Abraham’s Shechem Lines Up With Archaeology

Abraham’s Shechem Lines Up With Archaeology July 23, 2021

Genesis 12:5-6 (RSV) And Abram took Sar’ai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions which they had gathered, and the persons that they had gotten in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, [6] Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.

Genesis 33:18 And Jacob [Abraham’s grandson] came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, . . .

My methodology in posts such as these was described in my previous installment on Abraham (c. 1813- c. 1638 BC):

My goal, in many recent articles on biblical archaeology, is to relentlessly show that the Bible and archaeology (for the most part, and often remarkably so) are in harmony with each other.

We can’t find out much about Abraham. We don’t even know much — apart from the Bible — about King David, who lived some 650 years later. But we can at the very least show that cities mentioned in the Bible as having been visited or lived in by Abraham, did indeed exist before and during the time period involved. If they didn’t exist, then that would present a problem for a Bible passage that stated that they did. It doesn’t “prove” the Bible’s inspiration, but it does support its historical accuracy and it refutes attempted skeptical disproofs of biblical accuracy. [italics added presently]

Wikimedia (“Shechem”) summarizes the archaeological evidence from the Bronze Age:

The first substantial building activity at Shechem dates from the Middle Bronze Age IIA (c. 1900 BC). It became a very substantial Canaanite settlement, and was attacked by Egypt, as mentioned in the Sebek-khu Stele, an Egyptian stele of a noble at the court of Senusret III (c. 1880–1840 BC). [see also, “Tell Balata”]

This Egyptian stele is pictured above, and described in the “Photo credit” section below. Note that both of the dates above precede the approximate life dates of Abraham. It existed in his time, and was a city also (Gen 33:18). Wikipedia’s source for the first claim is The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Vol. 4 (edited by Ephraim Stern, Carta, Jerusalem: The Israel Exploration Society, 1993; “Shechem”: pp. 1345-1353).

It states that the site was abandoned from c. 3300-1900 BC after earlier Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age settlement, but that “the site was resettled at a point well into the Middle Bronze Age IIA, in around 1900 BCE” (p. 1347). Indeed, Shechem had “a two-hundred-year period of prominence as a city-state, covering the centuries from 1750 to 1540 BCE” (p. 1352).

David G. Hansen, in his article, “Shechem: Its Archaeological and Contextual Significance” (Spring 2005 issue of Bible and Spade) [see particularly the great photos and maps included] observed:

Archaeological investigations have corroborated much of what the Bible has to say about Shechem’s physical and cultural aspects. Archaeology has confirmed Shechem’s location, its history, and many Biblical details. . . .

In the original Hebrew, the word translated in our English Bible as “city” meant a permanent, walled settlement . . . Genesis 34:20 and 24 report that Shechem had a city gate; therefore it was fortified.

Related Reading

Abraham, Moses, Camels, & Archaeological Evidence [5-22-21]

Genesis, Joseph, Archaeology, & Biblical Accuracy (A Brief Survey of Evidence for “The King’s Highway” in Jordan in the Bronze Age: Prior to 1000 BC) [6-8-21]

Abraham & Beersheba, the Bible, & Archaeology [6-9-21]

Did Moses Exist? No Absolute Proof, But Strong Evidence (Pearce’s Potshots #35, in Which Our Brave Hero Classifies Moses as “a Mythological Figure” and I Reply!) [6-14-21]

Was Abraham from This City Ur That One? [7-20-21]

Abraham Lived in Haran, Which Did Exist at the Time! [7-22-21]

Bible & Archaeology / Bible & Science web page


Photo credit: The Sebek-khu Stele, dated to the reign of Senusret III (reign: 1878–1839 BC), records the earliest known Egyptian military campaign in the Levant. The text reads “Then Sekmem fell, . . .”, where Sekmem is thought to be Shechem. [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


Summary: Archaeology — as so often — confirms the accuracy in the Bible in its description of Shechem (in Genesis) as a city with gates, that was visited by Abraham in the 18th century BC.

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