(3.) A city in Samaria (Gen. 33:18), called also Sichem (12:6), Sychem (Acts 7:16). It stood in the narrow sheltered valley between Ebal on the north and Gerizim on the south, these mountains at their base being only some 500 yards apart. Here Abraham pitched his tent and built his first altar in the Promised Land, and received the first divine promise (Gen. 12:6, 7). Here also Jacob “bought a parcel of a field at the hands of the children of Hamor” after his return from Mesopotamia, and settled with his household, which he purged from idolatry by burying the teraphim of his followers under an oak tree, which was afterwards called “the oak of the sorcerer” (Gen. 33:19; 35:4; Judg. 9:37). (See MEONENIM.) Here too, after a while, he dug a well, which bears his name to this day (John 4:5, 39–42). To Shechem Joshua gathered all Israel “before God,” and delivered to them his second parting address (Josh. 24:1–15). He “made a covenant with the people that day” at the very place where, on first entering the land, they had responded to the law from Ebal and Gerizim (Josh. 24:25), the terms of which were recorded “in the book of the law of God”, i.e., in the roll of the law of Moses; and in memory of this solemn transaction a great stone was set up “under an oak” (comp. Gen. 28:18; 31:44–48; Ex. 24:4; Josh. 4:3, 8, 9), possibly the old “oak of Moreh,” as a silent witness of the transaction to all coming time.
Shechem became one of the cities of refuge, the central city of refuge for Western Palestine (Josh. 20:7), and here the bones of Joseph were buried (24:32). Rehoboam was appointed king in Shechem (1 Kings 12:1, 19), but Jeroboam afterwards took up his residence here. This city is mentioned in connection with our Lord’s conversation with the woman of Samaria (John 4:5); and thus, remaining as it does to the present day, it is one of the oldest cities of the world. It is the modern Nablus, a contraction for Neapolis, the name given to it by Vespasian. It lies about a mile and a half up the valley on its southern slope, and on the north of Gerizim, which rises about 1,100 feet above it, and is about 34 miles north of Jerusalem. It contains about 10,000 inhabitants, of whom about 160 are Samaritans and 100 Jews, the rest being Christians and Mohammedans.
The site of Shechem is said to be of unrivalled beauty. Stanley says it is “the most beautiful, perhaps the only very beautiful, spot in Central Palestine.”