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shechem Summary and Overview

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shechem in Easton's Bible Dictionary

shoulder. (1.) The son of Hamor the Hivite (Gen. 33:19; 34). (2.) A descendant of Manasseh (Num. 26:31; Josh. 17:2). (3.) A city in Samaria (Gen. 33:18), called also Sichem (12:6), Sychem (Acts 7:16). It stood in the narrow sheltered valley between Ebal on the north and Gerizim on the south, these mountains at their base being only some 500 yards apart. Here Abraham pitched his tent and built his first altar in the Promised Land, and received the first divine promise (Gen. 12:6, 7). Here also Jacob "bought a parcel of a field at the hands of the children of Hamor" after his return from Mesopotamia, and settled with his household, which he purged from idolatry by burying the teraphim of his followers under an oak tree, which was afterwards called "the oak of the sorcerer" (Gen. 33:19; 35:4; Judg. 9:37). (See MEONENIM T0002483.) Here too, after a while, he dug a well, which bears his name to this day (John 4:5, 39-42). To Shechem Joshua gathered all Israel "before God," and delivered to them his second parting address (Josh. 24:1-15). He "made a covenant with the people that day" at the very place where, on first entering the land, they had responded to the law from Ebal and Gerizim (Josh. 24:25), the terms of which were recorded "in the book of the law of God", i.e., in the roll of the law of Moses; and in memory of this solemn transaction a great stone was set up "under an oak" (compare Gen. 28:18; 31:44-48; Ex. 24:4; Josh. 4:3, 8, 9), possibly the old "oak of Moreh," as a silent witness of the transaction to all coming time. Shechem became one of the cities of refuge, the central city of refuge for Western Israel (Josh. 20:7), and here the bones of Joseph were buried (24:32). Rehoboam was appointed king in Shechem (1 Kings 12:1, 19), but Jeroboam afterwards took up his residence here. This city is mentioned in connection with our Lord's conversation with the woman of Samaria (John 4:5); and thus, remaining as it does to the present day, it is one of the oldest cities of the world. It is the modern Nablus, a contraction for Neapolis, the name given to it by Vespasian. It lies about a mile and a half up the valley on its southern slope, and on the north of Gerizim, which rises about 1,100 feet above it, and is about 34 miles north of Jerusalem. It contains about 10,000 inhabitants, of whom about 160 are Samaritans and 100 Jews, the rest being Christians and Mohammedans. The site of Shechem is said to be of unrivalled beauty. Stanley says it is "the most beautiful, perhaps the only very beautiful, spot in Central Israel." Gaza, near Shechem, only mentioned 1 Chr. 7:28, has entirely disappeared. It was destroyed at the time of the Conquest, and its place was taken by Shechem. (See SYCHAR T0003542.)

