Samaria

Samaria (səmârˈēə) [key], city, ancient Palestine, on a hill NW of modern-day Nablus (Shechem). The site is now occupied by a village, Sabastiyah (West Bank). Samaria (named for Shemer, who owned the land) was built by King Omri as the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel in the early 9th cent. B.C. The scene of the wickedness of Omri's son Ahab and Ahab's wife Jezebel, Samaria was considered a place of iniquity by the Hebrew prophets. In the expansion of Assyria, Samaria fell in 721 B.C. to Sargon. The native population was deported, others were settled in its place, and the city was made the capital of an Assyrian province. (1 Kings 16.23–33; 20.1–21; 2 Kings 6.24–33; 10.17–28; 13.9–13; 17). It was destroyed in 120 B.C. by John Hyrcanus and was rebuilt by Herod the Great, who called it Sebaste in honor of Emperor Augustus [Gr., = Sebastos]. There Philip the Evangelist (see Philip, Saint) preached and the incident of Simon Magus occurred (Acts 8.5–24). According to tradition St. John the Baptist is buried there. Remains of a church of the Crusaders are in the city. Excavations (1908–10, 1931–35) uncovered fortifications and the palace of Omri, as well as ostraca, or potsherds, and ivories probably made by Phoenician artists. There are also extensive Roman remains. The city has given its name to the Samaritans, of whom a small remnant still live at Nablus and Jaffa, Israel. The Samaritans are the descendants of non-Jewish colonists from Babylonia, Syria, and elsewhere who were settled in Samaria when the Israelites were deported (722 B.C.) In the Bible the Samaritans recognize only the Pentateuch and are even more scrupulous about observing its ordinances than are Orthodox Jews. They worship on Mt. Gerizim, where they had a temple in ancient times. The continual hatred between Jew and Samaritan apparently governed the choice of characters in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.30–37). The Samaritan language is a variety of Palestinian Aramaic (a Semitic language). The Samaritan manuscripts, although pre-Masoretic (see Masora) are not believed to be ancient, but they supply some useful variants of biblical passages.

See J. W. Crowfoot et al., The Buildings of Samaria (1942) and The Objects from Samaria (1958); A. Parrot, Samaria (tr. 1958).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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