It's Time To Return to Schechem Print
Written by Victoria Radin   

“Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem.…Then the L-rd appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ And there he built an altar to the L-rd, who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:6-7)

When Abram (Abraham) left the land of Ur, G-d led him to Shechem in Canaan where the L-rd first appeared to him. Shechem (today called Nablus) is located in a narrow valley between Mount Gerizim to the south and Mount Ebal to the north. It is remembered as the place where Abram demonstrated his love and commitment to G-d by building the first altar to the L-rd in Canaan. And, it is the place where G-d made an 1unconditional covenant with Abram for the land that would eventually become known as the Land of Israel. The name “Shechem” comes from a Hebrew root meaning, “shoulder”, implying G-d’s covenant is ‘shouldered’ (i.e. supported) by Abraham’s love and commitment to G-d throughout his life.

When the Israelites returned to the Land following the Exodus from Egypt, Joshua built the first altar to the L-rd in the Promised Land on Mount Ebal not far from Abraham’s first altar. G-d told the Israelites (Deuteronomy 11:29) that when they returned to the land, they were to recite all the blessings on Mount Gerizim (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) and the curses on Mount Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:11-26). 

“Then all Israel … stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the L-rd…. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the L-rd had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law.” (Joshua 8:33-34)

It is also the place where Joshua, when he was old and ready to die, renewed Israel’s commitment to G-d.

“So Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the L-rd for yourselves, to serve Him.’ And they said, ‘We are witnesses!’ ‘Now therefore,’ he said, ‘put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the L-rd G-d of Israel.’ And the people said to Joshua, ‘The L-rd our G-d we will serve, and His voice we will obey!’ So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.” (Joshua 24:22-25)

In what proved to be a prophetic pronouncement, the patriarch Joseph, who died in Egypt, made the Israelites promise to bury his bones in the Promised Land (Genesis 50:25) in a plot of ground at Shechem. 

“The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor …which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.” (Joshua 24:32)

It was prophetic because Joseph, who was and Egyptian leader, second in command to Pharaoh, was a ‘type’ of the Messiah Yeshua. His body did not see ‘decay’ due to the Egyptian practice of mummifying their leaders and officials. This feature of Joseph’s burial identifies him with the Messiah whose body would also not see decay.

“…you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.” (Psalm 16:10)

This connection with Joseph as a ‘type’ of the Messiah, draws a parallel between Joseph ‘returning’ to Shechem from Egypt and the Messiah Yeshua returning to Israel from Egypt to become a covenant for the people. Joseph was buried in the place of Abram’s original altar to G-d and the place of G-d’s first covenant with Israel.

“I am the L-rd, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, and I will appoint You as a 2covenant to the people, as a light to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:6)

“… behold, an angel of the L-rd appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’ When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the L-rd through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son.’” (Matthew 2:13-15, Hosea 11:1) 

As has been noted, G-d’s covenant with Abraham was supported by Abraham’s unwavering love and commitment to G-d during his lifetime. 

“Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed G-d, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called G-d’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” (James 2:21-24)

In the same way, G-d’s covenant with us through Yeshua rests on our unwavering love and commitment to G-d during our lifetime. 

“And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:25-26)

G-d is calling on all believers to spiritually ‘return to Shechem’ to commit to the L-rd once again and obey His Word in doing by faith the things we are called to do, and to be the watchmen for the ‘house of Israel’.

“So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. (Ezekiel 33:7-9)

Shechem became one of the cities of refuge, the central city of refuge for Western Israel (Joshua 20:7). When we ‘return to Shechem’, it should remind us that the L-rd is our refuge and strong tower to which we can run for strength and refreshing as we serve Him (Psalm 46:1, Psalm 61:3).

“Grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.”(Luke 1:74-75)

1 An unconditional covenant occurs when only one party is responsible for its fulfillment

2 The New Covenant