🔼The name Bethsaida: Summary
- Place Of Fishing, Place Of Hunting
- From (1) the noun בית (beth), house, and (2) the verb צוד (sud), to hunt or fish.
🔼The name Bethsaida in the Bible
The town of Bethsaida is mentioned by all gospels and in some of the most striking of contexts (see full concordance). Bethsaida was a fisher village situated somewhere on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and all John says about it is that it was the hometown of Peter, Andrew and Philip (John 1:44, 12:21).
Mark and Matthew connect Bethsaida to the famous scene in which Jesus walks on water, which in itself is a direct reference to the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:2) and the cleansing of creation (Genesis 7:17). After the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him to Bethsaida while he went up a mountain to pray (Mark 6:45). When he too decided he wanted to go to Bethsaida, he famously walked on the water with the intention of overtaking the disciples, who were struggling to stay afloat in a storm. When the disciples take him for a ghost, he calms them down and steps into the boat with them. Then the wind dies down as well.
Matthew tells the same story but does not mention Bethsaida (Matthew 14:22-33). John also doesn't mention Bethsaida but has the disciples go to Capernaum, where they arrive immediately after Jesus steps into the boat (John 6:15-21).
Mark alone tells the curious story of the blind man at Bethsaida who Jesus healed in stages. The man started out blind, then saw men like trees and then saw wholly well. When he is finally all healed, Jesus adjures him to not enter the village (Mark 8:22-26).
Matthew and Luke both record a curse of Jesus involving Bethsaida (which only Luke connects to Jesus' sending out of the seventy). Jesus groups Bethsaida with the otherwise unmentioned town of Chorazin, and says that the cities of Tyre and Sidon would have repented long ago if the miracles performed in Chorazin and Bethsaida had occurred in them (Matthew 11:21, Luke 10:12-13).
Scholars have long wondered what miracles Jesus may have performed in Chorazin, but these thinkers fail to take into account that the history of Jesus goes back to the beginning of time (Luke 24:27). The miracles of Chorazin and Bethsaida may be whatever happened in history. Note that the name Bethsaida is linguistically related to the name Sidon, and we may expect a similar relation between Tyre and Chorazin.
🔼Etymology of the name Bethsaida
The name Bethsaida the way we have it is a Greek transliteration of a Hebrew name which we don't have. But it was probably something like בית ציד (Beth-sayid). And that name consists of two elements:
The first part of our name is the common Hebrew word בית (bayit) meaning house:
The noun בית (bayit) means house. It sometimes merely denotes a domestic building, but mostly it denotes the realm of authority of the house-father, or אב (ab). This ab is commonly the living alpha male of a household, but may very well be a founding ancestor (as in the familiar term the "house of Israel"). The אב (ab) may also be a deity, in which case the בית (bayit) is that which we know as a temple.
In the larger economy, a house interacts with other houses. These interactions are governed by the אב (ab), or "father" and executed by the בנים (benim), or "sons": those people living in the house, irrespective of any biological relation with the אב (ab). The "sons" combined add up to אם ('em), which means both "mother" and "tribe".
The second part of our name probably comes from the nouns ציד (sayid), meaning hunting, or ציד (sayyad), meaning hunter. The "a" upon which our name ends may be due to the Galilean accent, or it's because our name comes from the feminine equivalent of the nouns we just mentioned, which would be צידה (sayidah). Our nouns come from the verb צוד (sud I) meaning to hunt (or fish):
The verb צוד (sud) means to hunt or fish, or more general: to get meat rather than veggies, and by working for it in the wild rather than purchasing it at a store. This verb obviously has a very strong cognitive connotation in the Bible, which would concern an active pursuit of problems and their solutions, rather than learning from whatever happens (veggies) or absorbing other people's theories at some school (food store).
Noun ציד (sayid) means a hunting or game. Noun ציד (sayyad) means hunter. Noun מצד (mesad) means fastness or stronghold (a typically defensive structure). Noun מצוד (masod) may mean siege works or hunting implement (like a net). Likewise, the nouns מצודה (mesoda) and מצודה (mesuda) mean net, fastness or stronghold.
Both nouns ציד (sayid) and צידה (seda) mean provisions or food. The denominative verb ציד (sid) means to supply oneself with food.
For a meaning of the name Bethsaida, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Place Of Fishing, and Spiros Zodhiates (The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary) has Place Of Fishing or Place Of Hunting.