Richard T. Nowitz

A standing stone or massebah in the courtyard of the Canaanite temple at Shechem (see photo of standing stone), whose “cyclopean” wall, across the lower center of this photo, identified the ancient city. Almost 5 feet high and wide and 16 inches thick, this broken monolith may have once stood twice as tall as it does today. Archaeologist G. Ernest Wright re-erected the stone after finding it lying over its stone base and socket. The Canaanite temple (the central platform, in this photo), founded about 1650 B.C.E., was out of use by the time the Israelites came to Shechem (c. 1200 B.C.E.). This stone may still have stood, however, and could be the one described in the Book of Joshua as a “witness” to the Israelites’ covenant with the Lord (Joshua 24:26–27).

Perhaps because it lacked a secure defensive position, Shechem did not become a capital city until the time of Jeroboam, the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel (928–907 B.C.E.). Jeroboam set up religious sanctuaries at Bethel and Dan, rather than making Shechem a religious center. The northern kingdom’s third king, Baasha (906–883 B.C.E.), moved the capital to Tirzah.