("a watch mountain".) The oblong terraced hill in the center of a basinshaped, valley, a continuation of the Shethem valley, six miles N.W. of Shechem. The owner, Shemer, sold it for two silver talents to Omri king of Israel (925 B.C.), who built on it a city and called it after Shomer (1 Kings 16:23-24). Shechem previously had been the capital, Tirzah the court residence in summer (1 Kings 15:21; 1 Kings 15:33; 1 Kings 16:1-18). The situation combines strength, fertility and beauty (Josephus, Ant. 15:8, section 5; B.J. 1:21, section 2). It is 600 ft. high, surrounded with terraced hills, clad with figs and olives. There is abundant water in the valley; but the city, like Jerusalem, is dependent on rain cisterns. The view is charming: to the N. and E. lie its own rich valleys; to the W. fertile Sharon and the blue Mediterranean. (On the "glorious beauty" of Ephraim (Samaria), Isaiah 28:1, see MEALS.) Its strength enabled it to withstand severe sieges by the Syrians (1 Kings 20; 2 Kings 6; 7). Finally it fell before Shalmaneser and Sargon, after a three years' siege (2 Kings 18:9-12), 721 B.C.
Called from its Baal worship, introduced by Ahab, "the city of the house of Ahab" (1 Kings 16:32-33; 2 Kings 10:25). Alexander the Great replaced its inhabitants with Syro Macedonians. John Hyrcanus (109 B.C.) destroyed the city after a 12 months' siege (Josephus, Ant. 13:10, section 2-3). Herod the Great rebuilt and adorned it, naming it Sebaste from Sebastos, Greek for Augustus, his patron (Ant. 14:5, section 3; 15:8, section 5; B.J. 1:20, section 3, 21, section 2). The woman of Samaria and several of her townsmen (John 4) were the firstfruits gathered into Christ; the fuller harvest followed under Philip the evangelist deacon (Acts 8, compare John 4:35). Septimius Severus planted a Roman colony there in the third century A.D.; but politically it became secondary to Caesarea. Ecclesiastically it was of more importance; and Marius its bishop signed himself "Maximus Sebastenus" at the council of Nice, A.D. 325. The Mahometans took it, A.D. 614. The Crusaders established a Latin bishop there.
Now Sebustieh; its houses of stone are taken from ancient materials, but irregularly placed; the inhabitants are rude but industrious. The ruin of the church of John the Baptist marks the traditional place of his burial; the original structure is attributed to Helena, Constantine's mother; but the present building, except the eastern Greek end, is of later style: 153 ft. long inside, 75 broad, and a porch 10 ft. wide. Within is a Turkish tomb under which by steps you descend to a vault with tessellated floor, and five niches for the dead, the central one being alleged to have been that of John (?). Fifteen limestone columns stand near the hill top, two others lie on the ground, in two rows, 32 paces apart. Another colonnade, on the N. side of the hill, in a ravine, is arranged in a quadrangle, 196 paces long and 64 broad. On the W.S.W. are many columns, erect or prostrate, extending a third of a mile, and ending in a heap of ruins; each column 16 ft. high, 6 ft. in circumference at the base, 5 ft. at the top: probably relics of Herod's work. frontHOSHEA.)
Its present state accords with prophecy: (Hosea 13:16) "Samaria shall become desolate"; (Micah 1:6) "I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard, and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley (a graphic picture of its present state which is 'as though the buildings of the ancient city had been thrown down from the brow of a hill': Scottish Mission Enquiry, 295), and I will discover the foundations thereof." The hill planted with vines originally should return to its pristine state. SAMARIA is the designation of northern Israel under Jeroboam (1 Kings 13:32; Hosea 8:5-6; Amos 3:9). Through the depopulations by Pul and Tiglath Pileser (1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Kings 15:29) the extent of Samaria was much limited. The pagan pushed into the vacated region, and "Galilee of the Gentiles" ("nations") became an accepted phrase (Isaiah 9:1). After Shalmaneser's capture of Samaria and carrying away of Israel to Halah and Habor, and in the cities of the Medes (2 Kings 17:5-6; 2 Kings 17:23-24), Esarhaddon or Asnapper planted "instead" men of Babylon (where Esarhaddon resided in part: 2 Chronicles 33:11), Cuthah, Ava, and Sepharvaim (Ezra 4:2-3; Ezra 4:10). (See ESARHADDON; ASNAPPER.)
