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(Heb. Shekem',. שְׁכֶם ["in pause" She'kem, שֶׁכֶם, both as a common noun (Psalms 21:13) and as a proper name (Numbers 26:31; Joshua 17:2; 1 Chronicles 7:19)], a shoulder; Sept. Συχέμ ), the name of three men and one place in the Bible.


1. The son of Hamor, prince of the country or district of Shechem in which Jacob formed his camp oa his return from Mesopotamia. B.C. 1906. This young man, having seen Jacob's daughter Dinah, was smitten, with her beauty, and deflowered her. This wrong was terribly and cruelly avenged by the damsel's uterine brothers, Simeon and Levi. (See DINAH). It seems likely that the town of Shechem, even if of recent origin, must have existed before the birth of a man so young as Hamor's son appears to have been; aid we may therefore suppose it a name preserved in the family, and which both the town and the princes inherited. See No. 4 below. Shechem's name is always connected with that of his father, Hamor (Genesis 33:19; Genesis 34; Joshua 24:32; Judges 9:28; Acts 7:16). (See JACOB).

2. A son of Gilead, of the tribe of Manasseh, and head of the family of the' Shechemites (Numbers 26:31). B.C. post 1856. His family are again mentioned as the Beni-Shechem (Joshua 17:2).

3. In the lists of 1 Chronicles another Shechem is named among the Gileadites as a son of Shemidah, a younger member of the family of the foregoing (7:19). B.C. post 1856. It must have been the recollection of one of these two Gileadites which led Cyril of Alexandria into his strange fancy (quoted by Reland, Paloest. p. 1007, from his Comm. on Hosea) of placing the city of Shechem on the eastern side of the Jordan.

4. An ancient and important city of Central Palestine, which still subsists, although under a later designation. In our account of it we introduce the copious illustrations by modern explorers.

I. The Name. The Hebrew word, as above seen, means a "shoulder," or, more correctly, the upper part of the back, just below the neck, like the Latin dorsum, a ridge (Gesenius, s.v.). The origin of this name is doubtful. Some have supposed it was given to the town from its position on the watershed lying between the valley of the Jordan, on the east, and the Mediterranean, on the west. But this is not altogether correct, for the watershed is more than halfway from the city to the entrance of the valley; and, had it been otherwise, the elevation at that point is so slight that it would neither suggest nor justify this as a distinctive title. It has also been made a question whether the place was so called from Shechem, the son of Hamor, head of their tribe in the time of Jacob (Genesis 33:18 sq.), or whether he received his name from the city. The import of the name favors, certainly, the latter supposition, since its evident signification as an appellative, in whatever application, would naturally originate such a name; and the name, having been thus introduced, would be likely to appear again and again in the family of the hereditary rulers of the city or region. The name, too, if first given to the city in the time of Hamor, would have been taken, according to historical analogy, from the father rather than the son. Some interpret Genesis 33:18-19 as showing that Shechem in that passage may have been called also Shalem. But this opinion has no support except from that passage; and the meaning even there more naturally is that Jacob came in safety to Shechem (שָׁלֵם, as an adjective, safe; comp. Genesis 28:21); or (as recognized in the English Bible) that Shalem belonged to Shechem as a dependent tributary village. (See SHALEM). The name is also given in the, A,V. in the form of SICHEM (Genesis 12:6) and SYCHEM (Acts 7:16), to which, as well as SYCHAR (John 4:5), the reader is referred. In the Sept., above stated, it is (as in the New Test. above) usually designated by Συχέμ, but also Σίκιμα in 1 Kings 12:25; and τὰ Σίκιμα, as in Joshua 24:32, which is the form generally used by Josephus and Eusebius (in the Onomast.). But the place has also been known by very different names from these variations of the ancient Shechem. To say nothing of Mabortha (Μαβορθά or Μαβαθρά ), which Josephus says (War, 4, 8, 1) it was called by the people of the country (מִעֲבִרְתָּא, ithe thoroughfare or gorge), and which also appears, with a slight variation (Mamortha) in Pliny (Hist. Nat. 5, 13), Josephus (ibid.) calls it Neapolis (Νεάπολις, "New Town"), from its having been rebuilt by Vespasian after the Roman war in Palestine; and this name is found on coins still extant (Enckel, Doctr. Num. 3, 433). (See NEAPOLIS). This last name it has still retained in the Arab Nablus, and is one of the very few instances throughout the country where the comparatively modern name has supplanted the original

