SHECHEM ( = "shoulder" or "ridge"):

Earliest Mention.
  • 1. City of central Palestine; called Sichem in Gen. xii. 6, A. V.; Shalem, according to some commentators, ib. xxxiii. 18; Sychem in Acts vii. 16; and Sychar in John iv. 5. Its situation is indicated as in Mount Ephraim in Josh. xx. 7 and I Kings xii.25; but from Judges ix. 7 it seems to have been immediately below Mount Gerizim, and it is therefore placed by Josephus ("Ant." iv. 8, § 48) between Gerizim and Ebai. Shechem is elsewhere stated to have been in the neighborbood of Dothan (Gen. xxxvii. 12 et seq.), north of Shiloh (Judges xxi. 19). The first mention of the place occurs in connection with Abraham, who, on his first migration to the land of Canaan, built an altar under the oak of Moreh on the site where later Shechem was built (Gen. xii. 6). At the time of Abraham the place, which could scarcely have been a city, was occupied by the Canaanites.Shechem first appears as a city in the time of Jacob, who, after his meeting with Esau, encamped in front of it in the field which he bought for 100 pieces of money from Hamor, the prince of the country (ib. xxxiii. 18-19). It was then inhabited by the Hivvites (ib.). Jacob's arrival at Shechem marked a very important period in its history; for the defilement of Dinah, which took place there, resulted in the pillage of the city and the massacre of all the male inhabitants by Jacob's sons (ib. xxxiv. 2-29). This narrative shows also that Shechem was at that time a commercial center, and rich in sheep, oxen, and asses. The oak-tree under which Abraham had built an altar still existed in the time of Jacob, who hid under it the images and the earrings of the Shechemites (ib. xxxv. 4). The surrounding territory afforded good pasturage; and therefore during Jacob's stay at Hebron his sons drove their flocks to Shechem (ib. xxxvii. 12 et seq.). Jacob had previously promised the city to Joseph (ib. xlviii. 22, Hebr.); and it was allotted by Joshua to Ephraim, and Joseph's remains were buried there. Afterward it was assigned to the Levites, becoming also a city of refuge (Josh. xx. 7, xxi. 20-21, xxiv. 32).
Religious Center.

After the conquest of Canaan, Shechem became an important religious center. The two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal, between which the city was situated, had been previously designated as the places where the Levites should recite their blessings; and under Joshua this arrangement was carried into effect (Deut. xxvii. 11; Josh. viii. 32-35). It was at Shechem that Joshua drew up the statutes of the Mosaic religion and set up a stone as a monument in the temple of Yhwh under the oak-tree (Josh. xxiv. 1-28). Shortly before his death Joshua assembled at Shechem the elders and judges of Israel, giving them his last recommendations and exhorting them to adhere to the cult of Yhwh.

Capital of Jeroboam.

After Gideon's death the inhabitants of Shechem, separating themselves from the commonwealth, elected Abimelech as king, and solemnly inaugurated him in the temple under the oak-tree (Judges ix. 1-6). At the end of three years, however, they revolted and were all slain, the city being destroyed and sown with salt (ib. verses 23-45). It was restored later and regained its former importance; for after Solomon's death all the tribes of Israel assembled there to crown Rehoboam. It was there that the ten tribes, whose demands were spurned by Rehoboam, renounced their allegiance to him and elected Jeroboam as king (I Kings xii. 1-20). The latter fortified Shechem and made it for a time his capital (ib. verse 25). From that time no mention is made of the place. It was most probably included in "the cities of Samaria" which were conquered by the Assyrian kings, and whose inhabitants, carried away into captivity, were replaced by colonists from other countries (comp. II Kings xvii. 5-6, 24; xviii. 9 et seq.).

People of Shechem, probably proselytes, are mentioned as having been slain by Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah (Jer. xli. 5), while on their way to the Temple at Jerusalem, to which they were carrying gifts, not knowing that it had been destroyed. After the Exile, Shechem became the religious capital of the Samaritans, whose temple was on Mount Gerizim (comp. Joshua, Son of Sirach, i. 26). Thus Shechem was to the Samaritans what Jerusalem was to the Jews; and its religious prominence was maintained for nearly 200 years, when it was captured by John Hyrcanus (129 B.C.), who destroyed the temple (Josephus, "Ant." xiii. 9, § 1; idem, "B. J." i. 2, § 6). Later, Alexander Jannæus met with a crushing defeat near Shechem ("Ant." xiii. 14, §§ 1-2; "B. J." i. 4, §§ 4-5).

