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A view not often seen on a typical tour of Israel is that of Mt. Gerizim (left) and Mt. Ebal (right), looking west at their profiles. From this angle, one can see their proximity, illustrating how two halves of one great nation could face one another on each mountain to deliver the blessings and the curses. These mountains can most commonly be seen on the North-South highway approaches to the modern day city of Nablus, which contains the ancient site of Shechem.
From the tel of ancient Samaria, one can see the long stretch of mountains and mountain passes that make up the road from the Shechem Valley to the famous trading routes along the coast. Looking west, generations of its inhabitants have marveled at nature’s beauty as they watched the sun set over the Mediterranean beyond the hills.
Last year on January 1, I showed a picture of a reconstructed First Century synagogue in Nazareth. Jesus read the Scriptures from a synagogue in Nazareth that was similar to this. The resolution was to look at the example that Jesus gave and to take every opportunity that we can to read the Scripture. This year, I want to show a different picture. The picture at the top of this post of is of Jacob's well in modern day Nablus (near ancient Shechem). The well can be accessed by entering the Greek Orthodox St. Photini Church at Bir Ya'qub monestary. Once you are in the church, you can descend some steps to a small crypt where the well is located. While you can not be 100% sure, there is fairly significant geographical and historical evidence to say that this is the actual well that was dug by Jacob. (Of course, until recently, this well would have been outdoors and not in a cramped small room.)
In John 4, we read the account of Jesus stopping by this well and speaking with a local woman who had come to draw water.
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” - John 4:1-14
So, what is this new year's resolution? How about this: Let's take every opportunity that we can to talk to people about Jesus. Did Jesus plan His entire day forcing this opportunity to happen? I don't know. But what I do know is that he did not let the opportunity pass when it was offered to Him. He saw the woman coming and He saw the water. He then created an opportunity to talk to her about things that she needed to hear.
Let us all strive to see opportunities and to not let them pass by.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Do you want to travel to Israel and see great sites like this? I would love to have you join me. Take a look at the trip details and contact me for more information.
NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of posts on locations associated with the Ark of the Covenant. We have previously discussed the Plains of Moab, the Jordan River and the city of Jericho. After the defeat of Ai, Joshua gathered the people together to read the Book of the Law to them. He placed the Ark of the Covenant between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. The people then divided themselves on the two mountains and listened to Joshua.
Now Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses: “an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings. And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as he who was born among them. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord 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. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them. - Joshua 8:30-35
These two mountains, located about 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of Jerusalem, face each other with the modern city of Nablus on a very narrow piece of land between them. Nablus is approximately 550 meters (~1800 feet) above sea level and the mountains each rise over 300 meters (1000 feet) on either side. As the Israelites sat on these mountains to listen to Joshua, it would have been very easy for them to look across the valley at their fellow family members on the other side.
This same area is the same location as the Biblical city of Shechem. Jewish tradition holds that the original meaning of the word is "saddle", which gives indication of the what it looks like. In Genesis 12, Abraham offered a sacrifice to God in this area. Later, Jacob built a well nearby that is mentioned a number of times in the Bible. Shortly after the nation divided, 1 Kings 12:1 tells us that capital city of the northern nation was briefly set up at Shechem.
And Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king. - 1 Kings 12:1
In the New Testament, we read of Jesus coming through this area and has a conversation with a Samaritan Woman by Jacob's Well.
He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. - John 4:5-6
Given the history that the Israelites had with this area, as well as the geographical features that allowed for a large group of people to be gathered, it is no wonder that Joshua chose this location to remind the people of the Law with God had given to them.