Tel-Balata (Ancient Shechem)
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I’m doing research on Ancient Shechem (cf. Gen 12:6-8, Gen 33-34, Joshua 24:1, 32, Joshua 8:30-33, Judges 8:31-10:1, Jeremiah 12:5), and found this interesting video.

Ancient Shechem has a Canaanite history apart from biblical Israel, but its safe to say much of its significance at present relates to its immaterial tethers it to the Abrahamic faiths. And, of course, it is mentioned prominently in the biblical narratives, for the Bible tells of Shechem as the first place Abraham stayed in Canaan (Gen 12:6-8), the land Jacob frequented (Gen 33:19-19, 34:2), and the place Joseph was reburied (Josh 24:32).

Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi were have said to avenged their sister’s rape at this place, killing all the city’s male inhabitants. Depicted in the picture above is an Italian-Renaissance rendition of that scene.

But, it was not always so brutal in Shechem (note how heavily fortified it is in the video). The city was designated to the tribe of Manasseh, seems to have held the Tabernacle for a time (Josh. 8:30-33) and eventually became a Levitical city, while Joshua gathered the people there to give them instructions (Josh 24:1)

Moving to the time of the Judges, Gideon had a concubine in Shechem who bore the son Abimelech, and Jotham told a set of fables on the close-by to Mt. Gerazim, warning the people of Shechem about a disaster to come (Judg 9:7-20). Three years later, Abimelech is said to have burnt the city to the ground, and destroyed the temple.

As it did many times in the past, the city eventually recovered, and Jeroboam made it his new capital of the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 12:1, 14:17, 2 Chron 10:1) until the northern kings relocate the capital to Tirzah (cf. Song of Songs 6:4); after which, Shechem loses its priority.

Following a destruction, likely imposed by the Assyrians, Shechem begins to lose its importance, and we find scarce mention of it.1 This sums up most of the First Testament witness to Shechem, though the New Testament also speaks of Shechem in reference to the Samaritans with relative frequency.

Eventually, once rebuilt, the city was leveled in 67 A.D. by the Romans, who rebuilt nearby Neapolis (now called Nabulus). The Romans left the original site to rot, and abandoned its ruins, by building instead a new city slightly to the west.2

Returning for a moment to the Canaanite City, before it became apart of Israel, interestingly, archaeologists have found that the Egyptians actually put a curse on Shechem (c. 1400 B.C.),3 in the execration text below. Here is also a letter from the King of Shechem to an Egyptian ruler. [Picture Here]

Egyptian Curse Figurine, c.1800 BCE


  1. Jeremiah 41:5 speaks of it briefly after the fall of Jerusalem
  2. Interestingly, the name ‘Nabulus’, shorted from Flavia Neapolis — in honor of Flavius Vespasian — itself testifies to this reality (Neapolis in Greek, slightly modified in Arabic dialects), which means ‘New City’.
  3. Before the Israelites would have possessed Shechem
News Reporter
From Madison, Wisconsin. B.A. Biblical Studies: Moody Bible Institute, Chicago. M.Div. Student at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario.

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