Samaria, Region of

Samaria, Region Of (usually Σαμάρεια, the same as the city; but when distinguishing it from the latter, the Sept. and Josephus write Σαμαρεῖτις or Χώρα Σαμαρέων; sometimes Σαμαρί, as Ptolemy). This term at first included all the tribes over which Jeroboam made himself king, whether east or west of the river Jordan. Hence, even before the city of Samaria existed, we find the "old prophet who dwelt at Bethel" describing the predictions of "the man of God who came from Judah," in reference to the altar at Bethel, as directed not merely against that altar, but "against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria" (1Ki 13:32), i.e., of course, the cities of which Samaria was, or was to be, the head or capital. In other places in the historical books of the Old Test. (with the exception of 2Ki 17:24,26,28-29) Samaria seems to denote the city exclusively. But the prophets use the word, much as did the old prophet of Bethel, in a greatly extended sense. Thus the "calf of Bethel" is called by Hosea (Ho 8:5-6) the "calf of Samaria;" in Amos (Am 3:9) the "mountains of Samaria" are spoken of; and the "captivity of Samaria and her daughters" is a phrase found in Ezekiel (Eze 16:53).

But, whatever extent the word might have acquired, it necessarily became 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. This would be one limitation. Next, in B.C. 771 and 740 respectively, "Pul, king of Assyria, and Tilgath-pilneser, king of Assyria, carried away the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half- tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan" (1Ch 5:26). This would be a second limitation. But the latter of these kings went further: "He took Ijon, and Abel-beth-maachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria" (2Ki 15:29). This would be a third limitation. Nearly a century before, B.C. 860, "the Lord had begun to cut Israel short," for "Hazael, king of Syria, smote them in all the coasts of Israel; from Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the river Arnork even Gilead and Bashan" (2Ki 10:32-33). This, however, as we may conjecture from the diversity of expression, had been merely a passing inroad, and had involved no permanent subjection of the country, or deportation of its inhabitants. The invasions of Pul and of Tilgath-pilneser were utter clearances of the population. The territory thus desolated by them was probably occupied by degrees by the pushing forward of the neighboring heathen, or by straggling families of the Israelites themselves. In reference to the northern part of Galilee, we know that a heathen population prevailed. Hence the phrase "Galilee of the nations" or "Gentiles" (Isa 9:1; Isa 1 Macc. 5:15). No doubt this was the case also beyond Jordan. But we have yet to arrive at a fourth limitation of the kingdom of Samaria. It is evident from an occurrence in Hezekiah's reign that just before the deposition 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 (2Ch 30:1-26). Men came from all those tribes to the Passover at Jerusalem. This was about B.C. 726. In fact, to such miserable limits had the kingdom of Samaria been reduced, that when, two or three years afterwards, we are told that "Shalmaneser came up throughout the land," and after a siege of three years "took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and in Habor by the river Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes" (2Ki 17:5-6), and when again we are told that "Israel was carried away out of their own land into Assyria" (2Ki 17:23), we must suppose a very small field of operations. Samaria (the city), and a few adjacent cities or villages only, represented that dominion which had once extended from Bethel to Dan northwards, and from the Mediterranean to the borders of Syria and Ammon eastwards. This is further confirmed by what we read of Josiah's progress, in B.C. 628, through "the cities of Manasseh and Ephraim and Simeon, even unto Naphtali" (2Ch 34:6). Such a progress would have been impracticable bad the number of cities and villages been at all large. On the capture of the city of Samaria, and the final overthrow of the kingdom of Israel by Shalmaneser or Sargon (B.C. 720), the Jews were removed, and strangers were brought from Assyria "and placed in the cities of Samaria" (2Ki 17:24; comp. Ezr 4:10). These colonists took the name of their new country. SEE SAMARITANS. Instead of a kingdom, Samaria now became a province. Its extent cannot be exactly ascertained. The political.geography of Palestine was undergoing changes every year, in consequence of incessant wars and conquests; and it was not until the period of Roman dominion that the boundaries of provinces began to be accurately defined. Josephus describes the province as follows: "The district of Samaria lies between Judea and Galilee. Commencing at a village called Ginaea, situated in the Great Plain, it terminates at the territory of the Acrabatenes" (War, 3, 3, 4). Ginaea is identical with the modern Jenin, on the southern side of the plain of Esdraelon. It is evident, therefore, that the northern border of Samaria ran along the foot of the mountain range, beginning at the promontory of Carmel on the west, and terminating at the Jordan, near the site of Succoth. Its southern border would probably correspond pretty nearly to a line drawn from Joppa eastward through Bethel to the Jordan (see Reland, Paloest.p. 192). Thus it comprehended the ancient territory of Ephraim, and of those Manassites who were west of Jordan. "Its character," Josephus continues, "is in no respect different from that of Judaea. Both abound in mountains and plains, and are suited for agriculture, and productive, wooded, and full of fruits both wild and cultivated. They are not abundantly watered; but much rain falls there. The springs are of an exceedingly sweet taste; and, on account of the quantity of good grass, the cattle there produce more milk than elsewhere. But the best proof of their richness and fertility is that both are thickly populated." The accounts of modern travelers confirm this description by the Jewish historian of the "good land" which was allotted to that powerful portion of the house of Joseph which crossed the Jordan, on the first division of the territory. The geographical position of the province is several times incidentally mentioned in the New Test. Thus in Lu 17:11 it is stated that our Lord, in proceeding to Jerusalem from northern Palestine, "passed through the midst of Samaria;" and again, when he left Judaea and went to Galilee, St. John says, "He must needs go through Samaria" (4:4). So also, when Paul and Barnabas were sent on a special mission from Antioch to Jerusalem, "they passed through Phenice and Samaria" (Ac 15:3). They followed the road along the sea coast, doubtless calling at the great cities of Sidon, Tyre, and Csesarea.

After the time of Roman rule in Syria, the name of Samaria as a province appears to have passed away. It is used by Pliny and Ptolemy, and is mentioned by Jerome. It is not found, however, in the Notitioe Ecclesiasticoe, nor in any later work; and it is now wholly unknown to the natives of the country. The name of the ancient city has even given place to the Arabo-Greek Sebustiyeh.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

On the history and natural features of the region in question, SEE ISRAEL, KINGDOM OF; SEE PALESTINE; SEE SAMARIA, CITY OF.

 
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