Beth Shean—When God’s Blessings Seem Too Hard to Hold

What to do when they seem to slip from your grip.

Sometimes the blessings God gives you seem hard to hold. In some cases, the difficulty urges us to abandon the blessings. Beth Shean gives us a great example.

Beth Shean excavations

(Photo: Beth Shean excavations. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Lord provided Beth Shean for the Tribe of Manasseh. But the excellent location proved to be a double-edged sword. Because the spot was so good, every nation wanted control of Beth Shean. And whoever held it always seemed to contend with those who would wrench it from their grasp.

Perhaps its strategic location gave Beth Shean its name, “House of Security.”

But security only works when you trust in God.

Beth Shean’s Prime Spot

As with most ancient sites in the Holy Land, geography explains the reasons for Beth Shean’s significance.

  • For thousands of years, Beth Shean stood as Canaan’s front door to all westbound traffic from the Jordan Valley to the strategic Jezreel Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Its surroundings are fertile with abundant water.
  • Egypt dominated the land of Canaan just prior to the Exodus (1446 BC), and Beth Shean served as the primary city of the region.
Beth Shean aerial

(Photo: Beth Shean aerial. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

What God’s People Abandoned, Others Controlled

In ancient Israel, Joshua allotted the city to the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11). But Manasseh failed to drive out the Canaanites who lived there, and half of Manasseh settled across the Jordan Valley in what is modern Jordan (Judges 1:27).

  • During the reign of King Saul, the Philistines controlled Beth Shean. In fact, after Saul’s tragic death on nearby Mount Gilboa, the Philistines fastened the decapitated bodies of Saul and his sons to the wall of Beth Shean in the open square (1 Samuel 31:10-12; 2 Samuel 21:12).
  • The city remained a thorn in the side of Israel until the time of David and Solomon (Judges 2:3; 1 Kings 4:12).
  • After Alexander the Great swept across the Middle East, Beth Shean was renamed Scythopolis (“City of the Scythians”) and became a prosperous Greek city.
  • Once Rome gained control of Israel in the first century BC, Scythopolis became one of the cities of the Decapolis, the only one of the “ten cities” west side of the Jordan River.
  • During the Byzantine era, Scythopolis served as a major center for Christianity.

An earthquake in AD 749 toppled many of the city’s great structures and put the death blow to its prosperity. At the base of the tell today, columns still lay on their sides where they fell.

In other words, what God’s people abandon, the world clambers to control.

A Place for Happy Explorers

With pen in hand in 1896, George Adam Smith wrote of Tel Beth Shean:

There are few sites which promise richer spoil beneath their rubbish to the first happy explorer with permission to excavate. (The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, p. 362)

A century later, the happy explorers proved Smith correct. From 1989 to 1996, archaeologists partially excavated the ruins below Tel Beth Shean. As a result, walking among the ruins feels like stepping back in time. Beth Shean offers the largest, and some of the best-preserved ruins in all of Israel.

Walking among the ruins of Beth Shean is simply stunning. It allows any visitor to be, in George Adam Smith’s words, a “happy explorer.” As many times as I’ve been there, I always look forward to returning.

The most impressive ruins discovered in Beth Shean come from the Roman and Byzantine times.

  • Archeologists have discovered, among many finds, an amphitheater where gladiators fought, a public bathhouse—the largest discovered in Israel—and a theater that could seat between 6,500 and 7000 people.
  • The colonnade along the original Byzantine street is nothing short of spectacular.
Panorama atop Tel Beth Shean

(Photo: Panorama atop Tel Beth Shean. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Roman-Byzantine ruins lay in the shadow of the ancient tell itself, the original site of Beth Shean.

  • Tel Beth Shean appears as a huge hill, bulging eighty meters high (260 feet) from the eastern end of the Harod Valley, with over a dozen layers of occupation beneath its topsoil.
  • The steep climb to the top of the tell offers an impressive panorama of the Roman-Byzantine city, as well as the Jordan Valley to the east, and the Harod Valley and Mount Gilboa to the west.
  • Most visitors never take the time to see this, but the view is worth the climb.
Journey to the amazing Holy Land on my upcoming trip to Israel. See the details, browse the tour itinerary, and download a FREE brochure! After your journey to Israel, you will never be the same!

