Richard Nowitz

The victorious Philistines cut off the head of the dead king and impaled the decapitated body and those of his sons on the walls of Beth-Shean. The verdant slopes of the mound containing the remains of the ancient city (shown here, compare with photo of “The Suicide of Saul”), located in a fertile valley south of the Sea of Galilee, give no hint of that abomination. The men of Jabesh-Gilead, which Saul had relieved from an Ammonite siege early in his rule, put an end to the outrage. They retrieved the bodies in a nighttime foray and buried the remains under a tamarisk tree in their city. With that, the tragic drama of Israel’s first king, a man who struggled continuously but unsuccessfully to escape his destiny, came to its end.

Visible on top of the tell are excavated remains. Beyond the trees, in the upper center of this view, is the well-preserved amphitheater from the later Roman city of Beth-Shean (Scythopolis) that spreads out below the hill.