shechem in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(back or shoulder). 1. An important city in central Israel, in the valley between mounts Ebal and Gerizim, 34 miles north of Jerusalem and 7 miles southeast of Samaria. Its present name, Nablus, is a corruption of Neapolis, which succeeded the more ancient Shechem, and received its new name from Vespasian. On coins still extant it is called Flavia Neapolis. The situation of the town is one of surpassing beauty. It lies in a sheltered valley, protected by Gerizim on the south and Ebal on the north. The feet of these mountains, where they rise from the town, are not more than five hundred yards apart. The bottom of the valley is about 1800 feet above the level of the sea, and the top of Gerizim 800 feet higher still. The sit of the present city, which was also that of the Hebrew city, occurs exactly on the water-summit; and streams issuing from the numerous springs there flow down the opposite slopes of the valley, spreading verdure and fertility in every direction. Travellers vie with each other in the language which they employ to describe the scene that here bursts so suddenly upon them on arriving in spring or early summer at this paradise of the holy land. "The whole valley," says Dr. Robinson, "was filled with gardens of vegetables and orchards of all kinds of fruits, watered by fountains which burst forth in various parts and flow westward in refreshing streams. it came upon us suddenly like a scene of fairy enchantment. We saw nothing to compare with it in all Israel." The allusions to Shechem in the Bible are numerous, and show how important the place was in Jewish history. Abraham, on his first migration to the land of promise, pitched his tent and built an altar under the oak (or terebinth) of Moreh at Shechem. "The Canaanite was then in the land;" and it is evident that the region, if not the city, was already in possession of the aboriginal race. See #Ge 12:6| At the time of Jacob's arrival here, after his sojourn in Mesopotamia, #Ge 33:18; 34| Shechem was a Hivite city, of which Hamor, the father of Shechem, was the headman. it was at this time that the patriarch purchased from that chieftain "the parcel of the field" which he subsequently bequeathed, as a special patrimony, to his son Joseph. #Ge 33:19; Jos 24:32; Joh 4:5| The field lay undoubtedly on the rich plain of the Mukhna, and its value was the greater on account of the well which Jacob had dug there, so as not to be dependent on his neighbors for a supply of water. In the distribution of the land after its conquest by the Hebrews, Shechem fell to the lot of Ephraim, #Jos 20:7| but was assigned to the Levites, and became a city of refuge. #Jos 21:20,21| It acquired new importance as the scene of the renewed promulgation of the law, when its blessings were heard from Gerizim and its curses from Ebal, and the people bowed their heads and acknowledged Jehovah as their king and ruler. #De 27:11; Jos 24:23-25| it was here Joshua assembled the people, shortly before his death, and delivered to them his last counsels. #Jos 24:1,25| After the death of Gideon, Abimelech, his bastard son, induced the Shechemites to revolt from the Hebrew commonwealth and elect him as king. #Jud 9:1| ... In revenge for his expulsion after a reign of three years, Abimelech destroyed the city, and as an emblem of the fate to which he would consign it, sowed the ground with salt. #Jud 9:34-45| It was soon restored, however, for we are told in #1Ki 12:1| ... that all Israel assembled at Shechem, and Rehoboam, Solomon's successor, went thither to be inaugurated as king. here, at this same place, the ten tribes renounced the house of David, and transferred their allegiance to Jeroboam, #1Ki 12:16| under whom Shechem became for a time the capital of his kingdom. From the time of the origin of the Samaritans, the history of Shechem blends itself with that of this people and of their sacred mount, Gerizim. [SAMARIA] Shechem reappears in the New Testament. It is the SYCHAR of #Joh 4:5| near which the Saviour conversed with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. The population of Nablus consists of about 5000, among whom are 500 Greek Christians, 150 Samaritans, and a few Jews. The enmity between the Samaritans and jews is as inveterate still as it was in the days of Christ. The Mohammedans, of course, make up the bulk of the population. The well of Jacob and the tomb of Joseph are still shown in the neighborhood of the town. The well of Jacob lies about a mile and a half east of the city, close to the lower road, and just beyond the wretched hamlet of Balata. The Christians sometimes call it Bir es-Samariyeh-- "the well of the Samaritan woman." The well is deep --75 feet when last measured --and there was probably a considerable accumulation of rubbish at the bottom. Sometimes it contains a few feet of water, but at others it is quite dry. It is entirely excavated in the solid rock, perfectly round, 9 feet in diameter, with the sides hewn smooth and regular. Of all the special localities of our Lord's life, this is almost the only one absolutely undisputed. The tomb of Joseph lies about a quarter of a mile north of the well, exactly in the centre of the opening of the valley. It is a small between Gerizim and Ebal. It is a small, square enclosure of high whitewashed walls, surrounding a tomb of the ordinary kind, but with the peculiarity that it is placed diagonally to the walls, instead of parallel as usual. A rough pillar used as an altar and black with the traces of fire is at the head and another at the foot of the tome. In the walls are two slabs with Hebrew inscriptions, and the interior is almost covered with the names of pilgrims in Hebrew Arabic and Samaritan. Beyond this there is nothing to remark in the structure itself. The local tradition of the tomb, like that of the well is as old as the beginning of the fourth century. 2. The son of Hamor, the chieftain of the Hivite settlement of Shechem at the time of Jacob's arrival. #Ge 33:19; 34:2-26; Jos 24:32; Jud 9:28| 3. A man of Manasseh, of the clan of Gilead. #Nu 26:31| 4. A Gileadite, son of Shemida, the younger brother of the foregoing. #1Ch 7:19|

shechem in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

SHE'CHEM (the shoulder-blade). 1. The ravisher of Dinah, slain by Simeon and Levi. Gen 33:19; Gen 34. 2. A man of Manasseh. Num 26:31; Josh 17:2. 3. Another descendant of Manasseh. 1 Chr 7:19.

