Posts Tagged ‘Bethshan’

A Day in Bet She’an

August 4, 2013

The ancient city of Bet She’an (Beit Shean, Beth Shean, Beth Shan, Bethshean, etc.) first appears in the Biblical narrative during the period of conquest, when the city was given to Manasseh as part of her territory. The tell is beautifully strategic, located at the junction of the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys and commanding a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside. However, Manasseh allowed this fortress city to slip through her fingers due to the iron chariots of the Canaanite inhabitants.

Bet She'an at the Junction of the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys

Bet She’an at the Junction of the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys, Taken from Gilboa

What Manasseh gave up, the Philistines were happy to take. In I Samuel 29, the Philistines gear up at Aphek for another row with the Israelites. This is where they rather irritably sent David, their supposed ally, away. The battle against Israel was brutal, and, in I Samuel 31, the royal family falls at Mt. Gilboa. In triumph, the Philistines hang the headless bodies of Saul, Jonathan, and the rest on the fortress walls at Beth Shan. The men of Jabesh Gilead recalled Saul’s kindness and removed the bodies in the night—a valiant deed, as they covered miles of open territory and scaled the side of a fortified and guarded city. David would go on to take Beth Shean and Solomon would place the city under the administration of Baana.

Israelite Fortress

Israelite Fortress at the Summit of Bet She’an

Time passed, and Beth Shean eventually came under the control of Alexander the Great, who settled his garrison of Scythians here, thus changing its name to Scythopolis. The city would later be caught in the crossfire between the Ptolemies and Seleucids, and Josephus gives the account that High Priest Jonathan was kidnapped there and later murdered—one of the events leading to the Maccabean Revolt. In 63 BC, Pompey gathered Beth Shean under his wings as a city of the Decapolis. It was beautified, with theaters, amphitheaters, a cardo, bathhouses, and a rather nice public toilet.

Scythopolis

At Look at Scythopolis from the Tell

Beth Shean was never really abandoned over the millennia, though the site of many a bloody conflict, even through the 21st century. Today, the tell can still be seen for miles around, just south of the Spring of Harod.

Bet She'an over Ancient Scythopolis

Bet She’an over Ancient Scythopolis

Bethshan, Harod, and the West Bank Sites

September 9, 2012

Today saw lots of exciting sites from Bethshan down to Samaria.

This morning, we packed up and headed to Bethshan (called Bet-she’an). The most important area to the Bible scholar is probably the tell, where there was an ancient Israelite fortress. More notably, however, was that this was where the Philistines hung the bodies of Saul and his sons after their deaths on nearby Mt. Gilboa.

Bethshan Bet-she'an Tel Bet She'an Scythopolis Saul

Tel Bet Sh’an Rising over Scythopolis

We had a pleasant stop at the Spring of Harod. Gideon and his large army had encamped here while God sorted the army out. This was the spring in which God had Gideon administer the famous test to whittle the numbers down. The spring, however, is dry right now, so we will never know if I was cut out to be a warrior or not. I like to think I would, though.

Spring of Harod Gideon

Spring of Harod

All along, we had beautiful views, especially from Jezreel, where Ahab and Jezebel had their palace. Naboth’s vineyard would have been nearby, and you could easily see the path that Elijah would have run on his sprint from Carmel. Jezebel would have been especially familiar with the terrain, since she had a rather speedy and permanent encounter with it (II Kings 9:30-37).

Ahab Jezebel Jezreel Naboth Vineyard

View from Jezreel

We were fortunate to be able to cross over into the West Bank, as well. That was quite exciting. We stopped by the ancient site of Samaria first. When you stand on the hill and look around, Amos’ prophesy comes to mind–that Israel’s enemies would gather on the mountains to watch Samaria fall. It is actually nestled in the middle of an enormous natural theater, and on a terrible stage. Assyria destroyed Samaria and conquered the kingdom in 721 BC.

Samaria Destruction Amos Prophesy

Samaria Is the Stage of a Natural Theater

Jacob’s Well was our last stop today, housed inside an exuberantly flamboyant Greek Orthodox building. It was at a well like this that Jesus would have sat and conversed with the Samaritan woman about a water she could taste that would cause her to never thirst again.

Jacob Well Samaria

Jacob’s Well

Our evening ended in Jerusalem, and so we hope to have more experiences to share tomorrow.