Samaria and the approaches
Samaria was named by King Omri (ruled about 885-874 BCE) after the name of its previous owner Shemer. It is interesting and curious why King Omri did not honor himself with the place he bought:
1 Kings 16:23-24: “ 23 In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned twelve years, six of them in Tirzah. 24 He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver and built a city on the hill, calling it Samaria, after Shemer, the name of the former owner of the hill.”
After moving the capital city of the Northern Kingdom twice from Shechem (1 Kings 12:25) and Tirzah (1 Kings 15:33) in the past 50 years, King Omri’s son Ahab established Samaria as the capital of the Northern Kingdom permanently until its fall by Assyria’s invasion in 722 BCE.
The city was never destroyed by the the Assyrian Invasion, and was later repopulated. In Hellenistic times about 25 BCE, Samaria was called Sebaste by Herod the Great in honor of the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus (Sebaste is the Greek term for Augustus). Nowadays, the same ancient Samaria/Sebaste location is called Sabastiya, which is a Palestinian village of over 4,500 inhabitants. As of 2021, about 350 Samaritans are living in Sabastiya.
Samaria was proclaimed by Yahweh as a blessing (Mt. Gerizim) and a curse (Mt. Ebal) before the Israelites went across the Jordan River (Deut 11:29). Jesus used its geographical area (from Jerusalem to Jericho) to teach the parable of the Good Samaritan. It was also a place where Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. The Samaritan woman was the one who spread the word in this area that Jesus was the Messiah (John 4:1-30). Samaria is one of the places where Jesus announced this important message in Acts 1:8:
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”