With the Jewish religious leaders more and more hostile to Jesus, he at times sought safety away from places they ruled. So, yesterday we had a story of his journeying north to Tyre in Lebanon, today we see him east in what is now known as the Golan Heights. In our Bible passage it is called the region of the Decapolis. A review of the History and Geography of the area will help us better understand the Gospel.
Alexander and his Greek soldiers conquered the Middle East between 333 and 332 B.C. After Alexander’s death then, his officers married local women, settling down in the lands they had acquired. One officer, Ptolemy, claimed dominion over Egypt, building his capitol of Alexandria. General Seleucus, claiming dominion over the rest of the Middle East, built his capitol city of Antioch, which was a hundred miles north of Jerusalem, which Alexander had spared.
We can see a comparison between the Greeks and Romans back then and the Nineteenth Century French and British. The Greeks back then, and later the French, settled in with the native populations, while the Romans and the stuck-up British remained aloof in their own clubs.
The Greeks also blended well with the Bible. Back around the year 200 B.C. seventy Jewish scholars living in Alexandria wrote a Greek translation of all the available Hebrew Old Testament texts. After the seventy scholars their Bible is known as the Septuagint, which is Latin for seventy. It is our most reliable Old Testament collection. As well, all of the books of the New Testament were written in Greek.
Getting back to today’s Gospel, the Decapolis where Jesus visited, was a great stretch of fertile land east of the Sea of Galilee. Ten of Alexander’s lower ranking officers built little cities there surrounded by farm land they controlled.