Tel Beit Shean

History

Beit She’an’s location has often been strategically significant, as it sits at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley, essentially controlling access from the interior to the coast, as well as from Jerusalem to the Galilee.

Early Beit She’an

In 1933, archaeologist G.M. FitzGerald, under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, carried out a “deep cut” on Tell el-Hosn, the large mound of Beth She’an, in order to determine the earliest occupation of the site. His results suggest that settlement began in the Late Neolithic or Early Chalcolithic periods (sixth to fifth millennia BCE.[3] Occupation continued intermittently up to the late Early Bronze Age I (3200-3000), according to pottery finds, and then resumes in the Early Bronze Age III.[4] A large cemetery on the northern side of the mound was in use from the Bronze Age to Byzantine times.[5] Canaanite graves dating from 2000 to 1600 BCE were discovered in 1926.[6]

Egyptian period

BetShe’an – an ancient house of Egyptian governor
After the Egyptian conquest of Beit She’an by pharaoh Thutmose III in the 15th century BCE (recorded in an inscription at Karnak),[7] the small town on the summit of the Tell became the center of the Egyptian administration of the region.[8] The Egyptian newcomers changed the organization of the town and left a great deal of material culture behind. A large Canaanite temple (39 meters in length) excavated by the University of Pennsylvania Museum may date from about the same period as Thutmose III’s conquest, though the Hebrew University excavations suggest that it dates to a later period.[9] Artifacts of potential cultic significance were found in the temple. Based on a stele found in the temple and inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs, the temple was dedicated to the god Mekal.[10] One of the University Museum’s most important finds near the temple is the Lion and Dog stela (currently in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem), which depicts two combat scenes between these two creatures. The Hebrew University excavations determined that this temple was built on the site of an earlier one.[11]

During the three hundred years of Egyptian rule (18th Dynasty to the 20th Dynasty), the population of Beit She’an appears to have been primarily Egyptian administrative officials and military personnel. The town was completely rebuilt, following a new layout, during the 19th dynasty.[12] The University Museum excavations uncovered two important stelae from the period of Seti I and a monument of Rameses II.[13] Pottery was produced locally, but some was made to mimic Egyptian forms.[14] Other Canaanite goods existed alongside Egyptian imports or locally-made Egyptian style objects.[15] The 20th dynasty saw the construction of large administrative buildings in Beit She’an, including Building 1500, a small palace for the Egyptian governor.[16] During the 20th dynasty, invasions of the “Sea Peoples” upset Egypt’s control over the Eastern Mediterranean. Though the exact circumstances are unclear, the entire site of Beit She’an was destroyed by fire around 1150 BCE. The Egyptians did not attempt to rebuild their administrative center and lost control of the region.

Biblical period

Map of the Decapolis showing the location of Beit She’an, (here called by its Greek name, Scythopolis)
An Iron Age I Canaanite city was constructed on the site of the Egyptian center shortly after its destruction.[17] Around 1100 BC, Canaanite Beit She’an was conquered by the Philistines, who used it as a base of operations for further penetrations into Israel proper. During a subsequent battle against the Jewish King Saul at nearby Mount Gilboa in 1004 BC, the Philistines prevailed. 1 Samuel 31 states that the victorious Philistines hung the body of King Saul on the walls of Beit She’an. Portions of these walls were excavated on Tel Beit She’an recently.[18] King David was able to capture Beit Shea’an in a series of brilliant military campaigns that expelled the Philistines from the area, pushing them back to their coastal strongholds of Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, Gaza, and Ashdod.

During the Iron Age II period, the town became a part of the larger Israelite kingdom under the rule of the Biblical kings David and Solomon (1 Kings 4:12 refers to Beit She’an as a part of the district of Solomon, though the historical accuracy of this list is debated.[19] The Assyrian conquest of northern Israel under Tiglath-Pileser III (732 BCE) brought about the destruction of Beit She’an by fire. Minimal reoccupation occurred until the Hellenistic period.[14]

The Hellenistic and Roman Periods

Beit She’an theatre
The Hellenistic period saw the reoccupation of the site of Beit She’an under the new name Scythopolis, possibly named after the Scythian mercenaries who settled there as veterans. Little is known about the Hellenistic city, but during the 3rd century BCE a large temple was constructed on the Tell.[20] It is unknown which deity was worshipped there, but the temple continued to be used during Roman times. The local Greek mythology holds that the city was founded by Dionysus and that his nursemaid Nysa was buried there; thus it was sometimes known as Nysa-Scythopolis. Graves dating from the Hellenistic period are simple singular rock-cut tombs.[21] From 301 to 198 BCE the area was under the control of the Ptolemies, and Beit She’an is mentioned in 3rd–2nd-century BC written sources describing the Syrian Wars between the Ptolemid and Seleucid dynasties. In 198 BCE the Seleucids conquered the region. The town played a role after the Hasmonean Maccabee Revolt: Josephus records that the Jewish High Priest Jonathan was killed there by Demetrius II Nicator.[22] The city was destroyed by fire at the end of the 2nd century BCE.[23]

