Nazareth

Also known as En Nasira, Japhia, Mash-had, en-Nasirah, Nazerat, Nazareth of Galilee, Nazareth in Galilee, Yafti en Nasra.

Place name meaning, “branch.” Nazareth did not enjoy a place of prominence until its association with Jesus. It does not appear in the Old Testament. As He became known as “Jesus of Nazareth” (Matt. 26:71; Luke 18:37; 24:19; John 1:45; Acts 2:22; 3:6; 10:38), His hometown became fixed in Christian memory.

Nazareth was located in lower Galilee about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. It lay in the hill country north of the Plain of Esdraelon. The hills formed a natural basin with three sides, but open toward the south. The city was on the slopes of the basin, facing east and southeast. Cana was about five miles to the northeast. A Roman road from Capernaum westward to the coast passed near Nazareth.

It was a small village in Jesus’ day, having only one spring to supply fresh water to its inhabitants. Today, the spring is referred to as “Mary’s well.” The modern city has about 20,000 citizens, mainly Moslems and Christians.

The angel went to Nazareth to announce to Mary and Joseph the coming birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26-28). Following Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and the sojourn in Egypt, Joseph and Mary returned with Jesus to Nazareth (Matt. 2:19-23), where Jesus grew from boyhood to manhood (Luke 2:39-40; 4:16), being stamped as a Nazarene (Matt. 2:23), apparently a midrashic play on the Hebrew term netser, “shoot” in Isaiah 11:1.

Nazareth did not possess a good reputation, as reflected in the question of Nathanael, himself a Galilean (John 1:46). The early church received similar scorn as the Nazarene sect (Acts 24:5). Such lack of respect was likely due to an unpolished dialect, a lack of culture, and quite possibly a measure of irreligion and moral laxity.

Jesus was rejected by His townspeople near the beginning of His public ministry, being cast out of the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30; see also Matt. 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6).

Jerry W. Batson

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary
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