Meaning: separated, generally supposed to be the Greek form of the Hebrew netser, a “shoot” or “sprout”, a watch tower
Some, however, think that the name of the city must be connected with the name of the hill behind it, from which one of the finest prospects in Israel is obtained, and accordingly they derive it from the Hebrew notserah, i.e., one guarding or watching, thus designating the hill which overlooks and thus guards an extensive region.
Mary and Joseph travelled from this city to Bethlehem for the required census. Born in Bethlehem, Jesus grew from his infancy to manhood in Nazareth (4:16). Here he began his public ministry in the synagogue (Matthew 13:54), at which the people were so offended that they sought to cast him down from the precipice whereon their city was built (Luke 4:29).
Twice they expelled him from their borders (4:16-29; Matthew 13:54-58); and he finally retired from the city, where he did not many mighty works because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:58), and took up his residence in Capernaum.
Nazareth is situated among the southern ridges of Lebanon, on the steep slope of a hill, about 14 miles from the Sea of Galilee and about 6 west from Mount Tabor. It is identified with the modern village en-Nazirah. It lies “as in a hollow cup” lower down upon the hill than the ancient city. The main road for traffic between Egypt and the interior of Asia passed by Nazareth near the foot of Tabor, and thence northward to Damascus.
It is supposed from the words of Nathanael in John 1:46 that the city of Nazareth was held in great disrepute, either because, it is said, the people of Galilee were a rude and less cultivated class, and were largely influenced by the Gentiles who mingled with them, or because of their lower type of moral and religious character. But there seems to be no sufficient reason for these suppositions.
The Jews believed that, according to Micah 5:2, the birth of the Messiah would take place at Bethlehem, and nowhere else. Nathanael held the same opinion as his countrymen, and believed that the great “good” which they were all expecting could not come from Nazareth. This is probably what Nathanael meant. Moreover, there does not seem to be any evidence that the inhabitants of Galilee were in any respect inferior, or that a Galilean was held in contempt, in the time of our Lord. (See Dr. Merrill's Galilee in the Time of Christ.)
The inscriptions on the cross identified our Lord as Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
Modern Nazareth is the largest city in northern Israel, with population of 80-thousand (2017). Nazareth Village is a non-profit living museum that recreates life in the biblical city and claims to preserve “the last remaining fields worked by Jesus’ friends, family and fellow villagers. The surrounding terraces and farm features did exist in Jesus’ time. Today, Nazareth Village features a carefully researched re-creation of Jesus hometown. The original farm has been restored with olive trees, terraces, ancient wine press, irrigation system and stone quarry. Exact replicas of first century houses, synagogue, mikveh and olive presses have been carefully built using the same methods that would have been used by Joseph the carpenter. The scenes are brought to life as “Villagers” populate the farm and houses, living and working with the same type of clothing, pottery, tools and methods that Mary and Jesus would have used.”
The largest Roman Catholic church in the Middle East (Basilica of the Annunciation) is built where they claim Mary lived (“The Holy House”)—and where an angel of the LORD announced her part in the coming of the Messiah. A Greek Orthodox church claims it is on the actual location of the Divine announcement. A smaller Catholic church claims to be built on the location of the synagogue where Jesus taught. Another Catholic church claims it is where Joseph’s workshop stood, while another says it marks where, after His resurrection, Christ ate with His disciples. Another Catholic church claims to be located near a cliff where local Jews took Jesus. A well is called “Mary’s Well.” None of these traditional sites are traceable back to the time of Jesus, and they have no authority.
The name Nazareth perhaps means ‘a watch tower’ (now en-Nasrah), but is connected in the New Testament with Netzer, ‘a branch’ (Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12; Matthew 2:23), Nazarene being quite a different word from Nazarite.”
People who lived in Nazareth or nearby
- Mary, mother of Jesus
- Joseph, Jesus’ legal father by adoption
- Jesus the Christ—the promised Messiah
- Nathanael—a disciple
- Bethabara—25 miles away
- Gath-hepher, birthplace of Jonah
- Japhia (Yafa)
- Jokneam—12 miles west
- Maralah—a nearby place mentioned by Joshua
- Rumah (Arumah)
- Cities of the Bible