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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

 

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SYCHAR

si'-kar (Suchar): Mentioned only once, in connection with the visit of Jesus to Jacob's Well (Jn 4:5). He was passing through Samaria on His way to Galilee, "so he cometh to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph: and Jacob's well was there." Jerome thought the name was a clerical error for Sychem (Epistle 86). In Eusebius (in Onomasticon) he is content to translate Eusebius, placing Sychar East of Neapolis. It is now generally admitted that the text is correct. Some have held, however, that Sychar is only another name for Shechem ("Sychem"). It is suggested, e.g., that it is a nickname applied in contempt by the Jews, being either shikkor, "drunken," or sheqer, "falsehood." Others think the form has arisen through change of "m" to "r" in pronunciation; as "l" to "r" in Beliar. These theories may safely be set aside. The evidence that Sychar was a distinct place East of Shechem may be described as overwhelming. It is carefully and perspicuously marshaled by G. A. Smith (Historical Geography of the Holy Land, 367 ff). The manner in which it is mentioned shows that it was not a specially well-known place: "a city of Samaria called Sychar." No one familiar with Israel would have written "a city of Samaria called Sychem." It is mentioned only because of its nearness to the well.
As to the position of the well, there is general agreement (see JACOB'S WELL). It is on the right of the road where it bends from the plain of Makhneh into the pass of Shechem. Fully half a mile off, on the edge of the plain, is the village of `Askar, on the lower slope of Ebal. A little to the West is the traditional tomb of Joseph. This is the district East of Shechem usually identified with Jacob's "parcel of ground." Many have sought to find Sychar in the modern `Askar. There are two difficulties. The first is the initial letter `ain in the modern name. But G. A. Smith has shown that such a change as this, although unusual, is not impossible. The second is the presence of the copious spring, `Ain `Askar, which would make it unnecessary for the villagers to carry water from Jacob's Well. This cannot easily be explained away. One could understand a special journey at times, if any peculiar value attached to the water in the well; but from it, evidently, the woman drew her ordinary supplies (Jn 4:15). This difficulty would probably in any case be fatal to the claim of the village at `Ain `Askar to represent the ancient Sychar. But Professor R. S. A. Macalister has shown reason to believe that the village is not older than Arab times (PEFS, 1907, 92 ff). He examined the mound Telul Balata, nearly 1/2 mile Southwest of `Askar, and just West of Joseph's tomb. There he found evidence of occupation from the days of the Hebrew monarchy down to the time of Christ. Here there is no spring; and it is only 1/4 mile distant from Jacob's Well--nearer therefore to the well than to `Askar. In other respects the site is suitable, so that perhaps here we may locate the Sychar of the Gospel. The name may easily have migrated to `Askar when the village fell into decay.
W. Ewing

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'SYCHAR'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE; 1915.

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