Of this great plain, which took in the whole breadth of the country of Manasseh from Jordan towards the west, a very long way, Josephus frequently speaks. Describing the situation and portion of Ephraim and Manasseh, he thus expresseth himself:
"The tribe of Ephraim extended itself in length from the river Jordan to Gadara" [Gazarah, or Gezer, Joshua 16:3, and 21:21]; "in breadth, from Bethel, and ends at the Great Plain."
"The half tribe of Manasseh extends itself in longitude from Jordan to the city Dor. But in latitude [from Ephraim] it reacheth to Beth-shean, which is now called Scythopolis." So that that 'great plain,' to those that were journeying from Galilee, began from Beth-shean, and extended itself in latitude to the confines of Ephraim. Hence that which we meet with in the same Josephus, "They that passed over Jordan came into the great plain, before which the city Bethsan lies"; or as it is in 1 Maccabees 5:52, "They went over Jordan into the great plain before Beth-shean."
In the Book of Judith, chapter 1:8, it is called "The great plain of Esdrelom": that is, in truth, "the great valley of Jezreel." Insomuch, that when it is said of Judah and his army (for he it is whom this passage concerns), that in his return from the land of Gilead he passed over Jordan into this "great plain," and that (as it should seem) not very far from Beth-shean; it is evident that the great and common passage over Jordan was hereabout, by which not only the Scythopolitans went over from their country on this side Jordan to that beyond, but those also of Samaria, and those of the Lower Galilee, passed over here to Perea.
Here would I seek for Jacob's Bridge, where he passed over "Jordan with his staff," when he went into Mesopotamia, and returned back with a family; and not where it is commonly now shewn. At least, the mention of Succoth, Genesis 33:17, which had its situation on the bank of Jordan, exactly opposite to Zartanah, a town near Beth-shean, puts it out of all question that Jacob returned that way. And, indeed, whether Scythopolis might not derive something of its appellation from the word Succoth, I cannot well tell: methinks the name of 'Scythians' hath some smack of such a kind of original for they always dwelt, and removed from one place to another, in tents.