Samaria

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Samaria

Location

 

1. The biblical city of Samaria, also known as Sabastia, today, is located at Samaria National Park (Shomron National Park).

 

2. The city of Samaria is located about 33 miles (54 km.) north of Jerusalem and about 20 miles (32 km.) east of the Mediterranean Sea.

 

3. The city of Samaria was in the Samaria region of Israel in the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh during Bible times.

 

4. It was on a main east-west route that linked the coastal plain of Israel with the Jordan Valley. 

 

Historical Background

 

1. Samaria was a central focus point in Israel and is mentioned around 117 times in the Bible.

 

2. The word “Samaria” is used 3 different ways in the Bible and can mean:

 

  • The capital city of Samaria.

 

  • The geographical region in the hill country north of Jerusalem.

 

  • The entire Northern Kingdom of Israel.

 

3. After the nation of Israel was divided in around 936 BC (after Solomon’s reign), the capital of the Northern Kingdom was first established in Shechem and then moved to Tirzah. Both capitals were founded by Jeroboam (931 - 910 BC).

 

4. King Omri began his reign in 882 BC and moved the capital of the Northern Kingdom from Tirzah and established it in the city of Samaria.

 

5. The city of Samaria was to the Northern Kingdom what Jerusalem was to the Southern Kingdom. As a result, it became the second most important city in Israel after Jerusalem.

 

6. The city sits on a flat-topped, oblong hill with steep slopes on all sides. It was a huge city fortified with walls.

 

7. King Omri named the city “Shomron” (Samaria).

 

8. King Ahab built a palace at Samaria and overlaid it with ivory (1 Kings 22:39). This palace has been discovered with ivory in it as mentioned in Scripture.

 

9. Samaria fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC, after 3 years of battle.

 

10. Samaria was given to Herod the Great by the emperor Augustus. Herod rebuilt Samaria and called it Sebaste (Greek form of Augustus) in honor of the emperor.

 

11. In order to honor John the Baptist, a Byzantine church was built on the southern side of the Acropolis in the 5th century. It was believed John’s body was buried here, but this seems quite unlikely according to the evidence. 

 

12. During the Crusader Period (12th century), a church was built on the ruins of the eastern gate.

 

Places of Interest

 

1. Visitor Center

 

2. Western Gate

 

3. Colonnade Street

 

4. Ahab’s Palace

 

5. Temple

 

6. Theater

 

7. Acropolis

 

8. Hippodrome

 

9. Modern-day Sabastia (Sabaste)

 

Samaria In the Bible

 

1. Samaria was established as the capital of the Northern Kingdom under King Omri’s reign. 
1 Kings 16:24: He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver, and he fortified the hill and called the name of the city that he built Samaria, after the name of Shemer, the owner of the hill. 

 

2. King Ahab erected an altar to the false god, Baal, in Samaria.
1 Kings 16:29–33: In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.

 

3. Because of Ahab’s great sin, God sent a famine upon Samaria, and the great prophet Elijah paid a visit to Samaria.
1 Kings 18:1–2: After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.” 2 So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria.

 

4. Later, the great showdown between the 850 false prophets of Baal and Asherah and Elijah took place on Mount Carmel, just 28 miles (48 km.) north of Samaria.
1 Kings 18:20–21: So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

 

5. Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, came up against Samaria and attempted to defeat it. However, because he mocked God, God gave King Ahab victory over him.
1 Kings 20:26–28: In the spring, Ben-hadad mustered the Syrians and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel. 27 And the people of Israel were mustered and were provisioned and went against them. The people of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of goats, but the Syrians filled the country. 28 And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’”

 

6. King Ahab killed Naboth to acquire his vineyard in Samaria. 
1 Kings 21:1–3: Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” 3 But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”

 

7. God killed King Ahab because of his great wickedness. 
1 Kings 22:37–38: So the king died, and was brought to Samaria. And they buried the king in Samaria. 38 And they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood, and the prostitutes washed themselves in it, according to the word of the Lord that he had spoken.

 

8. God sent the prophets Elijah and Elisha to minister and perform many miracles to persuade the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) to turn from their false gods and serve Him.

 

9. Despite Israel’s great sins, God had mercy on them and delivered them from warring armies.
2 Kings 6:24–25: Afterward Ben-hadad king of Syria mustered his entire army and went up and besieged Samaria. 25 And there was a great famine in Samaria, as they besieged it, until a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove's dung for five shekels of silver.

 

2 Kings 7:1: But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the Lord: thus says the Lord, Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.”

 

2 Kings 7:3–7: Now there were four men who were lepers at the entrance to the gate. And they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘Let us enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die.” 5 So they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians. But when they came to the edge of the camp of the Syrians, behold, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us.” 7 So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives.

 

2 Kings 7:16: Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord.

 

10. The Northern Kingdom continued in their rejection of God, so He allowed Assyria to conquer and lead them into captivity.
2 Kings 17:5–8: Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria, and for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. 7 And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods 8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced.

 

11. As a common Assyrian conquest practice, the Israelite exiles were replaced by people from Mesopotamia and other areas. However, some of the Israelites were left in the land by the Assyrians.
2 Kings 17:24: And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities.

 

12. The beginning of the Samaritan people.
Assyria led into captivity most of the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. However, some were left in the land. Those who were left intermarried with foreign unbelievers that were placed there by the Assyrians and were thereafter called Samaritans. When Ezra and Nehemiah returned with many Jews to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, these Samaritans, and others would attempt to stop them. 

 

The Samaritans established their own religion at Mount Gerizim and built their own temple. They were despised and rejected by the Jews and considered unclean because they weren’t pure bloodline Jews. The Samaritans, likewise, despised the Jews and had few dealings with them. The Samaritan people still exist today and only believe in the Torah (first 5 books of the Old Testament).

 

13. Part of Samaria was repopulated by Jews from Judah (Southern Kingdom of Israel), and worship of God was restored.
2 Kings 23:19: And Josiah [King of Judah] removed all the shrines also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the Lord to anger. He did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel.

 

14. Jesus ministered in the area of Samaria.
John 4:1–5: Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar [Shechem), near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

 

15. In the New Testament, believers from Jerusalem spread to the Samaria region due to persecution.
Acts 8:1: And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

 

16. Philip preached Christ in the city of Samaria. 
Acts 8:4–8: Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. 5 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. 6 And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was much joy in that city.

 

Faith Lesson from Samaria

 

1. Unfortunately, the division of the Nation of Israel into two parts was born out of disobedience to God. 

 

2. Nonetheless, God sent prophet after prophet to warn them to leave their false Gods and return to Him.

 

3. God extended mercy and patience upon them despite their continual rejection of Him.

 

4. Because of their hardhearted rejection, God had no choice but to discipline the Northern Kingdom and deport most of them to Assyria.

 

5. Do we really believe that disobedience to God causes pain and suffering (Rom 8:6)?

 

6. Do we understand that God is merciful and patient, but that He disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12:7–11)?

 

7. The Samaritan people gladly received the gospel under Philip’s preaching. Do we realize that those living in darkness are the most receptive to the light?
 

Biblical Sites of Israel

 

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Masada

 

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Samaria (Sabastia)

 

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Shechem

 

Shiloh: Center of Worship

 

Sodom & Gomorrah

St. George's Monastery (Wadi Qelt)

 

Timnah: Life of Samson

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Valley of Elah: David & Goliath

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