Chorazin

Chorazin

Chorazin (“the secret” in Hebrew) sat on Galilee’s northern shore, just within sight of the other towns that formed the Evangelical Triangle. The Evangelical Triangle, where Jesus spent 80% of His time, is made up of three towns—Bethsaida, Capernaum, and Chorazin. Chorazin’s reputation pre-Jesus had been based on agriculture, but that would soon change.

Known previously for her very early harvest of quality grain used in the Temple rituals (because the dark volcanic soil on a sunny hillside warmed quicker than other areas), Chorazin’s lack of faith in the Messiah earned her permanent notoriety as one of the three towns Jesus cursed (Matthew 11:20-24, Luke 10:13-14). She did in fact fall into ruin after an earthquake in the 4th century, and her black basalt rubble now makes for a fascinating stop. Her crown jewel is a synagogue that, according to a cache of Roman coins found under her, was probably rebuilt in the 3rd or 4th centuries.

The synagogue is 70 x 50 feet and sits in a raised section near the center of the town with a beautiful view. It has the typical simplistic design of most Galilean synagogues, with plain stone benches around the walls. A major discovery was made in 1926 while excavating the synagogue…a Seat of Moses, the stone block from which the Torah would have been read. It was found with four lines of Hebrew, “May Yudan, the son of Ishmael, who contributed this colonnade and its stairs from his property, be remembered for good. May he have a portion with the righteous.” Jesus mentioned this type of seat in Matthew 23:2-4,

“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

There is also a ritual bath (mikveh) associated with the synagogue, a large cistern, various buildings, houses, an olive press, and a significant cobblestone public square. All of these are made from the dark basalt stone indigenous to the area, which gives it a dark flavor to match the curse. The many stone carvings of Jewish symbols, flowers, a Medusa head, and a pair of stone lions show the skilled artisanship, as basalt is quick to break when not respected.

The site has been dated to the first century, but the ruins are later, probably from the Roman era to the Byzantine period. A large triangular pediment sits atop the wide staircase that leads up to the synagogue’s three entrances, which faces south to Jerusalem. It probably sat at the peak of the synagogue at one time. Standing on these steps, with the Sea of Galilee 900 feet below you, will give you a thrill. It’s a chance to feel what it may have felt like for Jesus and His disciples to come here and see the same marvelous view.

Like Capernaum, this site is one not to be missed on your visit to Israel. Seeing the synagogue alone is well worth the stop. The entire site covers 25 acres, and is still being dug up. Perhaps these excavations will warrant her Hebrew name and provide even more “secrets.”

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