[Roman hippodrome, Bethshean]
Bethshean is a special place for me. For it was here after crossing from Jordan that I found my feet in the land of promise for the first time, and on the tel here saw the ruins of something that was positively identified with the reign of Solomon.
Bethshean [heb: the house of ease, security or rest] sits at the foot of the valley of Bethshean, which in fact is the eastern extension of the valley of Jezreel after it passes its watershed at Jezreel. The town is also known as Scythopolis, named after the conquest of the town by the Scythians, a term uniquely used within the NT [The LXX inserts Skuthon-polis in Judges 1:27, partly as a retrospective association from what was for the Alexandrian Greeks a more modern name] The word Scythian is used only a handful of times within the NT and appears to be a rude description of coarse barbarity; see Col 3:11 The Scythians based on the coasts of the Black and Caspian seas, within the Caucasus mountains and possibly even the steppes of Russia appear to have invaded the city ca640BC. In a small way a prelude to a greater invasion of Israel by a northern confederacy. The place of the death of Oreb is considered to be at Orbo, close to Bethshean [Smiths bible dictionary 2:644] if this is the case then the language of Isa 10:26 connects this location as a parable of the latter day invasion.
[model of ancient Bethshean]
Bethshean is mentioned in the El Amarna letters and topographical lists of Rameses II and Seti I as an early Egyptian stronghold [called Bitsdni], second in importance only to Gaza. It appears that the Egyptian influence may have backed the Philistine states in the time of Saul and even later Seshaq, (Sheshonq I) later would list this city as one of his conquests. The importance appears to be as the city sat on the south north Jordan road, and the west-east road across through the Yarmuk to Damascus. A garrison of Egyptians was stationed here, and an early bronze age silo suggested to have fed them.
[Citadel to the north of the ancient ruins, Bethshean]
The city was the border of the children of Manasseh in their western division. 1Chron 7:29 But the Canaanites were not driven out of Bethshean Judges 1:27; Josh 17:11 and later the city is found with the temples of Dagon and Ashtaroth on opposite sides of the street, demonstrating the collusion between the Canaanite and the Philistine. It was here that the bodies of Saul, Jonathon and his brothers were hung to celebrate the victory on the heights of Gilboa overshadowing the city. But it was also here that the rigid loyalty of the men of Jabesh Gilead was demonstrated in retrieving the carcases and bringing them over the Jordan for burial. The more remarkable loyalty was seen in Rizpah and David in standing for covenant principle and the return of the bones to the sepulchre of Kish, a demonstration in type of the restoration of Israel from the valley of dry bones (Jabesh Gilead heb dry witness) 2Sam 21.
It became an administrative city in the time of Solomon. 1Kings 4:12.
The city is the only city of the Decapolis located within the land of modern Israel.