/ˈʃɛkəm/, also spelled Sichem (/ˈsɪkəm/; Hebrew:
שְׁכָם / שְׁכֶם Standard Šəḵem Tiberian
Šeḵem, "shoulder"), was a Canaanite city mentioned in the Amarna
letters, and is mentioned in the
the tribe of Manasseh and the first capital of the Kingdom of
Israel. Traditionally associated with Nablus, it is now
identified with the nearby site of
the West Bank.
1 Geographical position
2.1 Early history
2.2 In the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
2.3 New Testament
2.4 Classical history
2.5 Later history
3 Distinguish from
4 See also
6 Sources and external links
Shechem's position is indicated in the Hebrew Bible: it lay north of
Bethel and Shiloh, on the high road going from Jerusalem to the
northern districts (Judges xxi, 19), at a short distance from
Joshua 17:7) and of
Dothain (Genesis 37:12-17); it was in
the hill-country of
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 substantiated by Josephus, who says that
the city lay between
Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, and by the Madaba
map, which places Sychem, also called Sikima, between the "Tour Gobel"
(Ebal) and the "Tour Garizin" (Garizim). The site of
patristic sources is almost invariably identified with, or located
close to, the town of Flavia Neapolis (Nablus).
The old city of
Shechem dates back to about an estimated four thousand
Shechem is mentioned in the third-millennium
Ebla tablets found at
Tell Mardikh in the context of a city of which
Rasap (Resheph) is the patron deity.
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
Hellenistic period (1900-100 BC).
Shechem had been a Canaanite settlement, first mentioned in Egyptian
texts on the Sebek-khu Stele, an Egyptian stele of a noble at the
Senusret III (c. 1880–1840 BC). In the
Amarna Letters of
about 1350 BC, Šakmu (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.
It may be identical to the Sakama mentioned in an account dated to the
19th Egyptian dynasty.[better source needed] (See Papyrus
In the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
Shechem first appears in the
Hebrew Bible in Genesis 12:6-8, which
Abraham reached the "great tree of Moreh" at
offered sacrifice nearby. Genesis, Deuteronomy,
Joshua and Judges
Shechem over all other cities of the land of Israel.
According to Genesis (12:6-7) Abram "built an altar to the Lord who
had appeared to him ... and had given that land to his descendants" at
Shechem. 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. In Jewish tradition, the old name
was understood in terms of the Hebrew word shékém — "shoulder,
saddle", corresponding to the mountainous configuration of the place.
On a later sojourn, two sons of Jacob,
Simeon (Hebrew Bible) and Levi,
were said to have avenged their sister Dinah's rape by "
son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land" of
Shechem by killing
all of the city's male inhabitants.
Following the settlement of the Israelites in
Canaan after their
Exodus from Egypt, according to the biblical narrative, Joshua
assembled the Israelites at
Shechem and asked them to choose between
serving the god who had delivered them from Egypt, the gods which
their ancestors had served on the other side of the
or the gods of the
Amorites in whose land they now lived. The people
chose to serve the god of the Bible, a decision which
in the Book of the Law of God, and he then erected a memorial stone
"under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord" in Shechem.
The oak is associated with the Oak of
Moreh where Abram had set up
camp during his travels in this area.
Shechem and its surrounding lands were given as a
Levitical city to
Owing to its central position, no less than to the presence in the
neighborhood of places hallowed by the memory of
12:6, 7; 34:5),
Jacob's Well (Genesis 33:18-19; 34:2, etc.), and
Joseph's tomb (
Joshua 24:32), the city was destined to play an
important part in the history of Israel. Jerubbaal
(Gideon), whose home was at Ophrah, visited Shechem, and his concubine
who lived there was mother of his son Abimelech (Judges 8:31). She
came from one of the leading Shechemite families who were influential
with the "Lords of Shechem" (Judges 9:1-3, wording of the New Revised
Standard Version and New American Bible Revised Edition).
After Gideon's death, Abimelech was made king (Judges 9:1-45). Jotham,
the youngest son of Gideon, made an allegorical speech on Mount
Gerizim in which he warned the people of
Shechem about Abimelech's
future tyranny (Judges 9:7-20). When the city rose in rebellion three
years later, Abimelech took it, utterly destroyed it, and burnt the
Baal-berith where the people had fled for safety. The city
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 his son
Rehoboam as king; the meeting ended in the
secession of the ten northern tribes, and Shechem, fortified by
Jeroboam, became the capital of the new kingdom (1 Kings 12:1; 14:17;
2 Chronicles 10:1).
After the kings of Israel moved, first to Tirzah (1 Kings 14:17) and
later on to Samaria,
Shechem lost its importance, and we do not hear
of it until after the fall of Jerusalem (587 BC; Jeremiah 12:5). The
events connected with the restoration were to bring it again into
prominence. When, on his second visit to Jerusalem,
the grandson of the high priest
Eliashib (probably the Manasse of
Josephus, "Antiq.", XI, vii, viii) 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
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, see also Antinomianism
in the Books of the Maccabees) and welcomed with open arms every
renegade who came to them from Jerusalem (Antiq., XI, viii, 7), fell
about 128 BC before John Hyrcanus, and their temple was destroyed
("Antiq.", XIII, ix, 1).
