Every time I travel to Israel, I do my best to spend a little time in Bet She’an.
Amazing place. Even after all these centuries, it’s obvious that Bet She’an was one of the best little cities Alexander the Great planted in the Middle East roughly 2,200 years ago.
Thanks to some incredible archeological work, you can still walk the ancient paving stones. You can see evidence of a city water and sewer system. There was a state-of-the-art, picturesque theater cut into a hillside. Strong columns, exquisite in their beauty, were everywhere. As one of the Greek cities of the Decapolis, Bet She’an would have also been home to a gymnasium, temples to pagan gods, and a way of life that was shockingly different from religious Judaism.
When I take travelers there, I like to explain it as an ancient version of Las Vegas. It was, indeed, a place where all that was forbidden in the Bible was suddenly available. Bet She’an may not have been the wildest little city in the Decapolis, but to the ultra conservative Jews scattered all around the Galilee, it was shockingly wicked. To those who visited the place? Let’s just say, “What happens in Bet She’an, stays in Bet She’an.”
The rabbis had a name for cities in the Decapolis. The lifestyle was so different there, so contrary and foreign to the way of life called for in Scripture, they called it “the Far Country.” We might say, “It’s a different world.” And that’s the idea.
When Jesus told a story one day of the younger of two sons rebelling against his father and going to “a far country,” every listener knew exactly what he was saying.
The boy didn’t need a passport, didn’t need a long train ride, and didn’t even need a lot of time. If forbidden sex was what he wanted, he could have been holding a prostitute by nightfall.
It was just that close to the “Far Country.”
The first time I heard that tidbit, it blew me away. Two thoughts soon followed.
First, if you thought it was a short distance to the wrong places 2,000 years ago, check out how fast you can get there today! Instead of a day’s walk, we can be in “the Far Country” in a matter of seconds. Even micro-seconds.
And second, when that young man decided to come back home … he wasn’t that far away. Indeed, he came home. Have you?
Want to find more secrets from the ancient paths or travel to Israel with Pastor Andy Cook? Check out experienceisraelnow.com.