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Shechem: Notable Things About That Place in the Bible

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


Shechem is a very interesting place in the Bible. Several major events happened at Shechem even though preachers don't usually preach about them, and Bible teachers don't focus on what happened there. So, now is your time to learn about the old city of Shechem with its rich history.

About Shechem

Shechem was an ancient biblical city in Israel, but it doesn't exist today. The area where Shechem used to be is known as Tell Balata. The old city was located between two mountains in central Israel, just southeast of Samaria. Mount Ebal, the mountain of curses was on the right and Mount Gerizim, the mountain of blessings was on the left.

Because of its central location and crossroads, there was a lot of traffic in Shechem, and it became the site for many significant biblical events.

Shehem was one of six cities of refuge.

  1. Golan
  2. Ramoth
  3. Bosor
  4. Kedesh
  5. Shechem
  6. Hebron

Shechem and Abram

Shechem was mentioned first in Genesis 12:6-7 as a place of promise. When God appeared to Abram at Shechem, He promised to give him land, riches, and descendants. Abram built an altar to God at the site and worshipped Him there (Genesis 12:7).

Shechem and Jacob

Jacob lived in Shechem with his family. His daughter, Dinah, was raped by a man named Shechem, the son of the ruler, Hamor. Jacob’s two sons, Levi and Simeon, came up with a pact to deceive the men in the city. All of them were slaughtered to get revenge for what happened to Dinah (Genesis 34:1–29).

Therefore, Shechem was a place of man’s sin.

Shechem and Joseph

When Joseph was 17 years old, Jacob sent him to check on his brothers who were keeping the flocks in Shechem (Genesis 37:12-14). When Joseph discovered his brothers had moved on to the lush area of Dothan, he went to find them there (Genesis 37:15-17).

Joseph's brothers were filled with hatred and jealousy. First, they stripped him of his coat of many colors their father had given him. They put him in a pit and decided not to kill him. When they saw some Ishmaelite traders coming through Dothan, they decided to sell Joseph to them. Joseph was taken to Egypt and sold as a slave there.

Joseph's brothers saw Joseph after many years when they went to Egypt for grain. The entire family moved to Egypt, and Joseph gave the command for his bones to be carried back with them and buried there (Genesis 50:25). So, Joseph's bones were buried at Shechem (Joshua 24:32).

Shechem and Joshua

After Moses delivered the nation of Israel out of Egypt, God commanded them to enter the Promised Land and go to Shechem to pronounce blessings and curses on the nation (Deuteronomy 27:4).

Joshua did as he was told. Half of the people who obeyed God stood in front of Mount Gerizim and shouted blessings. The other half who disobeyed God and the law of Moses stood in front of Mount Ebal and shouted curses.

Like his grandfather Abraham, Joshua built an altar and worshipped God at Shechem because it was a holy site of the Lord (Joshua 24:26). Joshua also designated Shechem as a city of refuge.

Shechem was a place of commitment after Joshua reminded the people of God’s covenantal relationship with them.

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Shechem at the Time of the Judges

During the time of the judges, Abimelech, a son of Gideon, conspired with his maternal family to kill all other sons of Gideon and have himself proclaimed king of Shechem (Judges 9:6). But Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, escaped and hid.

At Abimelech’s coronation, Jotham climbed Mount Gerizim and shouted a curse on Shechem for Abimelech’s sin. The people of Shechem formed a conspiracy against Abimelech, and he completely destroyed the city. When Abimelech went to Thebez and stormed the tower, a woman dropped a millstone on his head and cracked his skull (Judges 9:53).

Shechem During the Time of the Kings

After the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon, Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, went to Shechem to be made king (1 Kings 12:1).

Jeroboam chose Shechem as the capital for the northern kingdom. Shechem was a good choice for a capital because of its location in three directions.

Shechem and Jesus

It was very near Shechem where Jesus sat down by Jacob’s well and had a one-on-one conversation with a Samaritan woman who had gone there to fill her water pail with water (John 4).

At the end of the conversation, the woman dropped her water pail, ran back to the village and told the people, "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did (John 4:29).

Shechem Mentioned in the New Testament

Other than in John 4 when Jesus met with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, Shechem is mentioned in the New Testament in Stephen’s sermon (Acts 7:16).

  • God promised Abram land, wealth, and descendants at Shechem.
  • Abram set up an altar and worshipped God.
  • Shechem became part of the Promised Land of Israel.
  • Shechem became one of the six cities of refuge (Joshua 21:20–21).
  • Joseph’s remains were buried in Shechem (Joshua 24:32).
  • During the time of the divided kingdom of Israel, Shechem was the capital of the northern kingdom for a while (1 Kings 12:1).

When we go through our own versions of Shechem, we can find peace in knowing that God is faithful, and He will be with us no matter where we are.

Shechem is important in the Bible even though the city displayed man’s sinfulness. At the same time, it was a holy city because it revealed God’s faithfulness.

When you read about Shechem in the Bible, keep these things in mind:

  • Shechem was a place of promise.
  • Shechem was a place of worship.
  • Shechem was a place of commitment.
  • Shechem was a place of sin.
  • Shechem was a place that displayed God's faithfulness.

For Further Reading

The Geographical, Historical, & Spiritual Significance of Shechem

What is the importance of Shechem in the Bible?

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