Beit She'an is an ancient large city in the Valley of Fountains between the Valley of Jezreel and the Jordan Valley. Beit She'an was an important city for Canaanites and Philistines during the Israel United Kingdom and also in Israel Kingdom Period.
The most dramatic scene describe in the Bible was when Philistines hold the skulls of Saul and Jonathan on Beit She'an walls to to humiliate the Israelites.
“nd it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa. And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people. And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan. And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which 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 Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.”
1 Samuel 31:8–13 KJV
A site at the junction of the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys (1977.2124) which stands sentinel over the east-west and north-south trade routes that pass through the valleys. The region is fertile with water available from the Ḥarod River which flows north of the site. The summit of Tel Beth-shean/Tell el-Ḥuṣn covers ca. 4 ha. (10 a.) and stands imposingly 80 m. (260 ft.) above the river. Access to the summit is via a saddle of land on the northwest corner where an ancient gate has been located. Otherwise, the slopes of the tell are a daunting 30° incline. The physical characteristics of the site may have contributed to its name, “house of quiet/rest.”
The first biblical references to the site narrate Israel’s inability to conquer it (Josh. 17:11; Judg. 1:27). Apparently the Philistines controlled Beth-shean for some time because they impaled the bodies of Saul and his sons on the city’s temple wall (1 Sam. 31:12). Eventually the city came under Israelite control and appears as part of the Solomonic administrative districts (1 Kgs. 4:12).
Extrabiblical references to the site include Thutmose III’s annals and the Amarna tablets. Stelae at Beth-shean indicate Egyptian presence during the reigns of Seti I, Ramses II, and Ramses III.
During Hellenistic and Roman times, the site was known as Scythopolis (or Nysa Scythopolis; cf. 2 Macc. 12:29) and was part of the Decapolis (cf. Matt. 4:25; Mark 5:20; 7:31).
Excavations at Beth-shean began under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania (1921–33) under the directorships of C. S. Fisher, Alan Rowe, and Gerald FitzGerald. The Israelis have excavated the tell and surrounding areas since 1961, directed by Gideon Foerster, Yoram Tsafrir, Yigael Yadin, Shulamit Geva, Amihai Mazar, and Gaby Mazor.
Until Roman times, most settlements were on the mound. Remains from the Pottery Neolithic B period along with some from the Chalcolithic have come to light (strata XVIII-XVII; the Chalcolithic has been fairly well represented in remains at the foot of the tell). Oval buildings, multi-room structures, and intersecting streets represent the Early Bronze Age (XVI-XI). The distinctive EB III Khirbet Kerak ware appears in abundance.
With only some evidence of tombs from MB IIA, the site appears to have been unoccupied until MB IIB. But even with its resettlement, the unusual feature of the MB IIB period is the lack of fortifications, which were so prevalent at other MB sites.
During the Late Bronze Age, Beth-shean grew, and excavations have uncovered a sequence of temples each built over the remains of the former. Stratum IX preserves the remains of a complex temple enclosure built over the remains of an earlier one and oriented on an east-west axis. Various altars and cult rooms were found and Egyptian remains have connected the stratum with Thutmose III (ca. 1450 B.C.). Few remains of stratum VIII have been found, but the next stratum (VII) had another temple oriented north-south which likely was built during the hegemony of Ramses II (ca. 1270). This temple preserved characteristic Egyptian motifs, and the residents recovered from an earlier period a stela of Seti I and placed it in the temple.
The temple continues in stratum VI, but with some modification. Egyptian presence is further indicated by the numerous Egyptian-style paraphernalia including several cartouches and a basalt statue of Ramses III. The stratum ended with extensive conflagration, which was likely caused by an invasion of the Sea Peoples.
Tell of Beth-shean, with Roman Scythopolis below (Phoenix Data Systems, Neal and Joel Bierling)
The stratigraphy of stratum V is confused, but to this period probably belonged a pair of temples which were oriented to the east. These likely were the temples where the bodies of Saul and his sons were impaled as trophies of war (1 Sam. 31:10; 1 Chr. 10:10). Numerous ceramic cultic vessels with molded serpents, animals, and human figures came from these temples as well as stelae of Seti I, Ramses II, and a statue of Ramses III. The stratum ended by fire, perhaps as a result of David’s capture of the site. Afterward the city became part of Solomon’s administrative districts (1 Kgs. 4:12), and the temple areas seem to have been converted to administrative quarters.
The next stratum had remains of buildings similar to the stables/storehouses of other Israelite towns (e.g., Megiddo, Beer-sheba). The stratum was destroyed by fire, likely by the Assyrian invasion under Tiglath-pileser III (ca. 732). The site was re-occupied with the construction of poorly built buildings, but this settlement apparently ended during the first half of the 7th century.
Bibliography. G. Foerster, “Beth-shean at the Foot of the Mound,” NEAEHL 1:223–35; Foerster, et al., “The Bet Sheʾan Excavation Project (1989–1991),” Excavations and Surveys in Israel 11 (1993): 1–60; F. W. James, The Iron Age at Beth Shan (Philadelphia, 1966); A. Mazar, “Beth-shean,” NEAEHL 1:214–23; A. Rowe, The Four Canaanite Temples of Beth Shan 1 (Philadelphia, 1940); Y. Yadin and S. Geva, Investigations at Beth Shean: The Early Iron Age Strata. Qedem 3 (Jerusalem, 1986).
“BETH-SHAN BETH-SHEAN,” Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, 174-175.
“And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his sons fallen in mount Gilboa. And when they had stripped him, they took his head, and his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to carry tidings unto their idols, and to the people. And they put his armour in the house of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon. And when all Jabeshgilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul, They arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.”
1 Chronicles 10:8–12 KJV
Beit She'an National Park
The Beit She'an National Park is the Largest Archeological Park in the Holy Land, the site includes thousand of ancient houses, administration buildings, public baths, churches, largest columns of marble, granite, basalt and incredible ancient architectonical pieces.
Beit Shean was one of most prosperous city from the ancient near eastern and during the byzantine era it population and development grown severals but a natural phenom was the responsible for Beit She'an been in complete abandon, the area is constantly shake by earthquake and the citizens leave the city.