GALILEE (Heb. "Galil", "border" or "ring," Gr. ), a Roman province of Palestine north of Samaria, bounded S. by Samaria and the Carmel range, E. by the Jordan, N. by the Leontes (Litani), and W. by the Mediterranean and part of Phoenicia. Its maximum extent was about 60 m. north to south and 30 east to west. The name in the Hebrew Scriptures hardly had a definite territorial significance. It literally means a ring or circuit, and, like analogous words in English, could be applied to various districts. Thus Joshua (xiii. 2) and Joel (iii. 4) refer to the Geliloth ("borders, coast") of the Philistines or of Palestine; Joshua again (xxii. 10, 11) and Ezekiel (xlvii. 8) mention the Jordan valley plain as the "Geliloth of Jordan" in "the Eastern Gelilah." In its more restricted connotation, denoting the district to which it is usually applied or a part thereof, it is found in Joshua xx. 7, xxi. 32, 1 Chr. vi. 76, as the place where was situated the town of Kadesh; and in 1 Kings ix. 11, the district of "worthless" cities given by Solomon to Hiram. In Isa. ix. 1 we find the full name of the district, Galil ha-Goyim, literally "the ring, circuit or border of the foreigners" - referring to the Phoenicians, Syrians and Aramaeans, by whose country the province was on three sides surrounded. In 1 Kings xv. 29 it is specified as one of the districts whose population was deported by Tiglath-Pileser. Throughout the Old Testament history, however, Galilee as a whole cannot be said to have a history; the unit of territorial subdivision was tribal rather than provincial, and though such important events as those associated with the names of Barak, Gideon, Gilboa, Armageddon, took place within its borders, yet these belong rather to the histories of Issachar, Zebulon, Asher or Naphtali, whose territories together almost correspond with Galilee, than to the province itself.
After the Jewish return from exile the population confined itself to Judaea, and Galilee was left in the possession of the mixed multitude of successors established there by the Assyrians. When it once more came into Israelite hands is uncertain; it is generally supposed that its reconquest was due to John Hyrcanus. Before very long it developed a nationalism and patriotism as intense as that of Judaea itself, notwithstanding the contempt with which the metropolitans of Jerusalem looked down upon the Galilean provincials. Stock proverbial sayings such as "Out of Galilee cometh no prophet" (though Deborah, Jonah, Elisha, and probably Hosea, were Galileans) were apparently common. Provincialism of speech (Matt. xxvi. 73) distinguished the Galileans; it appears that they confused the gutturals in pronunciation.
Under the Roman domination Galilee was made a tetrarchate governed by members of the Herod family. Herod the Great was tetrarch of Galilee in 47 B.C.; in 4 B.C. he was succeeded by his son Antipas. Galilee was the land of Christ's boyhood and the chief centre of His active work, and in His various ministries here some of His chief discourses were uttered (as the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. v.) and some of His chief miracles performed.
After the destruction of Jerusalem the Judaean Rabbinic schools took refuge in the Galilee they had heretofore despised. No ancient remains of Jewish synagogues exist except those that have been identified in some of the ancient Galilean towns, such as Tell Hum (Talhum), Kerazeh, Kefr Bir'im, and elsewhere. One of the chief centres of Rabbinism was Ṣafed, still a sacred city of the Jews and largely inhabited by members of that faith. Near here is Meirun, a place much revered by the Jews as containing the tombs of Hillel, Shammai and Simon ben Yohai; a yearly festival in honour of these rabbis is here celebrated. At Tiberias also are the tombs of distinguished Jewish teachers, including Maimonides.
The province was subdivided into two parts, Upper and Lower Galilee, the two being divided by a ridge running west to east, which prolonged would cut the Jordan about midway between Huleh and the Sea of Galilee. Lower Galilee includes the plains of Buttauf and Esdraelon.
The whole of Galilee presents country more or less disturbed by volcanic action. In the lower division the hills are all tilted up towards the east, and broad streams of lava have flowed over the plateau above the sea of Galilee. In this district the highest hills are only about 1800 ft. above the sea. The ridge of Nazareth rises north of the great plain of Esdraelon, and north of this again is the fertile basin of the Buttauf, separated from the sea-coast plains by low hills. East of the Buttauf extends the basaltic plateau called Sahel el Ahma ("the inaccessible plain"), rising 1700 ft. above the Sea of Galilee. North of the Buttauf is a confused hill country, the spurs falling towards a broad valley which lies at the foot of the mountains of Upper Galilee. This broad valley, running westwards to the coast, is perhaps the old boundary of Zebulun - the valley of Jiphthah-el (Josh, xix. 14). The great plain of Esdraelon is of triangular form, bounded by Gilboa on the east and by the ridge which runs to Carmel on the west. It is 14 m. long from Jenin to the Nazareth hills, and its southern border is about 20 m. long. It rises 200 ft. above the sea, the hills on both sides being some 1500 ft. higher. The whole drainage is collected by the Kishon, which runs through a narrow gorge at the north-west corner of the plain, descending beside the ridge of Carmel to the sea. The broad valley of Jezreel on the east, descending towards the Jordan valley, forms the gate by which Palestine is entered from beyond Jordan. Mount Tabor stands isolated in the plain at the north-east corner, and rather farther south the conical hill called Nebi Duhi rises between Tabor and Gilboa. The whole of Lower Galilee is well watered. The Kishon is fed by springs from near Tabor and from a copious stream from the west side of the plain of Esdraelon. North-west of Nazareth is Wadi el Melek, an open valley full of springs. The river Belus, just south of Acre, rising in the sea-coast marshes, drains the whole valley above identified with Jiphthah-el. On the east the broad valley of Jezreel is full of magnificent springs, many of which are thermal. The plains of Esdraelon, and the Buttauf, and the plateau of el-Ahma are all remarkable for the rich basaltic soil which covers them, in which corn, cotton, maize, sesame, tobacco, millet and various kinds of vegetable are grown, while indigo and sugar-cane were cultivated in former times. The Nazareth hills and Gilboa are bare and white, but west of Nazareth is a fine oak wood, and another thick wood spreads over the northern slopes of Tabor. The hills west of the great plain are partly of bare white chalk, partly covered with dense thickets. The mountains north of the Buttauf are rugged and covered with scrub, except near the villages, where fine olive groves exist. The principal places of importance in Lower Galilee are Nazareth (10,000 inhabitants), Sepphoris (now Seffuria), a large village standing above the Buttauf on the spurs of the southern hills, and Jenin (En Gannim), a flourishing village, with a palm garden (3000 inhabitants). The ancient capital, Jezreel (Zerin), is now a miserable village on a precipitous spur of Gilboa; north of this are the small mud hamlets, Solam (Shunem), Endur (Endor), Nein (Nain); on the west side of the plain is the ruin of Lejjun (the Legio of the 4th century, which was then a place of importance). In the hills north of the Buttauf is Jefat, situated on a steep hill-top, and representing the Jotapata defended by Josephus. Kefr Kenna, now a flourishing Christian village at the foot of the Nazareth hills, south of the Buttauf, is one of the sites identified with Cana of Galilee, and the ruin Kana, on the north side of the same plain, represents the site pointed out to the pilgrims of the 12th and 13th centuries.
