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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Heb. Shalem', שָׁלֵ ם, safe; Samar. שלו ם, Sept. Σαλήμ, Vulg. Salem) appears in the A.V. as the name of a place near Shechem, to which Jacob came on his return from Mesopotamia (Genesis 33:18). It seems more than probable, however, that this word should not here be taken as a proper name, but that the sentence should be rendered "Jacob came safe to the city of Shechem" (וִיָּבֹא יִעֲקֹב שָׁלֵ ם עַיר שְׁכֶ ם ). Our translators have followed the Sept., Peshito-Syriac, and Vulg. among ancient, and Luther's among modern, versions, in all of which Shalem is treated as a proper name, and considered as a town dependent on or related to Shechem. And it is certainly remarkable that there should be a modern village bearing the name of Salim in a position to a certain degree consistent with the requirements of the narrative when so interpreted, viz. three miles east of Nablus (the ancient Shechem), and therefore between it and the Jordan valley, where the preceding verse (ver17) leaves Jacob settled (Robinson. Bib. Res. 2, 279, Wilson, Bible Lands, 2, 72; Van de Velde, Syr. and Pal. 2, 302, 334; Schwarz, Palest. p. 151). But there are several considerations which weigh very much against this being more than a fortuitous coincidence. (See JACOB).

1. If Shalem were the city in front of which Jacob pitched his tent, then it certainly was the scene of the events of ch. 34; and the well of Jacob and the tomb of Joseph must be removed from the situation in which tradition has so appropriately placed them to some spot farther eastward and nearer to Salim. Eusebius and Jerome felt this and they accordingly make Sychem and Salem one and the same (Onomast. under both these heads). (See SYCHEM).

2. Though east of Nablus, Salim does not appear to lie near any actual line of communication between it and the Jordan valley. The road from Sakut to Nabls would be either by Wady Maleh, through Teyasir, Tubas, and the Wady Bidan, or by Kerawa, Yanun, and Beit-Furik. The former passes two miles to the north, the latter two miles to the south, of Salim, but neither approaches it in the direct way which the narrative of Genesis 33:18 seems to denote that Jacob's route did. But see Tristram, Land of Israel, p. 146. (See SHECHEM).

3. With the exceptions already named, the unanimous voice of translators and scholars is in favor of treating shalem as a mere appellative. Among the ancients, Josephus (by his silence, Ant. 1, 21.), the Targums of Onkelos and Pseudo-Jonathan, the Samaritan Codex, the Arabic Version; among the moderns, the Veneto-Greek Version, Rashi, Junius and Tremellius, Meyer (Annot. on Seder Olam), Ainsworth, Reland (Palest. and Dissert. Misc.), Schumann, Rosenmuller, J.D. Michaelis (Bibel fur Ugelehrt.), Tuch, Baumgarten, Gesenius (Thesaur. p. 1422), Zunz (24 Bucher, and Handwb.), De Wette, Luzzatto, Knobel, Kalisch, Keil, Lange, Philippson all these take shalem to mean "safe and sound," and the city before which Jacob pitched to be the city of Shechem. This view is also confirmed by the evident allusion in this term to the fulfilment of the condition of Jacob's vow (Genesis 28:21). Hitzig (on Jeremiah 41:5) would make Shalem the name of the tower of Shechem (Judges 9:46). Comp. Hackett, Illustrations of Script. p. 193 sq. (See PEACE).

4. This question is somewhat complicated with the position of the Shalim of the New Test. (John 3:21); but the two places are not necessarily the same. (See SALIM).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Shalem'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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