|Founded||19th century BCE|
Shechem // or Sichem (//; Hebrew: שְׁכֶם / שְׁכָם, Standard Š(ə)ḫem Tiberian Šəḵem, "shoulder") was a Canaanite city mentioned in the Amarna letters, and is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as an Israelite city of the tribe of Manasseh and the first capital of the Kingdom of Israel. Traditionally associated with Nablus, it is now identified with the site of Tell Balatah in Balata al-Balad in the West Bank.
Its position is indicated in the Bible: it lay north of Bethel and Shiloh, on the high road going from Jerusalem to the northern districts (Judges xxi, 19), at a short distance from Michmethath (Joshua 17:7) and of Dothain (Genesis 37:12-17); it was in the hill-country of Ephraim (Joshua 20:7; 21:21; 1 Kings 12:25; 1 Chronicles 6:67; 7:28), immediately below Mount Gerizim (Judges 9:6-7). These indications are completed by Josephus, who says that the city lay between Mount Ebal and Mt. Gerizim, and by the Madaba map, which places Sychem, also called Sikima between the Tour Gobel (Ebal) and the Tour Garizin (Garizim). The site of Shechem in patristic sources is almost invariably identified with or located close to the town of Nablus/Flavia Neapolis.
Early and biblical history
The old city of Shechem dates back to about an estimated four thousand years.
Shechem is mentioned in the third-millennium Eblaite Tablets found at Tell Mardikh in the context of a city of which Rasap (Resheph) is the patron deity. Shechem was a commercial center due to its position in the middle of vital trade routes through the region. It traded in local grapes, olives, wheat, livestock and pottery between the middle Bronze Age and the late Hellenic Period (1900-100 BC).
Shechem had been a Canaanite settlement, first mentioned in Egyptian texts on the Sebek-khu Stele, an Egyptian stele of a noble at the court of Senusret III (c. 1880–1840 BC). In the Amarna Letters of about 1350 BC, Shachmu (i.e. Shechem) was the center of a kingdom carved out by Labaya (or Labayu), a Canaanite warlord who recruited mercenaries from among the Habiru. Labaya was the author of three Amarna letters, and his name appears in 11 of the other 382 letters, referred to 28 times, with the basic topic of the letter, being Labaya himself, and his relationship with the rebelling, countryside Habiru. It may be identical to the Sakama mentioned by the ancient Egyptian traveler Mohar in an account dated to the 14th. century BCE.
Shechem first appears in the Bible in Genesis 12:6-8, which records how Abraham reached the "great tree of Moreh" at Shechem and offered sacrifice nearby. Genesis, Deuteronomy, the Book of Judges and Joshua hallow Shechem over all other cities of the land of Israel. At Shechem, Abram "built an altar to the Lord who had appeared to him ... and had given that land to his descendants" (Gen 12:6-7). The Bible states that on this occasion, God confirmed the covenant he had first made with Abraham in Harran, regarding the possession of the land of Canaan. In Jewish tradition the old name was understood in terms of the Hebrew word shékém — 'shoulder, saddle', corresponding to the mountainous configuration of the place.
On a later sojourn, the sons of Jacob avenged their sister's rape (or by another interpretation, seduction) by "Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land" of Shechem — by massacring the city's inhabitants. Later, following the Exodus, Joshua assembled the Israelites in Shechem and encouraged them to reaffirm their adherence to the Torah.
Owing to its central position, no less than to the presence in the neighborhood of places hallowed by the memory of Abraham (Genesis 12:6, 7; 34:5), Jacob's Well (Genesis 33:18-19; 34:2, etc.), and the tomb of Joseph (Joshua 24:32), the city was destined to play an important part in the history of Israel. The city, including its Bronze Age temple, fell to the Israelites sometime before 1000 BC.
After Gideon's death, Abimelech, his son by a Sichemite concubine, was made king (Judges 9:1-45). Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, made an allegorical speech on Mount Gerizim in which he warned the people of Shechem about Abimelech's future tyranny (Judges 9:7-20). When the city rose in rebellion three years later, Abimelech took it, utterly destroyed it, and burnt the temple of Baal-berith where the people had fled for safety. From the excavations, it was learnt that the city was destroyed in 1100 BC.
It was rebuilt in the 10th century BC and was probably the capital of Ephraim (1 Kings 4). Shechem was the place appointed, after Solomon's death, for the meeting of the people of Israel and the investiture of Rehoboam; the meeting ended in the secession of the ten northern tribes, and Sichem, fortified by Jeroboam, became for a while the capital of the new kingdom (1 Kings 12:1; 14:17; 2 Chronicles 10:1).
