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Hills of Samaria, 2011
Map the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Samaria was the capital of the Kingdom of Israel (in blue). 830s BC.
Site of Dothan, where according to the Book of Genesis, Joseph was sold by his brethren

Samaria (play /sə.ˈmɛr..ə/[1]), or the Shomron (Hebrew: שֹׁמְרוֹן‎, Standard Šoməron Tiberian Šōmərôn; Greek: Σαμάρεια; Arabic: سامريّون‎, Sāmariyyūn or السامرة, as-Samarah – also known as جبال نابلس, Jibal Nablus) is a mountainous region in the northern part of the geographical area to the west of the Jordan River, roughly corresponding to the northern part of the West Bank. The name derives from the ancient city Samaria, the capital of the Kingdom of Israel.[2] During the 1967 Six-Day War, the entire West Bank was captured by Israel. Jordan ceded its claim to the area to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in November 1988. In 1994, control of Areas 'A' and 'B' were transferred to the Palestinian Authority.



The name Samaria is of biblical origin, derived from the individual [or clan] Shemer, from whom Omri purchased the site. (1 Kings 16:24). It was the only name used for this area from ancient times until the Jordanian conquest of 1948, at which point the Jordanians coined the term West Bank.[3]


To the north, Samaria is bounded by the Jezreel Valley; to the east by the Jordan Rift Valley; to the west by the Carmel Ridge (in the north) and the Sharon plain (in the west); to the south by the Jerusalem mountains. In Biblical times, Samaria "reached from the [Mediterranean] sea to the Jordan Valley",[4] including the Carmel Ridge and Plain of Sharon. The Samarian hills are not very high, seldom reaching the height of over 800 metres. Samaria's climate is more hospitable than the climate further south.


The city Samaria was established as the capital of the Kingdom of Israel during the reign of Omri circa 884 BC. Prior to the Omride period the site appears to have been the center of an extensive wine and oil production area, which may have accounted for its choice as the new capital. Apparently the origin of the name of the site was from Shemer the eponymous owner of the land that Omri purchased for two talents of silver (1 Kings 16:23-24). The city is built on the summit of a rocky hill. The earliest remains consist of extensive rock cut installations, initially thought to date to the Early Bronze Age by Kenyon, these have recently been re-evaluated, first by Stager and then by Franklin, and are now recognized to be the remains of an extensive early Iron Age oil and wine industry (designated Building Period 0).

In 1908-1910, Harvard’s Committee on Exploration in the Orient conducted an expedition to excavate the site of Samaria-Sebaste. Remains of the royal palace built by Omri and Ahab during the Israelite period were discovered along with buildings constructed by the Babylonian, Greeks and Romans. Among the pottery fragments unearthed were ostraca bearing Hebrew inscriptions in carbon ink citing Biblical names and memoranda of commercial shipments.[5]

Approximately 27 BCE, the city was rebuilt by Herod the Great who named it Sebaste after the emperor Augustus.[6] Herod surrounded the city with a large wall and included within it a smaller walled component that featured a temple.[6]

Post World War II

The modern history of Samaria begins when the territory of Samaria, formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, was entrusted to the United Kingdom to administer in the aftermath of World War I as a British Mandate of Palestine, by the League of Nations. As a result of the 1948 Palestine War, most of the territory was unilaterally incorporated as Jordanian-controlled territory in the West Bank and residents would later receive Jordanian passports.

The Jordanian-held majority of Samaria came under the control of Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. Jordan ceded its West Bank claims to the PLO in November 1988, later confirmed by the Israel–Jordan Treaty of Peace of 1994. Jordan recognizes the Palestinian Authority as sovereign in the territory. In the 1994 Oslo accords, responsibility for the administration over some of the territory of Samaria (Areas 'A' and 'B') was transferred to the Palestinian Authority.

Samaria is one of several standard statistical districts utilized by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics.[7] "The Israeli CBS also collects statistics on the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza District. It has produced various basic statistical series on the territories, dealing with population, employment, wages, external trade, national accounts, and various other topics."[8] The Palestinian Authority however use Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Salfit, Ramallah and Tubas Governorates as administrative centres for the same region.

The Shomron Regional Council administers the Israeli population and settlements throughout the Samaria area.

New Testament reference

Map of Israeli settlements administered by the Shomron Regional Council in the West Bank

The New Testament mentions Samaria in Luke chapter 17:11-20, in the miraculous healing of the ten lepers, which took place on the border of Samaria and Galilee. John 4:1-26 records Jesus' encounter at Jacob's well with the woman of Sychar, in which he declares himself to be the Messiah. In Acts 8:5-14, it is recorded that Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached there. In the time of Jesus, Iudaea of the Romans was divided into three toparchies, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Samaria occupied the centre of Iudaea (John 4:4). (Iudaea was later renamed Syria Palaestina in 135, following the Bar Kokhba revolt.) In the Talmud, Samaria is called the "land of the Cuthim".


The Samaritans are an ethnoreligious group named after and inhabiting Samaria after the beginning of the Assyrian Exile of the Israelites.[9] Religiously the Samaritans are adherents of Samaritanism, an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism. Based on the Samaritan Torah, Samaritans claim their worship is the true religion of the ancient Israelites prior to the Babylonian Exile, preserved by those who remained in the Land of Israel, as opposed to Judaism, which they assert is a related but altered and amended religion brought back by those returning from exile. It is commonly, though inaccurately, accepted that Samaritans are mainstream Jews.[10][dubious ]

Their temple was built at Mount Gerizim in the middle of fifth century BC and was destroyed by the Macabbean (Hasmonean) John Hyrcanus late in 110 BC, although their descendants still worship among its ruins. The antagonism between Samaritans and Jews is important in understanding the Christian Bible's stories of "Parable of the Good Samaritan" and the "Samaritan woman at the well".

See also


  1. ^ "Book of Mormon Pronunciation Guide" (retrieved 2012-02-25), IPA-ified from «sa-mĕr´ē-a»
  2. ^ Harvard Expedition to Samaria, 1908–1910, Harvard University
  3. ^ "This Side of the River Jordan; On Language", Forward, Philologos, 22 September 2010.
  4. ^ Nelson's Encyclopædia, v. IX, p. 204, (London, 1907)
  5. ^ Harvard Expedition to Samaria, 1908–1910, Harvard University]
  6. ^ a b Aryeh Kasher (2007). King Herod: A Persecuted Persecutor. Studia Judaica: Forschungen zur Wissenschaft des Judentums. pp. 194–196. 
  7. ^ Israel Central Bureau of Statistics
  8. ^ Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  9. ^ 2 Kings 17 and Josephus (Ant 9.277–91)
  10. ^


External links

Coordinates: 32°08′35″N 35°15′38″E / 32.14306°N 35.26062°E / 32.14306; 35.26062