Monday, May 30, 2011

On the Way to Jerusalem: Beth-Shean and the Truck Stop

In route to Jerusalem we made several stops. The first was at Beth-Shean, a huge archaeological site that lies where the Valley of Jezreel meats the Jordan River Valley, making it an important crossroad of commerce and military control. It is located close to Mt. Gilboa. I Samuel 31tells us of its Biblical significance.

Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchi-shua the sons of Saul. The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and pierce me through with it, otherwise these uncircumcised will come and pierce me through and make sport of me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it. When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him. Thus Saul died with his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men on that day together. When the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley, with those who were beyond the Jordan, saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned the cities and fled; then the Philistines came and lived in them. It came about on the next day when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. They cut off his head and stripped off his weapons, and sent them throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. They put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men rose and walked 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. They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.


To get to the site, we had to ride a tram. We were very thankful for that because the path was very steep to the top of the tell, which was 300 ft. above the rest of the site.


And it was hot.




Excavations show 18 levels of occupation, fr0m the Chalcolithic era (the fourth millennium B.C.) onward. Finds included Egyptian temples and several columns inscribed with hieroglyphic writing. These finds  and others prove that for at least three hundred years, from about the fifteenth to the twelfth centuries B.C., Beth Shean was the administrative headquarters of Egyptian rule.




Here we are walking up to the top of the tell.  We were told from the very first day not to take pictures and walk at the same time, so I stopped to take the picture. Ha!The ground was always uneven and many times rocky like this.


Beth-Shean was originally part of the territory given to the tribe of Manasseh when the Israelites returned to the promised land at the time of Joshua. In Issachar and in Asher, Manasseh had Beth-shean and its towns…Joshua 17:11 That it was specifically mentioned means that it must have been significant, even at this early date. However, archaeology and scripture show that the Israelites did little to take over the city

But Manasseh did not take possession of Beth-shean and its villages…; so the Canaanites persisted in living in that land. It came about when Israel became strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely. Judges 1:27-28.

It was not until the time of King Solomon that Beth-Shean was actually ruled by Israel, at least for a while.



This picture was of the excavation at the top of the tell.


We’re now looking down at the Greco-Roman city of Scythopolis which was founded in 250 B.C. and was the capital of the Decapolis, the only one of the cities on the west bank of the Jordan River.

The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4:24-25





The amphitheater…


And, just in case you are getting tired of looking at ancient ruins, here is a more modern shot – the golden arches. By the way, they were everywhere. For all my social studies teachers – here it is: an example of globalization.IMG_0486

We are now walking down the stairs from the top of the tell. Judy is in the pink, followed by Larry and me.


Just in case you haven’t seen a pomegranate tree before, here is one in bloom. Pomegranates are another of the first fruits, along with olives, wheat, barley, dates, and figs.

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. Deuteronomy 8:7-9


Looking back up to the tell…



Archaeologists working onsite…




Mosaics along the “mall.” The little squares to the left of the walkway are shops where merchants sold their wares. 



Inside the amphitheater…We spent some time here so that we could go to the “peepeetorium” – the restroom.


Our “yellow bus” mates… The lady in the green is a professor. The lady in the center of the picture in the white shirt is Pattie. She and several other friends came with her Precept leader.



The top of the amphiteater…


At the time of the Great Revolt against Rome (66-73 A.D.), many Jewish cities rebelled against their Roman rulers, but the Jewish residents of Scythopolis decided they could trust their non-Jewish neighbors. They remained unarmed and were brutally massacred at the hands of their neighbors. The entire city was destroyed in October of 749 A.D. by a massive earthquake.

After a stop in the gift shop and café for iced coffee and snacks, we were on the road again following alongside the Jordan River through the valley.


As you can see over Vickie’s head (Ha!), the valley is fertile. One of the many things that the Arabs don’t like about Israel is that Israel has recovered the land and it truly has become a land of “milk and honey,” which has encouraged growth in the population.



Date palms… Fresh dates are luscious.


The Buckees of Israel…We needed another restroom break.


There just happened to be a camel right there on the premises. I wanted my picture made on it, but didn’t want it to stand up and I didn’t want to ride it. Leah, the girl in the yellow shirt by the camel in the rear, wanted a picture of herself on the camel because she has a picture of her grandmother on a camel in Israel. Here you go…Katie and Hannah, grammy on a camel. I hope that you get to make this trip when you are old enough to appreciate it!


This was it for me.


You could also shop, if you liked.


You could also, of course, buy gas.


You needn’t worry about your safety.


I don’t believe there are rubber bullets in that gun. You also notice where his hand is. We are currently in the area of the West Bank. Jordan is right across the river, but Israel and Jordan are currently at peace.


Look at their gas prices. The exchange rate was about 3.5 shekels to one US dollar.


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