Located on a basalt hill overlooking the northeast coast of the Sea of Galilee, the city identified as Bethsaida was founded in the 10th century B.C.E. Excavations conducted at the site have uncovered evidence of Iron Age fortifications, a palace and a massive gate complex, suggesting that the city was the capital of the Biblical kingdom of Geshur. In 732 B.C.E., Geshur was destroyed by the Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser III. According to the New Testament, Jesus healed the blind man (Mark 8:22–25) and fed the multitude (Luke 9:10–17) at Bethsaida, which in the early first century C.E. was a fishing village.
The Galilee is one of the most evocative locales in the New Testament—the area where Jesus was raised and where many of the Apostles came from. Our free eBook The Galilee Jesus Knew focuses on several aspects of Galilee: how Jewish the area was in Jesus’ time, the ports and the fishing industry that were so central to the region, and several sites where Jesus likely stayed and preached.
According to Bethsaida Biblical Archaeology project director Rami Arav, while excavating a room in the Iron Age palace, the ground suddenly collapsed, exposing an entrance to a tunnel.
“Ground Penetrating Radar revealed that the tunnel leads to the space in between the outer and inner city walls,” Arav told Bible History Daily. “It looks like an escape tunnel and recalls to mind a similar escape way mentioned in 2 Kings 25:4:”
“Due to safety and technical reasons, the tunnel was not excavated thus far. This year we plan to solve the problems and excavate the tunnel,” Arav said.
Watch the Bethsaida Biblical Archaeology project’s video presentation of the evidence of the tunnel:
Interested in joining the 2015 excavation season at Bethsaida? Learn more here.