Bethsaida was a small town in Galilee best known in the Bible as the birthplace of three of Jesus’ disciples: Phillip, Peter, and Andrew (John 1:44–45; 12:21). Some scholars suggest that there were two towns called Bethsaida during the time of Jesus, as two cities’ having the same or a similar name was common in those days. The Bethsaida most often referred to in Scripture was located near where the Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee on the north side of the sea.
Bethsaida was the scene of several miracles, enough that Jesus could say, “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” (Matthew 11:21). Bethsaida has come to represent those who have heard the gospel, understood God’s plan of salvation, and rejected it. Jesus implied that their eternal punishment would be harsher than that of those who did not have such a privilege (Matthew 11:22).
One of those miracles performed in Bethsaida was the restoration of sight to a blind man (Mark 8:22–26). It is also likely that the feeding of the 5,000 took place near Bethsaida (Luke 9:10–17). It was also the site of one of Jesus’ most famous miracles: walking on water (Mark 6:45–52). He had sent His disciples on ahead on the Sea of Galilee toward Bethsaida while He spent some time in prayer. Late that night, a strong wind made rowing the boat difficult. In the midst of the disciples’ efforts to keep the boat afloat, they saw a figure coming toward them on top of the waves! They were terrified until Jesus got in the boat with them and the waves instantly calmed. It was on His way to Bethsaida that Jesus walked on water.
Bethsaida is rarely mentioned after Jesus ascended into heaven. Most scholars believe that Bethsaida was renamed Julias (in honor of Augustus’s daughter) by Philip the tetrarch, grandson of Herod the Great, at some point during Jesus’ public ministry. However, all mention of the city disappeared by the second century, and only buried ruins remain.