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Gadara

This is the Greek name of the capital of the Roman province of Peraea. It was one of the Decapolis cities. This stronghold stood on the summit of a mountain about 6 miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee. The people of this place were called Gadarenes.

Mark (5:1) and Luke (8:26-39) describe the miracle of the healing of the demoniac (Matthew [8:28-34] says two demoniacs) as having been wrought “in the country of the Gadarenes,” thus describing the scene generally. The miracle could not have been wrought at Gadara itself, for between the lake and this town there is the deep, almost impassable ravine of the Hieromax (Jarmuk). It is identified with the modern village of Um-Keis, which is surrounded by very extensive ruins, all bearing testimony to the splendor of ancient Gadara.

“The most interesting remains of Gadara are its tombs, which dot the cliffs for a considerable distance round the city, chiefly on the northeast declivity; but many beautifully sculptured sarcophagi are scattered over the surrounding heights. They are excavated in the limestone rock, and consist of chambers of various dimensions, some more than 20 feet square, with recesses in the sides for bodies… The present inhabitants of Um-Keis are all troglodytes, ‘dwelling in tombs,’ like the poor maniacs of old, and occasionally they are almost as dangerous to unprotected travellers.”

If this account is placed in its proper chronological setting it has some interesting theological implications as well as practical applications. The trip to Gadara was the first time in the ministry of the Lord Jesus where He went to Gentile territory. This occurred after the religious establishment rejected Him. Now, the Lord Jesus changed the focus of His ministry toward the Gentiles.

While He had stated on a prior occasion that God loved the world (John 3:16), only now does He actively begin to proclaim that message to the Gentiles. This upset at least one disciple who made an excuse to avoid the trip to Gentile territory. The Lord Jesus rebuked him, and he went anyway. By this, the Lord Jesus was beginning to break down the prejudicial barriers of His Jewish disciples toward the unkosher, pagan Gentiles.” —Gordon Franz, “The Demoniacs of Gadara,” Bible and Spade (March 7, 2011: Associates for Biblical Research —a Christian Answers Team Member)

“Gadara was captured by [Roman Emperor] Vespasian on the first outbreak of the war with the Jews, all its inhabitants were massacred, and the town itself, with the surrounding villages, was reduced to ashes.” —Smith’s Bible Dictionary

The modern town of Umm Qays (aka Umm Qais or Um Keis) is located at the ancient ruins of Gadara—satellite view
More distant view of the location of Gadara
Article Version: December 4, 2018

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