Ancient Samaria, a Land of Wealth and Idolatry

According to the book of Kings, the Israelite kingdom was split into two after the death of Solomon: the kingdom of Israel (later known as Samaria), consisting of the ten northern tribes, and the kingdom of Judah, consisting of the two tribes to the south. Ron E. Tappy describes what archaeological sources suggest about the northern kingdom:

A triangle of three cities—Shechem, Tirzah, and Samaria—lay near the center of this area and served as [its] religious and political center. . . . Around 884 BCE, King Omri of Israel purchased the family-owned estate of a man named Shemer, made it his political capital, and called the new city Samaria (Hebrew, Shomron). Throughout its existence, Samaria remained small in size—more a royal compound than a multifaceted city. . . . Until the fall of Israel in 721 BCE, Samaria remained that kingdom’s political hub. . . .

Omri’s son, Ahab, ruled after him (circa 873–851 BCE) and was one of Israel’s most powerful kings. . . . The Hebrew Bible obliquely praises and criticizes the lavish royal houses purportedly constructed by Ahab. Excavators have recovered a staggering quantity of ivory objects, sculptures, wall panels, furniture trim, and glass inlays from Samaria’s summit. These items reflect Israelite, Phoenician, and Egyptian artistic motifs with some direct parallels to ivories found in the contemporaneous Assyrian capital, Nimrud. The presence of unworked tusks suggests that Samaria might even have been a production center for these carvings. . . . Such conspicuous opulence undoubtedly inflamed orthodox [followers of the biblical God] like Elijah and [other] early prophets. . . .

Taken together, the biblical and extra-biblical evidence suggests a degree of religious pluralism at Samaria that would have enraged the orthodox establishment in Israel. In its broader world, Samaria seems to have maintained a kind of controlled syncretism, adopting elements of a variety of religious beliefs and practices, [and thus worshipping God alongside Baal, Asherah, and other Canaanite deities].

Read more at Bible Odyssey

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Book of Kings, Elijah, History & Ideas, Idolatry, Prophets, Samaria

Planning for the Day after the War in the Gaza Strip

At the center of much political debate in Israel during the past week, as well as, reportedly, of disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, is the problem of how Gaza should be governed if not by Hamas. Thus far, the IDF has only held on to small parts of the Strip from which it has cleared out the terrorists. Michael Oren lays out the parameters of this debate over what he has previous called Israel’s unsolvable problem, and sets forth ten principles that any plan should adhere to. Herewith, the first five:

  1. Israel retains total security control in Gaza, including control of all borders and crossings, until Hamas is demonstrably defeated. Operations continue in Rafah and elsewhere following effective civilian evacuations. Military and diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release continue unabated.
  2. Civil affairs, including health services and aid distribution, are administered by Gazans unaffiliated with Hamas. The model will be Area B of Judea and Samaria, where Israel is in charge of security and Palestinians are responsible for the civil administration.
  3. The civil administration is supervised by the Palestinian Authority once it is “revitalized.” The PA first meets benchmarks for ending corruption and establishing transparent institutions. The designation and fulfillment of the benchmarks is carried out in coordination with Israel.
  4. The United States sends a greatly expanded and improved version of the Dayton Mission that trained PA police forces in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement.
  5. Abraham Accords countries launch a major inter-Arab initiative to rebuild and modernize Gaza.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, U.S.-Israel relationship