Glimpses of Israel - Samaria

by Joseph Hunting

Following the division that separated Judah from the ten northern tribes, murder, intrigue, plot and counterplot left a bloody trail across the hills and valleys north of Jerusalem and the area occupied by the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

Finally Omri, captain of the army, seized the opportunity to be crowned king over the ten northern tribes: "And he bought the hill Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, (approximately 166 pounds) and built on the hill, and he called the name of the city which he built after the name Shemer, owner of the hill, Samaria." (I Kings 16:24)

From then on Samaria became the capital of the ten northern tribes. Omri's son was the infamous king Ahab.

During Samaria's history as capital of the northern tribes of Israel two of Israel's most illustrious prophets Elijah and Elisha brought the Word of the Lord to both the kings and the people.

Samaria was smitten with a severe famine during Elisha's lifetime. Not only were the inhabitants of the city slowly starving to death but the Syrians besieged the city and awaited its ultimate surrender. When all seemed totally lost four lepers decided to give themselves up to the Syrians saying to themselves, "If they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die." (I Kings 7:4)

In the meantime Elisha prophesied to the king that on the morrow there would be an abundance of food. Imagine the lepers' astonishment when they found that the Syrians had fled in terror and left their well-stocked tents and food supplies intact! Elisha's prophecy had come to pass.

Finally Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, captured Samaria after a three year siege and the ten northern tribes went into captivity. The city and the surrounding area were then repopulated by settlers from Assyria and Babylon, giving rise to the people who became known as the Samaritians. Later in its history Herod the Great beautified the city with temples and palaces and called the city Sebaste.

Much of ancient Samaria has been excavated and today one can walk the streets where Omri, Ahab, Jezebel, Jehu, Elijah and Elisha lived their lives for either evil or good and of whom so much is written in the Scriptures.