Beth She’an


Beth She’an * 


Located 17 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, Beth She’an is situated at the strategic junction of the Harod and Jordan Valleys. The fertility of the land and the abundance of water led the Jewish sages to say, "If the Garden of Eden is in the land of Israel, then its gate is Beth Shean." It is no surprise the site has been almost continuously settled from the Chalcolithic period to the present.

Beth She’an Excavations

Excavations were conducted from 1921-33 by the University of Pennsylvania under C. S. Fisher, A. Rowe, and G. M. Fitzgerald. At the time, almost the entire top five levels on the summit of the tell were cleared. Yadin and Geva conducted a short season in the 1980s, and Amihai Mazar led a Hebrew University excavation in 1989-96. The main finds on the tell include a series of temples from the Middle and Late Bronze Ages.


Pompey and the Romans rebuilt Beth She’an in 63 BC and it was renamed Scythopolis ("city of the Scythians;" cf. Col 3:11). It became the capital city of the Decapolis and was the only one on the west side of the Jordan. The city continued to grow and prosper in the Roman and Byzantine periods until it was destroyed on January 18, 749 by an earthquake.  Evidence of this earthquake includes dozens of massive columns that toppled over in the same direction.

Egyptian Residence

Beth Shean was the center of Egyptian rule in the northern part of Canaan during the Late Bronze Period.  Monumental stelae with inscriptions from the reigns of Seti I and Ramses II were found and are now in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem; a life-size statue of Ramses III and as many other Egyptian inscriptions were found. Together these constitute the most significant assemblage of Egyptian objects in Canaan.  


Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land (Judges 1:27 ESV).


The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. So they cut off his head and stripped off his armor and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. They put his armor in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days (1 Samuel 31:8-13 ESV).


And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan (Matthew 4:25 ESV).