BETH-SHAN or BETH-SHEAN:
Fortified town of Canaan. The Baisân of to-day, in the lower part of the Jalûd chasm, 120 meters below the level of the sea. The Israelites did not succeed in conquering this city, which was strongly fortified by nature (Josh. xvii. 16; Judges i. 27). Whether it was conquered by the Philistines or whether the Canaanites opened their city to them is not clear from the stories of I Sam. xxxi. 10 and II Sam. xxi. 12. But like all the other cities that had not been vanquished, Beth-shean had fallen into the hands of the Israelites by the time of Solomon (I Kings iv. 12). In Greek times it was Hellenized and named Skypthopolis (Judges i. 27, LXX.; II.Macc. xii. 29; Judith iii. 10; Josephus, and elsewhere). But the Hebrew name is used not only in I Macc. v. 52, xii. 40 et seq., but also in the Talmud (see Neubauer, "G. T." pp. 174 et seq.), and has entirely supplanted the Greek name. At the time of Hyrcanus the city again fell into the hands of the Jews, but became free under Pompey and belonged to the league Decapolis. During the war for independence Bethshean was taken by the Jews, but it was soon recaptured by the pagans, who took bloody vengeance on the Jews. Interesting ruins of temples, bridges, a theater, etc., bear witness to the flourishing condition of the city in Græco-Roman times. The Talmud speaks of the fertile surroundings of this town, and of the strictness with which the Jews living there fulfilled the Law (Neubauer, "G. T." ib.). The forms Beth-shean and Beth-shan rest upon slightly variant spellings of the Hebrew form; "shan" representing a natural contraction of "shean."