SAMARIA (Hebrew, "Shomeron"; Aramaic, "Shamerayin," Ezra iv. 10, 17):
City of Palestine; capital of the kingdom of Israel. It was built by Omri, in the seventh year of his reign, on the mountain Shomeron (Samaria); he had bought this mountain for two talents of silver from Shemer, after whom he named the city Shomeron (I Kings xvi. 23-24). The fact that the mountain was called Shomeron when Omri bought it leads one to think that the correctness of the foregoing passage is questionable. The real etymology of the name may be "watch mountain" (see Stade in his "Zeitschrift," v. 165 et seq.). In the earlier cuneiform inscriptions Samaria is designated under the name of "Bet Ḥumri" (= "the house of Omri"); but in those of Tiglathpileser III. and later it is called Samirin, after its Aramaic name (comp. Rawlinson, "Historical Evidences," p. 321).
The topography of Samaria is not indicated in the Bible; the mountains of Samaria are mentioned several times (Amos iii. 9; Jer. xxxi. 5; and elsewhere) and "the field of Samaria" once (Ob. 19). Through recent investigations it has become known that the mountain of Samaria is one situated in a basin surrounded by hills, six miles from Shechem, and almost on the edge of the maritime plain. Owing to its fertility, which is alluded to in Isa. xxviii. 1, Omri selected it as the site of his residence; and it continued to be the capital of the kingdom of the Ten Tribes for a space of two centuries, till it was destroyed by the Assyrian king (I Kings xvi. 29 et passim; II Kings i. 3, iii. 1, et passim). Isaiah called Samaria "the head of Ephraim" (Isa. vii. 9), and Ezekiel speaks of "Samaria and her daughters" (Ezek. xvi. 53). That the city was strongly fortified is evident from the fruitless sieges which it sustained (see below; comp. Josephus, "Ant." viii. 14, § 1). Ahab built there a temple for Baal with an altar for the cult of that divinity (I Kings xvi. 32); and perhaps the ivory palace (ib. xxii. 39) was also at or near Samaria. The king's palace was independently fortified (II Kings xv. 25), and it had aroof-chamber (ib. i. 2). The city gate of Samaria is often mentioned (I Kings xxii. 10; II Kings vii. 1, 18, 20; II Chron. xviii. 9); and there is a single reference to "the pool of Samaria" (I Kings xxii. 38). Still during the lifetime of Omri, Samaria was required by the father of Ben-hadad to lay out streets for the Syrians (I Kings xx. 34); but it is not stated whether Samaria was directly besieged by the Syrian king or whether Omri, being defeated in one of his battles, was obliged to make concessions in Samaria (see Omri). Samaria successfully sustained two sieges by the Syrians under Ben-hadad, the first of which was in the time of Ahab (901
Other notable events took place in Samaria: it was there that Ahab met Jehoshaphat, both of whom sat in the entrance of the gate to hear the prophecy of Micaiah (I Kings xxii. 10; II Chron. xviii. 2, 9). The seventy sons of Ahab were brought up in Samaria, and were slain there by command of Jehu, who destroyed "all that remained of the house of Ahab," as well as the temple of Baal (II Kings x. 1-27). According to II Chron. xxii. 9, Ahaziah, King of Judah, was killed at Samaria (comp. II Kings ix. 27). Joash, after having captured Jerusalem, brought to Samaria all the gold, silver, and vessels of the Temple and of the king's palace (ib. xiv. 14; II Chron. xxiv. 25). Pekah returned to Samaria with the spoils and a great number of captives of Judah, who were well treated in Samaria and afterward released (II Chron. xxviii. 8-9, 15).
In the seventh year of Hoshea, Samaria was besieged by Shalmaneser. Three years later it was captured by an Assyrian king (II Kings xvii. 5-6, xviii. 9-10) whose name is not mentioned; and although Josephus ("Ant." ix. 14, § 1) states that it was Shalmaneser, the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions show that it was Sargon who ascended the throne in 722
Samaria emerges again into history four centuries after its capture by the Assyrians. The Samaritans, having assassinated Andromachus, governor of Cœle-Syria (332 or 331
Samaria, or its ruins, was in the possession of Alexander Jannæus ("Ant." xiii. 15, § 4), and was afterward taken by Pompey, who rebuilt it and attached it to the government of Syria (ib. xiv. 4, § 4; "B. J." i. 7, § 7). The city was further strengthenedby Gabinius, on account of which the inhabitants are also called Γαβινιεῖς ("Ant." xiv. 5, § 3; "B. J." i. 8, § 4; Cedrenus, ed. Bekker, i. 323). Augustus gave it to Herod the Great, under whom it flourished anew; for he rebuilt it in 27 or 25
In the fourth century Sebaste was a small town (Eusebius, "Onomasticon," s.v.). Jerome (Commentary on Obadiah) records the tradition that Samaria was the burial-place of Elisha, Obadiah, and John the Baptist. Benjamin of Tudela, however, does not relate that these tombs were shown to him; he states only ("Itinerary," ed. Asher, i. 32) that traces of Ahab's palace were still visible, and that he found no Jews in the place (comp. ib., Asher's notes, ii. 83). On the site of the ancient Sebaste now stands the small village of Sabasṭiyah, where traces of ancient edifices are still to be seen.
- Baedeker-Socin, Palestine, p.259;
- Grätz, Gesch. 4th ed., iii. 74 et seq.;
- Guérin, La Terre Sainte, i. 270;
- Munk, Palestine, p. 79;
- Robinson, Researches, iii. 138 et seq.;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., ii. 149 et seq.;
- Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, pp. 245 et seq.;
- Wilson, in Hastings, Dict. Bible.