The Seven Cursed Cities in Israel – Dead Cities until Now

Chorazin (map), Bethsaida (map), Capernaum (map), Sodom (map), Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim (Map) are the cities, mentioned in the Torah, Old and New testament of the Christian bible, Koran and the Hadith (describing the words, actions, or habits of the Islamic prophet Muhammad), which are cursed and destroyed. Sodom and Gomorrah saw their fate implemented immediately, while the cities Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum died a slow death.

In July 2016, I organized a tour for the seven cursed cities in Israel. For anyone interested in such tour as well, please contact Wim.

Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim

Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin, 1852
Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin, 1852

Divine judgment by God was then passed upon Sodom and Gomorrah and two neighboring cities, which were completely consumed by fire and brimstone.

Sodom and Gomorrah have become synonymous with impenitent sin, and their fall with a proverbial manifestation of divine retribution. Sodom and Gomorrah have been used as metaphors for vice and homosexuality viewed as a deviation. The story has therefore given rise to words in several languages. These include the English word sodomy, used in sodomy laws to describe sexual “crime against natures”, namely anal or oral sex (either homosexual or heterosexual) or of beastiality. Some Islamic societies incorporate punishments associated with Sodom and Gomorrah into sharia.

In Genesis Chapter 14, Sodom and Gomorrah’s political situation is described during the time biblical Lot had encamped in Sodom’s territory. Genesis 13:13 indicates that at that time, “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.” Sodom was ruled by King Bera while Gomorrah was ruled by King Birsha.

Two Angels Guiding Lot and His Daughters from Sodom 19th-Century Print
Two Angels Guiding Lot and His Daughters from Sodom 19th-Century Print

In Genesis 18 three men, thought by most commentators to have been angels appearing as men, came to Abraham in the plains of Mamre. Two angels were sent to Sodom to investigate and were met by Abraham’s nephew Lot, who convinced the angels to lodge with him, and they ate with Lot.

Lot refused to give his guests to the inhabitants of Sodom and, instead, offered them his two virgin daughters “which have not known man” and to “do ye to them as is good in your eyes”. However, they refused this offer, complained about this alien, namely Lot, giving orders, and then came near to break down the door. Lot’s angelic guests rescued him and struck the men with blindness and they informed Lot of their mission to destroy the city.

Lot's Wife pillar, Mount Sodom
Lot’s Wife pillar, Mount Sodom

Then they commanded Lot to gather his family and leave. As they made their escape, one angel commanded Lot to “look not behind thee” However, as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with brimstone and fire from the Lord, Lot’s wife looked back at the city, and she became a pillar of salt.

Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum

Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum were named in the New Testament gospels of Matthew and Luke as cities that Jesus cursed because they rejected him and did not repent.(Matthew 11:20-24; see also Luke 10:13-15).

Matthew 11:20 – “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” 

The three places, Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida are known as “the evangelical triangle” by some scholars today. Jesus performed in the evangelical triangle his “mighty works” and laid the foundation of his ministry.

Capernaum
Capernaum

In Capernaum, he healed a paralyzed man. In order to get him to the house, the audience had to remove the roof of the building and lower him through it. In another episode a Roman military commander (a centurion), who dwelt in the village, approached him. The centurion asked him to heal a boy who was lying sick at his home. The centurion knew that Jesus would not go to his home to heal the child because a Halakhah (Jewish law), decreed by the Rabbis, forbade Jews to enter gentiles’ homes. Jesus was thrilled by the centurion’s faith because he did not find such faith among his Jewish fellowmen.

Go home,” he said, “and the boy will be healed.

Bethsaida
Bethsaida

In the evangelical triangle Jesus met his first disciples. They were Simon-Peter, the fisherman from Bethsaida, and his brother Andrew. Jesus told them to stop being fishers of fish and become fishers of men. Philip, another disciple, was from Bethsaida as well. Two more fishermen, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, probably also came from this town. In addition to healing individuals, Jesus performed miracles to the multitude.

Bethsaida is also related to one os the most important documents ever written and still never been found: The Q Source (is a hypothetical written collection of Jesus’s sayings). This document contain collection of sayings of Jesus, assumed to be one of two written sources behind the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke.
It was not until 1987, through the pioneering work of the Israeli archaeologist, Prof. Rami Arav, that the location of Bethsaida was finally revealed. Scientific investigations and excavations have been conducted at the site since 1990 through a consortium of universities.

On a plain not far from Bethsaida, he was followed by a crowd of 5,000 people and when there was nothing for the crowd to eat, Jesus managed to feed the crowd with just two fish and five loaves of bread (Matt. 14:13-21).

Bethsaida
Bethsaida

On two other occasions he preached the famous sermons in which he laid the foundation of the Christian faith. One sermon was made from the top of a mound and the other was made from a boat to a crowd who had gathered on the seashore.

The city was established in the 1st century AD. The remains that are seen today belong to a later period, the period of the Mishna and Talmud (3rd/4th century AD), when the city was expanded.

The Jewish Synagogue was built in the Byzantine period, in the 3rd/4th century, according to a hoard of coins found under the synagogue. The synagogue is a typical rectangular 23m long, 17m wide, double row structure, north-south orientation. Its style is similar to the Capernaum and Hammat-Gader synagogues.

The site was destroyed at the middle of the 4th C, as described by Eusebius of Caesarea, which relates the destruction of the city to the prophecy of Jesus. This was also established by the excavations. The destruction may have been caused by an earthquake (363 AD).

The site was restored at the end of the 4th C, and continued until the 8th C.  It expanded during the early Arabic period (7-8th C AD). After a gap of several hundred years, was revived in the 13th C. Near the entrance there is a tomb from the Mamluk period – the grave of Sheik Ramadan.

 

 

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