1. One of the three divisions of the Holy Land in the time of our Savior, having Galilee on the north and Judea on the south, the Jordan on the east and the Mediterranean on the west, and occupying parts of the territory assigned at first to Ephraim, Mahasseh, and Issachar, Lu 17:11; Joh 4:4. It is described as having its hills less bare than those of Judea, and its valleys and plains more cultivated and fruitful. See CANAAN. Many gospel churches were early planted here, Ac 8:1,25; 9:31; 15:3.
2. A city situated near the middle of Palestine, some six miles northwest of Shechem. It was built by Omri king of Israel, about 920 B. C., and named after Shemer the previous owner of the mountain or hill on which the city stood, 1Ki 16.23,24. It became the favorite residence of the kings of Israel, instead of Shechem and Thirzah the former capitals. It was highly adorned with public buildings. Ahab built there a palace of ivory, 1Ki 22:39, and also a temple of Baal, 1Ki 16:32-33, which Jehu destroyed, 2Ki 10:18-28. The prophets often denounced it for its idolatry, Isa 9:9; Eze 16:46-63. It was twice besieged by the Syrians, 1Ki 20; 2Ki 6:24; 7. At length Shalmanezer king of Assyria captured and destroyed the city, and removed the people of the land, B. C. 720, 2Ki 17:3-6; Ho 10:5-7; Mic 1:1-6. See OMRI. The city was in part rebuilt by Cuthits imported from beyond the Tigris, but was again nearly destroyed by John Hyrcanus. The Roman proconsul Gabinius once more restored it and calling it Gabinia; and it was afterwards given by Augustus to Herod the Great, who enlarged and adorned it, and gave it the name of Sebaste, the Greek translation of the Latin word Augusta, in honor of the emperor. He placed in it a colony of six thousand persons, surrounded it with a strong wall, and built a magnificent temple in honor of Augustus. Early in the apostolic age it was favored by the successful labors of Philip and others, Ac 8.5-25; and the church then formed continued in existence several centuries, till the city of Herod was destroyed. Sebaste was afterwards revived, and is mentioned in the histories of the Crusades. It is now an inconsiderable village, called Sebustieh, with a few cottages built of stones from the ancient ruins.
The following is the account of the modern city, as given by Richardson: "Its situation is extremely beautiful and strong by nature; more so, I think, than Jerusalem. It stands on a fine large insulated hill, compassed all round by a broad, deep valley; and when fortified, as it is stated to have been by Herod, one would imagine that in the ancient system of warfare nothing but famine would have reduced such a place. The valley is surrounded by four hills, one on each side, which are cultivated in terraces to the top, sown with grain and planted with fig and olive trees, as is also the valley. The hill of Samaria rises in terraces to a height equal to any of the adjoining mountains.
The present village is small and poor, and after passing the valley, the ascent to it is very steep; but viewed from the station of our tents, it is extremely interesting, both from its natural situation and from the picturesque remains of a ruined convent of good Gothic architecture.
Having passed the village, towards the middle of the first terrace there is a number of columns still standing. I counted twelve in one row, besides several that stood apart, the brotherless remains of other rows. The situation is extremely delightful, and my guide informed me that they belonged to the serai or palace. On the next terrace there are no remains of solid building, but heaps of stones and lime, and rubbish mixed with the soil in great profusion. Ascending to the third or highest terrace, the traces of former buildings were not so numerous, but we enjoyed a delightful view of the surrounding country. The eye passed over the deep valley that compassed the hill of Sebaste, and rested on the mountains beyond, that retreated as they rose with a gentle slope, and met the view in every direction, like a book laid out for perusal on a writing-desk.
a watch-mountain or a watch-tower. In the heart of the mountains of Israel, a few miles north-west of Shechem, stands the "hill of Shomeron," a solitary mountain, a great "mamelon." It is an oblong hill, with steep but not inaccessible sides, and a long flat top. Omri, the king of Israel, purchased this hill from Shemer its owner for two talents of silver, and built on its broad summit the city to which he gave the name of "Shomeron", i.e., Samaria, as the new capital of his kingdom instead of Tirzah (1Ki 16:24). As such it possessed many advantages. Here Omri resided during the last six years of his reign. As the result of an unsuccessful war with Syria, he appears to have been obliged to grant to the Syrians the right to "make streets in Samaria", i.e., probably permission to the Syrian merchants to carry on their trade in the Israelite capital. This would imply the existence of a considerable Syrian population. "It was the only great city of Palestine created by the sovereign. All the others had been already consecrated by patriarchal tradition or previous possession. But Samaria was the choice of Omri alone. He, indeed, gave to the city which he had built the name of its former owner, but its especial connection with himself as its founder is proved by the designation which it seems Samaria bears in Assyrian inscriptions, Beth-khumri ('the house or palace of Omri').", Stanley.