In Acts 7:16 the place is called Sychem. It is not known whether
Sychar in the
Gospel of John
Gospel of John ( Bibleref2John 4:5) refers to Shechem
or to a nearby village.
Shechem is also the location of Jacob's Well,
where John 4:5-6 describes Jesus' meeting with the woman of Samaria.
Some of its inhabitants were of the number of the "Samaritans" who
Jesus when he tarried two days in the neighborhood (John
4). The city must have been visited by the
Apostles on their way from
Samaria to Jerusalem (Acts 8:25).
Main article: Nablus
Further information: Samaritan revolts
In Classical times,
Shechem was the main settlement of the Samaritans,
whose religious center stood on Mount Gerizim, just outside the town.
In A.D. 6,
Shechem was annexed to the Roman Province of Syria. Of the
Samaritans of Sichem not a few[clarification needed] rose up in arms
on Mt. Garizim at the time of the Galilean rebellion (A.D. 67), which
was part of the First Jewish–Roman War. The city was very likely
destroyed by Cerealis, during that war.
In A.D. 72, a new city, Flavia Neapolis, was built by
kilometers to the west of the old one. This city's name was eventually
corrupted to the modern Nablus. Josephus, writing in about AD 90
Jewish Antiquities 4.8.44), placed the city between
Mount Gerizim and
Mount Ebal. Elsewhere he refers to it as Neapolis.
In Emperor Hadrian's reign, the temple on Mt. Garizim was restored and
dedicated to Jupiter.
Like Shechem, Neapolis had a very early Christian community, including
the early saint Justin Martyr; we hear even of bishops of
Neapolis. On several occasions the Christians suffered greatly
from the Samaritans. In 474 the emperor, to avenge what Christians
considered an unjust attack by the Samaritans, deprived the latter of
Mt. Garizim and gave it to the Christians, who built on it a church
dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
Main article: Nablus
The city of
Nablus was islamicized in the Abbasid and Ottoman
periods. In 1903 near Nablus, a German party of
archaeologists led by Dr. Hermann Thiersch stumbled upon the site
Tell Balata and now identified as ancient Shechem.
still referred to as
Shechem by Israelis and Hebrew speakers.[citation
Shechem in 2013
Sichem is an old spelling for Zichem, a Flemish municipality which was
named after the biblical Sichem; it is now merged into
Sekem is an Anthroposophical and Islamic foundation and farming
village centered on principles for
Biodynamic agriculture in Egypt;
this name refers to Shechem, and to the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph
pronounced 'Sekem' meaning 'vitality' or 'life'.
Kingdom of Israel
Cornel Heinsdorff: "Christus, Nikodemus und die Samaritanerin am
Jakobsbrunnen", Berlin/New York 2003, 218-220, ISBN 3-11-017851-6
Stager, Lawrence (2003). "The
Shechem Temple Where Abimelech Massacred
a Thousand". Biblical Archaeology Review. 29:4 (July/August): 26–35,
^ Book of Kings II:25
^ ' The present Nābulus is a corruption merely of Neapolis; and
Neapolis succeeded the more ancient Shechem. All the early writers who
touch on the topography of Palestine, testify to this identity of the
two.' William Smith (ed.) Dictionary of the Bible,, rev. and edited by
H.B.Hackett and Ezra Abbot, Hurd & Houghton New York 1870, vol.IV,
Shechem,' pp.2952-2958, p.2953.
^ St. Jerome, St. Epiphanius
^ Eusebius, "Onomast.", Euchem; Medaba map
^ Muller, "Asien u. Europ.", p. 394, Leipzig, 1893.
^ Yitzakh Magen, 'The Dating of the First Phase of the Samaritan
Temple on Mt Gerizim in Light of Archaeological Evidence,' in Oded
Lipschitz, Gary N. Knoppers, Rainer Albertz (eds.) Judah and the
Judeans in the Fourth Century B.C.E., Eisenbrauns, 2007
^ Genesis 12:6
^ Gill's Exposition of Judges 9, accessed 29 October 2016
^ ("Bell. Jud.", III, vii, 32)
^ (Dion Cass., xv, 12)
^ (Labbe, "Conc.", I, 1475, 1488; II, 325)
^ (Procop., "De edif", v, 7)
Sources and external links
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Sichem".
Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
Full archaeological and Biblical discussion of Shechem
Guide to the Jewish Communities around Shechem
Jewish Encyclopedia: Shechem
New Testament places associated with Jesus
Mount of Transfiguration
Sea of Galilee
Mount of Olives
Road to Damascus