NABLOUS, ANCIENT SHECHEM.
by David Roberts.
This View of one of the oldest and most interesting cities in Palestine is taken from the western entrance of the valley in which it stands. The bright and copious stream which is seen passing under the bridge irrigates the valley, and produces the remarkable fertility of a spot, in which the olive, fig, mulberry, palm, pomegranate, orange, and citron flourish, and which shelters numberless nightingales; above it rises Mount Gerizim, the sacred hill of the Samaritans, the whole forming a scene of striking beauty.
Nablous contains some fine fragments of its former grandeur. Near the centre of the City are several porphyry columns of large dimensions; 1) but neither those, nor the beauty of its site, are, in general, the chief objects of attraction to the traveller: the history of Nablous, as associated with the old and New Testaments, constitutes its more natural and powerful interest.
Here Abraham came “unto the place of Shechem, unto the oaks of Moreh.” 2) Here was the scene of the revenge taken by Simeon and Levi. Here was the “parcel of ground” bought by Jacob, and given as an inheritance to Joseph. Here the twelve sons of Jacob were buried; and though only the Well of Jacob (the Well of the woman of Samaria) and the Tomb of Joseph are pointed out, tradition relates that Eleazer, the son of Aaron, and Joshua, the chief of his people, were also buried here.
Here Joshua carried into effect the command of Moses, 3) when six of the tribes stood over against Gerizim, to bless the people who obeyed the law, and six against Mount Ebal, to curse the disobedient, when Joshua read aloud the whole of the law.
The situation was singularly suited to the event, for a voice from either side might, on a calm day, be distinctly heard by the people assembled. Here, in the midst of the valley, was placed the ark of the Covenant, surrounded by the priests and elders, and the officers, with Joshua, bearing the banners of their tribes,— a national spectacle of sacred magnificence. Here, from Mount Gerizim, Jotham’s fine parable against Abimelech was uttered. 4) Here all Israel came to make Rehoboam king. Here the tribes rebelled, and the City became for a time the royal residence of Jeroboam.
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After the fall of the Ten Tribes, Shechem was chiefly known as the principal city of the people who took the name of Samaritans, but who were Babylonians and others, gathered by Shalmaneser in the first instance, and afterwards by Ezarhaddon, to colonize the land. The depopulation of the country had exposed it to the ravages of wild beasts; and the new colonists, being molested with lions, and regarding this calamity as the result of a curse, applied to the Assyrian monarch, for one of the Jewish priests “to teach them the manner of the God of the land.” A priest was sent accordingly, but they mingled their original idolatry with the true worship; and, though they received the Pentateuch, were rejected from all communion with the Jews.
The refusal of the Jews to allow the Samaritans to assist them in rebuilding the Temple at Jerusalem increased the national hatred. The Samaritans, in defiance, then raised a Temple on Mount Gerizim, and Shechem became the religious metropolis of Samaria. The hatred of the two nations rose at length to such a height, in their contests for the superior sanctity of their respective temples, as to lead to the destruction of that on Geriziin (129 B.C.). Yet the worship continued, for coins of Neapolis are extant, on which Mount Gerizim, with its temple (probably rebuilt), are represented as the symbol of the City.
The Samaritans are now reduced to a few hundred persons, who continue in the creed of then fathers; and on the days of the Passover, and other feasts of their religion, ascend Gerizim and worship God upon “the mountain,” where, on the site of their ancient Temple, they make their sacrifices “as of old.” They pretend to possess at Nablous one of the most ancient copies of the Pentateuch. 5)
As a sect, the Samaritans are now greatly reduced; and a few small communities exist only here, and in Cairo, Gaza, and Damascus.
1) Roberts’s Journal.
2) Gen. xii. 6.
3) Deut. xxvii. xxviii. Josh. viii. 30—35.
4) The height of Gerizim is about 2500 French feet above the sea, or nearly that of the Mount of Olives. Nablous is 1751 French feet above the sea. Gerizim and Ebal rise in steep, rocky precipices and, from the valley, are about 800 feet in height. Schubert, Reise. Bibl. Res. iii. 96. Judges, ix. 7.