Samaria was frequently besieged. In the days of Ahab, Benhadad II. came up against it with thirty-two vassal kings, but was defeated with a great slaughter (1Ki 20:1-21). A second time, next year, he assailed it; but was again utterly routed, and was compelled to surrender to Ahab (1Ki 20:28-34), whose army, as compared with that of Benhadad, was no more than "two little flocks of kids."
In the days of Jehoram this Benhadad again laid siege to Samaria, during which the city was reduced to the direst extremities. But just when success seemed to be within their reach, they suddenly broke up the seige, alarmed by a mysterious noise of chariots and horses and a great army, and fled, leaving their camp with all its contents behind them. The famishing inhabitants of the city were soon relieved with the abundance of the spoil of the Syrian camp; and it came to pass, according to the word of Elisha, that "a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barely for a shekel, in the gates of Samaria" (2Ki 7).
Shalmaneser invaded Israel in the days of Hoshea, and reduced it to vassalage. He laid siege to Samaria (B.C. 723), which held out for three years, and was at length captured by Sargon, who completed the conquest Shalmaneser had begun (2Ki 18:9-12; 17:3), and removed vast numbers of the tribes into captivity. (See Sargon.)
This city, after passing through various vicissitudes, was given by the emperor Augustus to Herod the Great, who rebuilt it, and called it Sebaste (Gr. form of Augustus) in honour of the emperor. In the New Testament the only mention of it is in Ac 8:5-14, where it is recorded that Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached there. Illustration: Colonnade of Herod the Great
It is now represented by the hamlet of Sebustieh, containing about three hundred inhabitants. The ruins of the ancient town are all scattered over the hill, down the sides of which they have rolled. The shafts of about one hundred of what must have been grand Corinthian columns are still standing, and attract much attention, although nothing definite is known regarding them. (Comp. Mic 1:6.)
In the time of Christ, Western Palestine was divided into three provinces, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Samaria occupied the centre of Palestine (Joh 4:4). It is called in the Talmud the "land of the Cuthim," and is not regarded as a part of the Holy Land at all.
It may be noticed that the distance between Samaria and Jerusalem, the respective capitals of the two kingdoms, is only 35 miles in a direct line.
("a watch mountain".) The oblong terraced hill in the center of a basinshaped, valley, a continuation of the Shethem valley, six miles N.W. of Shechem. The owner, Shemer, sold it for two silver talents to Omri king of Israel (925 B.C.), who built on it a city and called it after Shomer (1Ki 16:23-24). Shechem previously had been the capital, Tirzah the court residence in summer (1Ki 15:21,33; 16:1-18). The situation combines strength, fertility and beauty (Josephus, Ant. 15:8, section 5; B.J. 1:21, section 2). It is 600 ft. high, surrounded with terraced hills, clad with figs and olives. There is abundant water in the valley; but the city, like Jerusalem, is dependent on rain cisterns. The view is charming: to the N. and E. lie its own rich valleys; to the W. fertile Sharon and the blue Mediterranean. (On the "glorious beauty" of Ephraim (Samaria), Isa 28:1, see MEALS.) Its strength enabled it to withstand severe sieges by the Syrians (20'>1 Kings 20; 2 Kings 6; 7). Finally it fell before Shalmaneser and Sargon, after a three years' siege (2Ki 18:9-12), 721 B.C.
Called from its Baal worship, introduced by Ahab, "the city of the house of Ahab" (1Ki 16:32-33; 2Ki 10:25). Alexander the Great replaced its inhabitants with Syro Macedonians. John Hyrcanus (109 B.C.) destroyed the city after a 12 months' siege (Josephus, Ant. 13:10, section 2-3). Herod the Great rebuilt and adorned it, naming it Sebaste from Sebastos, Greek for Augustus, his patron (Ant. 14:5, section 3; 15:8, section 5; B.J. 1:20, section 3, 21, section 2). The woman of Samaria and several of her townsmen (John 4) were the firstfruits gathered into Christ; the fuller harvest followed under Philip the evangelist deacon (Acts 8, compare Joh 4:35). Septimius Severus planted a Roman colony there in the third century A.D.; but politically it became secondary to Caesarea. Ecclesiastically it was of more importance; and Marius its bishop signed himself "Maximus Sebastenus" at the council of Nice, A.D. 325. The Mahometans took it, A.D. 614. The Crusaders established a Latin bishop there.
