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Samaria was the name of both a city and the surrounding region. The city of Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel, situated along a major north-south route through Palestine. The city was built by King Omri, who reigned in Tirzah for six years before building Samaria to be his capital (1 Kings 16:21-24). King Ahab and Queen Jezebel built a palace with ivory inlay at Samaria. Ahab died there after being wounded in battle. In the Prophet Elisha's time, Samaria was besieged but was not taken. The city was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E. after a three-year siege, ending the ten tribes of Israel's existence as a nation. In 332 B.C.E., Alexander the Great captured Samaria during his conquest of Palestine. During the reign of Herod the Great, the city was rebuilt and renamed Sebaste.

When the city of Samaria fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E., the broader region itself was also called Samaria (2 Kings 17). The political boundaries of this region in central Palestine shifted over time, but geographically it generally encompassed the hill country between the Jezreel plain in the north to the Aijalon valley in the south.

In Old Testament times, the tensions between this region and the region of Judah to the south broke into open conflict when the kingdom split into northern and southern kingdoms in 922 B.C.E. After the Assyrians conquered Samaria in 722 B.C.E., many of the people were deported and foreigners were resettled in the region. Later Judeans therefore regarded Samaritans as ethnically impure. The Samaritans had their own center of worship at Mount Gerizim, but Jews insisted that worship was centered in Jerusalem.
In New Testament times, sharp ethnic, cultural, and religious rivalries continued between Samarians and Jews. Jesus encountered hostility from some Samaritans (Luke 9:51-56). Nevertheless, Jesus told a parable about a good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) and healed

AUTHOR: Robert Brusic, Seminary Pastor Emeritus

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