The Jews were very familiar with persecution throughout their history. Being under the rule of the Roman Empire wasn’t much different. It was in that context that Jesus told the disciples to preach throughout the cities of Israel and that when they were persecuted, flee and go to the next city. The Jewish leaders would not want the message of Christ promoted by the disciples and the Roman Empire did not want any problems in the area. So, the preaching of the disciples in all the cities would have been hindered by both Jews and Romans. Furthermore, there were hundreds of cities and villages in Israel at the time of Christ located over thousands of square miles. Jesus said they would not finish going through Israel until He returned. So, it makes sense to say they did not finish preaching to all the cities.
Matthew 10:23, “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.”
The word “cities” in Greek is πόλις pólis. It occurs 163 times in the New Testament. The word for village is κώμη kṓmē it occurs 27 times. Jesus went to both villages and cities (Matt. 9:35; Mark 6:56). Pharisees and teachers of the law had come from every village of Galilee (Luke 5:17). So, villages were populated enough to have Pharisees living in them. Jesus’ instructions were to go to all the populated regions, which included villages and cities. We know this is true because Jesus told the disciples to preach in the cities (Luke 9:5), and it then says they went to the villages (Luke 9:6). So, villages were included in cities.
The population of Israel at the time of Christ
2 Samuel 24:9 says that there were 800,000 valiant men in Israel with 500,000 men in Judah. 1 Chronicles 21:5 said the census of Israel was 1,100,000 men in Israel, with 470,000 men in Judah. These censuses were taken at different times before the arrival of Jesus, but we can safely say that the population of Israel was over 1 million men. If we double that by accounting for women, then we could easily arrive at 2,000,000 people. One estimate is 3,000,000 (https://bible-history.com/new-testament/sea-of-galilee-time-of-christ)
So, there were probably hundreds of villages and towns, maybe thousands. If we use the figure of 2,000,000 people in Israel and 500 cities and villages, then that would be an average of 4,000 people per city. But, many villages were far less in population. This means that there had to be a lot of villages and cities spread out over Israel. Nazareth was around 400 people.
The population of Israel at the time of Jesus was at least 2,000,000. That is a lot of people to preach to.
There were probably more than a thousand cities and villages in Israel at the time of Christ.
Israel covered thousands of square miles.
Both the Jewish leaders and the Romans would have hindered the disciples teaching, which is why Jesus spoke of fleeing from persecution.
Nothing in the New Testament says the disciples finished going to all the cities of Israel.
Jesus said they would NOT finish going through the cities until He returned. He hadn’t returned. So, they had not finished going through all the cities.
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