So completely did God "wipe" away Israel (2 Kings 21:13) that no Israelite remained able to teach the colonists "the manner of the God of the land" (2 Kings 17:26). Isaiah (Isaiah 7:8) in 742 B.C. foretold that within 65 years Ephraim should be "broken" so as "not to be a people"; accomplished in 677 B.C. by Esarhaddon's occupying their land with foreigners. Josephus (Ant. 10:9, section 7) notices the difference between the ten and the two tribes. Israel's land became the land of complete strangers; Judah not so. The lions sent by Jehovah (who still claims the land as His own and His people's: Jeremiah 31:20; Leviticus 26:42), in consequence of the colonists worshipping their five deities respectively, constrained them through fear to learn from an imported Israelite priest how to "fear Jehovah." But it was fear, not love; it was a vain combination of incompatible worships, that of Jehovah and of idols (Zephaniah 1:5; Ezekiel 20:39; 1 Kings 18:21; Matthew 6:24). Luke (Luke 17:18) calls them "strangers," foreigners (allogeneis). In Ezra's (Ezra 4:1-4) time they claim no community of descent, but only of religion, with the Jews. Baffled in their wish to share in building the temple, they thwarted the building by false representations' before Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes until the reign of DARIUS (Ezra 5; 6). (See AHASUERUS; ARTAXERXES.)
The Samaritans gradually cast off idols. In 409 B.C. Manasseh, of priestly descent, having been expelled for an unlawful marriage by Nehemiah, built a temple on Mount Gerizim for the Samaritans by Darius Nothus' permission. Henceforward the Samaritans refused all kindness to the pilgrims on their way to the feasts at Jerusalem, and often even waylaid them (Josephus, Ant. 20:6, section 1, 18:2, section 2). John Hyrcanus destroyed the Gerizim temple, but they still directed their worship toward it; then they built one at Shechem. The Pentateuch was their sole code; for their copy they claimed an antiquity and authority above any Jewish manuscript Jewish renegades joined them; hence they began to claim Jewish descent, as the Samaritan woman (John 4:12) says "Jacob our father."
Possibly (though there is no positive evidence) Israelites may have not been completely swept from the fastness of the Samaritan hills, and these may have intermarried with the colonists. The Jews recognized no Israelite connection in the Samaritans. The Jews' charge against Jesus was, "Thou art a Samaritan" (John 8:48), probably because He had conversed with the Samaritans for their salvation (John 4). Then He was coming from Judaea, at a season "four months before the harvest," when the Samaritans could have no suspicion of His having been at Jerusalem for devotion (John 4:8; John 4:35); so the Samaritans treated Him with civility and hospitality, and the disciples bought food in the Samaritan town without being insulted. But in Luke 9:51-53, when He was "going to Jerusalem," the Samaritans did not receive Him: a minute coincidence with propriety, confirming the gospel narratives.
In sending forth the twelve Christ identifies the Samaritans with Gentiles (Matthew 10:5-6); He distinguishes them from Jews (Acts 1:8; John 4:22). Samaria lay between Judaea and Galilee. (See Josephus, B. J. 3:3, section 4). Bounded N. by the hills beginning at Carmel and running E. toward Jordan, forming the southern boundary of the plain Esdraelon (Jezreel); including Ephraim and the Manasseh W. of Jordan. Pilate chastised them, to his own downfall (Josephus, Ant. 18:4, section 1). Under Vespasian 10,600 fell (B. J. 3:7, section 32). Dositheus an apostate Jew became their leader. Epiphanius (Haer. 1) mentions their hostility to Christianity, and numerous sects. Jos. Scaliger corresponded with them in the 16th century; DeSacy edited two of their letters to Scaliger; Job Ludolf received a letter from them in the 17th century. frontEichhorn's Repertorium, 13) At Nablus (Shechem, or Sychar) the Samaritans have a settlement of 200 persons still, observing the law, and celebrating the Passover on Gerizim.
Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., "Definition for 'samaria' Fausset's Bible Dictionary".