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Abimelech, Saul, and Amarna - Geographical details

  1. Ophrah
  2. Shechem
  3. Thebez

 

Ophrah

The following sites have been proposed as possible locations for Ophrah:

  1. Fer'ata, west of Mt. Gerizim is near Shechem but is more remote from the area of Gideon's conflict. It is more probable as a location for Abdon's home town Pirathon (Jdg 12:15).
  2. et-Tayibeh, halfway between Beth-shan and Tabor has been proposed but is well inside Issachar.
  3. Afula on the plain of Jezreel is even more remote from the conflict area.
  4. Tell el-Fara, 10 km north-east of Shechem has been proposed, but following excavation is considered a more likely candidate for Tirzah.

Shechem

Shechem (probably modern Tell Balata) is at the eastern end of the valley between Mt. Ebal to the north and Mt. Gerizim to the south, in the Ephraimite hill country. It was close to the Manasseh-Ephraim border.

Shechem chronology comparison

Biblical evidence
Shechem is mentioned a number of times as an independent city during the patriarchal accounts of Genesis. It was a key location throughout the period of Israelite history between the Conquest and Divided Monarchy. There is no indication from the Conquest narrative that the city was attacked or sacked. Joshua twice called assemblies to renew the covenant there, and for this reason some have seen it as the chief centre of the Israelite league at this time. It was designated one of the cities of refuge, and a Levitical city belonging to the Kohathites, whilst at the same time being a centre of Canaanite worship. After Solomon's death, another assembly here rejected Rehoboam's claim for kingship over the northern tribes. Jeroboam restored the city and made it his capital initially, moving later first to Penuel in transJordan, and then back to Tirzah, near to but more northerly than Shechem. After this, there is only one mention of Shechem, briefly in Jeremiah 41:7 as the town of origin of some men. To all intents and purposes, Shechem ceased to be a town of importance after the time Jeroboam transferred his capital from it.

Other textual evidence
The 12th dynasty Pharaoh Senuseret III conducted a campaign into Palestine, reaching as far as Skmm (sekmem, probably to be identified with Shechem). The Stele of Khu-Sebek records the Pharaoh's capture of the town, after which he turned back to Egypt. Senuseret's reign is conventionally 1836-1817, NC 1696-1658. The town also features in Execration texts from approx this era, in which the name Ibish-hadad of Shechem is mentioned. The Amarna letters (conventionally just after 1350, NC around 1025) record the city falling into the hands of the Habiru.

Archaeological evidence
The city first arose in MBIIA (conventionally c. 1900-1750, NC c. 1700-1450) and reached a height of prosperity in the Hyksos era (conventionally c. 1700-1550, NC c. 1450-1200). During this time city walls and a number of courtyard temples were built. Near the end of this era (conventionally c. 1600, NC c. 1250) a massive stone wall was built, covering over the earlier walls, and a fortress-temple was built on the filling. This survived with some changes until about 1100 conventionally, c. 900 NC. The town remained important until the 9th or 8th century after which it declined. It was destroyed during the Assyrian invasion around 724-721 BCE and remained as a village until a further period of thriving as a Samaritan centre between about 325 and 100 BCE. By the New Testament era it was only of historical interest.

Thebez

This is a fortified city in the Ephraimite hill country (thought to be modern Tubas), north-east of Shechem on the road towards Beth-shan.

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