The mountains are tilted up towards the Sea of Galilee, and the drainage of the district is towards the north-west. On the south the rocky range of Jebel Jarmuk rises to nearly 4000 ft. above the sea; on the east a narrow ridge 2800 ft. high forms the watershed, with steep eastern slopes falling towards Jordan. Immediately west of the watershed are two small plateaus covered with basaltic débris, near el-Jish and Kades. On the west are rugged mountains with deep intricate valleys. The main drains of the country are - first, Wadi el 'Ayun, rising north of Jebel Jarmuk, and running north-west as an open valley; and secondly, Wadi el Ahjar, a rugged precipitous gorge running north to join the Leontes. The district is well provided with springs throughout, and the valleys are full of water in the spring-time. Though rocky and difficult, Upper Galilee is not barren, the soil of the plateaus is rich, and the vine flourishes in the higher hills, especially in the neighbourhood of Kefr Bir'im. The principal town is Ṣafed, perched on a white mountain 2700 ft. above the sea. It has a population of about 9000, including Jews, Christians and Moslems.
Josephus gives a good description of the Galilee of his time in Wars, iii. 3. 2: "The Galileans are inured to war from their infancy, and have been always very numerous; nor hath the country been ever destitute of men of courage or wanted a numerous set of them; for their soil is universally rich and fruitful, and full of plantations of trees of all sorts, insomuch that it invites the most slothful to take pains in its cultivation.... Moreover, the cities lie here very thick, and the very many villages there are here are everywhere full of people." Though the population is diminished and the cities ruinous, the country is still remarkable for fertility, thanks to the copiousness of its water-supply draining from the Lebanon mountains.
The principal products of the country are corn, wine, oil and soap (from the olives), with every species of pulse and gourd.
The antiquities of Galilee include dolmens and rude stone monuments, rock-cut tombs, and wine-presses, with numerous remains of Byzantine monasteries and fine churches of the time of the crusades. There are also remains of Greek architecture in various places; but the most interesting buildings are the ancient synagogues, of which some eleven examples are now known. They are rectangular, with the door to the south, and two rows of columns forming aisles east and west. The architecture is a peculiar and debased imitation of classic style, attributed by architects to the 2nd century A.D. In Kefr Bir'im there were remains of two synagogues, but early in the 20th century one of them was completely destroyed by a local stone-mason. At Irbid, above Tiberias, is another synagogue of rather different character. Traces of synagogues have also been found on Carmel, and at Tireh, west of Nazareth. It is curious to find the representation of various animals in relief on the lintels of these buildings. Hebrew inscriptions also occur, and the carved work of the cornices and capitals is rich though debased.
In the 12th century Galilee was the outpost of the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem, and its borders were strongly protected by fortresses, the magnificent remains of which still crown the most important strategical points. Toron (mod. Tibnin) was built in 1104, the first fortress erected by the crusaders, and standing on the summit of the mountains of Upper Galilee. Beauvoir (Kaukab el-Hawa, built in 1182) stood on a precipice above Jordan south-west of the Sea of Galilee, and guarded the advance by the valley of Jezreel; and about the same time Château Neuf (Hunin) was erected above the Hüleh lake. Belfort (esh Shukif), on the north bank of the Leontes, the finest and most important, dates somewhat earlier; and Montfort (Kalat el Kurn) stood on a narrow spur north-east of Acre, completing the chain of frontier fortresses. The town of Banias, with its castle, formed also a strong outpost against Damascus, and was the scene, in common with the other strongholds, of many desperate encounters between Moslems and Christians. Lower Galilee was the last remaining portion of the Holy Land held by the Christians. In 1250 the knights of the Teutonic order owned lands extending round Acre as far east as the Sea of Galilee, and including Ṣafed. These possessions were lost in 1291, on the fall of Acre.
The population of Galilee is mixed. In Lower Galilee the peasants are principally Moslem, with a sprinkling of Greek Christians round Nazareth, which is a Christian town. In Upper Galilee, however, there is a mixture of Jews and Maronites, Druses and Moslems (natives or Algerine settlers), while the slopes above the Jordan are inhabited by wandering Arabs. The Jews are engaged in trade, and the Christians, Druses and Moslems in agriculture; and the Arabs are an entirely pastoral people.
(C. R. C.; R. A. S. M.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)