Shechem (Sichem, Shkhem or Shachmu, Hebrew: שְׁכֶם‎ / שְׁכָם, Standard "unicode|Šəḫem" Tiberian "unicode|Šəḵem"; "Shoulder", modern Tell Balatah Israel, present-day Salim and 2 km east of present-day Nablus) was Canaanite city mentioned in the Amarna letters, and later became an Israelite city in the tribe of Manasseh. It was the first capital of the Kingdom of Israel.

Biblical original

Archaeological evidence indicates that the city was razed and reconstructed up to 22 times before its final demise in AD 200. Within the remains of the city can still be found a number of walls and gates built for defense, a government house, a residential quarter and the ruins of a temple raised to Zeus by the Roman Emperor Hadrian (reigned 117 – 138), the latter dating to the second century AD.

Its position is clearly indicated in the Bible: it lay north of Bethal and Shiloh, on the high road going from Jerusalem to the northern districts (Judges xxi, 19), at a short distance from Machmethath (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. Garizim, and by the Madaba map, which places Sychem, also called Sikima between the Tour Gobel (Ebal) and the Tour Garizin (Garizim). We may therefore admit unhesitatingly that Sichem stood on (St. Jerome, St. Epiphanius), or very close to (Eusebius, "Onomast.", Euchem; Medaba map), the site occupied by the town of Nablus, the Neapolis, or Flavia Neapolis of early Christian ages.

Pre-Roman History and Biblical tradition

The old city of Shechem dates back an estimated four thousand years.

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). This Biblical account, considered by some to be the first place Abraham, Sarah, Lot and their party stopped upon their entry to Canaan. 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. On a later sojourn, the sons of Jacob avenged their sister's rape (or by another interpretation, seduction) by massacring the city's inhabitants. Joshua assembled the Israelites in Shechem and encouraged them to reaffirm their adherence to the Torah. During the Judges period, Abimelech was crowned king in Shechem.

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, mentioned on 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.

Shechem first appears in the Tanakh in Genesis 12:6–8, which records how Abraham reached the "great tree of Moreh" at Shechem and offered sacrifice nearby. Later Joseph's bones were brought out of Egypt and reburied at Shechem. That the city of Sichem, the name of which (Hebrew "shékém" — 'shoulder, saddle') appears to have been suggested by the configuration of the place, existed in the time of Abraham is doubted by a few who think it is referred to in Genesis, xii, 6, by anticipation; but there can be no question touching its existence in Jacob's time (Genesis 33:18, 19); it is certainly mentioned in the El-Amarna letters (letter 289), and is probably the "Sakama" of the old Egyptian traveler Mohar (fourteenth century B.C.; Muller, "Asien u. Europ.", p. 394, Leipzig, 1893).

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.

There it was that, after Gideon's death, Abimelech, his son by a Sichemite concubine, was made king (Judges 9:1-6). Yotam, the youngest son of Gideon, made a famous speech on Mount Gerizim known as Yotam's allegory where he warned the people of Shechem about Abimelech's future tyranny (Judges 9:7-20). When the city has, three years later, risen in rebellion, 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 Roboam; 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) 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).

During the Roman conquest of Samaria, Shechem was destroyed and a Neapolis or "new city" was built nearby. Eventually, this name was corrupted to the Arabic Nablus.

Classical and modern history

In Classical times, Shechem was the main settlement of the Samaritans, whose cultic center was on Mount Gerizim, just outside of the town. In Acts 7:16 the place is called Sychem, and in the Gospel of John 4:5 it is called Sychar.

Shechem is also the location of Jacob's Well, where John 4:5–6 describes Jesus' meeting with the woman of Samaria. The Ancient Roman and Arab city of Nablus lies 2 km to the west of the site. Josephus, writing in about AD 90 ("Jewish Antiquities" 4.8.44), placed the city between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, and other ancient writers knew that it was on the outskirts of "Neapolis" (Nablus), but its archaeological site was only stumbled upon in 1903 by a German party of archaeologists led by Dr. Hermann Thiersch at a site known as Tell Balatah, beside the traditional site associated with the tomb of Joseph (Joshua 24:32).