Roman baths
In 63 BC, Pompey made Judea a part of the Roman empire. Beit She’an was refounded and rebuilt by Gabinius.[24] The town center shifted from the summit of the Tel to its slopes. Scythopolis prospered and became the leading city of the Decapolis, a loose confederation of ten cities that were centers of Greco-Roman culture, an event so significant that the town based its calendar on that year. The city flourished under the Pax Romana, as evidenced by high-level urban planning and extensive construction, including the best preserved Roman theatre of ancient Samaria, as well as a hippodrome, cardo, and other trademarks of the Roman influence. Mount Gilboa, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) away, provided dark basalt blocks as well as water via an aqueduct. The town is said to have sided with the Romans during the Jewish uprising of 66 CE.[24] Excavations have focused less on the Roman period ruins, so less is known about this period. The University Museum excavation of the northern cemetery, however, did uncover significant finds. The Roman period tombs are of the loculus type: a rectangular rock-cut chamber with smaller chambers (loculi) cut into its side.[21] Bodies were placed in the loculi or inside sarcophagi which were the placed in the loculi. A sarcophagus with an inscription identifying its occupant in Greek as “Antiochus, the son of Phallion” may have held the cousin of Herod the Great.[21] One of the most interesting Roman grave finds was a bronze incense shovel with the handle in the form of an animal leg and hoof, now in the University of Pennsylvania Museum.[25]

Byzantine period

Copious archaeological remains were found dating to the Byzantine period (330 CE – 636 CE) and were excavated by the University of Pennsylvania Museum from 1921-23. A rotunda church was constructed on top of the Tell and the entire city was enclosed in a wall.[26] Textual sources mention several other churches in the town.[26] Beit She’an was primarily Christian, as attested to by the large number of churches, but evidence of Jewish habitation and a Samaritan synagogue indicate established communities of these minorities. The pagan temple in the city centre was destroyed, but the nymphaeum and Roman baths were restored. Many of the buildings of Scythopolis were damaged in the Galilee earthquake of 363, and in 409 it became the capital of the northern district, Palaestina Secunda.[23] Dedicatory inscriptions indicate a preference for donations to religious buildings, and many colourful mosaics, such as that featuring the zodiac in the Monastery of Lady Mary, or the one picturing a menorah and shalom in the House of Leontius’ Jewish synagogue, were preserved. A Samaritan synagogue’s mosaic was unique in abstaining from human or animal images, instead utilising floral and geometrical motifs. Elaborate decorations were also found in the settlement’s many luxurious villas, and in the 6th century especially, the city reached its maximum size of 40,000 and spread beyond its period city walls.[23]

The Byzantine period portion of the northern cemetery was excavated in 1926. The tombs from this period consisted of small rock-cut halls with vaulted graves on three sides.[27] A great variety of objects were found in the tombs, including terracotta figurines possibly depicting the Virgin and Child, many terracotta lamps, glass mirrors, bells, tools, knives, finger rings, iron keys, glass beads, bone hairpins, and many other items.[27]

Arab Caliphate period

In 634, Byzantine forces were defeated by the Muslim army of Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab and the city was renamed Baysan. The day of victory came to be known in Arabic as Yawm Baysan or “the day of Baysan.”[2] The city was not damaged and the newly arrived Muslims lived together with its Christian population until the 8th century, but the city declined during this period and its glorious Roman-Byzantine architecture was lost to neglect. Structures were built in the streets themselves, narrowing them to mere alleyways, and makeshift shops were opened among the colonnades. The city reached a low point by the 8th century, witnessed by the removal of marble for producing lime, the blocking off of the main street, and the conversion of a main plaza into a cemetery.[28] Abu Ubayd al-Andalusi noted that the wine produced there was delicious.[2]

On January 18, 749, Umayyad Baysan was completely devastated by the Golan earthquake of 749. A few residential neighborhoods grew up on the ruins, probably established by the survivors, but the city never recovered its magnificence. The city center moved to the southern hill where a Crusader fortress surrounded by a moat was constructed.[29]

Jerusalemite historian al-Muqaddasi visited Baysan in 985, during Abbasid rule and wrote that it was “on the river, with plentiful palm trees, and water, though somewhat heavy (brackish.)” He further noted that Baysan was notable for its indigo, rice, dates and grape syrup known as dibs.[30] The town formed one of the districts (kurah) of Jund al-Urdunn during this period.[31] Its principal mosque was situated in the center of its marketplace.[32]

Crusader period

Crusader remains
In the Crusader period, the settlement was part of the Belvoir fiefdom. A small fort was built east of the defunct amphitheater.[33]

During the 1260 Battle of Ain Jalut, retreating Mongol forces passed in the vicinity but did not enter the town itself.