shechem in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

("shoulder", or "upper part of the back just below the neck"); explained as if the town were on the shoulder of the heights dividing the waters that flow toward the Mediterranean on the W. and to the Jordan on the E.; or on a shoulder or ridge connected with Mounts Ebal and Gerizim. Also called SICHEM, SYCHEM, and SYCHAR (John 4:5; Joshua 20:7; Judges 9:9; 1 Kings 12:25). Mount Gerizim is close by (Judges 9:7) on the southern side, Mount Ebal on the northern side. These hills at the base are but 500 yards apart. Vespasian named it Neapolis; coins are extant with its name "Flavia Neapolis"; now Nablus by corruption. The situation is lovely; the valley runs W. with a soil of rich, black, vegetable mold, watered by fountains, sending forth numerous streams flowing W.; orchards of fruit, olive groves, gardens of vegetables, and verdure on all sides delight the eye. On the E. of Gerizim and Ebal the flue plain of Mukhna stretches from N. to S. Here first in Canaan God appeared to Abraham (Genesis 12:6), and here he pitched his tent and built an altar under the oak or terebinth (not "plain") of Moreh; here too Jacob re-entered the promised land (Genesis 33:18-19), and "bought a parcel of a field where he had spread his tent," from the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, and bequeathed it subsequently to Joseph (Genesis 48:22; Joshua 24:32; John 4:5); a dwelling place, whereas Abraham's only purchase was a burial place. It lay in the rich plain of the Mukhna, and its value was increased by the well Jacob dug there. Joshua made "Shechem in Mount Ephraim" one of the six cities of refuge (Joshua 20:7). The suburbs in our Lord's days reached nearer the entrance of the valley between Gerizim and Ebal than now; for the narrative in John 4:30; John 4:35, implies that the people could be seen as they came from the town toward Jesus at the well, whereas Nablus now is more than a mile distant, and cannot be seen from that point. Josephus (B. J. 3:7, section 32) says that more than 10,000 of the inhabitants were once destroyed by the Romans, implying a much larger town and population than at present. (See DINAH; HAMOR.) frontJACOB on the massacre by Simeon and Levi, Genesis 34.) Under Abraham's oak at Shechem Jacob buried the family idols and amulets (Genesis 35:1-4). Probably too "the strange gods" or "the gods of the stranger" were those carried away by Jacob's sons from Shechem among the spoils (Genesis 35:2; Genesis 34:26-29). The charge to "be clean and change garments" may have respect to the recent slaughter of the Shechemites, which polluted those who took part in it (Blunt, Undesigned Coincidences). Shechem was for a time Ephraim's civil capital. as Shiloh was its religious capital (Judges 9:2; Judges 21:19; Joshua 24:1-25-26; 1 Kings 12:1). At the same "memorial terebinth" at Shechem the Shechemites made Abimelech king (Judges 9:6). Jotham's parable as to the trees, the vine, the fig, and the bramble, were most appropriate to the scenery; contrast the shadow of the bramble which would rather scratch than shelter, with Isaiah 32:2. Abimelech destroyed Shechem and sowed it with salt (Judges 9:45). From Gerizim the blessings, and from Ebal the curses, were read (Joshua 8:33-35). At Shechem Joshua gave his farewell charge (Joshua 24:1-25). Joseph was buried there (Joshua 24:32; Acts 7:16). At Shechem Rehoboam was made king by Israel (1 Kings 12:1); he desired to conciliate the haughty Ephraimites by being crowned there. Here, through his ill advised obstinacy, the Israelites revolted to Jeroboam, who made Shechem his capital. Mediaeval writers (Israel Exploration Quarterly Statement, Jan. 1878, p. 27-28) placed the Dan and Bethel of Jeroboam's calves on Mounts Ebal and Gerizim. The following reasons favor this view. (1) The ruins below the western peak of Gerizim are still called Lozeh or Luz, the old name of Bethel; a western spur of Ebal has a site Amad ed Din, (possibly Joshua's altar on Ebal), bearing traces of the name Dan, and the hill is called Ras el Kady ("judgment" answering to the meaning of Dan). (2) The Bethel of the calf was close to the palace of Jeroboam