Beit Shean (Bisan), a city south of the Sea of Galilee, must have been familiar to the first believers in Jesus, as it was the capital of the Decapolis cities, through which word of Jesus’ miracles and teachings spread (Matt. 4:25, Mark 5: 20).
It has also been a scene of tragedy: more than a millennium earlier, the Philistines hung the body of Saul from its ramparts (I Sam. 31:10). Tel Beit Shean, with its 5,000 years of history, towers grandly over the ruins of the Roman and later the Christian city that took shape below.
Visitors wander the ancient streets, amazed by columns toppled in the earthquake of 749 AD; an remarkable theatre that has returned to use; a bathhouse, which has been reconstructed to show visitors the pastimes of bygone days, and later contained a baptistery; and the churches that graced its suburbs. The fertile surrounding landscape, from Gilead to Jezreel and Gilboa, is still worthy of the ancient appellation “gateway to the Garden of Eden.”