According to the Bible, this is where Abraham and his descendants lived and this is also where we find the temple of the pagan god Baal Berith (“Lord of Covenant” in Hebrew) that is referred to in Judges. If you haven’t read my book yet, you should know that I argue in it that Baal Berith was actually the Mesopotamian king with whom Abraham made a secular covenant.
I explain that the descendants of Abraham would have elevated the memory of this king to the rank of deity and would have worshipped him under the name “Baal Berith”, before this ancient cult evolved and developed into the religion of Yahweh. As I was looking for archeological information about this location, I came across an unexpected guidebook on the Unesco website. This guidebook was created for the Tell Balata Archaeological Park. I find it important to keep looking for new information that could challenge my ideas. Maybe I am just lucky, or perhaps I have not been looking to the right places, but so far, I have yet to stumble across any such evidence.
Quite the contrary, the information I find keeps solidifying my position, and this 41 pages guidebook made no exception to the rule! Filled with valuable information, tables and pictures, this document was put together by Dr. Gerrit van der Kooij from the Leiden University and Dr. Eds Hamdan Taha, deputy minister of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Palestine. Together, they led the team that was responsible for the most recent archeological digs that took place between 2011-2014 (the earliest site investigations begun in 1903). This guide contains information I didn’t know about. Perhaps the most surprising was this statement:
“Archaeological study does not tell us (yet) who the people were that brought this urban culture, but written sources suggest an answer. It may be that the Middle Bronze people were those the (sic) Egyptians called Hyksos (“rulers from a foreign land”), who became the rulers of northern Egypt, and had probably come from southwest Asia. However it is difficult to be certain of this.” p.18
I had never seen anyone suggest that the Hyksos had established themselves at Shechem. Why is this significant? Because anyone who has read my book, would naturally come to expect that the people who settled at Shechem during the Middle Bronze age to worship Baal Berith had to be related, in one way or another, to these Hyksos. Indeed, I suggest that the Hyksos, who came to rule over all of Egypt during a few generations, were likely the direct descendants of Abraham. The Hyksos were expelled from Egypt sometimes ca. 1550 BCE and sought refuge in Canaan. IF the Hyksos are the descendants of Abraham, and IF the descendants of Abraham worshipped Baal Berith at Shechem THEN we should expect to find Hyksos at Shechem! I believe that the Hyksos kings can be associated with the descendants of Abraham based on the etymology of their names (most obvious), but also based on their chronologies and profiles (as discussed in the book):
Hykos Yakub-her –> Biblical Jacob
Hyksos Khyan-Seth –> Biblical Joseph
Hyksos Yanassi –> Biblical Manasseh
Hyksos Apophis –> Biblical Ephraim
Hyksos Khamudi –> Biblical Shemidah
Others before me have suggested that Hyksos Yakub-her could have been biblical Jacob, but this suggestions only relied on the similarity of their names. It is so tenuous that it was never seriously considered. Even the most recent study published in the Journal of Biblical Literature by Dr. Geobey agrees that the Hyksos might have been connected to the early Israelites, but doesn’t go any further than suggesting they could have influenced the writing of the story of Exodus (because of their expulsion from Egypt).
The evolution of the city as well as the major transformations it underwent over the years do match the timeline I am proposing quite accurately. The digs also provide confirmation that two fires destroyed the tower of the temple at a time period that could support the dating of the story of Gideon in Judges 9. This biblical story recounts how Gideon burnt down the tower of the temple of Shechem where the worshippers of Baal Berith had found refuge. I argue in my book that these martyrs were very likely the ancestors of the people known today as the Samaritans.
An important site
Please take a few minutes to watch the beautiful video that was created for the Visitor Center of the park. It will save you the trip!
If I am correct, we should regard Tell Balata as the most ancient and most important site of the Old Testament. This is not only the site where Abraham lived, but the site where the memory of the Lord of the Covenant would have first been elevated to the rank of deity. Hindsight lets us appreciate how this moment in history transformed the face of humanity for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the generations of archeologists who dug at Tell Balata since 1903, could never have suspected this. It is therefore very possible that some small archaeological clues, might have been forever lost by neglect…
Post-scriptum: This antique silent video is also worth viewing as it highlights the importance of Shechem in the Bible. Picture Jacob, Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim as the early Hyksos, and Bronze Age inhabitant of Shechem referred to in the guidebook. Grab a copy of my book in order to fully understand the extent of the connections that can be made between these biblical characters and the Hyksos.
 Ronald A. Geobey. 2017. “Joseph the Infiltrator, Jacob the Conqueror? Reexamining the Hyksos–Hebrew Correlation.” Journal of Biblical Literature 136(1): 23-30.