The area east of Galilee was known as the Decapolis during Jesus? time. This region was once home to Israel?s half tribe of Manassah but eventually came under the influence of pagan groups.
In Jewish tradition, the Decapolis was known as ?the land of the seven,? representing the seven pagan nations driven from Israel in Joshua?s day. Jews believed the area was dominated by the devil. The pagans were known for worship of fertility gods, and many of their practices were detestable to God?s people.
But the Decapolis also boasted a sophisticated culture. Its cities had many attractions, including gymnasiums, baths, and theaters. Not wanting to be tempted by pagan culture, Jews rarely visited the area, despite its location within view of the Jewish communities near the Sea.
Click here to see the Decapolis region on a map
Jesus challenged these norms by taking his message to the dark corners of the Decapolis. He fed a group of 4,000 there. And he likely healed a demon-possessed man in the city of Kursi, one ten pagan cities in the Decapolis.