The disciples' attitude to Nazareth in Galilee can be gauged from the comment in John 1:46 -

And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

In the time of Solomon in 1Kings 9:

10 Now at the end of the twenty years during which Solomon built these two houses, the house of the LORD and the royal palace, 11King Solomon gave twenty towns in the land of Galilee to Hiram king of Tyre, who had supplied him with cedar and cypress logs and gold for his every desire. 12So Hiram went out from Tyre to inspect the towns that Solomon had given him, but he was not pleased with them.

13“What are these towns you have given me, my brother?” asked Hiram, and he called them the Land of Cabul, as they are called to this day.

NIV note:

Cabul  sounds like the Hebrew for good-for-nothing.

The Pharisees rebuke Nicodemus in John 7:

47“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48“Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51“Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

52They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

Did this disrespect for Galilee come from 1Kings 9? Was it some sort of folklore?

  • Note: Nicodemus too is identified as a Pharisee. They were not as universally disdainful of Jesus and his hometown as is often implied. Sep 28, 2022 at 2:36

2 Answers 2


There are two distinct matters here.

  1. John 7:52 - There is no prophecy in the OT concerning a significant prophet arising from Galilee. However, in their enthusiasm to discredit Jesus, the Jews had conveniently forgotten Jonah who had come from Gathhepher, a town in Zebulun on lower Galilee. 2 Kings 14:25.
  2. The town of Nazareth itself in Nazareth was a construction town for Caesarea with much work available for good tradesmen. As such it had a deserved reputation as full of rough men and few women (except those seeking quick money from prostitution). Hence Nathaniel's comment about Jesus' origins in John 1:46.

The towns in Galilee were displeasing to Hiram because they were inhabited by Canaanites and rather primitive and undeveloped. Note the comments of the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:

  1. Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee—According to Josephus, they were situated on the northwest of it, adjacent to Tyre. Though lying within the boundaries of the promised land (Ge 15:18; Jos 1:4), they had never been conquered till then, and were inhabited by Canaanite heathens (Jud 4:2-13; 2Ki 15:29). They were probably given to Hiram, whose dominions were small, as a remuneration for his important services in furnishing workmen, materials, and an immense quantity of wrought gold (1Ki 9:14) for the temple and other buildings [Michaelis].

Further, the Tyrians were sea traders and inland towns on stiff alluvial clay were almost useless to non-farming, lazy Tyrians. This does not escape the notice of Matthew Poole:

The land of Cabul, i.e. of dirt, as most interpret it. Not that it was a barren soil, as some imagine; for they who describe those parts commend them as fruitful; nor would Solomon have made him so unworthy a return: but because it was not pleasant, nor agreeable to his nor to his people’s humour; because, though the land was very good, yet being a thick and stiff clay, and therefore requiring great pains to manure and improve it, it was very unsuitable to the disposition of the Tyrians, who were delicate, and lazy, and luxurious, and wholly given to merchandise.


To understand Nazareth, we need first to look at the Galilee. This region lay to the far north of the former Northern Kingdom of Israel. Jews who were familiar with their national history naturally looked down on it as part of a nation which fell into apostasy in the time of Jeroboam I. Even worse, it had been a part of the Samaritan kingdom (Samaria) until it was conquered during the time of Maccabees. It was populated not only by Jews, but also by Syrian Greeks and other Gentiles; and probably Samaritans as well. Indeed, the the Samaritan territory lay between Judea and the Galilee. Its status as a melting pot, in contrast to the Pharisees' concern for avoiding pollution, accounts for the slur against Nicodemus: "Are you a Galilean too?"

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Nazareth itself could barely be called a town. It was a village with a few hundred residents:

"Nazareth is not mentioned in ancient Jewish sources earlier than the third century AD. This likely reflects its lack of prominence both in Galilee and in Judaea." Strange originally calculated the population of Nazareth at the time of Christ as "roughly 1,600 to 2,000 people" but, in a subsequent publication that followed more than a decade of additional research, revised this figure down to "a maximum of about 480." Other sources state that during Jesus' time, Nazareth had a population of 400 and one public bath, which was important for civic and religious purposes, as a mikva. Nazareth in Wikipedia

Nazareth lay midway between Caesarea and Sepphoris, two cities in which major building projects had been initiated by the Herods to please their Roman overlords. We know little if anything about Nathaniel's background, but if he were a Judean or a Jewish patriot, he might well be prejudiced against Nazareth on account of its dependence of the Herodian financial power, as well for its unfortunate location. We cannot know if Nathaniel considered prophecy that the Messiah must come of Bethlehem, but that is also a possibility.

The current location of Cabul is a several miles west of Nazareth. Josephus called it "the place that divides the country of Ptolemais from our nation" (War II 18:503). We can only guess at whether people would have associated it with Jesus' hometown. But it is certain that the province and village of Jesus' origin would be seen by some as worthy of disdain.

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