Tag Archives: Bethshan

Flying over Beit She’an, Bethshan, Beth-shan

The Israelis call it Beit She’an, but English Bible readers will know it as Bethshan. The town is mentioned only a few times in the Old Testament. The English Standard Version uses both Beth-shan and Beth-shean to identify this town. Other English versions use a variety of spellings including Bethshan.

From atop the ancient tell, called Tell el-Husn or Tel Beth She’an, one has an impressive view of the area. Occupational levels date back at least to 3000 B.C. Artifacts from Canaan, Egypt, Anatolia, north Syria, and Mesopotamia have been uncovered from the mound.

The photo below was made from the air with a view northeast. A small portion of the Harrod Valley, with some fish ponds, is visible in the top of the photo. The River Harod flows to the east of the tel hidden by the line of trees.

Tel Husn (Bethshan) is visible in the bottom of the image. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Husn (Bethshan) is visible in the bottom of the image. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For many Bible students the first event that comes to mind is the defeat of King Saul at the hands of the Philistines. After his death on nearby Mount Gilboa, Saul’s body was taken to Beth-shean and fastened to the wall of the city (1 Samuel 31).

During the Greek period the city was named Scythopolis (city of the Scythians) and expanded to the foot of the tell.

In 63 B.C. the Romans, under the general Pompey, made the city part of the Decapolis (a league of ten cities; Matthew 4:25; Mark 5:20; 7:21). This was the only city of the Decapolis west of the Jordan River. The city was populated by gentiles, Jews and Samaritans.

The main street of the Byzantine city. The tel of ancient Bethshan is visible at the end of the street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The main street of the Byzantine city. The tel of ancient Bethshan is visible at the end of the columned street. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The city grew to its largest size during the Byzantine period as a “Christian” city. It came under Muslim control in A.D. 636, and was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 749.

Some of the earthquake damage at Bethshan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some of the earthquake damage at Bethshan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The destroyed Byzantine city lies between the theater and the mound. That’s a lot of history in one small place.

Earthquake Felt in Israel, Syria and Lebanon

The Jerusalem Post reports that an earthquake was felt in Israel last Friday, Feb. 15. Read the full story here.

The earth shook in many parts of Israel at 12:37 p.m. Friday. The quake was felt mainly in coastline cities, including Haifa, Tel Aviv and Nahariya.
The quake, Israel Radio reported, was also felt in Syria and Lebanon. A faded echo of the quake that hit the coast was also felt at the editorial offices of The Jerusalem Post in Jerusalem.
….

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center said on its Web site that the quake Friday was 5.3 on the Richter scale and that its epicenter was in Lebanon.

The region is long overdue for an earthquake of epic and potentially catastrophic proportions, scientists say.

The Great Rift runs all the way from northern Syria through Lebanon, Israel, the Arabah, and into eastern Africa. In Israel the area is called the Jordan Valley or the Dead Sea Rift, It is not surprising that earthquakes are mentioned frequently in the Bible. The prophet Amos dates his visions to “two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1). The earthquake he makes reference to must have been so memorable that everyone would know what he was talking about. Zechariah (14:5) also calls attention to this earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.

Jesus, in predicting the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans, said, “and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes” (Matthew 24:7; see Luke 21:11).

We have a wonderful example of the power of an earthquake in the Jordan Valley at the site of Bethshan [Bet-she’an, Beth-shean], about 25 miles south of the Sea of Galilee. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 749. This photo shows the evidence brought to light during recently archaeological excavations in the city.

Earthquake Damage at Bethshan in A.D. 749. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.