“Blessing the Fish” Phenomenon in Galilee

There is a little-known phenomenon in the Sea of Galilee that local Arab villages traditionally refer to as “Blessing the Fish.” This phenomenon is recorded in secular history as far back as the 1st century B.C. and may have a biblical reference from centuries earlier.

The event consists of specific cloud patterns that form over the water in the early morning hours, creating the appearance of “divine rays” falling on the water. This would not be considered unusual, except that the fish population typically increases around 25% in the following months. This usually occurrs one time each Spring and has been a boon to centuries of fishermen. The exact correlation of the sunbeams to the fish population has not yet been established. One medieval source likened it to the angel who seasonally stirred up the Pool of Bethesda in John 5.

I was fortunate to witness the event one year.

The sun's rays over the Sea of Galilee during the "Blessing of the Fish." Photo by Luke Chandler.

The term “Blessing the Fish” was first recorded by knights of the Third Crusade (late 12th century), but there are no indications this particular name was used in biblical times. Josephus gives a description of the phenomenon’s occurrence when the Roman general Vespasian was in the region in A.D. 68, during the First Jewish War (Wars 3: 6).

There are times when this event has not occurred, resulting in a noticeably lower population of fish for that year. The Bible indicates the event’s non-occurrence may have been used as a tool of judgment:

The land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
and the birds of the heavens,
and even the fish of the sea are taken away. (Hosea 4:3, ESV)

The event has occurred only sporadically over the past decade, and could be a contributing factor in the recent fishing ban in Galilee.

We can only hope the “Blessing of the Fish” returns to its historic pattern soon. This event usually occurs every year in the Jewish month of Nisan, but always happens to fall on the 1st of April in the Gregorian calendar.

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About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister in English and Spanish with the North Terrace Church of Christ and participates annually in archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke also leads tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
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