Jesus Walked Through This Gate
Right next to Jacob’s well is this ancient town, where Jesus spent two days. For this reason, we let our live Octagon Tour groups off the bus to see these ruins.
Location – Balata, just northwest of the Church of Saint Photini
Map Coordinates - 32.213496, 35.282435
Merged Gospels story 30
Tel Balata is the site of the remains of an ancient Canaanite/Israelite city located in the West Bank, right next to the Church of Saint Photini (the site of Jacob’s Well). When I take a tour group to Jacob’s well, I like to take a short side trip to ancient Sychar, because Jesus spent two days in this city. We usually just view the site from the northwest gate.
The Old Testament name for this town is Shechem, and it’s mentioned in the Old Testament almost 60 times. The Caananites lived here. Then the Jews lived here. The ancient walls of this town were about 27 feet tall. But in the New Testament the name of this town is Sychar, mentioned only once in the Gospel of John, and by that time the city was populated entirely by Samaritans.
A late 19th-century photo of Samaritans
The Jews considered the Samaritans to be half-breeds – not true Jews. The Jews traced the Samaritan heritage back to the day when the Assyrians took over the northern tribes of Israel, and bred with the locals. This created a race of people that we half Jews and half gentiles, so the Jews always had contempt for the Samaritans.
The Samaritans believe just the opposite. They believe that they are the true Jews, and that those who call themselves Jews are merely a mixture of Jewish and European blood.
You can see Mount Gerazim from this site. The Samaritans worshiped here, and to this day they still perform animal sacrifices on this mountain, even though there are only about 700 Samaritans still left in the world. They are known today as the smallest ethnic group on the planet.
The History of the Site.
The word tel is a Hebrew word that means mound. There have been four major periods of settlement at this archeological site. The first inhabitation started around 4000 BC. The last inhabitation ended early in the second century AD.
The Romans were in control of the Holy Land at that time, and in the year 72 AD, they started developing a larger town just to the west of here, called Flavia Neapolis (Neapolis means new city). That town started to grow, but when the Muslims took over in 638 AD these Arabs corrupted the name, and they started calling this town Nablus. The city of Nablus then grew all around these ruins.
The New Testament Story.
Back in Jesus’ day the only thing east of this city was Jacob’s Well from which the people used to gather their water. That’s where the story of the Woman at the Well begins. She went out the eastern gate, which you cannot see from the northern gate), which led her right to the well, and that’s where she met Jesus. He talked to her, He talked to His disciples, and then Jesus entered Sychar through the eastern gate. We know that part of the story of The Woman at the Well happened in this city.
From John 4:28-30 we read
The woman then left her water jug and went away to the city (Sychar), and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me everything I ever did. Is this not the Christ?” Then they went out of the city, and were coming to Him.
And from John 4:39-42 we read
And many believed in Him from that city of the Samaritans, because of the word of the woman testifying, “He told me everything I ever did.” Therefore, when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them, and He stayed there for two days, and many more believed because of His word. They said to the woman, “No longer do we believe because of your word. For we ourselves have heard, and we know that this is truly Christ, the Savior of the world.”
Remarkably, these non-Jews were the first people in the world to declare that Jesus was the Savior of the world.
When Jesus left this city to go back to Galilee He left through the northwest gate, which is the main gate that everyone goes through to view these ruins.