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Catholic Dictionary




In the time of Christ, Palestine was made up of three sections, Galilee on the north, Samaria in the center, Judea in the south. Samaria extended from the Jordan River westward to the Mediterranean Sea. In the Old Testament times, when the Twelve Tribes inherited sections of Canaan, Ephraim and Manasseh occupied much of what was to become Samaria. After Solomon's time Samaria became known as the Northern Kingdom, or Israel, as distinct from the Southern Kingdom, or Judah. During several kingships--notably those of Saul, David, and Solomon--the two constituted a united kingdom. But for most of the years before the time of Christ, Samaria and Judah were hostile neighbors. Many Jews were shocked that Jesus would even speak to Samaritans (John 4:8-9). The most prosperous period in Samaria's history was the eighth century before Christ. Following this, however, Assyrian invasions led to loss of independence and the deportation of many leading Samaritans. An incursion of racially mixed foreigners took place, and Samaria never regained the stature it had enjoyed. Samaria is now the northwestern part of Jordan.