Monday, February 16, 2015


Shechem is modern day Nablus which is the site of the tomb of the patriarch Joseph and Jacob's Well filling the valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim.

I was able to go there during by sojourn in Palestine a few years ago and there visited Joseph's tomb en route from Ramallah to Nazareth, then Cana and the Sea of Galilee.

Warning: the crossing over from Nablus to Nazareth is not very easy. At the boarder between Palestine and Israel territory you have to go through a sort of prison compound by foot and take a taxi on the other side. No highway passage!

I have to say, though, that the visit to Shechem is one of my most cherished living memories even though the city is very thoroughly Muslim with only a small Christian presence.

The Missionaries of Charity have a house there for abandoned children and elderly persons, where they invited me to say the daily Mass for them on the day of my arrival and the next morning, having there spent the night.

Shechem was the first place in Canaan that Abraham visited, and the oak of Moreh was a shrine even then (Gn. 12:6).
When Jacob returned to Canaan from Haran, he settled at Shechem (Gn. 33:18-19); and this spot was Jacob's choice gift to the sons of Joseph (Gn. 48:22: Hebrew sekem = "one portion").

Shechem was seemingly in the hands of the Israelites already at the time of Joshua's invasion...; and there, between Ebal and Gerizim, the great covenant of Yahweh with Israel was renewed (Dt. 11:29-30; 27; Jos 8:30-35; 24).

During the time of the judges here seems to have been a mixed cult at Shechem, as the men of the city backed Abimelech for king with money from the temple of "Baal of the Covenant" or "El of the Covenant" (Jgs 9:4,46).

It was at Shechem that the northern tribes rejected Rehoboam son of Solomon in favor of Jeroboam I as king (1 Kgs 12:1-25). This king made Shechem his temporary capital; and even when the center of administration and power in the northern kingdom  moved to Samaria, Shechem remained the focus of the covenant renewal ceremony (from which Dt drew its legal code).

In NT times Jesus stopped at the well of Shechem for a drink and engaged a Samaritan woman in conversation (Jn 4:4-42). This story reminds us that Mt. Gerizim's slope overlooking Shechem was the holy place of Samaritan worship and the site of the Samaritan temple.

Today the Samaritans survive at Nablus, Roman Neapolis, built 2 mi. farther W in the same valley; and at Passover they proceed to Gerizim's summit to slaughter animals for their celebration-the only remnant of the blood-sacrifice of Israel (NatGeog [Jan. 1920]; La Bible et terre sainte 28 [1960]).
The Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968 p. 650

A Levitical city and district in Mount Ephraim, on Gerizim and Ebal; it was also a city of refuge, and the first residence of the kings of Israel or of the ten tribes. In the time of the Romans it was called Neopolis, and at present Nablus, and is the seat of the Samaritan worship; it was the first city in Canaan visited by Abraham, B.C. 1921; here Joshua addressed for the last time the tribes of Israel, B.C. 1427; Abimelech was elected king by its inhabitants, B.C. 1235; and all Israel was assembled there to make Rehoboam king, B.C. 975; at Jacob's well,in its vicinity, Jesus met with the woman of Samaria, A.D. 27; and Justin Martyr was born here, about A.D. 100.
Young's Analytical Concordance
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