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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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SHECHEM . 1 . Genesis 33:19; Genesis 34:2; Genesis 34:4 etc. See Jacob, Hamor. 2. A Manassite clan, Numbers 26:31 (35), (the Shechemites), Joshua 17:2 , 1 Chronicles 7:19 . 1 Chronicles 7:3 . See next article.

SHECHEM . The place in which Jacob for a while established himself ( Genesis 33:18 , John 4:12 ). Here he is said to have dug the well coosecrated by Christ’s conversation with the Samaritan woman, and still shown to travellers, with a claim to authenticity which is lacking in the vast majority of the so-called ‘holy places.’ It was evidently a place of sanctity: there was a great oak (or terebinth) here no doubt a sacred tree where Jacob hid his teraphim ( Genesis 35:4 ), and under which Joshua gave his parting address to the elders ( Joshua 24:1-33 ). A great stone under the tree was traditionally connected with the latter event ( Joshua 24:26 ). This is no doubt the reason why Shechem was a Levitical city, and also a city of refuge ( Joshua 20:7 ). The city, however, remained Canaanite after the conquest, serving the local god Baal-herith ( Judges 9:4 ): Gideon’s concubine, mother of Abimelech, was a Canaanitess from Shechem, and her relatives set up her son as a king, to his and their own destruction ( Judges 9:1-57 ). Here Rehoboam alienated the Northern Kingdom by his overhearing speech ( 1 Kings 12:1 ), and Jeroboam for a time was established here ( 1 Kings 12:25 ). It was not a place of importance before the Exile, though continuously inhabited down to and after that event ( Jeremiah 41:5 ). The development of the Samaritan nation led to its rise. It was known at this period to the natives by the name Mabortha (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] BJ IV. viii. 1), but the name by which it was generally known, after its re-building by Titus Flavins Vespasianus, was Flavia Neapolis , or, more briefly, Neapolis a name which still persists in the modern Arabic form Nâblus , though usually Roman or Greek names imposed on Palestinian sites have disappeared, the older names persisting.

In the Byzantine period there was a bishopric at Neapolis, of which we know little save that the Samaritans in a.d. 474 wounded the bishop, and were in consequence severely punished by the emperor Zeno. The city fell to the Crusaders in 1099, and several churches were there built by them one of which still survives in part as a mosque. In 1184 it was re-conquered by Saladin. The inhabitants have always been noted for turbulence and lawlessness. Towards the end of the 18th century it was a storm-centre of the inter-tribal wars of the fellahîn , the leader of the district being the notorious Kasim el-Ahmad.

It is now a town of some 24,000 inhabitants, all Moslems except about 150 Samaritans and 700 Christians. They are concerned in extensive soap manufacture, and in trade in wool and cotton with Eastern Palestine. There are Protestant and Roman Catholic missions, and an important English hospital directed by the Church Missionary Society.

In or near the town are shown ‘Jacob’s well,’ which, as already said, is not improbably authentic; and a shrine covering the traditional ‘tomb of Joseph,’ the genuineness of which is perhaps less unassailable.

R. A. S. Macalister.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Shechem'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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