who lived in Shechem (Amos 7:13; 1 Kings 12:25). (3) The southern Bethel was in Benjamin (Joshua 18:22) and would hardly have been chosen as a religious center by Jeroboam who was anxious to draw away the people from Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:28). (4) The southern Bethel was taken from Jeroboam by Abijah king of Judah (2 Chronicles 13:19), whereas the calf of Bethel was not destroyed but remained standing long after (2 Kings 10:29). (5) The Bethel of the calf is mentioned in connection with Samaria (1 Kings 13:32; 2 Kings 23:19; Amos 4:1-4; Amos 5:6), and the old prophet at Bethel was of Samaria according to Josephus (2 Kings 23:18). (6) The southern Bethel was the seat of a school of prophets, which is hardly consistent with its being the seat of the calf worship (2 Kings 2:2-3). The "men from Shechem" (Jeremiah 41:5) who had paganly "cut themselves," and were slain by Ishmael, were probably of the Babylonian colonists who combined Jehovah worship with their old idolatries. Shechem was the chief Samaritan city from the time of the setting up of the temple on Gerizim down to its destruction in 129 B.C., i.e. for about 200 years. Sychar is probably a corruption of Shechem; others make it a Jewish alteration, for contempt, from shecher "a lie." (See SYCHAR.) Jesus remained at Shechem two days and won many converts, the firstfruits, followed by a full harvest under Philip the evangelist (Acts 8; John 4:35-43). The population now is about 5,000, of whom 500 are Greek Christians, 150 Samaritans, and a few Jews. The main street runs from E. to W. The houses are of stone, the streets narrow and dark. Eighty springs are within or around Shechem. It is the center of trade between Jaffa and Beirut on one side, and the transjordanic region on the other. It has manufactures of coarse woolen fabrics, delicate silk, camel's hair cloth, and soap. Inscriptions from the Samaritan Pentateuch, of A.D. 529, which had been on the walls of a synagogue, have been found and read. The well of Jacob lies one mile and a half E. of Shechem beyond the hamlet Balata; beside a mound of ruins with fragments of granite columns on a low hill projecting from Gerizim's base in a N.E. direction, between the plain and the opening of the valley. Formerly a vaulted chamber, ten feet square, with a square hole opening into it, covered over the floor in which was the well's mouth. Now the vault has in part fallen and covered up the mouth; only a shallow pit remains, half filled with stones and rubbish. The well was 75 feet deep at its last measurement, but 105 at Maundrell's visit in 1697. It is now dry almost always, whereas he found 15 feet of water. Jacob dug it deep into the rocky ground, its position indicating it was dug by one who could not rely for water on the springs so near in the valley (Ain Balata and Defneh), the Canaanites being their owners. A church was built round it in the fourth century, but was destroyed before the crusades. Eusebius in the early part of the fourth century confirms the traditional site; John 4 accords with it. Jesus in His journey from Jerusalem to Galilee rested at it, while "His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat"; so the well must have lain before, but at some little distance from, the city. Jesus intended on their return to proceed along the plain toward Galilee, without visiting the city Himself, which agrees with the traditional site. The so-called "tomb of Joseph," a quarter of a mile N. of the well in the open plain, in the center of the opening between Gerizim and Ebal, is more open to doubt. A small square of high walls surrounds a common tomb, placed diagonally to the walls; a rough pillar altar is at the head, and another at the foot. In the left corner is a vine whose branches "run over the wall" (Genesis 49:22). Maundrell's description applies better to another tomb named from Joseph at the N.E. foot of Gerizim. However the phrase in Genesis 33:19, "a parcel of a field," Joshua 24:32, favors the site near Jacob's well, bechelqat hasadeh, a smooth lever open cultivated land; in Israel there is not to be found such a dead level, without the least hollow in a circuit of two hours.