Destroyed Under Vespasian.

The place seems to have been completely destroyed during the Jewish wars, and on its site another city was built by Vespasian (72 C.E.), to which he gave the name "Neapolis" ("B. J." iv. 8, § 1; Pliny, "Historia Naturalis," v. 13, § 69); this was afterward changed by the Arabs to "Nablus." The identification of Shechem with Neapolis by Josephus and Pliny is supported by Num. R. xxiii. 14, which renders "Shechem" by "Neapolis" (). Eusebius ("Onomasticon," s.v. "Sichem"), however, places Neapolis in the vicinity of the site of Shechem. On coins from Neapolis that city is called "Flavia Neapolis" (Eckhel, "Doctrina Nummorum Veterum," iii. 483 et passim). Both Josephus and Pliny declare that Shechem or Neapolis was called by the natives "Mabortha" (Μαβορθά) or "Mamortha." This name is evidently a corruption of the Aramean "Mabarakta," or "the blessed city," so called by the Samaritans in opposition to Jerusalem, as they similarly term Mount Gerizim "the blessed mountain" in opposition to Mount Moriah, which they designate "the accursed mountain" (Gen. R. lxxxi. 3). Great hostility to the Jews was manifested by the Samaritan inhabitants of Neapolis. R. Ishmael ben Jose, who once passed Neapolis () in order to go to Jerusalem to pray, relates that he was the object of their derision (Yer. 'Ab. Zarah v. 4).

Tomb of Joseph.

Under the Roman emperors Neapolis became one of the most important cities of Palestine. Septimius Severus once deprived it of the "jus civitatis," but he restored it later (Spartianus, "Vita Severi," ch. ix.). Under Zeno (474) riots occurred in Neapolis between the Samaritans and the Christians. In 1184 the city was captured by the troops of Saladin. It has been remarked above that the name "Neapolis" was corrupted into "Nablus" by the Arabs; and the city has been generally known under the latter name since the Middle Ages. Its history is closely connectedwith that of the Samaritans. It may be added that the tomb of Joseph (comp. Josh. xxiv. 32) has always been the chief object of attraction for visitors to Nablus. This fact is first mentioned by Benjamin of Tudela ("Itinerary," ed. Asher, pp. 32-33)—who, by the way, relates that in his time there were no Jews at Nablus—and after him by the French traveler R. Jacob, who was at Nablus in 1258 (Carmoly, "Itinéraires," p. 186). Isaac Ḥelo (14th cent.) says (ib. p. 251) that people came from afar to Nablus to visit the tomb of Joseph and Jacob's well, and that there were in the place few Jews, but many Samaritans. The author of the "Yiḥus ha-Ẓaddiḳim" (ib. p. 386) is more precise in placing Joseph's tomb in the village of Al-Balaṭah, near Nablus, adding that visitors recite over the tomb Ps. Ixxvii., lxxx., and lxxxi. Finally, the author of "Yiḥus ha-Abot" (ib. p. 445) says that the village Al-Balaṭah, which contains Joseph's tomb, is a Sabbath-day's journey (2,000 cubits) north of Nablus. Samuel b. Samson (ib. p. 150), however, places Joseph's tomb at Shiloh. Nablus at present has a population of about 24,000, including 170 Samaritans and 150 Jews.

  • Besides the sources mentioned in the article, Guérin, Samarie, i. 372 et seq.;
  • Neubaner, G. T. pp. 168 et seq.;
  • Robinson, Researches, iii. 96 et seq., 113 et seq.;
  • idem, Later Researches, p. 131;
  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 50-51;
  • Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, pp. 233 et seq.
  • 2. Son of Hamor, Prince of Shechem; he probably derived his name from that town. He is particularly known for his defilement of Dinah, Jacob's daughter, which misdeed led to the destruction of his family and the massacre of all the male inhabitants of Shechem (Gen. xxxiv. 1-26). See Dinah; Hamor.
  • 3. Son of Gilead and grandson of Manasseh, and head of the family of Shechemites, according to Num. xxvi. 31 and Josh. xvii. 2. In I Chron. vii. 19, however, he is said to have been the son of Shemida and, consequently, the grandson of Gilead.
E. G. H. M. Sel.
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