Location, location, location – Shechem valley

“Location, location, location” is a phrase commonly used by realtors to describe the ideal plot or house for the prospective buyer. For some it means being near shopping. For others it means being near work. And for others it may mean being near recreational facilities, good schools, etc.
Last Sunday I was teaching John 4 regarding Jesus’ travel through Samaria and his stop at Jacob’s well. I mentioned that it is difficult now to get a good photo of the valley flanked by Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. I used this photo that I made in 2011 that provides a reasonably good view. I suggest you click on the photo for a larger image.
View west of the valley between Mount Gerizim (left-south) and Mount Ebal (right-north). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View west of the valley between Mount Gerizim (left-south) and Mount Ebal (right-north). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 This valley was an ideal location for many biblical events. Some of the significant events associated with the area 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 curses 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 general vicinity around Shechem was associated with the northern kingdom of Israel after the death of Solomon.

  • Shechem served as the temporary headquarters for the northern kingdom (1 Kings 12:25) beginning about 931 B.C.
  • The capital of Israel was moved to Tirzah during the reign of Baasha (908-886 B.C.; 1 Kings 15:21; 16:16).
  • After six years at Tirzah, king Omri (885-874 B.C.) purchased the hill of Samaria for his capital (1 Kings 16:24). The capital remained there until the city was captured by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.
  • (Dates are those from Mckinny, The Regnal Chronology of the Kings of Judah and Israel: An Illustrated Guide.)

Tirzah is located about 7 miles northeast of Shechem, and Samaria is about 7 miles northwest of Shechem.

Judges 9:37 recounts people “coming down from the center of the land” as they came down from Mount Gerizim. Bernhard W. Anderson uses the term navel says,

In the ancient period it was claimed that Shechem was the center of Canaan. (BA 20:1, 1957)

In introducing the series of articles on Shechem in the same issue of Biblical Archaeologist, G. Ernest Wright used the title “Navel of the Land.” That makes it fairly easy for us to remember it’s location on the map.

Talk about location!

For additional posts on Shechem, Gerizim, Jacob’s Well, or the Samaritans, type one of the terms in the search box.

4 responses to “Location, location, location – Shechem valley

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  2. After 50 years of travel to Israel I believe the best way for a first time traveler is to go with a group on a planned itinerary. You will have time and probably money, and you will know something about where you have been when you finish. You can go with a private guide, but instead of two paying the full price for the guide, you will be sharing with 25 or so others. And you will need to pay the rooming expense for the guide when you leave his home area (usually Jerusalem). There are some good English-speaking guides. I have mentioned Shmuel Browns here. Another knowledgeable guide is Zach Shavin. His website is Land of Israel Tours. Still, I would go with a group the first time. You will actually need to visit the land three or more times, and study a lot in between, to have a good understanding of the Land and the Book.

  3. This fellow was terrific. Unfortunately, he moved back to the States in 2013: https://israelpalestineguide.wordpress.com/

  4. HI-My wife and I are trying to save to go to Israel. Could you recommend the best way to see Israel for the first time and visit the sites. Im really not into interested in the touristy atmosphere and wanted to go with a more private person who is very knowledgeable and truthful.

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