5) The Samaritan priest displays this MS. to travelers, and pronounces it to be 3460 years old, the work of Abishua, the son of Phinehas. It is, however, conjectured to be modern. Bibl. Res. iii. 105.
NABLOUS, THE “SICHEM” OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, AND THE “SYCHAR” OF THE NEW.
by Francis Frith.
SICHEM, or Shechem, in the land of Moreh,—the place where Abraham sojourned (Gen. xii. (5), and where Jacob bought a parcel of land from Hamor, the father of Shechem, which he afterwards gave to Joseph (Gen. xxxiii. 19 ; Josh. xxiv. 32),—is to this day a pleasing proof of the good taste and sound judgment of those venerable patriarchs in matters residential and agricultural.
Stanley gives the following description of its features: — “A valley green with grass, grey with olives gardens sloping down on each side; fresh springs rushing down in all directions at the end a white town, embosomed in all this verdure [vide Photograph], lodged between the two high mountains which extend on each side of the valley, that on the south Gerizim, that on the north Ebal: this is the aspect of Nablous, the most beautiful—perhaps it may be said the only very beautiful-spot in central Palestine.”
Lord Nugent says:- “Two hours from Hawarrah brings you to the entrance of this delightful vale, rich with the freshest verdure, and towards the town, which stands at the further end, shaded with a profusion of clustering trees. The bases of the two noble mountains that tower above this pass on either side are not more than a quarter of a mile apart. The southernmost, Gerizim, is said, by the traditions of the country, to be the mountain on which Abraham prepared for the sacrifice of his only son; and here the children of Israel were commanded to build an altar to the Lord, and the blessings of the law were pronounced with a loud voice to the people from Gerizim, and its curses from Ebal.”
Jacob’s Well, where Jesus conversed with the woman of Samaria, is on the right, a mile or two before you enter the town, and is now but a narrow triangular hole cut in the rock, and almost filled with stones. Manndrell, in 1697, descended, and found a chamber and a second well directly under the first. It was then 105 feet deep, with 12 feet of water.
Nablous is thirty-four miles north of Jerusalem, and seven miles south of Samaria. It is now a thriving town of some 10,000 or 12,000 inhabitants, with extensive manufactories of soap and other articles. The Samaritans, of whom there are from 100 to 200, have here a small synagogue, where they preserve and show to travellers — to the great worldly benefit of the priests — a copy of the Pentateuch on vellum, which they assert to have been written by Abishua, the son of Phinelias, 3480 years ago.
The Scripture history of this place is briefly traced thus:— It was surprised and destroyed by Jacob’s sons (Gen. xxxiii., xxxiv). After the conquest of the country, Shechem was made a city of refuge (Josh. xx. 7), and one of the Levitical towns (Josh. xxi. 21). In the time of the judges Shechem became the capital of the kingdom set up by Abimeleck (Judges ix.) ; but the inhabitants having rebelled, it was retaken and destroyed by him (Judges ix. 34).
It was again of importance in the time of Rehoboam, for he there gave the meeting to the delegates of the tribes (1 Kings xii. 1); and it was Shechem which the first monarch of the new kingdom made the capital of his dominion (1 Kings xii. 25). It existed during the exile, and continued for many ages after the chief seat of the Samaritans, and of their worship, their sole temple being upon Mount Gerizim, where massive ruins, perhaps of this temple, still remain. The city was taken, and the temple destroyed, by John Hyrcanus, B.C. 129.
- The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, & Nubia, by David Roberts, George Croly, William Brockedon. London: Lithographed, printed and published by Day & Son, lithographers to the Queen. Cate Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 1855.
- Egypt and Palestine by Francis Frith (English, 1822-1898). Publisher: London, James S. Virtue, City Road and Ivy Lane. New York: 26, John Street. Publication date: 1858.