Ancient Israel: Samaria

D8 on the Map.

Samaria in Smiths Bible Dictionary (watch mountain). This city is situated 30 miles north of Jerusalem and about six miles to the northwest of Shechem, in a wide basin-shaped valley, six miles in diameter, encircled with high hills, almost on the edge of the great plain which borders upon the Mediterranean. In the centre of this basin, which is on a lower level than the valley of Shechem, rises a less elevated hill, with steep yet accessible sides and a long fiat top. This hill was chosen by Omri as the site of the capital of the kingdom of Israel. He “bought the hill of Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, and built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built, after the name of the owner of the hill, Samaria.” 1Ki 16:23,24 From the that of Omri’s purchase, B.C. 925, Samaria retained its dignity as the capital of the ten tribes, and the name is given to the northern kingdom as well as to the city. Ahab built a temple to Baal there. 1Ki 16:32,33 It was twice besieged by the Syrians, in B.C. 901, 1Ki 20:1 and in B.C. 892, 2Ki 6:24-7, 2Ki 6:20 but on both occasions the siege was ineffectual. The possessor of Samaria was considered de facto king of Israel. 2Ki 15:13,14 In B.C. 721 Samaria was taken, after a siege of three years, by Shalmaneser king of Assyria, 2Ki 18:9,10 and the kingdom of the ten tribes was put an end to. Some years afterward the district of which Samaria was the centre was repeopled by Esarhaddon. Alexander the Great took the city, killed a large portion of the inhabitants, and suffered the remainder to set it at Shechem. He replaced them by a colony of Syro-Macedonians who occupied the city until the time of John Hyrcanus, who took it after a year’s siege, and did his best to demolish it entirely. (B.C. 109.) It was rebuilt and greatly embellished by Herod the Great. He called it Sebaste=Augusta, after the name of his patron, Augustus Caesar…

Samaria was a region in the land of Israel with geographical limits that were never clearly defined in the Bible. Originally it was the territory of Ephraim and half tribe of Manasseh, the E. boundary was the Jordan River, and a W. boundary was the coast. The S. boundary ran from Jericho to Bethel, and the N. boundary was the rich valleys of Beth Shan and Jezreel up through the north parts of Mount Carmel.

After the division of the kingdom Samaria extended to Galilee. After the campaign of Tiglath-Pileser III in 732 B.C. the Assyrian province of Samaria was called Samarina. This is where the Assyrians settled new foreigners to mingle with the people of Israel, and this time the became known as Samaritans. The Hill Country of Samaria remained a province during the Persian period.

Samaria was known for its rich agriculture, wheat and barley, grapes and olive vineyards. Located in Samaria was a very important international trade route called the Via Maris (the coastal highway).

After the Jews returned from Babylon to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem the Samaritans came to help, but their offer was rejected and thus the ridiculing began (Ezra 4; Neh. 2:10). It is interesting to note that the governor of the province of Samaria in the latter half of the 5th century B.C., whose name was Sanballat (Neh. 2: 10, 19) along with his sons are mentioned in the recently discovered ancient papyri of the Jewish community in Elephantine, Egypt.

The Roman General Pompeii annexed Samaria to the Roman province of Syria in 63 B.C. later Augustus gave the capital of Samaria to Herod. The New Testament makes many mentions of Samaria and the Samaritans. Jesus passed through Samaria on His way to Jerusalem (Luke 17:11) and on His way back, He came to Sychar, a Samaritan city, and spoke to a woman from Samaria at Jacob’s well (Jn 4:4 ff).

Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Non Biblical source: 1 Macc. 3:10; 10:30.
Biblical sources: Amos 3:9; Jer. 31:5; Obad. 1:19; 1 Kgs. 13:32; 2 Kgs. 17:26; 23:19; Ezra 4:17; Luke 17:11; John 4:4; Acts 1:8; 8:1 ; 9:31; 15:3.

See Sebaste

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Samaria in Bible Cities
More about Ancient Samaria

Noah Moses

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