April 8, 2023
By Kristena Mears
A single word can change our understanding.
We perceive scripture by what we know—or what we think we know.
Here are two facts about the city of Nazareth, the city where Jesus Christ lived, that may change the way you look at scripture.
Small little Nazareth?
Following the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes, Joshua allocated the land to the twelve tribes. Joshua gave the southern end of Galilee to Zebulun. The small allotment sandwiched between Asher, Naphtali, Issachar, and Manasseh includes Nazareth. The city of Nazareth sits nearly in the center of the land of Zebulun alined with the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee.
Nazareth was a small town in Galilee that had a population of between 100 to 400.
In those days, great people were typically born in big towns or cities. Most people in Judea had never heard of this little town of Nazareth. In John 1:46, Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
We assume this question repeats many times by many people in the New Testament. Can anything good come from Nazareth? It doesn’t. His disciple, Nathanael, not the laughing crowds asked the question.
For a few years, I lived in a small town in Kentucky called Foggertown. The town consisted of three or four houses and a church. That was it! In fact, it was so small that even those who lived in the area rarely knew it existed.
Likely, this is what the intent of Nathanael’s question was. In the same way you might say, “What good can come from Foggertown?” He was commenting on how small and insignificant Nazareth was.
What’s in a name
The name of the town Nazareth comes from the word netzer נֵ֫צֶר in Hebrew.
Nezer means small branch.
So Nazareth means: The City of the Small Branch or Small Branch City.
This is significant because Isaiah tells us that the Messiah will come from a small branch.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a branch (NETZER) will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
Most people read the branch in Isaiah as talking about the ancestry branch. But, Jesus’ ancestry branch comes from the tribe of Judah. Judah was the most powerful and important tribe.
So, the small, insignificant town of Nazareth—The city of the small branch—is honored as the branch where The Massiah comes from.
Isn’t that just like our God? Over and over, the Almighty chooses the small and inferior—the beat down and worthless. With these, He lifts up and proclaims His glory!
Yes, He can even use you.