sanctuary city road feet
SHECHEM, now NABULUS, a city of Palestine. Eleven hours from Jerusalem on the great north road the traveller finds himself in the broad upland plain of Makhna (1500 feet above the sea), with Mount Gerizim on his left, and, skirting the base of the mountain, reaches the traditional well of Jacob (John iv. 5, 6 ; cf. Gen. xxxiii. 19), a deep cistern with the ruins of an old church beside it. Here the road divides: the caravan route to Damascus continues northward by the village of `Asker (Sychar of John iv. 51), and , so to Beisan (Beth-shan) and Tiberias ; but the way to Samaria turns westward into a fertile and well-watered side valley between Gerizim (2849 feet) on the south and Ebal (3077 feet) on the north. This is the Vale of Shechem or Ntibulus ; it is in fact an easy pass between the Mediterranean and Jordan basins, and at the watershed (1870 feet), where the city stands, 1i miles from Jacob's Well, is not more than 100 yards wide. Thus Shechem commands both branches of the great north road, and several routes from the coast also converge here and connect with the ancient road from Shechem eastward to Kerawa (Archelais) and Al-Salt, the capital of the Belk& The name of Shechem (shoulder, back) accords with the position of the town on the watershed, and the native name in Josephus's time (Mabortha, B. J., iv. 8. 1 ; Pliny has Mamortha) means simply " the pass." The situation of Shechem at the crossing of so many great roads must have given it importance at a very early date, and it is still a busy town of 20,000 inhabitants, with soap manufactures and considerable trade. On the other hand, the position is equally favourable for brigandage, to which, under weak governments, the Shechemites were addicted of old (Judges ix. 25; Hosea vi. 9, where "for consent" read " to Shechem "), and the district is still a lawless one.
The ancient inhabitants of Shechem were the Bne Hamor, a Canaanite elan, who were not expelled on the first conquest of Canaan but remained in possession till the events recorded in Judges ix. From the narrative of Gen. xxxiv., which has been spoken of in the article LEVI, it would seem that they entered into friendly relations with the invaders, and that an attack made on them by Simeon and Levi was repudiated by Israel and led to the dispersion of these two tribes. In Judges ix. the "freemen of Shechem" (tour ,v3) appear as a turbulent but cowardly race, who, in spite of their numbers and wealth, had become vassals of Gideon for the sake of protection against the Midianites, and would have continued to serve his sons hut for the enterprise of Abimelech, whose mother was of their race. With the aid of mercenaries hired with the treasure of the sanctuary of Baal-Berith or El-Berith, the god of the town, Abimelech destroyed the SODS of Gideon, was crowned king of Shechem, and for three years held sway also over the surrounding Israelites. A revolt was led by Gaal, an Israelite who scorned to be subject to the creature of the despised Canaanites,' and, the Shechemites having fallen out with Abimelech about their practice of brigandage, Gaal made a dash at the city in the absence of the king, and the fickle inhabitants received him with open arms. Abimelech, however, with his mercenaries proved too strong for his adversaries, and Canaanite Shechem was utterly destroyed. Its place was taken by a Hebrew city, and the Canaanite sanctuary of El-Berith was transformed into a Hebrew holy place of El the God of Israel, of which the foundation was afterwards referred to Jacob (Gen. xxxiii. 20) or even to Abraham (Gen. xii. 7). The great stone under the famous sacred tree at the sanctuary (the "tree of the revealer " or " tree of the soothsayers," E.Y. " plain of Moreh " or " of Meonenim " ; Gen: xii. 6, xxxv. 4 ;2 Dent. xi. 30 ; Jud. ix. 6, 37) was said to have been set up by Joshua (Josh. xxiv. 26), and Joseph's grave was shown there.3 All this indicates that Shechem was once the chief sanctuary of Joseph, and so we understand why Rehoboam went to Shechem to be crowned king of Northern Israel and why Jeroboam at first made it his residence (1 Kings xii. 25). Politically Shechem was soon supplanted by Tirzah and Samaria, but it appears to have been still a sanctuary in the time of Hosea. It survived the fall of Ephraim (Jer. xli. 5) and ultimately became the religious centre of the SAMARITANS (q.v.). The Greek name Neapolis, known to Josephus, indicates the building of a new town, which, according to Eusebius and Jerome, was a little way from the old Shechem, or at least did not include the traditional holy sites. The coins give the form Flavia Neapolis. Neapolis was the birthplace of Justin Martyr, and became the seat of a bishopric. Five Christian- churches destroyed by the Samaritans in the time of Anastasius were rebuilt by Justinian (Procop., De .1Ed., v. 7). Remains of one of these seem still to exist in tho crusaders' church of the Passion and Resurrection (1167), now the great mosque. Neapolis had much to suffer in the crusades ; it was finally lost to the Christians soon after Saladin's great victory at Hittin.
A map of the Shechem valley, with topographical details, &c., will be found in the Memoirs of Pal. Expl. Soc., voL