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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Shechem, 1

Shechem, a town of central Palestine, in Samaria, among the mountains of Ephraim (; ), in the narrow valley between the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim (comp. ), and consequently within the tribe of Ephraim (). It is in N. lat. 32°17′, E. long. 35°20′, being thirty-four miles north of Jerusalem and seven miles south of Samaria. It was a very ancient place, and appears to have arisen as a town in the interval between the arrival of Abraham in Palestine and the return of Jacob from Padan-aram, for it is mentioned only as a place, described by reference to the oaks in the neighborhood, when Abraham came there on first entering the land of Canaan (). But, in the history of Jacob it repeatedly occurs as a town having walls and gates: it could not, however, have been very large or important, if we may judge from the consequence which the inhabitants attached to an alliance with Jacob, and from the facility with which the sons of the patriarch were able to surprise and destroy them (; ; ; ; ). After the conquest of the country, Shechem was made a city of refuge (), and one of the Levitical towns (), and during the lifetime of Joshua it was a center of union to the tribes (; ), probably because it was the nearest considerable town to the residence of that chief in Timnath-serah. In the time of the judges, Shechem became the capital of the kingdom set up by Abimelech (, sq.), but was at length conquered and destroyed by him (). It must, however, have been before long rebuilt, for it had again become of so much importance by the time of Rehoboam's accession, that he there gave the meeting to the delegates of the tribes, which ended in the separation of the kingdom (). It was Shechem which the first monarch of the new kingdom made the capital of his dominions (; comp. 14:17), although later in his reign the pleasantness of Tirzah induced him to build a palace there, and to make it the summer residence of his court; which gave it such importance, that it at length came to be regarded as the capital of the kingdom, till Samaria eventually deprived it of that honor (; ) [ISRAEL]. Shechem, however, still throve. It subsisted during the exile () and continued, for many ages after, the chief seat of the Samaritans and of their worship, their sole temple being upon the mountain (Gerizim), at whose foot the city stood [SAMARITANS]. The city was taken, and the temple destroyed, by John Hyrcanus, B.C. 129. In the New Testament it occurs under the name of Sychar (), which seems to have been a sort of nick name, such as the Jews were fond of imposing upon places they disliked. Stephen, however, in his historical retrospect, still uses the proper and ancient name (). Not long after the times of the New Testament the place received the name of Neapolis, which it still retains in the Arabic form of Nabulus, 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, and would seem to have been restored or rebuilt by Vespasian, and then to have taken this new name. It has remained in the hands of the Muhammadans since A.D. 1242.

There is no reason to question that the present town occupies the site of the ancient Shechem, although its dimensions are probably more contracted. The fertility and beauty of the deep and narrow valley in which the town stands, especially in its immediate neighborhood, have been much admired by travelers, as far exceeding what they had seen in any other part of Palestine. The town itself is long and narrow, extending along the N.E. base of Mount Gerizim, and partly resting upon its declivity. The population of the place is rated by Dr. Olin at 8000 or 10,000, of whom 500 or 600 are Christians of the Greek communion, and the rest Muslims, with the exception of about 130 Samaritans, and one-third that number of Jews. The inhabitants bear the character of being an unusually valiant as well as a turbulent race, and some years since maintained a desperate struggle against the Egyptian government in some bloody rebellions.

Shechem, 2

Shechem, son of Hamor, prince of the country or district of Shechem, in which Jacob formed his camp on his return from Mesopotamia. 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, as described in the article Dinah (Genesis 34). 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; and we may therefore suppose it a name preserved in the family, and which both the town and the princes inherited. Shechem's name is always connected with that of his father Hamor (; Genesis 34; ).





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Shechem'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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