SAMARIA @ - (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." (Kings:16:23-24) 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. (Kings:16:32-33) It was twice besieged by the Syrians, in B.C. 901, (Kings:20:1) and in B.C. 892, ( 2Kings:6:24-7; 2Kings:6:20) but on both occasions the siege was ineffectual. The possessor of Samaria was considered Deuteronomy facto king of Israel. ( 2Kings:15:13-14) In B.C. 721 Samaria was taken, after a siege of three years, by Shalmaneser king of Assyria, ( 2Kings:18:9-10) 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. Matthew:10:5; John: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, COUNTRY OF @ - Samaria at first included all the tribes over which Jeroboam made himself king, whether east or west of the river Jordan. (Kings:13:32) But whatever extent the word might have acquired, it necessarily be came contracted as the limits of the kingdom of Israel became contracted. In all probability the territory of Simeon and that of Dan were very early absorbed in the kingdom of Judah. It is evident from an occurrence in Hezekiah’s reign that just before the deposition and death of Hoshea, the last king of Israel, the authority of the king of Judah, or at least his influence, was recognized by portions of Asher, Issachar and Zebulun and even of Ephraim and Manasseh. ( 2Chronicles:30:1-26) Men came from all those tribes to the Passover at Jerusalem. This was about B.C. 728. Samaria (the city) and a few adjacent cities or villages only represented that dominion which had once extended from Bethel to Dan northward, and from the Mediterranean to the borders of Syria and Ammon eastward. In New Testament times Sa maria was bounded northward by the range of hills which commences at Mount Carmel on the west, and, after making a bend to the southwest, runs almost due east to the valley of the Jordan, forming the southern border of the plain of Esdraelon. It touched toward the south, is nearly as possible, the northern limits of Benjamin. Thus it comprehended the ancient territory of Ephraim and that of Manasseh west of Jordan. The Cuthaean Samaritans, however, possessed only a few towns and villages of this large area, and these lay almost together in the centre of the district. At Nablus the Samaritans have still a settlement, consisting of about 200 persons. [SHECHEM]