We began our third day at a small town overlooking the sea of Galilee named Kursi or Gergasa. Its probable that this was the town of the wild man that lived among the tombs. What if this man had a family before this sickness came and took control of him? In light of that, it must have been a tremendous struggle for them to see him living here among the tombs, not at all like he was in their memory. Scholars think of him as a sympton-bearer in the community—everyone suffered through the strange illness that possessed him and no one could help. They tried to calm him by binding him with chains but nothing worked. And then a Jewish man showed up.
Jesus and his disciples had set out to cross the lake that fateful morning. Perhaps they were headed for the Northeastern side of the lake in the tetrarchy of Herod Philip. Whatever their destination all thoughts of that were suddenly interrupted by a raging storm, a squall that swamped their small boat. Mendel Nun, a hobbyist archeologist, accomplished fisherman and expert on the Sea of Galilee, actually records 8′ waves on the sea caused by the freak storms that pop up from the wind currents coming down over the hills and colliding with the sea air. Well, for a tiny three foot deep boat that was quite a problem and the disciples were pretty freaked out until Jesus took control of, what in their minds was the center of chaos, rebuked it and it listened. They were amazed. And then from there they landed farther south along the sea in the region of the Decapolis; the pagans. And as soon as Jesus sets foot on the shore he’s met by this crazy man, naked and shouting. Again the disciples must have been amazed as Jesus calmed another realm of chaos. But then the pigs nearby go racing over the cliff into the sea. Pagan sacrifice animals drowning in what was deemed to be chaos already. It would make sense. Then when they are all in the boat ready to leave, the healed man wants to join them and Jesus turns him away saying,“Go home and tell them what God has done for you.” What a difficult task it would have been for the man to face his family and townsfolk again with the memory of what he had been looming over his head. But he faced it head on and told everyone what had happened and how amazing this God is. The gospels record large crowds from the Decapolis following Jesus and listening to His words.
Qasrin was our next stop. It is a very unique reconstructed Jewish village that doesn’t really have direct biblical connection but is definitely a great learning experience. It helps to be able to put an image to all the ruins of things we’ve been seeing. There are several four-room houses like several we’ve seen elsewhere but these actually have walls. We talked about insula living and what some of the building concerns would have been for a family that will need to keep adding to their home as children get married and move in. Strong foundations are especially important, the framework also needs to be secure and windows would probably be small because they weaken the structure. The roof was built with long tree limbs filled with branches and dirt. An important tool needed in this situation was a roof roller to keep the dirt packed in tightly and grasses from growing up through it. Isaiah likens the people of the towns that Sennacherib destroyed to be like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up.
There would be an open courtyard used for cooking, baking and weaving often covered by a grapevine. Here and there you might find herbs hanging from the vines to dry. There may be a few goats or chickens running around just outside of this area. Stepping inside you enter the front room used for entertaining guests, feasts such as weddings and also the sleeping area for the older children or any guests who spent the night. Part of this may be used as a food storage area and behind it would be an additional storage room that doubled as a stable in bad weather. If there was a second story on the house this would be where mom, dad and the little ones slept. Looking at the layout of this house and seeing the small windows and rough stone floor it would make sense that the woman who lost her coin needed to light a lamp and search diligently to find it.
We visited Bethsaida, an important border town between the region of Galilee and Golanitis. It had the largest city gate in all Israel during the old testament time with a bamah at its entrance and masseboth on either side. These were possibly used in worship of Baal. During the new testament time this town became quite prominent and was raised to a polis or proper Greek town. There are three disciples who came from Bethsaida but they were fishermen and this location is quite removed from the sea. There has been a suggestion that this was the city and it has strong connection with a small village called El-Aradj on the shore which would have been a sort of extension of the larger town.