II. Location. The scriptural indications of its locality are not numerous. Joshua places it in Mount Ephraim (20:7; see also 1 Kings 12:25). Shiloh was "on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem" (Judges 21:19); hence Shechem must have been farther north than Shiloh. In the story of Jotham it is more precisely located under Mount Gerizim (9:7); which corresponds with the more full and exact description of Josephus, who places it between Gerizim and Ebal (Ant. 4,8, 44). Further, Shechem, as we learn from Joseph's history (Genesis 37:12, etc.), must have been near Dothan; and, assuming Dothan to be the place of that name a few miles northeast of Nablus, Shechem must have been among the same mountains, not far distant. So, too, as the Sychar in John 4:5 was probably the ancient Shechem, that town must have been near Mount Gerizim, to which the Samaritan woman pointed or glanced as she stood by the well at its foot. The collateral evidences in support of this opinion we may briefly state.

1. The city is not built on an elevated position, as almost all the towns of Palestine are, but at the foot of Gerizim and along the valley, indicating a date anterior to the warlike and unsettled state of the country which led the inhabitants to select a more secure and defensive site for their towns; as also the unwillingness of the people through future generations to change the site of their ancient and renowned city.

2. The advantage which it affords of a good supply of running water a most important consideration in that climate especially. No spot in this favored locality has such an abundance as the city itself.

3. The road which has connected the valley with the summit of Mount Gerizim through all past ages is the one ascending behind the present town. It is true that there is another path leading up from the valley about halfway between the city and the east end of the valley; but this has never been more than a kind of by path, used by few except shepherds.

4. The antiquities in and around the city. These are neither numerous nor important in themselves, but as evidence on the subject in question they are of considerable value. They consist of portions of walls, cisterns, fragments of potteries, and such like, all of early date, and some evidently of Hebrew origin. These being either within the walls of the present city, or in its immediate vicinity, and none to be met with in any other part of the valley, seem to be a pretty conclusive proof that the present site is the original one.

5. The narrative of Jotham's parable to the people of Shechem clearly indicates the same spot (Judges 9:7-21). He would have stood on one of those large projections of Gerizim that overlook the city; and in no other spot in the valley would the whole story tally so well. Josephus, in relating Jotham's exploit, confirms this beyond all dispute. His words are that Jotham went up to Mount Gerizim, which overhangs the city Shechem (Ant. v, 7, 2). We may remark that Josephus usually retains the old name Shechem when speaking of the city, but occasionally adopts, the new name, Neapolis (War, 4, 8, 1); and thus clearly identifies Shechem with Nablus. This was certainly the Jewish opinion, as we read in Midrash Rabbah that "Shechem in Mount Ephraim is Napulis." So, also, the early Christians Epiphanius (Adv. Hoer. 3, 1055) and Jerome (Epit. Paula). The only ancient author that makes a distinction between Shechem and Nablus is Eusebius, if indeed he means to assert the fact, which seems doubtful from his mode of expression (Onomast. s.v. Τερέβινθος, Συχέμ ). But his contemporary, the Bordeaux Pilgrim, who visited the place in A.D. 333, not only identities the two, but also never calls the city by its new name, Neapolis, but only its ancient name, Sychem; and most likely he thus only expressed the general and probably universal opinion that then prevailed among both Jews and Christians. The ancient town, in its most flourishing age, may have filled a wider circuit than its modern representative. It could easily have extended farther up the side of Gerizim, and eastward nearer to the opening into the valley from the plain But any great change in this respect, certainly the idea of an altogether different position, the natural conditions of the locality render doubtful. That the suburbs of the town, in the age of Christ, approached nearer than at present to the entrance into the valley between Gerizim and Ebal may be inferred from the implied vicinity of Jacob's well to Sychar in John's narrative (John 4:1 sq.). The impression made there on the reader is that the people could be readily seen as they came forth from the town to repair to Jesus at the well; whereas Nablus is more than a mile distant, and not visible from that point. The present inhabitants have a belief or tradition that Shechem occupied a portion of the valley on the east beyond the limits of the modern town; and certain travelers speak of ruins there, which they regard as evidence of the same fact. The statement of Eusebius that Sychar lay east of Neapolis may be explained by the circumstance that the part of Neapolis in that quarter had fallen into such a state of ruin when he lived as to be mistaken for-the site of a separate town (see Reland, Palest.. p. 1004). The portion of the town on the edge of the plain was more exposed than that in the recess of the valley, and, in the natural course of things, would be destroyed first, or be left to desertion and decay. Josephus says that more than ten thousand Samaritans (inhabitants of Shechem are meant) were destroyed by the Romans on one occasion (War, 3, 7, 32). The population, therefore, must have been much greater than Nablus, with its present dimensions, would contain.

