Sy'char (Συχάρ in א, A, C, D; but rec. tex Σιχάρ with B; Vulg. Sichar; but Codd. Am and Ftild. Sychar; Syriac Socar), a place named only in Joh 4:5, as "a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the ground which Jacob gave to Joseph his son; and there was the well of Jacob." Sychar was either a name applied to the town of Shechem, or it was an in dependent place.
1. The first of these alternatives is now almost universally accepted. In the words of Dr. Robinson (Bibl. Res. 2, 290), "In consequence of the hatred which' existed between the Jews and the Samaritans, and in allusion to their idolatry, the: town of Sichem received among the Jewish common people, the byname Sychar." It seems to have been a sort of nickname (perhaps from שֶׁקֶר, sheker, "falsehood," spoken of idols in Hab 2:18; or from שַׁכּוֹר, shikk6r, "drunkard," in allusion to Isa 28:1,7), such as the Jews were fond of imposing upon places they disliked; and nothing could exceed the enmity which existed between them and the Samaritans, who possessed Shechem (Joh 4:9). It should not be overlooked that John appears always to use the expression λεγόμενος, "called," to denote a sobriquet or title borne by place or person in addition to the name, or to, attach it to a place remote and little known. Instances of the former practice are 11:16; 20:24; 19:13, 17; of the latter, 11:54. The son of Sirach speaks of "the foolish people that dwell in Sikima" (1,28). See Lightfoot, Opera, 2, 586; Lange, Life of Christ, 2, 337; Hengstenberg, On St. Joh 4:5. Jerome, in speaking of Paula's journey, says," She passed Sichem, not, as many erroneously call it, Sichar, which is now Neapolis" (Epist. ad Eustoch. in Opp. 1, 888, ed. Migne). In his questions on Genesis he says that, according to Greek and Latin custom, the Heb. Sichem is written Sicima; but that the reading Sichar is an error: he adds that it was then called Neapolis (Opp. 2, 1004, ed. Migne). So Adamnan writes to Arculf, who traveled in the 7th century: "He visited the town called in Hebrew Sichem, but by the Greeks and Latins Sicima, and now more usually Sychar" (Early Trasvels, Bohn, p. 8). In the 12th century Phocas says, "Sichar was the metropolis of the Samaritans, and was afterwards called Neapolis" (Reland, Palaest. p. 1009).
On the contrary, Eusebius (Onomast, s.v. Συχάρ and Λουζά) says that Sychar was in front of the city of Neapolis; and, again, that it lay by the side of Luza, which was three miles from Neapolis. Sychem, on the other hand, he places in the suburbs of Neapolis by the tomb of Joseph. The Bordeaux Pilgrim (A.D. 333) describes Sechim as at the foot of the mountain, and as containing Joseph's monument and plot of ground (villa). He then proceeds to say that a thousand paces thence was the place called Sechar. Moreover, had such a nickname been applied to Shechem so habitually as its occurrence in John would seem to imply, there would be some trace of it in those passages of the Talmud which refer to the Samaritans, and in which every term of opprobrium and ridicule that can be quoted or invented is heaped on them. It may be affirmed however, with certainty that neither in Targum nor Talmud is there any mention of such a thing. Lightfoot did not know of it. The numerous treatises on the Samaritans are silent about it, and recent close search has failed to discover it. SEE SHECHEIM.
But Jerome's view soon became the prevailing one, and has continued to be so. Robinson adheres strongly to it; and in regard to one of the chief objections urged on the other side, that Jacob's well, which stands at the entrance into the valley where Shechem or Nablas is situated, is about a mile and a half from the town, so that a woman would hardly have gone so far to draw water, since there was plenty of good water near at hand, he thinks that the town probably had extensive suburbs in the Gospel age which did not exist in the time of Eusebius and might have approached quite near to the well of Jacob-just as Jerusalem anciently extended much farther north and south than at the present day (Researches, 3, 121). Porter takes the same general view, and says, in regard to the distance of the well, that persons who use such arguments know little of the East. The mere fact of the well having been Jacob's would have brought numbers to it had the distance been twice as great. Even independent of its history, some little superiority in the quality of the water, such as we might expect in a deep well, would have attracted the Orientals, who are, and have always been, epicures in this element (Handbook for Pal. p. 342). It may be added that there is no need for supposing this well to have been the one commonly frequented by the people of Nablus. The visit of the woman to it may have been quite an occasional one, or for some specific purpose.
2. It has been thought that Sychar may be identified with the little village of Askar, on the south-eastern declivity of Molmut Ebal (Van de Velde, Memoir, p. 350; Thomson, Land and Book, 2, 206). The etymology, however, is against it, and also the topography. Our Lord was on his way to Galilee. The great road runs: past the mouth of Wady Nablus. Jacob's well is on the southern side of the opening; and Askar about half a mile distant on the northern side. The main road passes quite close to both. Our Lord sat down by the well while the disciples turned aside into the city to buy bread. Had Askar been the city, this would have been unnecessary for by continuing their route for a short distance farther they would have been within a few paces-of the city. There is, besides; a copious spring at Askar. — In the Quarterly Statement of the "Pal. Explor. Fund," for July, 1877, p. 149 sq., Lieaut. Comuder gives a further description of the village of Askar, and some additional reasons for identifying it with Sychar; but they are not conclusive.