Beit Shan in Israel, where King Saul’s Body Was Fastened

March 25, 2018

A slight (and temporary) “wrong turn” today put us in position to get a different view of Beit Shan than what I’ve previously had. What is so significant about this site (among many other considerations) is that when King Saul and his sons died in battle (on nearby Mt. Gilboa) against the Philistines, they decapitated Saul and fastened his lifeless body and that of his sons for display on the city walls.

Tel Beit Shan, where the bodies of Saul & his sons were desecrated. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Your view to the left shows Trans-Jordan toward Jabesh-Gilead, from where brave Israelites came to take down the bodies. Read the text to see the story:

Now the Philistines were fighting against Israel, and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua the sons of Saul. 3 The battle went heavily against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was badly wounded by the archers. 4 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. 5 When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died with him. 6 Thus Saul died with his three sons, his armor bearer, and all his men on that day together. 7 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. 8 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. 9 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. 10 They put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. 11 Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 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. 13 They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days. (1 Sam. 31:1-13).

In Roman times Beth Shan became one of the cities of the Decapolis.

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Setting of King Saul’s Final Battle

June 25, 2015

1 Sam. 28:4: “So the Philistines gathered together and came and camped in Shunem; and Saul gathered all Israel together and they camped in Gilboa.”

The horizontal cluster of white buildings in the upper center of photo mark the spot of ancient Shunem, the site of the Philistine encampment referenced in our text.

Shunem, note white buildings upper center. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Shunem, note white buildings upper center. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Saul and the forces of Israel were encamped at Gilboa. This view of Gilboa is from Beth Shan.

Gilboa as seen from Beth Shan. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Gilboa as seen from Beth Shan. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

As the 1 Samuel narrative continues, the next chapter states, ” Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek, while the Israelites were camping by the spring which is in Jezreel” (29:1) We have previously posted photos/articles on Aphek here and here, where the Philistines at this time gathered all their armies. At Jezreel one can see the spring mentioned here in 1 Sam. 29:1.

Jezreel Spring. Note greenery at center.  Tel Jezreel is in foreground. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jezreel Spring. Note greenery at center. Tel Jezreel is in foreground. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Saul and his three sons (including David’s best friend Jonathan) died at Mt. Gilboa, a great victory for the Philistines. It was a sad day for Israel:

8 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. 9 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. 10 They put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. (1 Sam. 31:8-10).

We are told that also the bodies of Saul’s sons were nailed to the walls of Beth Shan (1 Sam. 31:12).

Beth Shan, where the Philistines nailed the bodies of Saul & sons. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Beth Shan, where the Philistines nailed the bodies of Saul & sons. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

These photos may be used along with maps to show where the events of 1 Sam. 28-31 transpired. Click on images for larger view.