Beth Shean’s Lingering Lesson

Beth Shean’s prime location made it the envy of everyone. It was hard to control. I think about our lives the same way. When the blessings God gives us are difficult, it doesn’t mean we should abandon them.

God’s blessings make us dependent on Him, not independent of Him.

The difficulty is designed to drive us closer to the One who has blessed us.

Question: What blessings have God given you that often seem too hard to hold? To leave a comment, just click here.

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  • Anne M

    Wayne,
    Maybe God is training you to connect the rest of the world to Jerusalem during the Millenium! What a blessing to all of us!

    Anne M

  • elizajose

    Dear Pastor Wayne, while on this topic, i would like to share here that last month I learnt that I would have a good opportunity to work and live in Canada. This March 2017 the Canadian Govt has opened up 4 Provinces of Canada to fill up certain listed occupations where there is a shortfall of local Canadian residents. An immigration Consultant in touch with me advised that I stand a very good chance of receiving a job offer under this Program as I have considerable work experience & that this Program will receive applications from the first 2000 applicants on a first come first served basis and that I should not delay and go ahead and start the process of getting documents together to support the application. However, I have abandoned this idea as I am deeply concerned that my elder brother Henry (also single like myself and 58 yrs next month) will be left all alone in India at this age if move overseas. Yet this looks like a blessing too good to hold! I m in prayer but not clear what I should or can do..Anyone can comment as they feel led to. Thanks Brethren

  • ARM BAR

    This is an interesting subject Wayne,i could say that i was given a blessing by God back in 2001,but the reason why i abandoned that blessing was because i failed to discerned the voice of God and i abandoned God Blessing in 2014,but i realized that after i abandoned it,very hard to get it back,therefore i keep begging God to gives me a second chance Wayne,i was so confused that i thought because that blessing was seems to hard to do,then maybe God wants me to abandon that blessing,i forgot actually that i have to meditate to the Teachings of God,I hope i may get it back,Thank you Wayne,God bless

    • You’re welcome. Sometimes missing God’s blessing—and then realizing it—can become a blessing by itself that becomes a benefit for our future. Just press on, my friend. God’s grace is large.

  • Georgina Fernandez Peter

    I really needed to read this Wayne. 4 years ago, my husband John and I gave up our stressful 20 year long careers, really wanting to do something of our own in the food business. We were very passionate about it and felt that God had given us a wonderful idea for a delightful new product – Bacon Jam. The product was very much a success inasmuch as people loved it. But the past 4 years have been very difficult economically. We live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysia’s economy has taken a serious dip and people have stopped spending on luxuries. Sales are slower and finances are very tight. We were wondering where God was in all this? Did He just take us through 4 years of hard work, sacrifice and steep learning curves to just let it all end in nothing? Very discouraged this May, we decided to wind up the business and go back to work. We even got jobs. However at the very last moment, both of us were played out of the jobs we were offered. We took that as a sign that God wanted us to hold on to this business He has blessed us with – Five & Two Fine Foods (Named for the story of the five loaves and two fish – God’ provision). Finances are still very tight and somedays we wonder where it is all going. But we are confident that HE is leading us somewhere good. The blessing of this business seems hard, but we are holding on for a breakthrough! Praise HIM.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Georgina. I agree with you that it isn’t always easy to understand God’s hand in those seasons when His leading seems contradictory with how He had led you in the past. Add to that the confusion of wondering if you should see the challenge as God’s call to persevere or to change directions again. I’m convinced that God wants us to know His will more than we do, and if we’re facing a situation when His leading seems unclear, we should let Him know you’re open to redirection if He’ll simply make it clear. I’m also fairly sure that the Lord is more interested in our journey with Him in which we grow rather than getting us from A to B. Just this morning, I read a verse that offered me much-needed encouragement: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Romans 5:3–4). So, regardless of the direction God is leading you both, you can know that your struggles are designed to “bring about perseverance . . . and proven character.” I’m right there with you in the mystery of waiting on God. Let’s trust His goodness while we wait for His leading.

      • Georgina Fernandez Peter

        Thank you Wayne. The Lord forever bless you and yours.