Now Sebustieh; its houses of stone are taken from ancient materials, but irregularly placed; the inhabitants are rude but industrious. The ruin of the church of John the Baptist marks the traditional place of his burial; the original structure is attributed to Helena, Constantine's mother; but the present building, except the eastern Greek end, is of later style: 153 ft. long inside, 75 broad, and a porch 10 ft. wide. Within is a Turkish tomb under which by steps you descend to a vault with tessellated floor, and five niches for the dead, the central one being alleged to have been that of John (?). Fifteen limestone columns stand near the hill top, two others lie on the ground, in two rows, 32 paces apart. Another colonnade, on the N. side of the hill, in a ravine, is arranged in a quadrangle, 196 paces long and 64 broad. On the W.S.W. are many columns, erect or prostrate, extending a third of a mile, and ending in a heap of ruins; each column 16 ft. high, 6 ft. in circumference at the base, 5 ft. at the top: probably relics of Herod's work. (See HOSHEA.)
Its present state accords with prophecy: (Ho 13:16) "Samaria shall become desolate"; (Mic 1:6) "I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard, and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley (a graphic picture of its present state which is 'as though the buildings of the ancient city had been thrown down from the brow of a hill': Scottish Mission Enquiry, 295), and I will discover the foundations thereof." The hill planted with vines originally should return to its pristine state. SAMARIA is the designation of northern Israel under Jeroboam (1Ki 13:32; Ho 8:5-6; Am 3:9). Through the depopulations by Pul and Tiglath Pileser (1Ch 5:26; 2Ki 15:29) the extent of Samaria was much limited. The pagan pushed into the vacated region, and "Galilee of the Gentiles" ("nations") became an accepted phrase (Isa 9:1). After Shalmaneser's capture of Samaria and carrying away of Israel to Halah and Habor, and in the cities of the Medes (2Ki 17:5-6,23-24), Esarhaddon or Asnapper planted "instead" men of Babylon (where Esarhaddon resided in part: 2Ch 33:11), Cuthah, Ava, and Sepharvaim (Ezr 4:2-3,10). (See ESARHADDON; ASNAPPER.)
So completely did God "wipe" away Israel (2Ki 21:13) that no Israelite remained able to teach the colonists "the manner of the God of the land" (2Ki 17:26). Isaiah (Isa 7:8) in 742 B.C. foretold that within 65 years Ephraim should be "broken" so as "not to be a people"; accomplished in 677 B.C. by Esarhaddon's occupying their land with foreigners. Josephus (Ant. 10:9, section 7) notices the difference between the ten and the two tribes. Israel's land became the land of complete strangers; Judah not so. The lions sent by Jehovah (who still claims the land as His own and His people's: Jer 31:20; Le 26:42), in consequence of the colonists worshipping their five deities respectively, constrained them through fear to learn from an imported Israelite priest how to "fear Jehovah." But it was fear, not love; it was a vain combination of incompatible worships, that of Jehovah and of idols (Zep 1:5; Eze 20:39; 1Ki 18:21; Mt 6:24). Luke (Lu 17:18) calls them "strangers," foreigners (allogeneis). In Ezra's (Ezr 4:1-4) time they claim no community of descent, but only of religion, with the Jews. Baffled in their wish to share in building the temple, they thwarted the building by false representations' before Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes until the reign of DARIUS (Ezra 5; 6). (See AHASUERUS; ARTAXERXES.)
The Samaritans gradually cast off idols. In 409 B.C. Manasseh, of priestly descent, having been expelled for an unlawful marriage by Nehemiah, built a temple on Mount Gerizim for the Samaritans by Darius Nothus' permission. Henceforward the Samaritans refused all kindness to the pilgrims on their way to the feasts at Jerusalem, and often even waylaid them (Josephus, Ant. 20:6, section 1, 18:2, section 2). John Hyrcanus destroyed the Gerizim temple, but they still directed their worship toward it; then they built one at Shechem. The Pentateuch was their sole code; for their copy they claimed an antiquity and authority above any Jewish manuscript Jewish renegades joined them; hence they began to claim Jewish descent, as the Samaritan woman (Joh 4:12) says "Jacob our father."
Possibly (though there is no positive evidence) Israelites may have not been completely swept from the fastness of the Samaritan hills, and these may have intermarried with the colonists. The Jews recognized no Israelite connection in the Samaritans. The Jews' charge against Jesus was, "Thou art a Samaritan" (Joh 8:48), probably because He had conversed with the Samaritans for their salvation (John 4). Then He was coming from Judaea, at a season "four months before the harvest," when the Samaritans could have no suspicion of His having been at Jerusalem for devotion (Joh 4:8,35); so the Samaritans treated Him with civility and hospitality, and the disciples bought food in the Samaritan town without being insulted. But in Lu 9:51-53, when He was "going to Jerusalem," the Samaritans did not receive Him: a minute coincidence with propriety, confirming the gospel narratives.
