Samaria, or the Shomron (Arabic: سامريّون, Sāmariyyūn or السامرة, as-Samarah – also known as جبال نابلس, Jibal Nablus; Hebrew: שֹׁמְרוֹן, Standard Šoməron Tiberian Šōmərôn; Greek: Σαμάρεια) is a term used for a mountainous region roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank.
The name "Samaria" derives from an ancient city of the same name, which was located near the south of Samaria, and was the capital of the Kingdom of Israel. According to Kings 1 16:24, it is derived from the individual [or clan] Shemer, from whom Omri purchased the site.
To the north, Samaria is bounded by the Jezreel Valley; to the east by the Jordan Rift Valley; to the west by the Carmel Ridge (in the north) and the Sharon plain (in the west); to the south by the Jerusalem mountains. In Biblical times, Samaria "reached from the [Mediterranean] sea to the Jordan Valley", including the Carmel Ridge and Plain of Sharon. The Samarian hills are not very high, seldom reaching the height of over 800 meters. Samaria's climate is more hospitable than the climate further south.
The modern history of Samaria begins when the territory of Samaria, formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, was entrusted to the United Kingdom to administer in the aftermath of World War I as a British Mandate of Palestine, by the League of Nations. As a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the territory was unilaterally incorporated as Jordanian-controlled territory and residents would later receive Jordanian passports. The areas of Samaria and Judea conquered by Jordan were renamed the West Bank (of the Jordan river).
Samaria came under the control of Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. Jordan withdrew its claim to the West Bank, including Samaria, only in 1988, and later confirmed by the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty of 1993. Jordan instead recognizes the Palestinian Authority as sovereign in the territory. In the 1994 Oslo accords, responsibility for the administration over some of the territory of Samaria (Areas 'A' and 'B') was transferred to the Palestinian Authority.
Samaria is one of the several standard statistical "areas" utilized by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. "The Israeli CBS also collects statistics on the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza District. It has produced various basic statistical series on the territories, dealing with population, employment, wages, external trade, national accounts, and various other topics." The Palestinian Authority however use Nablus, Tulkarm, Jenin, Qalqilya, Salfit, Ramallah and Tubas Governorates as administrative centres for the same region.
Israel has been criticized for the policy of establishing settlements in Samaria. Israel's position is that the legal status of the land is unclear.
Ethnically, the Samaritans are the inhabitants of Samaria after the beginning of the Assyrian Exile of the Israelites. When Assyria overran the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E, part of the Jewish population was deported, and other peoples from the Assyrian Empire were resettled in Israel. Sargon claimed in Assyrian annals that he carried away 27,280 inhabitants from Samaria, the capital of Kingdom of Israel. This could not have been the entire population; many Israelites must have remained.
The new inhabitants worshiped their own gods, but when the then-sparsely populated areas became infested with dangerous wild beasts, they appealed to the king of Assyria for Israelite priests to instruct them on how to worship the "God of that country." The result was a syncretistic religion, in which national groups worshiped the Hebrew god, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. Samaritans claim to be descendants of Israelites from the Northern Kingdom who escaped deportation and exile.
A genetic study concluded from Y-chromosome analysis that Samaritans descend from the Israelites (including Kohanim, or priests), and mitochondrial DNA analysis shows descent from Assyrians and other foreign women, effectively validating both local and foreign origins for the Samaritans. (Shen et al., 2004)
Samaritanism is a religion closely related to Judaism, though it is not considered part of it, and its adherents are not considered to be Jews. Samaritanism primarily uses a Torah as its holy book, though little of later Jewish theology. Their temple was at Mount Gerizim, not Jerusalem, and was destroyed by the Macabbean (Hasmonean) John Hyrcanus late in the second century BC, although their descendants still worship among its ruins. The purported antagonism between Samaritans and Jews is important in understanding the Christian bible's stories of "The Good Samaritan" and the Samaritan Woman.
Shomron (Samaria) is literally a watch-mountain or a watch-tower. In the heart of the mountains of Judaea/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 (1 Kings 16:24). As such it possessed many advantages. Omri resided here during the last six years of his reign.
As the result of an unsuccessful war with Syria, Omri 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 Israel 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 (1 Kings 20:1-21). A second time, next year, he assailed it; but was again utterly routed, and was compelled to surrender to Ahab (1 Kings 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, Benhadad again laid siege to Samaria. But just when success seemed to be within their reach, they suddenly broke off the siege, 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 famished inhabitants of the city were soon relieved from 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 barley for a shekel, in the gates of Samaria" (2 Kings 7:1-20).
