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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Were the Different Political Divisions of the Holy Land When Jesus Came?

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Don Stewart
The following is a simple breakdown of the different political divisions in the Holy Land at the time when Jesus came.

1. Judea

This was the Greek and Roman designation for the land of Judah. After the Roman conquest in 63 B.C., the word was used in two senses: (1) denoting the entire Holy Land (2). The Holy Land minus Galilee and Samaria. Jerusalem is in Judea. This was the last part to fall into captivity and the first to be reclaimed. The strict religious Jews lived there (the right wing).

2. Samaria

This was the dwelling place of poor Jews, and Samaritans (half-Jew and half-Gentile). They adopted a mixed form of religion. There was a bitter rivalry between them and Jews from the time of Nehemiah (see John 4:9). Though Samaria was often bypassed by traveling Jews, Jesus took the shorter route through Samaria to Galilee (Luke 17:11) despite the mutual antagonism.

3. Galilee

Jews and Gentiles lived there. The Jews were loyal to the nation but not as fanatical as Judeans. The Judeans considered Galileans as second class Jews. Most of Christ's ministry was in Galilee. All of His disciples were Galileans (with the possible exception of Judas).

4. Perea

This is a district in beyond the Jordan (Transjordan). It is never mentioned by name in the New Testament (except in a variant reading of Luke 6:17). However the district is referred to several times (e.g. Matthew 19:1) as the land beyond the Jordan. At the time of Christ's public ministry it was occupied by Jews and ruled by Herod Antipas. Geographically it was connected to both Galilee and Judea. Because it adjoined both these regions one could pass from Judea to Galilee and bypass the territory of the Samaritans.

5. Decapolis

Decapolis was a league of ten cities founded by the Greeks. Its large territory was south of the sea of Galilee and mainly to the east of Jordan. Inhabitants from Decapolis joined the great crowds that followed Jesus (Matthew 4:25). The presence of the swine in this area suggests that the population was primarily Gentile. The cities were not on good speaking terms with the Jews.

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