Shechem and the Hill Country of Samaria

The ancient city of Shechem in the hill country of Samaria was a literal crossroads of activity during Bible times. Pivotally positioned between two mountains along a key road running through central Israel, Shechem was often regarded as part of the “heartland” of Israel. Here Abraham first offered sacrifices in the Promised Land (Genesis 12:6-7) and Joseph’s bones were later buried (Joshua 24:32). Here, too, the tribes of Israel were commanded by Moses to stand in front of Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal and reaffirm God’s covenant by shouting out its blessings and curses to each other (Deuteronomy 11:26-32; 27:11-13; Joshua 8:33). Shechem is also where the northern kingdom declared its independence from Judah and Jerusalem (1 Kings 12). Later the nearby city of Samaria would become the capital of northern Israel (1 Kings 16:23-24). The Samaritans built their rival temple on Mount Gerizim next to Shechem. Many years later at a well in the village of Sychar just outside Shechem, Jesus talked with a Samaritan woman and explained to her that he himself was the source of living water for all those who worshiped the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:1-42).

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