Like all Samaria it was annexed, at the time of the deposition of Archelaus, in A.D. 6, to the Roman Province of Syria. Some, no doubt, of its inhabitants (whether Sichar of John 4:5, is the same as Sichem or a place near the latter we shall leave here undecided) were of the number of the "Samaritans" who believed in Jesus when he tarried two days in the neighborhood (John 4), 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 ("Bell. Jud.", III, vii, 32), and a few years after a new city, Flavia Neapolis, was built by Vespasian a short distance to the west of the old one; some fifty years later Hadrian restored the temple on Mt. Garizim, and dedicated it to Jupiter (Dion Cass., xv, 12). Neapolis, like Sichem, had very early a Christian community and had the honor to give to the Church her first apologist, St. Justin Martyr; we hear even of bishops of Neapolis (Labbe, "Conc.", I, 1475, 1488; II, 325). 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 (Procop., "De edif", v, 7).

Since the Islamic conquest (636, first under the Arab Caliphates, ultimately under the Ottoman Turks) Christianity, except during the twelfth century, had practically disappeared from Nablús, which, however, remained the headquarters of the Samaritan sect (about 150 members) and of their high priest.


Sichem is also the old spelling for Zichem, a Flemish municipality which is named after the biblical Sichem; it is now merged into Scherpenheuvel-Zichem. Also the Antroposophical and Islamic foundation and farming village centered on principles for Biodynamic agriculture in Egypt Sekem, are conferring to the Shechem, as well as the hieroglyph pronounced 'Sekem' meaning 'vitality' or 'life'.

ee also

*Biblical archaeology
*Kingdom of Israel


* Cornel Heinsdorff: "Christus, Nikodemus und die Samaritanerin am Jakobsbrunnen", Berlin/New York 2003, 218-220, ISBN 3-11-017851-6

ources and External links

* [ 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?

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • SHECHEM — (Heb. שְׁכֶם), ancient Canaanite and Israelite city situated between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim in a fertile and well watered valley in the heart of the central hill country of Ereẓ Israel. Shechem has been identified with the ancient mound known… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Shechem — /shee keuhm, kem, shek euhm, em/, n. a town of ancient Palestine, near the city of Samaria; occupied by Israel 1967 96; since 1996 under Palestinian self rule: first capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Modern name, Nablus. * * * ▪ ancient… …   Universalium

  • Shechem —    Shoulder.    1) The son of Hamor the Hivite (Gen. 33:19; 34).    2) A descendant of Manasseh (Num. 26:31; Josh. 17:2).    3) A city in Samaria (Gen. 33:18), called also Sichem (12:6), Sychem (Acts 7:16). It stood in the narrow sheltered valley …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

  • Shechem — Naplouse 32° 13′ 18″ N 35° 15′ 40″ E / 32.221751, 35.261221 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Shechem — A city north of Jerusalem controlling a vital trade route, and so very prosperous. It was visited by Abraham (Gen. 12:6) and it was the burial site of Jacob (Josh. 24:32) and the place where Joshua renewed the covenant (Josh. 24). It was… …   Dictionary of the Bible

  • Shechem — geographical name see Nablus …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Shechem — n. city located in the West Bank and under control of the Palestinian Authority (called Nablus in Arabic) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Shechem — She•chem [[t]ˈʃi kəm, ˈʃɛk əm[/t]] hebr. [[t]ʃəˈxɛm[/t]] n. Hebrew name of Nablus …   From formal English to slang

  • Shechem — /ˈʃikɛm/ (say sheekem) noun a town of ancient Palestine, near the city of Samaria. Modern, Nablus …   Australian English dictionary

  • Shechem — /shee keuhm, kem, shek euhm, em/, n. a town of ancient Palestine, near the city of Samaria; occupied by Israel 1967 96; since 1996 under Palestinian self rule: first capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Modern name, Nablus …   Useful english dictionary

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