Glimpses of Israel - Shechem

Saddled between Mt Ebal and Mt Gerizim, some 65km (31m) north of Jerusalem in the mountains of Ephraim, is the city of Shechem.

Its modern name, Nablus, appears to be a shortened version of the Roman name, Flavia Neapolis; the name of a town founded close to the ruins of Shechem, in 72CE.

Today, the town is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, following the decision by the Israeli government to exchange Shechem for peace.

When Abram first entered the Land he came "to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh." (Genesis 12:6) It was here, at Shechem, that Abram first called on the name of the Lord in the Land, and where Abram built the first altar in the Land. And it was at Shechem where the Lord first promised the Patriarch, "To your descendants I will give this land." (Genesis 12:7)

When Jacob returned to the Land after twenty years, he " . . . came safely to the city of Shechem . . . and he pitched his tent before the city." (Genesis 33:18) The Scripture further records that Jacob purchased the portion of land where he pitched his tent, and like his grandfather, Abraham, he " . . . erected an altar there and called it El Elohe Israel (literally, God the God of Israel) ." (Genesis 33:20)

When the Children of Israel crossed over the Jordan to take possession of the Land for the first time, Joshua led them to Shechem where they made a covenant between the mountains (Mt Ebal and Mt Gerizim). This covenant was inaugurated by Moses while they were still in the plains of Moab, and was to be ratified by Joshua on the very day they entered the Promised Land. "And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime… therefore, it shall be when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones . . . and there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God . . ." (Deuteronomy 27:2, 4, 5) Like the Patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, the Children of Israel made their first altar in the Land, at Shechem.


Mark Warren