Beth Shean Known Also as Scythopolis
Beth Shean is located 17 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, at the strategic junction of the Jordan and Harod Valleys. Jewish sages used to say, “If the Garden of Eden is in the land of Israel, then its gate is Beth Shean,” because of its abundant water source and fertile land. Therefore, it doesn’t surprise visitors that Beth Shean has been practically continuously settled from the Charlcolithic period.
From 1921 to 1933, excavations were done at Beth Shean. These excavations were led by C.S. Fisher, A. Rowe, and G. M. Fitzgerald, who led a crew from the University of Pennsylvania. They cleared the top five levels of the summit. The main finds during these days include a series of temples from the Middle Age and Late Bronze Age.
These excavations also uncovered a three-tiered theatre that sat 7,000 people, an amphitheatre that held 6,000 people, and a bath and gym complex with swimming pools and halls.
Beath Shean acted as the center of Egyptian rule in the northern section of Canaan during the Late Bronze Age. Monumental stelae, marked with inscriptions from the times of Seti I and Ramses II’s reigns were found and now can be seen in the Rockefeller Museum, which is located in Jerusalem. Visitors can also find a life sized statue of Ramses II and many other Egyptian inscriptions.
Beth Shean is a site of many tragedies.
For example, it was ehre that the Phillistines hung the body of Saul.
When Pompey and the Romans rebuilt Beth Shean in the year 63 BC, they renamed it Scythopolis, or City of the Scythians. They declared it the capital city of Decapolis, and it was the only one on the west side of Jordan. The city grew through the Roman and Byzantine periods but was destroyed in 749 by an earthquake.
Some of the features the earthquake destroyed include columns, a theater and a bathhouse. The theater and bathhouse have since been reconstructed for visitors. Some old buildings also include a baptistery and churches.
Beth Shean offers some of the best-preserved ruins in the Middle East, a gold mine for archaeologists.
The Scriptures also referenced Beth Shean –
1 Samuel 31:
8 On the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 And 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 their idols and to the people. 10 They put his armor in the temple of Ashtaroth; and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. 11 But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 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 burnt them there. 13 And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
See Beth Shean as you should The Holy Land Tour