III. History. The allusions to Shechem in the Bible are numerous, and show how important the place was in Jewish history. Abraham, on his first migration to the land of promise, pitched his tent and built an altar under the oak (or Terebinth) of Moreh at Shechem. The Canaanite was then in the land;" and it is evident that the region, if not the city, was already in possession of the aboriginal race (see Genesis 12:6). Some have inferred from the expression "place of Shechem" (מְקוֹם שְׁכֶם ) that it was not inhabited as a city in the time of Abraham. But we have the same expression used of cities or towns in other instances (Genesis 18:24; Genesis 19:12; Genesis 29:22); and it may have been interchanged here, without any difference of meaning, with the phrase, "city of Shechem," which occurs in Genesis 33:18. A position affording such natural advantages would hardly fail to be occupied as soon as any population existed in the country. The narrative shows incontestably that at the time of Jacob's arrival here, after his sojourn in Mesopotamia (Genesis 33:18; ch. 34), Shechem was a Hivite city, of which Hamor, the father of Shechem, was the head man. It was at this time that the patriarch purchased from that chieftain "the parcel of the field," which he subsequently bequeathed, as a special patrimony, to his son Joseph (Genesis 43:22; Joshua 24:32; John 4:5). The field lay undoubtedly on the rich plain, of the Mukhna, and its value was the greater on account of the well which Jacob had dug there, so as not to be dependent on his neighbors for a supply of water.

The defilement of Dinah, Jacob's daughter, and the capture of Shechem and massacre of all the male inhabitants by Simeon and Levi, are events that belong to this period (Genesis 34:1 sq.). As this bloody act, which Jacob so entirely condemned (Genesis 34:30) and reprobated with his dying breath (Genesis 49:5-7), is ascribed to two persons, some urge that as evidence of the very insignificant character of the town at the time of that transaction. But the argument is by no means decisive. Those sons of Jacob were already at the head of households of their own, and may have had the support, in that achievement of their numerous slaves and retainers. We speak in like manner of a commander as taking this or that city when we mean that it was done under his leadership. The oak under which Abraham had worshipped survived to Jacob's time; and the latter, as he was about to remove to Beth-el, collected the images and amulets which some of his family had brought with them from Padan-aram and buried them "under the oak which was by Shechem" (Genesis 35:1-4). The "oak of the monument" (if we adopt that rendering of אֵלוֹן מֻצָּב in Judges 9:6), where the Shechemites made Abimelech king, marked, perhaps, the veneration with which the Hebrews looked back to these earliest footsteps (the incunabula gentis) of the patriarchs in the Holy Land. (See MEONENIM).

During Jacob's sojourn at Hebron his sons, in the course of their pastoral wanderings, drove their flocks to Shechem, and at Dothan, in that neighborhood, Joseph, who had been sent to look after their welfare, was seized and sold to the Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:12; Genesis 37:28). In the distribution of the land after its conquest by the Hebrews, Shechem fell to the lot of Ephraim (Joshua 20:7), but was assigned to the Levites, and became a city of refuge (21:20, 21). It acquired new importance as the scene of the renewed promulgation of the law, when its blessings were heard from Gerizim and its curses from Ebal, and the people bowed their heads and acknowledged Jehovah as their king and ruler (Deuteronomy 27:11; Joshua 9:32-35). It was here Joshua assembled the people, shortly before his death, and delivered to them his last counsels (Joshua 24:1; Joshua 24:25). After the death of Gideon, Abimelech, his bastard son, induced the Shechemites to revolt from, the Hebrew commonwealth and elect him as king (Judges 9). It was to denounce this act of usurpation and treason that Jotham delivered his parable of the trees to the men of Shechem from the top of Gerizim, as recorded at length in Judges 9:22 sq. The picturesque traits of the allegory, as Prof. Stanley suggests (Sinai and Palestine, p. 236; Jewish Church, p. 348), are strikingly appropriate to the diversified foliage of the region. In revenge for his expulsion, after a reign of three years, Abimelech destroyed the city, and, as an emblem of the fate to which he would consign it, sowed the ground with salt (Judges 9:34-45).

