The City of Samaria—Isaiah 7:9

The biblical city of Samaria was situated in central Palestine in what is now the modern West Bank and was located 56 km north of Jerusalem. Jeroboam formed the so-called Northern Kingdom after the death of Solomon, but did not have a fixed royal residence, living at different times in Shechem, Penuel, Bethel, and finally Tirzah. The latter site became the capital of the kingdom under six kings: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, and Omri. Then Omri established a permanent capital in 883 BC. During the sixth year of his reign, he bought the hill of Samaria from Semer. He also built a city on it that he called Samaria, apparently after its former owner’s name (1 Kings 16:23, 24).

Especially under Ahab, his son and successor, the royal city acquired significant improvements, including fortified walls, a palace, public buildings, and other characteristics of a major capital city. Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel, a Sidonian princess, brought to Samaria not only the wealth of the royal house of Sidon but also religious syncretism that the prophet Elijah had to confront (1 Kings 17).

Although Jehu overthrew Omri’s dynasty in 842 BC, the dynastic name persisted outside of Israel. Assyrian court records described Samaria as the kingdom of Omri. Samaria endured several sieges but managed to survive. At one time, it was even miraculously delivered after a severe famine (2 Kings 6:24–7:20). Samaria lasted about a century and a half under the 14 kings who ruled northern Israel from the city until Shalmaneser V and Sargon II besieged it. After three years, they conquered it in 722 BC (2 Kings 18:9, 10). Then the Assyrians took Hoshea, the last king of Israel, prisoner, and together with almost 30,000 captives, deported them to the regions of Halah and Media (v. 11) and forever destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel.

The empires of Persia, Greece, and Rome considered Samaria as a strategic point to keep their garrisons. The peak of Samaria’s grandeur occurred ca. 30 BC during the reign of Herod the Great, who rebuilt, refortified, and embellished it with magnificent buildings to please his wife Mariamne to whom he gave the city. Herod renamed the city Sebaste, or “Augusta,” to honor Caesar Augustus. The name survives in that of the nearby Arab village of Sebastiyeh.

Excavations carried out by Harvard University from 1908 to 1910 uncovered the massive foundations of Omri’s palace (1 Kings 22:39), including its extensions built by Ahab and Jeroboam II. Currently, Samaria no longer exists as a city but ruins for tourists to visit.


Kenyon, “Samaria,” Enciclopedia de la Biblia.

Purvis, “Samaria.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 914-917.

Tappy, “Samaria,” The Oxford Archaeology in the Near East.