Shalmaneser V invaded Israel in the days of Hoshea, and reduced it to vassalage. He laid siege to Samaria (723 BCE), which held out for three years, and was at length captured by Sargon II, who completed the conquest Shalmaneser had begun (2 Kings 18:9-12; 17:3), and removed vast numbers of the tribes into captivity. See Lost ten tribes.
SAMARIA (Hebrew: shomron, modern: Sebaste), established as the capital of the Kingdom of Israel during the reign of Omri circa 884 B.C.E. Prior to the Omride period the site appears to have been the center of an extensive wine and oil production area, which may have accounted for its choice as the new capital. Apparently the origin of the name of the site was from Shemer the eponymous owner of the land that Omri purchased for two talents of silver (1 Kings 16:23-24).
The site has been excavated by two archaeological expeditions. The first was the Harvard Expedition, initially directed by G. Schumacher in 1908 and then by George Andrew Reisner in 1909 and 1910; with the assistance of architect C.S. Fisher and D.G. Lyon. The second expedition was known as the ‘Joint Expedition,’ a consortium of 5 institutions directed by J.W. Crowfoot between 1931 and 1935; with the assistance of Kathleen Mary Kenyon, Eliezer Sukenik and G.M. Crowfoot. The leading institutions were the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, the Palestine Exploration Fund, and the Hebrew University. In the 1960’s small scale excavations directed by F. Zayadine were carried out on behalf of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.
The city is built on the summit of a rocky hill, and all the remains discovered so far date from the Roman era and were built according to the Roman style. The earliest remains consist of extensive rock cut installations, initially thought to date to the Early Bronze Age by Kenyon, these have recently been re-evaluated, first by Stager and then by Franklin, and are now recognized to be the remains of an extensive early Iron Age oil and wine industry (designated Building Period 0).
During the reign of the last king of the northern kingdom, Hoshea 2 Kings 10, the Assyrians invaded in 722/721 BC. (initially under Shalmaneser V and finally under Sargon II) when they established complete control over the capital city and the remainder of the northern kingdom. The fragment of a stela with an Assyrian inscription attributed to Sargon II was found on the eastern slope of the acropolis testifying to their presence. In addition, according to inscriptions from Sargon’s palace at Khorsabad, the inhabitants of Samaria were deported to Assyria. The remains of a wall relief in Room 5 of Sargon’s palace is thought to depict Samaria and its defeated defenders. New inhabitants were brought in (from Kutha and the Syro-Mesopotamian area, 2 Kings 17:24) and they formed a new Samaritan population, also known as Cuthim. The city together with the neighboring highland area became known as Samerina and was ruled by an Assyrian governor. There are only meager remains from the succeeding Babylonian period and it was only in the Persian period, in the mid 5th century, that the city reemerged in importance. The tensions between the ruling family of Sanballat and Jerusalem under the governorship of Nehemiah are documented in the Bible (Ezra 4:10, Neh 2:1-8). Samaria became a Hellenistic town in 332 B.C.E. and thousands of Macedonian soldiers were settled there following a revolt by the Samaritans. Three 13 m diameter round towers dating to that period have been excavated (the first two by Harvard who attributed them to the Israelite period) and a later, massive, fortification wall with square towers. These fortifications were breached during the destruction of the city by John Hyrcanus in 108. Traces of the destruction wrought by Hyrcanus were found by the excavators, but the city was apparently resettled under Alexander Yannai. In 63 B.C.E. Samaria was annexed to the Roman province of Syria.
In 30 B.C.E. the emperor Augustus awarded the city to Herod the Great who renamed it Sebaste in honor of Augustus ("Sebaste" is the feminine form of Gr. Sebastos = Augustus). The outstanding remains from this period are; the Augusteum, consisting of a temple and a large forecourt built over the Omride palace at the summit of the acropolis; a city gate and an east-west colonnaded street; a theater on the north-east slope of the acropolis; a Temple to Kore on a terrace north of the acropolis, and a stadium to the north-east in the valley below. East of the acropolis and in an area that today links the ancient city with the modern village of Sebaste lies the forum flanked on the west by a partially excavated basilica. Water for Roman Sebaste was provided by an underground aqueduct that led into the area of the forum from springs in the east. The city was encompassed by a city wall 2½ mi. (4 km) long, with imposing towers that linked the gateways in the west and north. A number of mausoleums with ornate sarcophagi were excavated in the area of the modern village and adjoining fields.
In 1867 visitors found the village to have a population of 400, 'almost all Moslems'.
In late 1976, the Israeli settlers movement, Gush Emunim, attempted to establish a settlement at the Ottoman train station . The Israeli government did not approve and the group that was removed from the site would later found the settlement of Elon Moreh adjacent to Nablus/Shechem.
