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ATS Bible Dictionary

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Greek - Shechem
Hebrew - Shechem, Shechem's
Hebrew - Shechem
SHECHEM

1. A Canaanite prince, at the town of the same name, who abducted Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and was soon afterwards treacherously slain, with many of his people, by Simeon and Levi, Genesis 34:1-31.

2. A city of central Canaan, between the mountains Gerizim and Ebal, thirty-four miles north of Jerusalem; called also Sychar and Sychem, Acts 7:16. It is first mentioned in the history of Abraham, who here erected his first altar in Canaan, and took possession of the country in the name of Jehovah, Genesis 12:6 33:18,19 35:4. Jacob bought a field in its neighborhood, which by way of overplus, he gave to his son Joseph, who was buried here, Genesis 48:22 Joshua 24:32. After the conquest of Canaan it became a Levitical city of refuge in Ephraim, and a gathering-place of the tribes, Joshua 20:7 21:21 24:1,25 Judges 9:1-57. Here Rehoboam gave the ten tribes occasion to revolt, 1 Kings 12:1-33. In its vicinity was Jacob’s well or fountain, at which Christ discoursed with the woman of Samaria, John 4:5. See also Acts 8:25 9:31 15:3. After the ruin of Samaria by Shalmaneser, Shechem became the capital of the Samaritans; and Josephus says it was so in the time of Alexander the Great. St the present day it is also the seat of the small remnant of the Samaritans. See SAMARITANS.

It was called by the Romans Neapolis, from which the Arabs have made Napolose, or Nabulus.

The valley of Shechem extends several miles northwest between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, and is about five hundred yards wide; so that in the pure and elastic air of Palestine the two mountains are within hailing distance of each other, one circumstance among thousands evincing the exact truthfulness of Bible narratives, Deuteronomy 27:11-14 Judges 9:7. The winter rains which fall in the eastern part of the valley find their way to the Jordan, while in the western part are numerous springs, forming a pretty brook which flows towards the Mediterranean. "Here," says Dr. Robinson, "a scene of luxuriant and almost unparalleled verdure burst upon our view. The whole valley was filled with gardens of vegetables and orchards of all kinds of fruits, watered by several 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 Palestine." The modern town has several long and narrow streets, partly on the base of Mount Gerizim. It does not appear to extend so far to the east as the ancient city did. The houses are high and well built of stone, and covered with small domes. Nabulus is thought to contain eight thousand inhabitants, all Mohammedans except five hundred Greek Christians, one hundred and fifty Samaritans, and as many Jews. The rocky base of Mount Ebal on the north of the valley is full of ancient excavated tombs. On Mount Gerizim is the holy place of the Samaritans, and the ruins of a strong fortress erected by Justinian. At the foot of these mountains on the east lies the beautiful plain of Mukhna, ten miles long and a mile and a half wide; and where the valley opens on this plain, Joseph’s tomb and Jacob’s well are located, by the unanimous consent of Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans. The former spot is now covered by a Mohammedan Wely, or sacred tomb; and the latter by an arched stone chamber, entered by a narrow hole in the roof, and the mouth of the well within is covered by a large stone. The well itself is one hundred and five feet deep, and is now sometimes dry. It bears every mark of high antiquity.

The following extract is from Dr. Clarke’s description of this place: "There is nothing in the Holy Land finer than a view of Napolose from the heights around it. As the traveller descends towards it from the hills, it appears luxuriantly embosomed in the most delightful and fragrant bowers, half concealed by rich gardens, and by stately trees collected into groves, all around the bold and beautiful valley in which it stands. Trade seems to flourish among its inhabitants. Their principal employment is in making soap; but the manufactures of the town supply a very widely extended neighborhood, and are exported to a great distance upon camels. In the morning after our arrival, we met caravans coming from Grand Cairo, and noticed others reposing in the large olive plantations near the gates."

"The sacred story of events transacted in the fields of Sychem, from our earliest years is remembered with delight; but with the territory before our eyes where those events took place, and in the view of objects existing as they were described above three thousand years ago, the grateful impression kindles into ecstasy. Along the valley we beheld ‘a company of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead,’ Genesis 37:25, as in the days of Reuben and Judah, ‘with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh,’ who would gladly have purchased another Joseph of his brethren, and conveyed him as a slave to some Potiphar in Egypt. Upon the hills around, flocks and herds were feeding, as of old; nor in the simple garb of the shepherds of Samaria was there any thing repugnant to the notions we may entertain of the appearance presented by the sons of Jacob. It was indeed a scene to abstract and to elevate the mind; and under emotions so called forth by every circumstance of powerful coincidence, a single moment seemed to concentrate whole ages of existence."

"The principal object of veneration is Jacob’s well, over which a church was formerly erected. This is situated at a small distance from the town, in the road to Jerusalem, and has been visited by pilgrims of all ages, but particularly since the Christian era, as the place where our Savior revealed himself to the woman of Samaria."

"The spot is so distinctly marked by the evangelist, and so little liable to uncertainty, from the circumstance of the well itself and the features of the country, that, if no tradition existed for its identity, the site of it could hardly be mistaken. Perhaps no Christian scholar ever attentively read John 4:1-54, without being struck with the numerous intervals evidences of truth which crowd upon the mind in its perusal. Within so small a compass it is impossible to find in other writings so many sources of reflection and of interest. Independently of its importance as a theological document, it concentrates so much information, that a volume might be filled with illustration it reflects on the history of the Jews and on the geography of their country. All that can be gathered on these subjects from Josephus seems but as a comment to illustrate this chapter. The journey of our Lord from Judea into Galilee; the cause of it; his passage through the territory of Samaria; his approach to the metropolis of this country; its name; his arrival at the Amorite field which terminates the narrow valley of Sychem; the ancient custom of halting at a well; the female employment of drawing water; the disciples sent into the city for food, by which its situation out of the town is obviously implied; the question of the woman referring to existing prejudices which separated the Jews from the Samaritans; the depth of the well; the oriental allusion contained in the expression, ‘living water;’ the history of the well, and the customs thereby illustrated; the worship upon Mount Gerizim; all these occur within the space of twenty verses."


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859. Public Domain, copy freely.

Bibliography Information
Rand, W. W. "Entry for 'SHECHEM'". "American Tract Society Bible Dictionary".
<http://classic.studylight.org/dic/ats/view.cgi?number=T1893>. 1859.

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