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NABULUS, THE ANCIENT SHECHEM. The following account of the visit of some recent travellers in the Holy Land to the ancient town of Shechem, a place so frequently mentioned in Scripture, may not be uninteresting to our readers :
We reached Nabulus at half-past one o'clock, having passed through the narrow valley running up between Mounts Gerizim and Ebal. On our way we were shown a small white building called 'Joseph's tomb,' while still nearer the foot of Mount Gerizim is the ancient well, known as that of Jacob. The city of Nabulus is long and narrow, the houses high, and in general well built, with domes upon the roofs, as at Jerusalem. Mounts Gerizim and Ebal rise in steep rocky precipices immediately from the valley on each side, apparently some eight hundred feet high; they are in general barren, except that a few olive trees are scattered upon them. This town of Nabulus, as it is now called by the Arab natives of the country, is proved beyond all doubt to stand in the place of the ancient city of Shechem, or Sichem, and Sychar, as it is sometimes called in Scripture. Shechem was a very ancient place, though we do not find it mentioned as a city until the time of Jacob. Abraham, indeed, first came into the land of Canaan “ unto the place of Shechem, unto the oaks of Moreh ";" and Jacob, on his return from Padan-aram, "came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, and pitched his tent before” the latter city. Here the patriarch purchased the “parcel of ground," still marked by his well, and the traditional tomb of Joseph'. Jacob's field remained in his possession, and the patriarch, even when residing at Hebron, sent his flocks to pasture in this neighbourhood. It was on a visit to them in this region that Joseph was sold by his brethren.
On the return of the Israelites from Egypt, after they had passed over Jordan, they were directed to set up great stones, and build an altar on Mount Ebal, and to station six of the tribes upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people, and six upon Mount Ebal to curse". In the divi2 Gen. xxxiii. 18, 19.
3 Gen. xxxvii, 12-14. 4 Deut. xxvii. 1-13.
1 Gen. xii. 6.
sion of the land, Shechem fell to the lot of Ephraim, but was assigned to the Levites, and made a city of refuge! Here Joshua met the assembled people for the last time. In the days of the Judges, Abimelech treacherously got possession of the city, which gave occasion for the beautiful parable of Jotham delivered from Mount Gerizim. At Shechem all Israel came together to make Rehoboam king; here the ten tribes rebelled, and the city became for a time the royal residence of Jeroboam". After the Jewish exile, Shechem is mainly known as the chief seat of the people, who thenceforth bore the name of Samaritans, of whom we frequently read in the Bible. The origin of this people seems to have been this : the country around Shechem was called Samaria, and after the carrying away captive of the Israelites from Mount Ephraim and the region of Samaria, by the Assyrian, Shalmaneser, the same monarch brought men from Babylon, and from other eastern countries, "and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof." Visited and disturbed by lions, this people applied to the king of Assyria for one of the Israelitish priests, to “teach them the manner of the God of the land," and one was sent accordingly, and took up his abode at Bethel. So “ they feared the Lord, and served their own gods," each his own idols, “and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places o.
This is the people who in the Greek language are called Samaritans. It thus appears that they were originally foreigners, having nothing in common with the Jews. They possessed the Jewish Scriptures, which is accounted for by the return of the Israelitish priest to Bethel, and the practical renewal of the Israelitish worship. When the Jews returned under Zerubbabel, from their exile, and began to rebuild Jerusalem and their temple, the Samaritans also desired to aid them in the work. “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as ye do?." The Jews refused to admit them to this privilege, which gave rise to great hatred between the two races; and from that moment the Samaritans did all they could to hinder the rebuilding, both of the temple and the city. It was this same refusal, probably, which stimulated the Samaritans to build a temple of their own on Mount Gerizim. The mutual hatred continued to increase, each party contending for the sanctity of their own temple. The name Samaritan at length became among the Jews a by-word, à term of reproach, and all intercourse with them was avoided. Of this we find various traces in the New Testament. “The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans ?.” Jesus himself was called a Samaritan in scorn; and the seventy disciples, when first sent out, were not to go to the cities of the Samaritans, since they did not belong to the house of Israel'. They still clung to their worship on Mount Gerizim, and lived in expectation of a Messiah. It was probably in consequence of this hatred that the town of Sichem received among the Jewish common people the by-name of Sychar, which we find in St. John's Gospel ; while Stephen, in addressing the more courtly Sanhedrim, employs the ancient name 5. Yet
1 Josh. xx. 7 ; xxi. 20, 21. > Josh. xxiv. 1. 25. 3 Judges ix. 1–49. 4 1 Kings xii. 1. 12—16. 25.
5 2 Kings xvii. 3. 6. 24. 6 2 Kings xvii. 25–34.
7 Ezra iv. 2.
many of the Samaritans believed on Christ in Sichem itself®; and afterwards churches were gathered in their towns and villages by the Apostles?
One of our first objects at Nabulus was to visit the small and feeble remnant of this ancient nation of the Samaritans, which has to this day survived the storms of aģes upon their native soil. They are now reduced to a very small community; and cannot be reckoned at more than one hundred and fifty souls. One of them is in affluent circumstances, and holds an important office in the province. The rest of the Samaritans are not remarkable either for their wealth or poverty. The countenances of those we saw were not Jewish; nor indeed did we remark in them any peculiar character, as distinguished from that of other natives of the country. They keep the Saturday as their Sabbath with great strictness, allowing no labor nor trading, not even cooking nor lighting a fire, but resting from their employments the whole day. On Friday evening they pray in their houses, and on Saturday have public prayers in their synagogue at morning, noon, and evening. They meet also in the synagogue on the great festivals, and on the new moons ; but not every day. The law is read in public, not every sabbath day, but only upon the same festivals. Four times a year they go up to Mount Gerizim in solemn procession to worship, and then they begin reading the law as they set off, and finish it above.
1 Ezra iv; Nahum iv. 6.
2 John iv. 9. 3 John viii. 48.; Matt. x. 5; Luke xvii. 16. 18. 4 John iv. 20. 25. 5 John iv. 5.; Acts vii. 16. 6 John iv. 39–42. 7 Acts viii. 5–25; ix. 31. 2 John iv. 9.
These seasons are: the feast of the Passover, when they pitch their tents upon the mountain all night, and sacrifice seven lambs at sunset; the day of Pentecost; the feast of Tabernacles, when they sojourn here in booths built of branches of the arbutus; and lastly, the great day of Atonement in autumn'. They still maintain their ancient hatred against the Jews; accuse them of departing from the law in not sacrificing the Passover, and in various other points, and scrupulously avoid all connexion with them. If of old “the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans?," the latter, at the present day, reciprocate the feeling; and neither eat, nor drink, nor marry, nor associate with the Jews, but only trade with them.
We made inquiries respecting Jacob's well, and though it was late, we took a Christian guide, and set off to visit it. The well bears evident marks of antiquity, but was now dry and deserted. We were thirty-five minutes in coming to it from the city. A large stone was laid loosely over its mouth: we had no line with us at the moment to measure the well, but by dropping in stones we could perceive that it was deep. Other travellers, who have measured it, have found it to be about one hundred and five feet deep, and nine feet wide, dug in the firm rock. I am not aware of any thing in the nature of the case to contradict the common tradition, that this is actually the spot where our Lord held his conversation with the Samaritan woman, but, on the contrary, there seems much to confirm it. Jesus was journeying from
1 Lev. xvi. 29, &c.; xxiii. 27, &c.
3 John iv. 11.