The Town that Jesus Cursed
Location - 2.5 miles from Capernaum
Map Coordinates - 32.911946, 35.564541
Chorazin was an ancient village during the Roman and Byzantine periods, best known for its mention in the Gospels. Now part of a national archaeological park, the town’s ruins are spread over a 25-acre area, with a synagogue in the center.
The Evangelical Triangle.
Chorazin is located two and a half miles from Capernaum, and, along with Bethsaida and Capernaum, completes what we call the Evangelical Triangle. They are named in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke as towns where many of Jesus’ miracles occurred, and where He spent the bulk of His earthly ministry (The Merged Gospels, story 127).
The majority of the structures found around the synagogue are made from black basalt stones. Visitors can see a mikveh (ritual bath), an olive press, a large cistern, as well as various buildings and houses near a cobblestone public square. The handful of olive millstones used in olive oil extraction suggest a reliance on the olive for economic purposes, like many other villages in ancient Galilee.
From Matthew 11:20-22 we read
"Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 'Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.'"
Why did Jesus curse Charzin, Capernaum and Bethsaida? We know from this passage that Jesus did many miracles in this city. Yet, it seemed to make no difference in their lives.
As a result, Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum today are ghost towns. History tells us that Chorazin was abandoned in 135 AD and rebuilt in the 3rd century. The structures of the village that we see today are from the 4th century when Chorazin collapsed into ruin after an earthquake. One could interpret this destruction as God’s judgment on these cities where the people did not repent.
In the center of Chorazin is an impressive synagogue that was built of basalt stones and decorated with Jewish motifs. This partially reconstructed synagogue was probably built in the late 3rd century.
In 1926, archaeologists discovered a "Seat of Moses," carved from a basalt block. According to the New Testament, this is where the reader of the Torah sat to deliver his message to the congregation. Jesus references this position of authority when He says
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach” (Matthew 23:2-3).
The Seat of Moses.
The Seat of Moses seen here today is a replica. The original relic is on display at the Israeli museum in Jerusalem.
There was another synagogue about 650 feet to the west of the currently-standing synagogue that was used during Jesus’ time.
The archaeological excavations at Chorazin may also help us understand why the people here experienced an earthquake, and the ultimate judgment of the town. It turns out that the descendants of these citizens allowed a medusa to be built right into their synagogue wall. A medusa was from Greek mythology, and was generally described as a winged human female with living venomous snakes in place of hair. Supposedly anyone who looked directly at the medusa was turned to stone. The presence of the medusa on this synagogue betrays an assimilation with the Greek and pagan practices of the time.
Both Christianity and Judaism have always been in a life-and-death struggle with paganism, and not just at Chorazin, but in other sites in the Holy Land, where pagan symbols, false gods and zodiacs were included in ancient synagogue architecture.
Over time, paganism even crept into Christian circles. In our modern culture the neo-pagan ideas of humanism, new age, and eastern influences have often crept into our churches. We need to heed the warning Chorazin lest we fail to be true to God and His Word, and are similarly judged for our failure to remain true to the purity of the faith.