When the kings of Israel moved first to Tirzah, and later on to Samaria, Shechem lost its importance, and we do not hear of it until after the fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C.; Jeremiah 12:5). The events connected with the restoration were to bring it again into prominence. When, on his second visit to Jerusalem, Nehemias expelled the grandson of the high priest Eliashib (probably the Manasse of Josephus, "Antiq.", XI, vii, viii), who refused to separate from his alien wife, Sanaballat's daughter, and with him the many Jews, priests and laymen, who sided with the rebel, these betook themselves to Shechem; a schismatic temple was then erected on Mount Garizim and thus Shechem became the "holy city" of the Samaritans. The latter, who were left unmolested while the orthodox Jews were chafing under the heavy hand of Antiochus IV (Antiq., XII, v, 5, see also Antinomianism in the Books of the Maccabees) and welcomed with open arms every renegade who came to them from Jerusalem (Antiq., XI, viii, 7), fell about 128 B.C. before John Hyrcanus, and their temple was destroyed ("Antiq.", XIII, ix, 1).
Classical and modern history
In Classical times, Shechem was the main settlement of the Samaritans, whose religious center stood on Mount Gerizim, just outside of the town. In Acts 7:16 the place is called Sychem. It is not known whether Sychar in the Gospel of John 4:5 refers to Shechem or to a nearby village.
Shechem is also the location of Jacob's Well, where John 4:5–6 describes Jesus' meeting with the woman of Samaria. Josephus, writing in about AD 90 (Jewish Antiquities 4.8.44), placed the city between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. Elsewhere he refers to it as Neapolis/Nablus. Other ancient writers refer to it as Nablus or on the outskirts of Nablus. The site near Nablus now identified as Shechem was stumbled upon in 1903 by a German party of archaeologists led by Dr. Hermann Thiersch, and is called Tell Balatah, beside the traditional site of Joseph's Tomb mentioned in (Joshua 24:32).
In A.D. 6, Shechem was annexed to the Roman Province of Syria. Some of its inhabitants were of the number of the "Samaritans" who believed in Jesus when he tarried two days in the neighborhood, and the city must have been visited by the Apostles on their way from Samaria to Jerusalem (Acts 8:25). Of the Samaritans of Sichem not a few rose up in arms on Mt. Garizim at the time of the Galilean rebellion (A.D. 67); the city was very likely destroyed on that occasion by Cerealis. In A.D. 72, a new city, Flavia Neapolis, was built by Vespasian 2 kilometers to the west of the old one. This city's name was eventually corrupted to the modern Nablus.
Some fifty years later Hadrian restored the temple on Mt. Garizim, and dedicated it to Jupiter. Neapolis, like Shechem, had very early a Christian community, including an early saint, Justin Martyr; we hear even of bishops of Neapolis. On several occasions the Christians suffered greatly from the Samaritans, and in 474 the emperor, to avenge an unjust attack of the sect, deprived the latter of Mt. Garizim and gave it to the Christians who built on it a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
- Sichem is an old spelling for Zichem, a Flemish municipality which was named after the biblical Sichem; it is now merged into Scherpenheuvel-Zichem.
- Sekem is an Anthroposophical and Islamic foundation and farming village centered on principles for Biodynamic agriculture in Egypt; this name refers to Shechem, and to the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph pronounced 'Sekem' meaning 'vitality' or 'life'.
- Cornel Heinsdorff: "Christus, Nikodemus und die Samaritanerin am Jakobsbrunnen", Berlin/New York 2003, 218-220, ISBN 3-11-017851-6
- Stager, Lawrence (2003). "The Shechem Temple Where Abimelech Massacred a Thousand". Biblical Archaeology Review 29:4 (July/August): 26–35, 66, 68–69.
- Genesis Chapter 34
- Book of Kings II:25
- ' The present Nābulus is a corruption merely of Neapolis; and Neapolis succeeded the more ancient Shechem. All the early writers who touch on the topography of Palestine, testify to this identity of the two.' William Smith (ed.) Dictionary of the Bible,, rev. and edited by H.B.Hackett and Ezra Abbot, Hurd & Houghton New York 1870, vol.IV, Shechem,' pp.2952-2958, p.2953.
- St. Jerome, St. Epiphanius
- Eusebius, "Onomast.", Euchem; Medaba map
- Muller, "Asien u. Europ.", p. 394, Leipzig, 1893).Further verification, please.
- Yitzakh Magen, 'The Dating of the First Phase of the Samaritan Temple on Mt Gerizim in Light of Archaeological Evidence,' in Oded Lipschitz, Gary N. Knoppers, Rainer Albertz (eds.) Judah and the Judeans in the Fourth Century B.C.E., Eisenbrauns, 2007 pp.157ff.p.184.
- (John 4)
- ("Bell. Jud.", III, vii, 32)
- (Dion Cass., xv, 12)
- (Labbe, "Conc.", I, 1475, 1488; II, 325)
- (Procop., "De edif", v, 7)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Sichem". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
- Full archaeological and Biblical discussion of Shechem
- Guide to the Jewish Communities around Shechem
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Shechem
- Shechem Why was the city of Shechem an important archaeological find?