Samaria

After King Solomon's death about 2900 years ago, the Kingdom of Israel split into two halves. The southern half was called Judah. The northern half, which continued to be called Israel, designated the city of Samaria to be its new capitol, rather than Jerusalem, which was located in Judah. The city of Samaria is located on a hill about 35 miles north of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem, again, serves as the capitol of the modern country of Israel).

King Omri, the 6th King of Israel, bought the hill and named it Samaria, in honor of its former owner, Shemer, and built his palace on it. The kings that rose up after Omri also reigned from the city of Samaria.

Ahab, Omni's son and successor as king of the northern kingdom, built an altar to Baal, a pagan god, under the influence of his wife, Jezebel, in Samaria. The palace was called the "Ivory house" (1 Kings 22:39), the furniture and some of the wall decor was made of ivory.

About 2700 years ago, the northern kingdom weakened as it went through a 15-year period during which there six different kings. The Assyrians attacked Samaria in 722 BC and it fell to them about three years later.

The Assyrians then deported many of the people out of the northern kingdom, and brought in many people from Babylon and other countries to live in Israel. This policy of deportation and re-population was intended to weaken the countries that Assyria dominated, to make it more difficult for a group of people to rise up and try to reclaim independence for their homeland.

In time, these different groups of people intermarried and the whole area around the city of Samaria became known as Samaria, and the people became known as the Samaritans.

In 332 BC, Alexander the Great captured the city and settled Macedonian veterans there.

In 108 BC, John Hyrcanus conquered and destroyed the city. King Herod the Great later rebuilt the city and named it Sebaste. During the time of Jesus there was a continuing hostility between Jews and Samaritans, as noted in John 8:48 and Luke 9:52-53.

Another example of this can be found in John 4:7-9, where disciples were surprised to find Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.

The city was destroyed by the Romans in AD 66, and again rebuilt. Excavations found a building identified as the palace, and ivory inlay also was found.

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