By Mike Willis

The “Seat of Moses”

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Matt. 11:21).

The village of Chorazin is only mentioned twice in the New Testament — in Matthew 11:21 and the parallel text in Luke 10:13. In these passages Jesus pronounces a “woe” unto the village because they witnessed so many mighty works that he had done, but they had not repented of their sins and turned in obedience to him. The passage is positive proof that Jesus frequented Chorazin and did many mighty works there.

Chorazin is located two or three miles north of Capernaum. When Jesus left Nazareth, he made Capernaum his second home (Matt. 4:13). He preached in the surrounding vicinity, including in the village of Chorazin.

Excavations at Chorazin are very interesting. “From 1905 to 1907 H. Kohl and C. Watzinger (who also explored the Capernaum synagogue) excavated the synagogue there on behalf of the German Oriental Society. J. Ory for the Palestine Department of Antiquities (1926) and Z. Yeivin for the Israel Department of Antiquities (1962-1963) completed work on the synagogue, the latter also excavating a few nearby houses” (Howard F. Vos, Archaeology in Bible Lands 159).

A synagogue of black basalt measuring fifty feet by seventy feet has been excavated and restored dat- ing from the second-third centuries. Though not the same synagogue as is now restored, no doubt Jesus visited the synagogue at Chorazin that existed in his day.

One of the things found in the synagogue at Chorazin is a “seat of Moses.” In Matthew 23:2-3, Jesus said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”

The “seat of Moses” reminds me of the formal chairs that are sometimes placed in the pulpit areas of some church buildings, more for decoration now than any practical use. However, in Jesus’ time, the “seat of Moses” was a prominent seat in the synagogue that was occupied by the presiding rabbi whose pronouncements were almost equivalent with the words of God himself. Having witnessed the practice of these first-century rabbis, Jesus condemned it as hypocritical.

Also located at Chorazin is the Jewish miqveh or ritual bath for ceremonial cleansing.