Mamluk period

Under Mamluk rule, Beit She’an was the principal town in the district of Damascus and a relay station for the postal service between Damascus and Cairo. It was also the capital of sugar cane processing for the region. Jisr al-Maqtu’a, a bridge consisting of a single arch spanning 25 feet and hung 50 feet above a stream, was built during that period.[2]

Ottoman period

Beit She’an was long home to a Jewish community. The 14th century Jewish topographer Ishtori Haparchi settled there and completed his work Kaftor Vaferech in 1322, the first Hebrew book on the geography of Palestine.[34]

During the 400 years of Ottoman rule, Baysan lost its regional importance. During the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II when the Haifa-Damascus extension of the Hejaz railway was constructed, a limited revival took place. The local peasant population was largely impoverished by the Ottoman feudal land system which leased tracts of land to tenants and collected taxes from them for their use.[2]

The Swiss-German traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt described Beisan in 1812 as “a village with 70 to 80 houses, whose residents are in a miserable state.” In the early 1900s, though still a small and obscure village, Beisan was known for its plentiful water supply, fertile soil, and its production of olives, grapes, figs, almonds, apricots, and apples.[2]

British Mandate

In 1934, Lawrence of Arabia noted that “Bisan is now a purely Arab village,” where “very fine views of the river can be had from the housetops.” He further noted that “many nomad and Bedouin encampments, distinguished by their black tents, were scattered about the riverine plain, their flocks and herds grazing round them.”[2] Beisan was home to a mainly Mizrahi Jewish community of 95 until 1936, when the 1936–1939 Arab revolt saw Beisan serve as a center of Arab attacks on Jews in Palestine.[34][35][36] In 1938, after learning of the murder of his close friend and Jewish leader Haim Sturmann, Orde Wingate led his men on an offensive in the Arab section of Beit She’an, the rebels’ suspected base.[37]

Pioneers of Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv settle in Bet She’an, 1946
According to population surveys conducted in British Mandate Palestine, Beisan consisted of 5,080 Muslim Arabs out of a population of 5,540 (92% of the population), with the remainder being listed as Christians.[38] In 1945, the surrounding “Beisan district” consisted of 16,660 Muslims (67%), 7,590 Jews (30%), and 680 Christians (3%); and Arabs owned 44% of land, Jews owned 34%, and 22% constituted public lands. The 1947 UN Partition Plan allocated Beisan and most of its district to the proposed Jewish state.[2][39][40]

State of Israel

Jewish militias and local Bedouins first clashed during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War in February and March 1948, part of Operation Gideon,[2] which Walid Khalidi argues was part of a wider Plan Dalet.[41] Joseph Weitz, a leading Yishuv figure, wrote in his diary on May 4, 1948 that, “The Beit Shean Valley is the gate for our state in the Galilee…[I]ts clearing is the need of the hour.”[2]

Beisan fell to the Jewish militias three days before the end of British Mandate Palestine. After Israel’s Declaration of Independence in May 1948, during intense shelling by Syrian border units, the Arab inhabitants, followed by the recapture of the valley by the Haganah, fled across the Jordan River.[42] The property and buildings abandoned after the conflict were then held by the state of Israel.[2] Most Arab Christians relocated to Nazareth. A ma’abarah (refugee camp) inhabited mainly by North African Jewish immigrants was erected in Beit She’an, and it later became a development town.

From 1969, Beit She’an was a target for Katusha and mortar attacks from Jordan.[43] In the 1974 Beit She’an attack, militants of the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, took over an apartment building and murdered a family of four.[35]

In 1999, Beit She’an was incorporated as a city.[44] Geographically, it lies in the middle of the Beit She’an Valley Regional Council.[45]

Beit She’an was the hometown and political power base of David Levy, a prominent figure in Israeli politics.

During the Second Intifada, in the 2002 Beit She’an attack, six Israelis were killed and over 30 were injured by two Palestinian militants, who opened fire and threw grenades at a polling station in the center of Bet She’an where party members were voting in the Likud primary.