In sending forth the twelve Christ identifies the Samaritans with Gentiles (Mt 10:5-6); He distinguishes them from Jews (Ac 1:8; Joh 4:22). Samaria lay between Judaea and Galilee. (See Josephus, B. J. 3:3, section 4). Bounded N. by the hills beginning at Carmel and running E. toward Jordan, forming the southern boundary of the plain Esdraelon (Jezreel); including Ephraim and the Manasseh W. of Jordan. Pilate chastised them, to his own downfall (Josephus, Ant. 18:4, section 1). Under Vespasian 10,600 fell (B. J. 3:7, section 32). Dositheus an apostate Jew became their leader. Epiphanius (Haer. 1) mentions their hostility to Christianity, and numerous sects. Jos. Scaliger corresponded with them in the 16th century; DeSacy edited two of their letters to Scaliger; Job Ludolf received a letter from them in the 17th century. (See them in Eichhorn's Repertorium, 13) At Nablus (Shechem, or Sychar) the Samaritans have a
A city built on a hill purchased by Omri, king of Israel, from a certain Shemer, and by him made the capital of the Israelite kingdom (1Ki 16:24). We gather from 1Ki 20:34 that Ben-hadad i., king of Syria, successfully attacked it soon afterwards, and had compelled Omri to grant him favourable trade facilities. Ahab here built a Baal temple (1Ki 16:32) and a palace of ivory (1Ki 22:39). Ben-hadad ii. here besieged Ahab, but unsuccessfully, and was obliged to reverse the terms his father had exacted from Omri. Jehoram attempted a feeble and half-hearted reform, destroying Ahab's Baal-pillar, though retaining the calf-worship (2Ki 3:2) and the ash
This city was built by Omri, king of Israel, and came into prominence by becoming the capital of the kingdom of the ten tribes. It was situated on the side of a hill, and was adorned and fortified by the kings of Israel. Ben-hadad, king of Syria, besieged Samaria in the reign of Ahab, but by the intervention of God it was not taken. 1Ki 20:1-34. In the days of Jehoram it was again besieged by Ben-hadad, and the famine became so great that they were on the point of capitulating when some lepers brought word that the enemy had fled, and abundance of provision was to be found in the camp. 2Ki 6:24-33; 7.
It was besieged again by Shalmaneser, about B.C. 723, but held out for three years, being eventually taken by Sargon. The people were now carried into captivity. 2Ki 18:9-12. Among the Assyrian inscriptions there is one in which Sargon says, "The city of Samaria I besieged, I captured; 27,280 of its inhabitants I carried away." It was partly re-peopled by the colonists imported by Esar-haddon. Samaria was again taken by John Hyrcanus, who did his best to destroy it.
The city was rebuilt by Herod the Great, and named Sebaste (the Greek form of Augusta) in honour of his patron the emperor Augustus; but on the death of Herod it gradually declined. It is now only a miserable village, called Sebustieh, 32 17 N, 35 12' E, but with some grand columns standing and relics of its former greatness lying about.
THE DISTRICT OF SAMARIA is often alluded to in the N.T. It occupied about the same territory as that of Ephraim and Manasseh's portion in the west. It had the district of Galilee on the north, and Judaea on the south. Lu 17:11; Joh 4:4; Ac 1:8; 8:1-14; 9:31; 15:3.
(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."
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.
It was twice besieged by the Syrians, in B.C. 901,
and in B.C. 892,
but on both occasions the siege was ineffectual. The possessor of Samaria was considered de facto king of Israel.
In B.C. 721 Samaria was taken, after a siege of three years, by Shalmaneser king of Assyria,
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. The wall around it was 2 1/2 miles long, and in the centre of the city was a park 900 feet square containing a magnificent temple dedicated to Caesar. In the New Testament the city itself does not appear to be mentioned; but rather a portion of the district to which, even in older times it had extended its name.
Mt 10:5; Joh 4:4-5
At this clay the city is represented by a small village retaining few vestiges of the past except its name, Sebustiyeh, an Arabic corruption of Sebaste. Some architectural remains it has, partly of Christian construction or adaptation, as the ruined church of St. John the Baptist, partly, perhaps, traces of Idumaean magnificence, St. Jerome, whose acquaintance with Palestine imparts a sort of probability to the tradition which prevailed so strongly in later days, asserts that Sebaste, which he invariably identifies with Samaria was the place in which St. John the Baptist was imprisoned and suffered death. He also makes it the burial-place of the prophets Elisha and Obadiah.
