SHECHEM

The ancient town of Shechem lay between Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal in central Canaan (Deut 27:12- 13; Judg 9:7). It was the first recorded camping place of Abraham when he came to Canaan from Haran (Gen 12:4-6). (For maps of the region see PALESTINE.) Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, upon returning to Canaan from Paddan-aram, bought land in Shechem and settled there with his family and flocks (Gen 33:18-19).

When a conflict arose with some of the local inhabitants, Jacob’s sons massacred the men of Shechem and plundered the town (Gen 34:1-31). Jacob and his family then moved elsewhere, though at times they still pastured their flocks near Shechem (Gen 35:1-4; 37:12). Joseph’s bones were later buried at Shechem in a field that Jacob had given to Joseph (Gen 48:22; Josh 24:32; John 4:5-6). After the conquest of Canaan, the people of Israel gathered at Shechem to confirm the covenant. The blessings of the covenant were announced from Mt Gerizim on one side of the town, and the curses from Mt Ebal on the other. Just before Joshua’s death, the leaders of Israel gathered at Shechem once more and declared their loyalty to the covenant (Deut 27:1-14; Josh 8:30-35; 24:1-28). In the division of Canaan among the Israelites, Shechem fell within the tribal allotment of Ephraim, but was set apart for the Levites. It was one of the three cities of refuge west of Jordan (Josh 20:2,7; 21:20-21; see CITY OF REFUGE). In the time of the judges, Abimelech tried to establish a kingdom in Shechem but his success was shortlived (Judg 9:1-6,16-57).

In the time of the monarchy, after the death of Solomon, Rehoboam went to Shechem to be crowned king, no doubt hoping this would help him win the allegiance of the northern tribes. However, the northerners broke away and established their own kingdom, with its capital initially at Shechem (1 Kings 12:1,25). Within a few years they shifted the capital to Tirzah, and later again to Samaria (1 Kings 15:33; 16:8,24,29). Although Shechem lost its importance, it continued to exist, even after the Assyrians had destroyed the northern kingdom and taken most of the people into captivity (Jer 41:5). When Assyria brought people from elsewhere to live in the deserted northern kingdom, these immigrants intermarried with the Israelites left in the land. In due course this produced a people of mixed blood and mixed religion who became known as the Samaritans. Shechem became the chief city of the Samaritans, and Mt Gerizim became to them a sacred mountain. There they built their temple, worshipped, and held religious festivals. The village of Sychar was nearby (John 4:5-6,20). (See SAMARIA, SAMARITANS.)

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