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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
[strictly Samari'a], CITY OF (Heb. Shomeron', שֹׁמְרוֹן, watch, so called probably from its commanding site, as well as by alliteration with its original owner's name; Chald. Shomra'yin, שָׁמְרָיַן, Ezra 4:10; Ezra 4:17; Sept., New Test., and Josephus, usually Σαμάρεια, as Ptolemy; but some copies of the Sept. often have Σαμαρία, and occasionally Σεμηρών or Σομορών; and Josephus once [Ant. 8:12, 1] Σεμαρεων ), an important place in Central Palestine, famous as the capital of the Northern Kingdom, and later as giving name to a region of the country and to a schismatic sect. Its boundaries, however, seem never to have been very definitely fixed. (See ISRAEL, KINGDOM OF).
I. History. — The hill of the same name, which the city occupied, was purchased for two talents of silver from the owner, Shemer (q.v.), after whom the city was named (1 Kings 16:23-24), by Omri (q.v.), king of Israel, for the foundation of his new metropolis, B.C. cir. 925. The first capital after the secession of the ten tribes had been Shechem itself, whither all Israel had come to make Rehoboam king. On the separation being fully accomplished, Jeroboam rebuilt that city (1 Kings 12:25), which had been razed to the ground by Abimelech (Judges 9:45). But he soon moved to Tirzah, a place, as Dr. Stanley observes, of great and proverbial beauty (Song of Solomon 6:4), which continued to be the royal residence until Zimri burned the palace and perished in its ruins (1 Kings 14:17; 1 Kings 15:21; 1 Kings 15:33; 1 Kings 16:6-18). Omri, who prevailed in the contest for the kingdom that ensued, after "reigning six years" there, transferred his court and government to a new site, being under the necessity of reconstructing somewhere, and doubtless influenced by the natural advantages of the position, and desirous of commemorating his dynasty by a change of capital. Samaria continued to be the metropolis of Israel for the remaining two centuries of that kingdom's existence. During all this time it was the seat of idolatry, and is often as such denounced by the prophets (Isaiah 9:8; Jeremiah 23:13-14; Ezekiel 16:46-55; Amos 6:1; Micah 1:1), sometimes in connection with Jerusalem (especially by Hosea). Ahab built a temple to Baal there (1 Kings 16:32-33); and from this circumstance a portion of the city, possibly fortified by a separate wall, was called "the city of the house of Baal" (2 Kings 10:25). It was the scene of many of the acts of the prophets Elijah and Elisha (q.v.), connected with the various famines of the land, the unexpected plenty of Samaria, and the several deliverances of the city from the Syrians. Jehu broke down the temple of Baal, but does not appear to have otherwise injured the city (2 Kings 10:18-28). Samaria must have been a place of great strength. It was twice besieged by the Syrians, in B.C. 901 (1 Kings 20:1) and in B.C. 892 (2 Kings 6:24; 2 Kings 6:20); but on both occasions the siege was ineffectual. On the latter, indeed, it was relieved miraculously, belt not until the inhabitants had suffered almost incredible horrors from famine during their protracted resistance.
The possessor of Samaria was considered to be de facto king of Israel (2 Kings 15:13-14); and woes denounced against the nation were directed against it by name (Isaiah 7:9, etc.). Although characterized by gross voluptuousness, as well as other sins incidental to idolatry, its inhabitants did not entirely lose that generosity which had early characterized Ephraim, in evidence of which note the event that happened during the reign of the last but one of its kings (2 Chronicles 28:6-15). In B.C. 720 Samaria was taken, after a siege ser (or, rather, by his successor Sargon), king of Assyria (2 Kings 18:9-10), and the kingdom of the ten tribes was was demolished by the condestroyed. The city doubtless queror. Col. Rawlinson, indeed, has lately endeavored to show that Samaria was not at once depopulated (Athenoeum Lond.], Aug. 22, 1863, p. 246); and this was doubtless true as regards the country around; but his application of the argument to the city itself (evidently in order to square with the hypothesis of a twofold invasion of Judah also during the reign of Hezekiah [q.v.]) is based upon reasons so obviously inconclusive that they need not be here examined in detail. (See SAMARITAN). Samaria is only called Beth-Khumri in the earlier cuneatic inscriptions (q.v.), but from the time of Tiglath-Pileser II the term used is Tsamirin (Rawlinson, Hist. Evidences, p. 321). The people are figured on the Egyptian monuments among the captives with the hieroglyph Asmori attached (Wilkinson, Anc. Egyptians, 1, 403). (See CAPTIVITY, ASSYRIAN).
After this capture Samaria appears to have continued, for a time at least, the chief city of the foreigners brought to occupy the places of the departed natives, although Shechem soon became the capital of the Samaritans as a religious sect. From this it would seem that the city of Samaria had meanwhile been but partially rebuilt. We do not, however, hear especially of the place until the days of Alexander the Great, B.C. 333. That conqueror took the city, which seems to have somewhat recovered itself (Euseb. Chronicles ad ann. Abr. 1684), killed a large portion of the inhabitants, and suffered the remainder to settle among their compatriots at Shechem (q.v.). He replaced them by a colony of Syro-Macedonians, and gave the adjacent territory (Σαμαρεῖτις χώρα ) to the Jews to inhabit (Josephus, c. Revelation 2, 4). These SyroMacedonians occupied the city until the time of John Hyrcanus. It was then a place of considerable importance, for Josephus describes it (Ant. 13:10, 2) as a very strong city (πόλις ὀχυρωτάτη ). John Hyrcanus took it after a year's siege, and did his best to demolish it entirely. He intersected the hill on which it lay with trenches; into these he conducted the natural brooks, and thus undermined its foundation. "In fact," says the Jewish historian, "he took away all evidence of the very existence of the city." This story at first sight seems rather exaggerated, and inconsistent with the hilly site of Samaria. It may have referred only to the suburbs lying at its foot. "But," says Prideaux (Connection, B.C. 109, note), "Benjamin of Tudela, who was in the place, tells us in his Itinerary (no such passage, however, exists in that work) that there were upon the top of this hill many fountains of water, and from these water enough may have been derived to fill these trenches." It should also be recollected that the hill of Samaria was lower than the hills in its neighborhood. This may account for the existence of these springs. Josephus describes the extremities to which the inhabitants were reduced during this siege, much in the same way that the author of the book of Kings does during that of Benhadad (comp. War, 1, 2, 7 with 2 Kings 6:25). John Hyrcanus's reasons for attacking Samaria were the injuries which its inhabitants had done to the people of Marissa, colonists and allies of the Jews. This confirms what was said above of the cession of the Samaritan neighborhood to the Jews by Alexander the Great. The mention of Marissa in this connection serves to explain a notice in the earlier history of the Maccabees. The Samaria named in the present text of 1 Maccabees 5:66 (ἡ Σαμάρεια; Vulg. Sanaria) is evidently an error. At any rate, the well known Samaria of the Old and New Testaments cannot be intended, for it is obvious that Judas, in passing from Hebron to the land of the Philistines (Azotus), could not make so immense a detour. The true correction is doubtless supplied by Josephus (Ant. 12:8, 6), who has Marissa (i.e. Mareshah [q.v.]) a place which lay in the road from Hebron to the Philistine plain. One of the ancient Latin versions exhibits the same reading, which is accepted by Ewald (Gesch. 4, 361) and a host of commentators (see Grimm, Kurzg. exeg. Handb. on the passage). Drusius proposed Shaaraim; but this is hardly so feasible as Mareshah, and has no external support.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Samaria'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/s/samaria.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.