SAMARIA, one of the three divisions of the Holy Land, having Galilee on the north, Judea on the south, the river Jordan on the east, and the Mediterranean Sea on the west. It took its name from its capital city, Samaria; and formed, together with Galilee and some cantons on the east of Jordan, during the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah, the kingdom of the former. The general aspect and produce of the country are nearly the same as those of Judea. But Mr. Buckingham observes, that "while in Judea the hills are mostly as bare as the imagination can paint them, and a few of the narrow valleys only are fertile, in Samaria, the very summits of the eminences are as well clothed as the sides of them. These, with the luxuriant valleys which they enclose, present scenes of unbroken verdure in almost every point of view. which are delightfully variegated by the picturesque forms of the hills and vales themselves, enriched by the occasional sight of wood and water, in clusters of olive and other trees, and rills and torrents running among them."
2. SAMARIA, the capital city of the kingdom of the ten tribes that revolted from the house of David. It was built by Omri, king of Israel, who began to reign A.M. 3079, and who died 3086. He bought the hill Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, or for the sum of 684l. 7s. 6d. It took the name of Samaria from Shemer, the owner of the hill, 1Ki 16:24. Some think, however, that there were before this some beginnings of a city in that place, because, antecedent to the reign of Omri, there is mention made of Samaria, 1Ki 13:32, A.M. 3030. But others take this for a prolepsis, or an anticipation, in the discourse of the man of God. However this may be, it is certain that Samaria was no considerable place, and did not become the capital of the kingdom, till after the reign of Omri. Before him, the kings of Israel dwelt at Shechem or at Tirzah. Samaria was advantageously situated upon an agreeable and fruitful hill, twelve miles from Dothaim, twelve from Merrom, and four from Atharath. Josephus says it was a day's journey from Jerusalem. the kings of Samaria omitted nothing to make this city the strongest, the finest, and the richest that was possible. Ahab built there a palace of ivory, 1Ki 22:39; that is, in which there were many ivory ornaments; and, according to Am 3:15; 4:1-2, it became the seat of luxury and effeminacy. Benhadad, king of Syria, built public places, called "streets," in Samaria, 1Ki 20:34; probably bazaars for trade, and quarters where his people dwelt to pursue commerce. His son Benhadad besieged this place under the reign of Ahab, 1 Kings 20, A.M. 3103. It was besieged by Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, in the ninth year of the reign of Hoshea, king of Israel, 2Ki 17:6, &c, which was the fourth of Hezekiah, king of Judah. It was taken three years after, A.M. 3283. The Prophet Ho 10:4,8-9, speaks of the cruelties exercised by Shalmaneser against the besieged; and Mic 1:6, says that the city was reduced to a heap of stones. The Cuthites that were sent by Esar-haddon to inhabit the country of Samaria did not think it worth their while to repair the ruined city: they dwelt at Shechem, which they made the capital city of their state. They were in this condition when Alexander the Great came into Phenicia and Judea. However, the Cuthites had rebuilt some of the houses of Samaria, even from the time of the return of the Jews from the captivity, since the inhabitants of Samaria are spoken of, Ezr 4:17; Ne 4:2. And the Samaritans, being jealous of the Jews, on account of the favours that Alexander the Great had conferred on them, revolted from him, while he was in Egypt, and burned Andromachus alive, whom he had left governor of Syria. Alexander soon marched against them, took Samaria, and appointed Macedonians to inhabit it, giving the country round it to the Jews; and to encourage them in the cultivation, he exempted them from tribute. The kings of Egypt and Syria, who succeeded Alexander, deprived them of the property of this country. But Alexander Balas, king of Syria, restored to Jonathan Maccabaeus the cities of Lydda, Ephrem, and Ramatha, which he cut off from the country of Samaria, 1 Macc. 10:30, 38; 11:28, 34. Lastly, the Jews reentered into the full possession of this whole country under John Hircanus, the Asmonean, who took Samaria, and, according to Josephus, made the river run through its ruins. It continued in this state till A.M. 3947, when Aulus Gabinius, the proconsul of Syria, rebuilt it, and gave it the name of Gabiniana. Yet it remained very inconsiderable till Herod the Great restored it to its ancient splendour.
The sacred authors of the New Testament speak but little of Samaria; and when they do mention it, the country is rather to be understood than the city, Lu 17:11; Joh 4:4-5. After the death of Stephen, Ac 8:1-3, when the disciples were dispersed through the cities of Judea and Samaria, Philip made several converts in this city. There it was that Simon Magus resided, and thither Peter and John went to communicate the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Travellers give the following account of its present state: