Shechem

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Shechem

Location

 

1. Biblical Shechem is also known as Sychar in the New Testament, and as Tel Balata and Nablus, today.

 

2. Shechem is located about 30 miles (48 km.) north of Jerusalem and about 30 miles (48 km.) northeast of Tel Aviv.

 

3. It was in the Samaria region of Israel in the territory of Ephraim during Bible times.

 

4. It was on a main north-south travel route that linked the northern and southern parts of Israel.

 

5. It was also on a main east-west route that linked the coastal plain of Israel with the Jordan Valley. 

 

6. Shechem lies between the two famous mountains of Gerizim and Ebal.

 

Historical Background

 

1. Shechem had a significant role in the Bible and is mentioned 58 times.

 

2. God first appeared to Abraham in Shechem and gave him the promise that he would inherit the land.

 

3. Abraham and Jacob lived here.

 

4. Joseph’s bones are buried here.

 

5. The blessings and curses given on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal took place here. 

 

6. Joshua rallied all Israel and made a covenant with them in Shechem.

 

7. The nation of Israel became divided in Shechem.

 

8. Shechem became the capital of the northern tribes of Israel under King Jeroboam’s rule.

 

9. On top of Mount Gerizim are substantial ruins. 

 

  • The Samaritans first built a temple here for worship in the 5th century. Later, in the 2nd century, they built walls around the temple to protect it.

 

  • In the latter part of the 2nd century, the Hasmoneans (Jewish rule from 165–63 BC) destroyed the Samaritan’s temple on Mount Gerizim and the city at the base of the mountain (ancient Shechem). 

 

  • During the Roman occupation of Israel, the Samaritans were given permission by the Romans to rebuild their temple and city. 

 

  • In 475 AD, under Byzantine rule, the Samaritan temple was destroyed, and a Byzantine church was erected. Later, a monastery was built as well.

 

10. Jesus met with a Samaritan woman (John 4) at Jacob’s Well in Shechem. Today, the well is inside the Church of St. Photina, which was originally built in 380 AD. Over the years, the church was destroyed a number of times by natural and military forces. The current church building is overseen by the Greek Orthodox Church, which obtained the site in 1893. 

 

11. The Samaritans were a small group of unfaithful Israelites who remained in the land of Israel and intermarried with foreign unbelievers after the deportation of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BC. They established their own religion at Mount Gerizim and built their own temple. They were despised and rejected by the Jews and considered unclean. The Samaritans, likewise, despised the Jews and had few dealings with them. The Samaritans only believe in the Torah (first 5 books of the Old Testament).

 

Places of Interest

 

1. Tel Balata

 

  • Visitor Center

 

  • Northwest Gate

 

  • City Wall

 

  • Fortress Temple

 

  • Joshua’s Stone (Erected after Joshua made a covenant with the Israelites)

 

  • Sacred Courtyard

 

  • Houses

 

  • Eastern Gate

 

2. Mount Gerizim

 

  • 2nd-century buildings

 

  • Fortified enclosure

 

  • Citadel

 

  • Courtyards

 

  • 2nd-century mansion

 

  • 12 Stone Altar

 

  • Byzantine Church

 

  • Byzantine Gate

 

  • 2nd-century Gate

 

  • Byzantine Monastery

  • Eastern Gate

 

3.    Mount Ebal

 

  • Joshua’s Rectangular Altar

  • Circular Altar below Rectangular Altar (possibly that of Abraham or Jacob)

 

4. Jacob’s Well (120 feet, 40 m. deep)

 

5. Joseph’s Tomb

 

6. Modern Shechem (Nablus)

 

Shechem In the Bible

 

1. Shechem is the place where God first appeared to Abraham after he entered the Promised Land. 
Genesis 12:4–7: So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 

 

2. It was at Shechem where Jacob settled after reuniting with his estranged brother, Esau, upon his return from Paddan-aram.
Genesis 33:18–20:  And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. 19 And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem's father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20 There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel (God; the God of Israel).

 

3. The defilement of Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, took place at Shechem.
Genesis 34:1–4: Now Dinah, the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her. 3 And his soul was drawn to Dinah, the daughter of Jacob. He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl for my wife.” 

 

Genesis 34:25–27: On the third day, when they were sore [from being circumcised], two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males. 26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem's house and went away. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister.

 

4. It was in Shechem that Jacob buried his foreign gods and committed himself fully to the true and living God of his forefathers.
Genesis 35:4: So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem

 

5. To the rich pastureland near Shechem, Joseph came to seek his brethren and was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt.
Genesis 37:12–14: Now his brothers went to pasture their father's flock near Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

 

6. The bones of Joseph were buried in Shechem 
Joshua 24:32: Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons.

 

7. On the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal, Moses commanded the Israelites to pronounce blessings and curses for their obedience or disobedience to Him.  
Deuteronomy 27:11–13: That day Moses charged the people, saying, 12 “When you have crossed over the Jordan, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. 13 And these shall stand on Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.”

 

The blessings and curses pronounced on Gerizim and Ebal would become the foundational reference point to which God would refer in punishing Israel and Judah by sending them wars, famines, and pestilences. Eventually, their disobedience would lead to their deportations. Because they had broken the covenant on Gerizim and Ebal repeatedly, they deserved the discipline God gave them. 

 

8. As commanded by Moses, Joshua erected an altar on Mount Ebal with uncut stones.
Deuteronomy 27:1–8: Now Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, “Keep the whole commandment that I command you today. 2 And on the day you cross over the Jordan to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones and plaster them with plaster. 3 And you shall write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over to enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you. 4 And when you have crossed over the Jordan, you shall set up these stones, concerning which I command you today, on Mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with plaster. 5 And there you shall build an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. You shall wield no iron tool on them; 6 you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God, 7 and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God. 8 And you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly.”

 

9. When his end was approaching, Joshua gathered the tribes of Israel at Shechem and gave them his final words of counsel and exhortation. Afterward, he erected a large stone as a monument to mark the covenant with the people and God. This stone can be seen today at Tel Balata.
Joshua 24:1: Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God. 

 

Joshua 24:14–16: Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

 

Joshua 24:25–27: So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us. Therefore, it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.”

 

10. It was at Shechem the nation of Israel became divided, and Jeroboam reigned over the northern section (Israel) and Rehoboam over the southern section (Judah).
1 Kings 12:1–2: Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. 2 And as soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt.

 

1 Kings 12:16–17: And when all Israel saw that the king (Rehoboam) did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents. 17 But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah.

 

11. King Jeroboam fortified Shechem and ordered that two golden calves be erected in Bethel and Dan.
1 Kings 12:25–29: Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. 26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. 27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” 28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.

 

12. Later, Shechem became the central city of the Samaritans, who built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim.

 

13. Shechem, called Sychar, is the place Jesus met a woman at Jacob’s well and conversed with her. 
John 4:1–26: Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep [120 feet, 40 m.]. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain [Gerizim], but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

 

John 4:39–42: Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

 

Faith Lesson from Shechem

 

1. Of all the events that happened at Shechem, Jesus summed up God’s desire for us when He told the woman at the well, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 2:23–24). 

 

2. Do we worship God in spirit? 

 

3. Do we walk in the Spirit and stay in close fellowship with God (Gal. 5:16–26)?

 

4. Do we worship God in truth?

 

5. Do we know God’s Word well and the truth it contains (2 Tim. 2:15)?

 

6. We will only know God to the degree we know His Word. How well do you know God?
 

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