It was soon restored, however, for we are told in 1 Kings 12 that all Israel assembled at Shechem, and Rehoboam, Solomon's successor, went thither to be inaugurated as king. Its central position made it convenient for such assemblies; its history was fraught with recollections which would give the sanctions of religion as well as of patriotism to the vows of sovereign and people. The new king's obstinacy made him insensible to such influences. Here, at this same place, the ten tribes renounced the house of David and transferred their allegiance to Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:16), under whom Shechem became for a time the capital of his kingdom. We come next to the epoch of the exile.. The people of Shechem doubtless shared the fate of the other inhabitants, and were, most of them at least, carried into captivity (2 Kings 17:5-6; 2 Kings 18:9 sq.). But Shalmaneser, the conqueror, sent colonies from Babylonia to occupy the place of the exiles (17:24). It would seem that there was another influx of strangers, at a later period, under Esar-haddon (Ezra 4:2). The "certain men from Shechem" mentioned in Jeremiah 41:5, who were slain on their way to Jerusalem, were possibly Cuthites, i.e. Babylonian immigrants who had become proselytes or worshippers of Jehovah (see Hitzig, Der Proph. Jeremiah p. 331)., These Babylonian settlers in the land, intermixed, no doubt, to some extent with the old inhabitants, were the Samaritans, who erected at length a rival temple on Gerizim (B.C. 300), and between whom and the Jews a bitter hostility existed for so many ages (Josephus, Ant. 12, 1, 1; 13, 3, 4). The Son of Sirach (1, 26) says that "a foolish people," i.e. the Samaritans, "dwelt at Shechem" (τὰ Σίκιμα ). From its vicinity to their place of worship, it became the principal city of the Samaritans, a rank which it maintained at least till the destruction of their temple, about B.C. 129, a period of nearly two hundred years (ibid. 13, 9, 1; War, 1, 2, 6). From the time of the origin of the Samaritans the history of Shechem blends itself with that of this people and of their sacred mount, Gerizim; and the reader will find the proper information on this part of the subject under those heads. The city was taken and the temple destroyed by John Hyrcanus, B.C. 129 (Ant. 13, 9, 1; War, 1, 2, 6).

As already intimated, Shechem reappears in the New Test. It is probably the Sychar of John 4:5, near which the Savior conversed with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. Συχάρ , as the place is termed there (Σιχάρ in Rec. Text is incorrect), found only in that passage, was no doubt current among the Jews in the age of Christ, and was either a term of reproach (שֶׁקֶר, "a lie") with reference to the Samaritan faith and worship, or, possibly, a provincial mispronunciation of that period (see Lucke, Comm. ub. Johan. 1, 577). The Savior, with his disciples, remained two days at Sychar on his journey from Judaea to Galilee. He preached the Word there, and many of the people believed on him (John 4:39-40). In Acts 7:16, Stephen reminds his hearers that certain of the patriarchs (meaning Joseph, as we see in Joshua 24:32, and following, perhaps, some tradition as to Jacob's other sons) were buried at Sychem. Jerome, who lived so long hardly more than a day's journey from Shechem, says that the tombs of the twelve patriarchs were to be seen there in his day. The anonymous city in Acts 8:5, where Philip preached with such effect, may have been Sychem, though many would refer that narrative to Samaria, the capital of the province.

We have seen that not long after the times of the New Test. the place received the name of Neapolis, which it still retains in the Arabic form of Nablus, being one of the very few names imposed by the Romans in Palestine which have survived to the present day. It had probably suffered much, if it was not completely destroyed, in the war with the Romans (see Rambach, De Urbe Sichem Sale Conspersa [Hal. 1730]), and would seem to have been restored or rebuilt by Vespasian, and then to have taken this new name; for the coins of the city, of which there are many, all bear the inscription Flavia Neapolis the former epithet no doubt derived from Flavius Vespasian (Mionnet, Med. Antiq. 5, 499). The name occurs first in Josephus (War, 4, 8, 1), and then in Pliny; (Hist. Nat. 5, 14), Ptolemy (Geog. v, 16). As intimated above, there had already been converts to the Christian faith at this place under our Savior, and it is probable that a Church had been gathered here by the apostles (John 4:30-42; Acts 8:25; Acts 9:31; Acts 15:3). Justin Martyr was a native of Neapolis (Apolog. 2, 41). The name of Germanus, bishop of Neapolis, occurs in A.D. 314; and other, bishops continue to be mentioned down to A.D. 536, when the bishop John signed his name at the synod of Jerusalem (Reland, Palest. p. 1009). When the Moslems invaded Palestine, Neapolis and other small towns in the neighborhood were subdued. while the siege of Jerusalem was going on (Abulfeda, Annal. 1, 229). After the taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, Neapolis and other towns in the mountains of Samaria tendered their submission, and Tancred took possession of them without resistance (Will. Tyr. 9, 20). Neapolis was laid waste by the Saracens in A.D. 1113; but a few years after (A.D. 1120) a council was held here by king Baldwin II to consult upon the state of the country (Fulcher, p. 424; Will. Ty

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Shechem'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​s/shechem.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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