The city was rebuilt without any major changes in the 2nd century C.E. by Septimius Severus when the city was established as a colony. Samaria has been associated with John the Baptist, whose body was believed to be buried there. A small basilica church, first founded in the 5th century, was excavated on the southern slope of the acropolis. The church was believed to be the burial place of the head of John the Baptist. A monastery was added to it at a later date. In the 12th century C.E. a Latin cathedral also dedicated to John the Baptist was built east of the Roman forum and combined elements of the Roman period city wall. It later became the Sebaste village mosque.
Only the acropolis of Samaria has been extensively excavated down to the bedrock. The palace was excavated solely by the Harvard Expedition and recognized by them as the Palace of Omri (designated Building Period I). The Omride palace was located on an elevated 4 meter high rock-cut platform that isolated it from its immediate surroundings. While immediately below the palace, cut into the face of the bedrock platform, there are two rock-cut tomb chambers that have only recently been recognized and attributed to Omri and Ahab. West of the palace there are meager remains of other Building Period I buildings but much of the rock surface has been severely damaged by later buildings. The Omride palace continued in use during the next building phase (designated Building Period II), but it was no longer isolated on an elevated platform. The acropolis area was extended in all direction by the addition of a massive perimeter wall built in the casemate style; the new enlarged rectangular acropolis measured c. 290 ft. (90 m.) from north to south and at least c. 585 ft. (180 m.) from west to east (that is a capacity of approximately 7,500 persons by current fire standards), and the surface was now raised to a uniform elevation by the addition of a massive fill. This phase (Building Period II) was traditionally attributed to Ahab due to the misallocation of Wall 161 that run parallel to the northern casemates and the identification of a large rock-cut pool near the northern casemate wall as the Bibilical ‘Pool of Samaria;’ the wall (Wall 161) is now recognized to belong to Building Period II and the ‘pool’ is a rock-cut grape-treading area that originated in Building Period 0 and continued in a reduced form in Building Period I. Consequently the onset of Building Period II can only be relatively fixed. There is neither a biblical anchor nor securely dated pottery to establish the chronological affiliation of Building Period II. The Omride Palace was still in use and the royal tombs were still accessible (now via subterranean rooms) and there was an administrative building the Ostraca House (due to the 63 ostraca retrieved from the floor’s make-up) built west of the palace on the newly extended acropolis. The ostraca provide a wealth of data concerning oil and wine supplies, and can possibly be attributed to the period of Jeroboam II c. 785-749, thus providing a probable date for Building Period II. North of the palace a rich cache of Phoenician ivories (furniture ornamentation) were retrieved, these were mixed with later debris but it was presumed by the excavators (The Joint) that it was in this area that the ‘Ivory House’ that Ahab built for Jezebel 1 Kings 22:39 stood. North-east and below the acropolis a number of Iron Age tombs were found and their location probably delimits the area of the city in that direction. In essence only the acropolis was excavated down to the Iron Age but it is presumed by the excavators (The Joint) that the city extended down over the northern and southern slopes of the hill.
The New Testament mentions Samaria in Luke chapter 17:11-20, in the miraculous healing of the ten lepers, which took place on the border of Samaria and Galilee. John 4:1-26 records Jesus' encounter at Jacob's well with the woman of Sychar, in which he declares himself to be the Messiah. In Acts 8:5-14, it is recorded that Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached there. In the time of Jesus, Iudaea of the Romans was divided into three toparchies, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Samaria occupied the centre of Iudaea (John 4:4). (Iudaea was later renamed Syria Palaestina in 135, following the Bar Kokhba revolt.) In the Talmud, Samaria is called the "land of the Cuthim".
Tappy, R. E. (1992). The Archaeology of Israelite Samaria: Vol. I, Early Iron Age through the Ninth Century BCE. Harvard Semitic Studies 44. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press.
Tappy, R. E. (2001). The Archaeology of Israelite Samaria: Vol. II, The Eighth Century BCE. Harvard Semitic Studies 50. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.
Tappy, R. E. (2206). “The Provenance of the Unpublished Ivories from Samaria,” Pp. 637–56 in “I Will Speak the Riddles of Ancient Times” (Ps 78:2b): Archaeological and Historical Studies in Honor of Amihai Mazar on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday, A. M. Maeir and P. de Miroschedji, eds. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.
Tappy, R. E. (2007). “The Final Years of Israelite Samaria: Toward a Dialogue between Texts and Archaeology,” Pp. 258–79 in Up to the Gates of Ekron: Essays on the Archaeology and History of the Eastern Mediterranean in Honor of Seymour Gitin, S. White Crawford, A. Ben-Tor, J. P. Dessel, W. G. Dever, A. Mazar, and J. Aviram, eds. Jerusalem: The W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research and the Israel Exploration Society.
