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Samaria: Profile of the Region of Samaria in Palestine

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What is Samaria?:


Samaria (Hebrew: somron) was a region of Palestine comprising the northern kingdom of Israel created when north and south split after the death of Solomon (c. 930 BCE) The region was named after its capital city, Samaria. Assyria captured Samaria in 721 BCE and it was at this time that the general usage of “Samaria” for the region appears to have started. Human habitation in the city of Samaria can be traced back to at least 3,000 BCE.

Where is Samaria?:


The central hill region of Samaria has natural borders with the sea to the west, the Jordan River on the east, the Valley of Jezreel to the north, and the Valley of Aijalon to the south. The city of Samaria is on a hill just 40 miles north of Jerusalem. Other major cities in Samaria included Megiddo, Bethel, and Tirzah. It was a bit more fertile than the southern region of Judea and focused on things like viticulture.

Why is Samaria important?:


Like the rest of the region of Palestine, control of Samaria changed hands many times over the millennia. Even after the northern kingdom was eliminated, the city of Samaria remained a provincial capital for multiple empires. Herod also recognized its importance and, as he did everywhere else, launched a massive rebuilding program to honor his Roman patrons.

During New Testament times Samaria was ruled by the Romans, who didn’t completely separate it from Judea despite appointing a different procurator for each. Although Samaritans and Jews shared a common heritage, they drifted far apart and by the time of Herod they had little contact with each other. Samaritans rejected the literal interpretation of Mosaic Law and were treated shabbily by orthodox Jews. Today only a few hundred Samaritans survive in Nablus and Tel Aviv-Yafo.

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