Fall prayer and fasting

ICCF,

Today begins our 21 day prayer and fasting until 6pm daily. Stay hydrated with water and fruit juices.

As you go through the day remember to pray for wisdom and guidance; for protection and provision. I’ll be praying for for you- please pray for me. I love you. PT

Day 40 – Living With Purpose

Living on purpose is the only way to really live!

 “For David … served the purpose of God in his own generation.” Acts 13:36 (NASB)

In the Upper Room, as Jesus was concluding his last day of ministry with his disciples, he washed their feet as an example and said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  John 13:17 (NIV)  Once you know what God wants you to do, the blessing comes in actually doing it.

You may wonder, “What about God’s will for my job or marriage or where I’m supposed to live or go to school?”   Honestly, these are secondary issues in your life, and there may be multiple possibilities that would all be in God’s will for you. What matters most is that you fulfill God’s eternal purposes regardless of where you live or work or whom you marry.  Those decisions should support your purposes.  Focus on God’s purposes for your life, not your plans, since that’s what will last forever.

It’s easy to drift away from what matters most and slowly get off course.  To prevent this, you should develop a purpose statement for your life and then review it regularly.

Imagine what it is going to be like one day, with all of us standing before the throne of God presenting our lives in deep gratitude and praise to Christ. Together we will say, “Worthy, Oh Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! the honor! the power! You created it all; It was created because you wanted it!”   Revelation 4:11 (Msg)

We will praise him for his plan and live for his purposes forever!

Pastor Tilton

Day 39 – Balancing Your life

Blessed are the balanced; they shall outlast everyone!

“Don’t let the errors of evil people lead you down the wrong path and make you lose your balance.” 2 Peter 3:17 (CEV)

One of the events in the summer Olympics is the pentathlon. It is composed of five events.  The pentathlete’s goal is to succeed in all five areas, not just one or two.  Your life is a pentathlon of five purposes, which you must keep in balance. These purposes were practiced by the first Christians in Acts 2, explained by Paul in Ephesians 4, and modeled by Jesus in John 17, but they are summarized in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission of Jesus.

These two statements sum up God’s five purposes for your life:

1.  “Love God with all your heart”: You were planned for God’s pleasure, so your purpose is to love God through worship.

2.  “Love your neighbor as yourself”: You were shaped for serving, so your purpose is to show love for others through ministry.

3.  “Go and make disciples”: You were made for a mission, so your purpose is to share God’s message through evangelism.

4.  “baptize them into …”: You were formed for God’s family, so your purpose is to identify with his church through fellowship.

5.  “teach them to do all things …”: You were created to become like Christ, so your purpose is to grow to maturity through discipleship.

A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will make you a great Christian.

Pastor Tilton

Day 38 – Becoming a World-Class Christian

The Great Commission is your commission!

“Jesus said to his followers, ‘Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone.’” Mark 16:15 (NCV)

You have a choice to make. You will be either a world-class Christian or a worldly Christian.

Worldly Christians look to God primarily for personal fulfillment.  They are saved, but self-centered. They love to attend concerts and enrichment seminars, but you would never find them at a missions conference because they aren’t interested.  Their prayers focus on their own needs, blessings, and happiness. They want to use God for their purposes instead of being used for his purposes.

In contrast, world-class Christians know they were saved to serve and made for a mission. They are eager to receive a personal assignment and excited about the privilege of being used by God.  World-class Christians are the only fully alive people on the planet. Their joy, confidence, and enthusiasm are contagious because they know they’re making a difference. They wake up each morning expecting God to work through them in fresh ways.

Which type of Christian do you want to be?  If you want to be like Jesus, you must have a heart for the whole world.  You can’t be satisfied with just your family and friends coming to Christ. There are over 6 billion people on earth, and Jesus wants all his lost children found.

The Great Commission is your commission, and doing your part is the secret to living a life of significance.

Pastor Tilton

Day 37 – Sharing Your Life Message

  God has given you a Life Message to share!

“Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word … The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore – you’re the message!” 1 Thessalonians 1:8 (Msg)

When you became a believer, you also became God’s messenger. God wants to speak to the world through you. Paul said, “We speak the truth before God, as messengers of God.” 2 Corinthians 2:17b(NCV)

You may feel you don’t have anything to share, but that’s the Devil trying to keep you silent. You have a storehouse of experiences that God wants to use to bring others into his family. The Bible says, “Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony of God in them.”  1 John 5:10a (GWT)

Your Life Message has four parts to it:

– Your testimony:  the story of how you began a relationship with Jesus

– Your life lessons:  the most important lessons God has taught you

– Your godly passions:  the issues God shaped that you care about most

– The Good News:  the message of salvation

Is anyone going to be in heaven because of you?  Will anyone in heaven be able to say to you, “I want to thank you. I’m here because you cared enough to share the Good News with me?”  Imagine the joy of greeting people in heaven whom you helped get there.  The eternal salvation of a single soul is more important than anything else you will ever achieve in life.

