Beth-Shean

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Beth-Shean
Location

 

1. Beth-Shean, also known as Beit Shean or Bet She’an, was a major biblical and secular city for thousands of years.

 

2. It’s located in the center of several main crossroads between the Jordan Valley and the Jezreel (Yizreel) Valley.

 

3. It’s about 15 miles (25 km.) south of the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee and about 35 miles (55 km.) east of the Mediterranean Sea.

4. It’s located on the Harod Stream which provides it with much water. This Harod Stream is the same stream that originates at Harod Spring, just west of here about 15 miles and is where Gideon chose 300 men under God’s command to defeat the Midianites and other armies.

5. The main entrance faced the east, as did most other major cities and structures in ancient times. In fact, the word orientation comes from the word “orient,” which means east. Because creation, the beginning civilizations, and the sun rose from the east, to be oriented was to position yourself focused on the east. Today, maps use the north for orientation, but in ancient days, maps used the east for orientation purposes.

 

Historical Background

 

1. Beth-Shean was a key city long before the arrival of the Israelites because of its location. In the late Canaanite period (1600–1400 BC) the Egyptians ruled the area and the entire land of Israel.

 

2. Later, around 1000 BC, the Philistines also ruled the city for a time because they hung the body of King Saul on its walls after defeating the armies of Israel in the Battle of Gilboa.

 

3. When King David reigned (1008–970 BC), he conquered Beth-Shean, and it became part of Israel’s territories.

 

4. Later, in 732 BC, the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser III, destroyed Beth-Shean after defeating the northern Kingdom of Israel.

 

5. In the 4th century BC, Hellenistic (Greek) new settlers established a city-state (polis) in Beth-Shean. During the Hellenistic period, the city was named Nisa Scythopolis.

 

6. In 63 BC, the city was conquered by the Romans and became one of the cities of the Decapolis – a group of cities with a Hellenistic-Roman cultural character, most of them in Transjordan. Beth-Shean was one of the key cities of the Roman Empire in this area south of Galilee.

 

7. Beth-Shean was not far from Nazareth, and it’s very likely Jesus worked here with His father as a builder.

 

8. Undoubtedly Christ ministered here and walked by it on a regular basis.

 

9. Beth-Shean was destroyed in 749 AD due to an enormous earthquake.

 

10. The biblical tel of Beth-Shean has around 20 layers of civilizations that have been discovered.

 

Places of Interest (Please See Maps Above)

 

1. Entrance

2. Old Testament Beth-Shean

3. Egyptian Governor’s House

4. Tree marking the place where Saul’s body was hanged.

5. Bathhouse – Often a place of prostitution. Therefore, Christians avoided places like these.

6. Theater – Often immoral and indecent acts took place there. Therefore, early Christians avoided them and were persecuted as a result.

7. Cardo (Palladius Street) – Comes from the word, “Cardiac” which means the center street of the city.

8. Sigma - A mosaic depicting Tyche, Goddess of the city.

9. Pillars 

10. Shopping stores

11. Nymphaeum – Public Fountain

12. Marketplace (Agora) – Paul would be dragged into places like this (Acts 16:19).

13. Temple – Paul faced the gods of these temples in each Gentile city he ministered in (Acts 14:13).

14. Northern Street

15. Valley Street

16. Silvanus Street

17. Eastern Bathhouse

18. Public Bathrooms

19. Sacred Area

20. City Gate during Greek and Roman times.

 
Beth-Shean in the Bible

 

1. Beth-Shean is mentioned in the division and conquering of the Promised Land.

Joshua 17:11: Also in Issachar and in Asher, Manasseh had Beth-shean and its villages.

 

2. The Canaanites were a strong and fortified people.

Joshua 17:16: The people of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us. Yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in the Valley of Jezreel.

 

3. The tribe of Manasseh was not able to conquer the city of Beth-Shean and its villages.

Judges 1:27: Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-Shean and its villages.

 

4. The major biblical event about Beth-Shean has to do with the life of King Saul.

As a result of Saul’s persistent disobedience and presuming upon God’s grace, his life was taken by the Lord and his body, along with his sons, were hanged here on the walls of the biblical Beth-Shean, which is the hill above the lower Beth-Shean.

 
Saul’s Disobedient Life

 

1. Saul had incredible jealousy and tried to kill David for many years. Scripture records many times where Saul tried to kill David: 1 Samuel 18:11, 1 Samuel 18:25, 1 Samuel 19:9–15, 1 Samuel 20:31–33, 1 Samuel 23:9, and 1 Samuel 23:25–26. Saul even gave his daughter, Michal, in marriage to David as a means to ensnare and kill him.

2. When Saul felt pressured during a battle, he offered sacrifices that only a priest was allowed to do.

1 Samuel 13:5-7: And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude. They came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. 6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, 7 and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.  

 

3. Saul's Unlawful Sacrifice.

1 Samuel 13:8–14: He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. 9 So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. 11 Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, 12 I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” 13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

 

4. Saul failed to obey God by not destroying God’s enemies.

1 Sam. 15: 1–3: And Samuel said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the LORD. 2 Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."

 

5. Samuel confronts Saul’s disobedience.

1 Samuel 15:22–23: And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king."
Interestingly, it would be an Amalekite, whom Saul did not destroy, that would later kill him.

 

6. In a heated battle with the Philistines, Saul disobeyed God and visited a witch of Endor.

1 Samuel 28:15–19: Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore, I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” 16 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”

 

7. As a result of Saul’s repeated disobedience, God took his life.

1 Samuel 31:1-13: Now the Philistines fought against Israel, and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua, the sons of Saul. 3 The battle pressed hard against Saul, and the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by the archers. 4 Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, "Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me." But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore, Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. 5 And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. 6 Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together. 7 And when the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled. And the Philistines came and lived in them. 8 The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. 9 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. 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 burned them there. 13 And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days.

 

Faith Lesson from Beth-Shean

 

1. Saul cared more about what people thought of him than what God thought of him.

 

2. He made big decisions without consulting the Lord.

3. Saul always had an excuse for his sin and disobedience.

4. We need to realize that obedience delights God more than asking forgiveness.

5. Rebellion & arrogance are the same as witchcraft because both attitudes fail to obey God and instead, seeks their own will and pleasure.

6. Saul presumed upon God’s grace. In other words, he believed he could disobey God, that God would just forgive him, and there would be no consequences. This attitude proved to be dangerous, sinful, and cost him his life and ministry.

 

7. Are we committed to submitting to God or do we set ourselves up as our own authority like Saul?

 

 

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