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Scythopolis (See also wiki article Scythopolis.)

BETH-SHEAN, BETH-SHAN - The site of this ancient stronghold, allotted to Manasseh, although in the territory of Issachar (Jos.17.11ff, Jg.1.27), is marked by the great mound of Tell el-Husn ('Mound of the Fortress') by the former Arab village of Beisan (Israeli Bethshan) where the Valley of Jezreel narrows and dips to the Jordan Valley. Bethshan never seems to have been integrated into the life of Israel. Here the Philistines hung the bodies of Saul and his sons on the wall after the battle of Gilboa (1 S.31.7f). Excavations have shown that the site was occupied from long before 3000 BC to the Arab period. In the period of Egyptian domination from the 15th to the 13th cent there were several temples under Egyptian patronage to local deities, including Mekal ('Consumer'), or Reshef the god of pestilence, Anat, the sister of the fertility-god Baal, and doubtless Baal himself. There is evidence that the place was occupied by the 'Sea-peoples,' including the Philistines, probably as mercenaries of Egypt, though in the time of Saul they may have been occupying Bethshan on their own account. It was incorporated with other Canaanite towns into the realm of Solomon in the fiscal district of Baanah (1 K.4.12), but plays no part in the history of Israel. During the Greek period it was known as Scythopolis and also as Nyssa, but the ancient name reappeared in the Arab period as Beisan, the name of the adjacent Arab village. After changes of fortune in the struggles of the Hasmonaeans and in the succeeding period, it attained considerable prosperity as a member of the Decapolis (1 Mac.12.40, Jos. Ant. xiv. v. 3 [88], BJ III. ix. 7 [446], etc), a federation of free cities interested in trade, of which Bethshan was the only member W. of the Jordan. There must always have been a strong admixture of heathen inhabitants (Jos. Vita 6 [26]; Abodah Zarah i. 4). [Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963. - W.E. - J.Gr.]