that which is seasoned is to be preferred, and that thanks are to be given upon it; the mention of the fruits of Gennesaret is brought in, which are preferred also before a morsel.
Hereupon there is mention of the 'Tent of Gennesaret,' that is, as the Gloss speaks, "When Genosar, which is also called Chinnereth, abounded with noble gardens, they made certain shady bowers, or small tents, for that time, wherein they gathered the fruits."
The length of this most fruitful soil, lying along the seashore, was but thirty furlongs, and the breadth twenty.
"And expositors say (they are the words of the Aruch), that there is a place near to Tiberias, in which are gardens and paradises." Let that be noted, 'There is a place near to Tiberias.'
From the things last spoken, we gather no trifling conjecture concerning the situation of the town of Capernaum.
Josephus relates that the country of Gennesar, which we have described, was watered "with a spring of excellent water; the people thereabouts call it Capernaum." From that either the city hath its name, or rather that hath its name from the city; and the city from the pleasantness of the place. The evangelists, compared together, do make it clear, that this city was seated in the land of Gennesaret. For when it is said by Matthew and Mark, that Christ, sailing over from the desert of Bethsaida, arrived at the country of Gennesaret, Matthew 14:34; Mark 6:53, it is manifest from John that he arrived at Capernaum, John 6:22,24,25. When, therefore, that most pleasant country lay near Tiberias, and that Capernaum was in that country,--we must necessarily suppose that it was not very remote from Tiberias.
It was "upon the sea-coasts, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthali," Matthew 4:13:--not that it was the bounds of each, but because it was within the borders of Zabulon and Nephthali, they being put in opposition to the other parts of Galilee. So, "the borders of Tyre and Sidon," Mark 7:24, denote not that very centre where the territories of Tyre are parted from those of Sidon; but the "bounds of Tyre and Sidon," as distinguished from the bounds of Galilee. Nevertheless, neither was this city far distant form the very limits, where the bounds of Zabulon and Nephthali did touch upon one another,--namely, near the south coast of the sea of Gennesaret, which we observed before.
We suppose Capernaum seated between Tiberias and Tarichee. Whether, Cepharnome, in Josephus, be the same with this, we do inquire.
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