Tell Balata (Shechem) was excavated by Germans working periodically between 1907 and 1934. In 1956, G. Ernest Wright led the Drew-McCormick Expedition. Work continued in 1969 under the direction of Edward F. Campbell.
I had the privilege of visiting the ruins of Shechem last December. At the time I thought how sad to see such an important site neglected. Shechem is important in biblical history. Some of the significant events associated with the city are listed below.
- Shechem is the first city of Canaan mentioned in the Bible. The land promise to Abraham was restated here (Genesis 12:6-7).
- Jacob and his family settled at Shechem (Genesis 33:18). Jacob purchased a parcel of ground and erected an altar here.
- Joseph’s brothers had gone from Bethlehem to near Shechem to graze their flocks (Genesis 37:12-13).
- After entering Canaan, the Israelites gathered at Shechem on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal to hear Joshua read the blessings and cures of the Law (Joshua 8:30-34; cf. Deuteronomy 28-30).
- Shechem was within the territory of Ephraim and served as a city of refuge (Joshua 20:7; 21:21).
- Joseph was buried in a parcel of ground bought by Jacob (Joshua 24:32).
- The Shechemites supported Abimelech in his bid to be ruler and gave him money from their temple of Baal-berith (Judges 8:33; 9). Jotham’s addressed the people of Shechem from Mount Gerizim with a fable (Judges 9:7ff.).
- After the Exile, Shechem became a major religious center of the Samaritans. Their temple was built on Mount Gerizim (John 4:20-21).
- Jesus visited Jacob’s Well near Shechem (John 4).
The photo below shows the excavated ruins of Tell Balata (Shechem). Mount Gerizim is on the left (to the south). Mount Ebal is on the right (to the North). The view is toward the west. The modern Arab town of Nablus is in the valley between these two mountains.
Is there any way of knowing how the original city was laid out…say, in the days of the United Monarchy? What kinds of buildings would have been there?
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