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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Samaria

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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 684 l . 7 s . 6 d . It took the name of Samaria from Shemer, the owner of the hill, 1 Kings 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, 1 Kings 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, 1 Kings 22:39 ; that is, in which there were many ivory ornaments; and, according to Amos 3:15 ; Amos 4:1-2 , it became the seat of luxury and effeminacy. Benhadad, king of Syria, built public places, called "streets," in Samaria, 1 Kings 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, 2 Kings 17:6 , &c, which was the fourth of Hezekiah, king of Judah. It was taken three years after, A.M. 3283. The Prophet Hosea, Hosea 10:4 ; Hosea 10:8-9 , speaks of the cruelties exercised by Shalmaneser against the besieged; and Micah 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, Ezra 4:17 ; Nehemiah 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, 1Ma_10:30 ; 1Ma_10:38 ; 1Ma_11:28 ; 1Ma_11:34 . 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, Luke 17:11 ; John 4:4-5 . After the death of Stephen, Acts 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:—Sebaste is the name which Herod gave to the name of the ancient Samaria, the imperial city of the ten tribes, in honour of Augustus (Sebastos) Caesar, when he rebuilt and fortified it, converting the greater part of it into a citadel, and erecting here a noble temple. "The situation," says Dr. Richardson, "is extremely beautiful, and strong by nature; more so, I think, than Jerusalem. It stands on a fine, large, insulated hill, compassed all around by a broad deep valley; and when fortified, as it is stated to have been by Herod, one would have imagined that, in the ancient system of warfare, nothing but famine could have reduced such a place. The valley is surrounded by four hills, one on each side, which are cultivated in terraces up to the top, sown with grain, and planted with fig and olive trees, as is also the valley. The hill of Samaria likewise 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. 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, toward the middle of the first terrace, there is a number of columns still standing. I counted twelve in one row, beside 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 stone and lime and rubbish mixed with the soil in great profusion. Ascending to the third or highest terrace, the traces of former building were not so numerous, but we enjoyed a delightful view of the surrounding country. The eye passed over the deep valley that encompasses 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 reading desk. This was the seat of the capital of the short-lived and wicked kingdom of Israel: and on the face of these mountains the eye surveys the scene of many bloody conflicts and many memorable events. Here those holy men of God, Elijah and Elisha, spoke their tremendous warnings in the ears of their incorrigible rulers, and wrought their miracles in the sight of all the people. From this lofty eminence we descended to the south side of the hill, where we saw the remains of a stately colonnade that stretches along this beautiful exposure from east to west. Sixty columns are still standing in one row. The shafts are plain; and fragments of Ionic volutes, that lie scattered about, testify the order to which they belonged. These are probably the relics of some of the magnificent structures with which Herod the Great adorned Samaria. None of the walls remain." Mr. Buckingham mentions a current tradition, that the avenue of columns formed a part of Herod's palace. According to his account, there were eighty-three of these columns erect in 1816, beside others prostrate; all without capitals. Josephus states, that, about the middle of the city, Herod built "a sacred place, of a furlong and a half in circuit, and adorned it with all sorts of decorations; and therein erected a temple, illustrious for both its largeness and beauty." It is probable that these columns belonged to it. On the eastern side of the same summit are the remains, Mr. Buckingham states, of another building, "of which eight large and eight small columns are still standing, with many others fallen near them. These also are without capitals, and are of a smaller size and of an inferior stone to the others." "In the walls of the humble dwellings forming the modern village, portions of sculptured blocks of stone are perceived, and even fragments of granite pillars have been worked into the masonry.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Samaria'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/s/samaria.html. 1831-2.

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