SAMARIA, an ancient city of Palestine. The name Samaria is derived through the Gr. Iap,apeta from the Hebrew "an outlook hill," or rather from the Aramaic form 7734, whence also comes the Assyrian form Samirina. According to r Kings xvi. 24, Omri, king of Israel, bought Samaria from a certain Shemer (whose name is said to be the origin of that of the city), and transferred thither his capital from Tirzah. But the city, as a superficial inspection of the site shows, must have existed as a settlement long before Omri, as potsherds of earlier date lie scattered on the surface. The city was occupied by Ahab, who here built a temple to "Baal" (i Kings xvi. 32) and a palace of ivory (1 Kings xxii. 39). It sustained frequent sieges during the troubled history of the Israelite kingdom. Ben-Hadad II. of Syria assaulted it in the reign of Ahab, but was repulsed and obliged to allow the Israelite traders to establish a quarter in Damascus, as his predecessor Ben-Hadad I. had done in Samaria (r Kings xx. 34). Ben-Hadad II. in the time of Jehoahaz again besieged Samaria, and caused a famine in the city; but some panic led them to raise the siege (2 Kings vi., vii.). The history of the city for the following 120 years is that of Israel (see JEws).
In 727 died Tiglath-Pileser, to whom the small kingdoms of W. Asia had been in vassalage; in the case of Israel at least since Menahem (2 Kings xv. 19). He was succeeded by Shalmaneser IV., and the king of Israel, with the rest, attempted to revolt. Shalmaneser accordingly invaded Syria, and in 724 began a three-years' siege of Samaria (2 Kings xvii. 5). He died before it was completed, but it was finished by Sargon, who reduced the city, deported its inhabitants, and established within it a mixed multitude of settlers (who were the ancestors of the modern Samaritans). These people themselves seem to have joined a revolt against the Assyrians, which was soon quelled. The next event we hear of in the history of the city is its conquest by Alexander the Great (331 B.C.), and later by Ptolemy Lagi and Demetrius Poliorcetes. It quickly recovered from these injuries: when John Hyrcanus besieged it in 120 B.C. it was "a very strong city" which offered a vigorous resistance (Jos. Ant. xiii. x. ?). It was rebuilt by Pompey, and restored by Aulus Gabinius: but it was to Herod that it owed much of its later glory. He built a great temple, a hippodrome and a street of columns surrounding the city, the remains of which still arrest the attention. It was renamed by him Sebaste, in honour of Augustus: this name still survives in the modern name Sebusteh.' Philip here preached the gospel (Acts viii. 5). The rise of Neapolis (Shechem) in the neighbourhood caused the decay of Sebaste. It was quite small by the time of Eusebius. The crusaders did something to develop it by establishing a bishopric with a large church, which still exists (as a mosque); here were shown the tombs of Elisha, Obadiah and St John the Baptist. From this time onward the village dwindled to the poor dirty place it is to-day.
The site of Samaria is an enormous mound of accumulation, one of the largest in Palestine. In some places it is estimated the debris is at least 40 ft. deep. The crusaders' church remains almost intact, and numerous fragments of carved stone are built into the village houses, beneath which in some places are some interesting tombs. The hippodrome remains in the valley below, and the columns of the street of columns are in very good order. The walls can be traced almost all round the town: at the end of the mound opposite the modern village are the dilapidated ruins of a large gate. The site stands in the very centre of Palestine, and, built on a steep and almost isolated hill, with a long and spacious plateau for its summit, is naturally a position of much strength, commanding two of the most important roads - the great N. and S. road which passes immediately under the E. wall, and the road from Shechem to the maritime plain which runs a little to the W. of the city. The hill of Samaria is separated from the surrounding mountains (Amos iii. 9) by a rich and well-watered plain, from which it rises in successive terraces of fertile soil to a height of 400 or 500 ft. Only on the E. a narrow saddle, some 200 ft. beneath the plateau, runs across the plain towards the mountains; it is at this point that the traveller coming from Shechem now ascends the hill to the village of Sebusteh, which occupies only the extreme E. of a terrace beneath the hill-top, behind the crusaders' church, which is the first thing that attracts the eye as one approaches the town. The hill-top, the longer axis of which runs W. from the village, rises 1450 ft. above the sea, and commands a superb view towards the Mediterranean, the mountains of Shechem and Mount Hermon. Excavations under the auspices of Harvard University began here in 1908. (R. A. S. M.) 1 Accentuated on the second syllable. Guideand travel-books generally spell the name Sebastiyeh, which is not a correct rendering of the local pronunciation.
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 (1 Kg 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 (1 Kg 20:1-21). A second time, next year, he assailed it; but was again utterly routed, and was compelled to surrender to Ahab (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" (2Kg 7:1-20).
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 (2Kg 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
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 (Jn 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.
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