Pastor Tilton

Day 36 – Made for a Mission

  You were made for a mission!

“In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world.” John 17:18 (Msg)

God is at work in the world, and he wants you to join him. This assignment is called your mission. God wants you to have both a ministry in the Body of Christ and a mission in the world.  Your life mission is both shared and specific.

Jesus clearly understood his life mission on earth. At age twelve he said, “I must be about my Father’s business,” and twenty-one years later, dying on the cross, he said, “It is finished.”   Like bookends, these two statements frame a well-lived, purpose-driven life.

 

If you will commit to fulfilling your mission in life no matter what it costs, you will experience the blessing of God in ways that few people ever experience. There is almost nothing God won’t do for the man or woman who is committed to serving the kingdom of God.

If you want to be used by God, you must care about what God cares about; what he cares about most is the redemption of the people he made.  He wants his lost children found! Nothing matters more to God; the Cross proves that.

Always be on the lookout to reach “one more for Jesus” so that when you stand before God one day, you can say, “Mission accomplished!”

Pastor Tilton

Day 35 – God’s Power in Your Weakness

  God loves to use weak people!

“I am with you; that is all you need.  My power shows up best in weak people.”

2 Corinthians 12:9a (LB)

A weakness is any limitation that you inherited or have no power to change.  Everyone has weaknesses. In fact, you have a bundle of flaws and imperfections: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.  Usually we deny our weaknesses, defend them, excuse them, hide them, and resent them. This prevents God from using them the way he desires.

When you think of the limitation in your life, you may be tempted to conclude, “God could never use me.” But God is never limited by our limitations. Sometimes, however, God turns strength into a weakness in order to use us even more.

Jacob was a manipulator who spent his life scheming and then running from the consequences. One night he wrestled with God and said, “I’m not letting go until you bless me.” God said, “All right,” but then he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and dislocated his hip.

What is the significance of that?  God touched Jacob’s strength and turned it into a weakness. From that day forward, Jacob walked with a limp so he could never run away again. It forced him to lean on God whether he liked it or not.

If you want God to bless you and use you greatly, you must be willing to walk with a limp the rest of your life, because God uses weak people.

Pastor Tilton

Day 34 – Thinking Like a Servant

  Service starts in your mind!

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Philippians 2:5-7 (NIV)

Real servants serve God with a mindset of five attitudes:

– Servants think more about others than about themselves.

– Servants think like stewards, not owners.

– Servants think about their work, not what others are doing.

– Servants base their identity in Christ.

– And servants think of ministry as an opportunity, not an obligation.

Henri Nouwen said, “In order to be of service to others, we have to die to them; that is, we have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yardstick of others … thus we become free to be compassionate.”

When you base your worth and identity on your relationship to Christ, you are freed from the expectations of others, and that allows you to really serve them best.

Imagine what could happen if just 10 percent of all Christians in the world got serious about their role as real servants. Imagine all the good that could be done.  Are you willing to be one of those people?

Pastor Tilton

Day 33 – How Real Servants Act

  We serve God by serving others!

 “You can tell what they are by what they do.” Matthew 7:16 (CEV)

In our self-serving culture with its me-first mentality, acting like a servant is not a popular concept.  Jesus, however, measured greatness in terms of service, not status. God determines your greatness by how many people you serve, not how many people serve you. Yet, it is possible to serve in church for a lifetime without ever being a servant. You must have a servant’s heart.

 

Notoriety means nothing to real servants because they know the difference between prominence and significance.  In heaven God is going to openly reward some of his most obscure and unknown servants—people we never heard of on earth, who taught emotionally disturbed children, cleaned up after incontinent elderly, nursed AIDS patients, and served in thousands of other unnoticed ways.

Knowing this, don’t be discouraged when your service is unnoticed or taken for granted.  Keep on serving God! “Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.”  I Corinthians 15:58 (Msg)

Even the smallest service is noticed by God and will be rewarded. Remember the words of Jesus: “If, as my representatives, you give even a cup of cold water to a little child, you will surely be rewarded.” Matthew 10:42 (LB)

Pastor Tilton