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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Sama´ria (watch-height), a city, situated near the middle of Palestine, built by Omri, king of Israel, on a mountain or hill of the same name, about B.C. 925. It was the metropolis of the kingdom of Israel, or of the ten tribes. The hill was purchased from the owner, Shemer, from whom the city took its name (). Samaria continued to be the capital of Israel for two centuries, till the carrying away of the ten tribes by Shalmaneser, about B.C. 720 (; ). During all this time it was the seat of idolatry, and is often as such denounced by the prophets, sometimes in connection with Jerusalem. It was the seat of a temple of Baal, built by Ahab, and destroyed by Jehu (; ). It was the scene of many of the acts of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, connected with the various famines of the land, the unexpected plenty of Samaria, and the several deliverances of the city from the Syrians. After the exile of the ten tribes, Samaria appears to have continued, for a time at least, the chief city of the foreigners brought to occupy their place; although Shechem soon became the capital of the Samaritans as a religious sect. John Hyrcanus took the city after a year's siege, and razed it to the ground. Yet it must soon have revived, as it is not long after mentioned as an inhabited place, in the possession of the Jews. Pompey restored it to its former possessors; and it was afterwards rebuilt by Gabinius. Augustus bestowed Samaria on Herod; who eventually rebuilt the city with great magnificence, and gave it the name of Sebaste. Here Herod planted a colony of 6000 persons, composed partly of veteran soldiers, and partly of people from the environs; enlarged the circumference of the city; and surrounded it with a strong wall twenty stades in circuit. In the midst of the city—that is to say, upon the summit of the hill—he left a sacred place of a stade and a half, splendidly decorated, and here he erected a temple to Augustus, celebrated for its magnitude and beauty. The whole city was greatly ornamented, and became a strong fortress. Such was the Samaria of the time of the New Testament, where the Gospel was preached by Philip, and a church was gathered by the apostles (; , sq.). At what time the city of Herod became desolate, no existing accounts state; but all the notices of the fourth century and later lead to the inference that its destruction had already taken place. A few scanty notices of Samaria are found scattered through the works of ancient travelers, but it was not till the present century that it was fully explored and described.

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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Samaria'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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