The town of Bethal was founded in 1880 and named after the wives of the original owners of the farm on which the town was established, Elizabeth and Alida. In 1904, Bethal was declared a municipality and Mr George Hutchinson was elected the first chairman of the Municipal Council of Bethal. 1905 the railway line from Springs to the Natal North coast reached Bethal and contributed to the prosperity of the town.Bethal now falls under the Govan Mbeki Local Municipality. The town is located on an important road junction, with seven roads converging here from all directions. There are three gold mines and a number of very large coal mines in the surrounding area.
The natural vegetation within the region is generally grassland, with isolated spots of shrubs and trees. Farming in the Bethal area comprises maize, potatoes and sunflowers, and the town is host to an annual Potato Festival.