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Shechem (See also wiki article Shechem.)

SHECHEM - An important town of Israelite and pre-Israelite days at the E. end of the pass between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, placed as the neck between the shoulders (cf shekhem, 'shoulder '), it was specifically associated with Jacob (Gn.33.18), whose well (Jn.4.12) is still shown. It was the scene of the violent reprisals of the tribes Simeon and Levi before the former migrated to the S. and the latter lost political status in Israel (Gn.34). This phase of the Hebrew settlement may correspond to the activities of the Habiru which the Amarna Tablets note in the district of Shechem. A further association with the Hebrew patriarchs is the burial of Joseph in the vicinity (Jos.24.32), this tradition being commemorated by the Moslem shrine to 'the Prophet Yussuf' by Tell el-Balatah, the ruins of Shechem. The name ('Mound of the Oak') may perpetuate the tradition of the sacred tree under which Jacob buried his teraphim, or household images (Gn.35.4). Shechem, with its temple of Baal Berith, 'Lord of the Covenant' (Jg.9.4), and as the scene of Joshua's covenant with Israel (Jos.24), and with its status as a Levitical city of refuge (Jos.20.7), played an important part in Israelite religion. It is plausibly argued by M. Noth that it was the scene of the regular periodic recitation of the law in solemn assembly and of a renewal of God's covenant with Israel, which is the source of the narrative in Jos.24. No doubt Shechem played a much more prominent ro1e in Israel than is immediately apparent, this having been obscured first by the concentration of the cult in Jerusalem under David and Solomon, second because of the predominance of Judahite tradition in the OT, and lastly because of the enmity of orthodox Judaism to the Samaritan sect. Noth's thesis is supported by the fact that on the death of Solomon Rehoboam met all Israel at Shechem, when the disruption of the kingdom was effected (1 K.12.1). Shechem was also the first capital of N. Israel after the Disruption (1 K.12.25). Even after the Hebrew occupation Shechem continued to be a stronghold of Canaanite influence and was the scene of the abortive attempt at kingship by Abimelech the son of Gideon by a local Canaanite woman (Jg.9).

Excavations at Tell el-Balatah, begun before the First World War, and continued at intervals since, have been again resumed under G. E. Wright, who has found traces of settlement from before c 3000 until the 2nd cent. BC. There was a definite recession in the life of the city from about the 9th cent. to the 4th cent., no doubt because of the shifting of the capital to Tirzah in the vicinity of Shechem and then to Samaria, but Jeremiah (41.5) indicates that after 586 BC there was still an orthodox Israelite community at Shechem. It is significant that there was apparently no destruction of Shechem corresponding to the destruction of Hazor, Tell Beit Mirsim, Tell ed-Duweir (Lachish), and Bethel about the beginning of the Iron Age, a fact which indicates that Israelite elements had effected a symbiosis with the local Canaanites before the final phase of the Israelite occupation, as the Jacob tradition in Genesis suggests. In the Christian era occupation shifted slightly westward, especially with the foundation of Flavia Neapolis after AD 70, the name of which survives in Nablus, a vigorous centre of political and religious life in Jordan. Here there is a small native Christian community and a few hundred survivors of the Samaritan sect with a modest new synagogue on the slopes of Mount Gerizim, on the summit of which they still hold their annual Passover, with slaughter of lambs, which has fallen into desuetude in orthodox Judaism. [Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963 - J.Gr.]


SYCHAR - 'A city of Samaria,' near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave his son Joseph (Jn.4.5). Jerome in Onomast, distinguishes Sychar from Shechem, but in Ep. Paul. and in Quaest. Gen. he identifies them, saying that the form Sychar is due to scribal error. The Old Syriac also reads Shechem. In AD 333 the Itinerary of Jerusalem places a Sechar one mile E. of Nablus. Some authorities have suggested identification of Sychar with 'Askar, a village on the skirt of Ebal, about 2 miles E. of Nablus. An objection to this is the presence there of a copious spring, more than sufficient to supply the village; while from Jn.4.15 we learn that the woman of Sychar was accustomed to go to Jacob's Well for water. Ancient Shechem, we now know, lay at Tell Balatah, which bears evidence of occupation from the period of the Hebrew monarchy to Roman times. Jacob's Well, according to unanimous and unbroken tradition, lies about half a mile to the E. of Tell Balatah, on the S. edge of the plain, at the foot of Gerizim. It was formerly of great depth (Jn.4.11). The sacred associations of the Well, and the 'lightness' of the water, compared with the hardness of that from the spring, would form attractions in early as in modern times. It seems certain that the story-teller meant Shechem. [Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963 - W.E. - E.G.K.]