The predecessor of the modern city of Nablus, ancient Shechem (pronounced “SHEH-kem”), also called Tell Balata, stood at a crossroads between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim in the hill country of Ephraim, 41 miles north of Jerusalem. Today about one-third of the tell is covered by modern buildings, but the rest of the area is accessible to archaeologists. Excavations conducted since 1913 have yielded significant remains: city gates, a city wall, a temple (or temples), housing and a granary. These date to various occupation phases from the Middle Bronze Age II (c. 1900 B.C.E.) up to the Hellenistic period (332–152 B.C.E.).

The Hebrew Bible mentions Shechem with some frequency, most notably in Judges 9, in which Abimelech seizes control of the town. Judges 9:4 refers to “the temple of Ba’al of the Covenant”—the temple described in the accompanying article. (“The Shechem Temple”) Shechem is also mentioned several times in Genesis, and it was associated with the Patriarchs in early Israelite lore.