Jesus Settles in Capernaum
Written by Pastor James Dorman
1. Thoughts by Matthew: Matthew 4:13–16 (NIV84)
“Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
2. Passage Outline
Jesus Settles in Capernaum – Fulfilled Another Prophecy
I. Jesus Left Nazareth to Dwell in Capernaum (vs. 13)
II. This Fulfilled a Prophecy by Isaiah (vs. 14-16)
3. Information to Consider
Matthew 4:12–13: “Galilee was the region of Jesus’ early ministry, contrasting significantly with the locations of his later ministry. The geographical flow of Jesus’ ministry as portrayed in Matthew is very distinctly north-to-south, from Galilee to Jerusalem. Beginning with 4:12, and extending through chapter 18, Jesus’ ministry takes place in the region around the Sea of Galilee, with two late ventures even farther north into the Gentile territory of Tyre and Sidon (15:21–28) and Caesarea Philippi (16:13–20).
Beginning with chapter 19, Jesus moved resolutely south toward Jerusalem and his appointment with the cross. In the north, far from the center of religious power (John 4:1), the “little people” would hear and respond more readily to the Messiah. Zebulun and Naphtali were the two tribes whose territory was bordered by the Sea of Galilee—Zebulun to the south (including Nazareth), and Naphtali to the north (including Capernaum). Capernaum was the home of several of Jesus’ disciples.
4:14–16. The quote is from Isaiah 9:1–2. Jesus’ ministry in the north was anticipated by the prophet Isaiah, whom Matthew quoted here to stifle any criticism that Jesus was an uncivilized Galilean. Isaiah 9 is part of a larger prophetic statement concerning the coming of the Messiah. Matthew has already quoted from this portion. In the latter portion of Isaiah 8, Isaiah emphasized the Lord’s judgment on errant Israel: “Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness” (8:22). Israel was in trouble.
The first word of Isaiah 9 is “nevertheless,” introducing the contrasting light and hope brought to Israel by the Messiah. The portion quoted by Matthew is a carefully selected segment of the larger message of hope for Israel. Any Jew familiar with his Bible would have recognized Matthew’s quote and would have made the connection to the remaining, unquoted portions (Isa. 9:3–7). Among the promises made here are the renewed covenant blessing on Israel; the removal of the oppressor’s yoke; the birth of the promised child, whose name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” and his reign on David’s throne in justice and righteousness. There was no doubt who this Jesus is. Matthew clearly identified Jesus’ move to Capernaum as the “official” beginning of his public ministry and as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
“Galilee of the Gentiles” was a common designation for this region. It was Galilee, bordering on the Gentile nations, where the “light” shone. Although it is clear that Jesus’ earthly ministry would be mainly to the Jews, Matthew went to great lengths to show the long-term implications of Jesus’ coming for all nations. In Matthew 4:1–11, Jesus was portrayed as the faithful Son, paralleling Israel as the unfaithful son. It is clear from the Old Testament (e.g., Gen. 12:3) that Israel’s purpose was to minister to all nations. They had failed, but the faithful Son would succeed.”
4. Questions to Ponder
1. Why did Jesus change His residence to Capernaum? (vs. 13)
2. What is the original context of this prophecy? (vs. 15-16)
5. Author’s Comments
Here Matthew informs us Jesus chose to establish His ministry headquarters in Capernaum. Located on the Northern shore of Lake Galilee and the home of some of His key followers. While this passage fails to provide any new key insights to Christian theology, it does reveal two insights about Jesus and His pursuit of the mission giving to Him by His Father.
First, we find another key spiritual signpost identifying Jesus as the promised Messiah. Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would bring God’s Good News to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. In His decision to operate out of Capernaum, Jesus was fulfilling the promise Isaiah declared would become a reality.
Second, while the primary focus of Isaiah’s prophecy was regarding how God would send Israel one who would deliver them from the Assyrians, the Israelites had also come to understand how Isaiah’s words also referred to how God’s Messiah would lead the Israelites out of their spiritual bondage and into God’s promise of eternal life in His presence.
Having settled into His new home, Jesus turned His attention to fulfilling the mission entrusted to His care.
6. Closing Prayer
Thank You for Your presence in our lives daily. May we continue to appreciate the tremendous gift of being one of Your adopted children. It is so good to be known as a “child of God”!
Thank you for the Gospel of Matthew. Thank you for the insights it brings to our lives and the record of fulfilled OT Promises. They serve as so many signposts confirming our pathway to You!
In Jesus’ Name,
7. Answers to “Questions to Ponder”
1. It was to become Jesus’ headquarters. It was densely populated and was near to the highways and cities in which Jesus would travel.
2. It originally referred to the deliverer from Assyrian bondage. Over the years, it changed to enslavement to spiritual darkness rather than physical bondage. The Messiah would accomplish for Spiritual bondage which the Deliverer had done from Assyria’s physical enslavement.
 Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew (Vol. 1, p. 43). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.