from Greek Samareia, from Aramaic Shamerayin, ultimately from Hebrew Shomeron, from Shemer, name of the owner who sold the site to King Omri (cf. 1 Kings xvi:24).
Old English, "the Jewish people," from Latin Israel, from Greek, from Hebrew yisra'el "he that striveth with God" (Gen. xxxii.28), symbolic proper name conferred on Jacob and extended to his descendants, from sara "he fought, contended" + El "God." As an independent Jewish state in the country formerly called Palestine, it is attested from 1948.
The name given to Jacob after he wrestled with God. Israel is also the name of the northern kingdom of the Israelites, when their nation was split in two after the death of King Solomon. (See under “World Geography.”)
Republic in the Middle East, formerly part of Palestine. Israel is bordered by Lebanon to the north, Syria and Jordan to the east, the Gulf of Aqaba (an arm of the Red Sea) to the south, Egypt to the southwest, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. Its capital and largest city is Jerusalem.
Note: The state of Israel, a homeland for Jews worldwide, was proclaimed in 1948. Since then, conflict has arisen because of opposition by the surrounding Arab peoples to the formation of a Jewish state on what they consider Arab territory (see Arab-Israeli conflict).
Note: As a move toward permanent peace between Israel and the Arab states, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat met with U. S. President James Earl Carter in the United States and signed a peace treaty in 1979.
Note: The United States has been Israel's major supporter, but Israeli settlements on the West Bank strained U.S.-Israel relations.
Note: Periodic Palestinian intifadas against Israeli domination of the West Bank and Gaza Strip continue.
a watch-mountain or a watch-tower. In the heart of the mountains of Israel, a few miles north-west of Shechem, stands the "hill of Shomeron," a solitary mountain, a great "mamelon." It is an oblong hill, with steep but not inaccessible sides, and a long flat top. Omri, the king of Israel, purchased this hill from Shemer its owner for two talents of silver, and built on its broad summit the city to which he gave the name of "Shomeron", i.e., Samaria, as the new capital of his kingdom instead of Tirzah (1 Kings 16:24). As such it possessed many advantages. Here Omri resided during the last six years of his reign. As the result of an unsuccessful war with Syria, he appears to have been obliged to grant to the Syrians the right to "make streets in Samaria", i.e., probably permission to the Syrian merchants to carry on their trade in the Israelite capital. This would imply the existence of a considerable Syrian population. "It was the only great city of Palestine created by the sovereign. All the others had been already consecrated by patriarchal tradition or previous possession. But Samaria was the choice of Omri alone. He, indeed, gave to the city which he had built the name of its former owner, but its especial connection with himself as its founder is proved by the designation which it seems Samaria bears in Assyrian inscriptions, Beth-khumri ('the house or palace of Omri').", Stanley. Samaria was frequently besieged. In the days of Ahab, Benhadad II. came up against it with thirty-two vassal kings, but was defeated with a great slaughter (1 Kings 20:1-21). A second time, next year, he assailed it; but was again utterly routed, and was compelled to surrender to Ahab (20:28-34), whose army, as compared with that of Benhadad, was no more than "two little flocks of kids." In the days of Jehoram this Benhadad again laid siege to Samaria, during which the city was reduced to the direst extremities. But just when success seemed to be within their reach, they suddenly broke up the seige, alarmed by a mysterious noise of chariots and horses and a great army, and fled, leaving their camp with all its contents behind them. The famishing inhabitants of the city were soon relieved with the abundance of the spoil of the Syrian camp; and it came to pass, according to the word of Elisha, that "a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barely for a shekel, in the gates of Samaria" (2 Kings 7:1-20). Shalmaneser invaded Israel in the days of Hoshea, and reduced it to vassalage. He laid siege to Samaria (B.C. 723), which held out for three years, and was at length captured by Sargon, who completed the conquest Shalmaneser had begun (2 Kings 18:9-12; 17:3), and removed vast numbers of the tribes into captivity. (See SARGON.) This city, after passing through various vicissitudes, was given by the emperor Augustus to Herod the Great, who rebuilt it, and called it Sebaste (Gr. form of Augustus) in honour of the emperor. In the New Testament the only mention of it is in Acts 8:5-14, where it is recorded that Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached there. It is now represented by the hamlet of Sebustieh, containing about three hundred inhabitants. The ruins of the ancient town are all scattered over the hill, down the sides of which they have rolled. The shafts of about one hundred of what must have been grand Corinthian columns are still standing, and attract much attention, although nothing definite is known regarding them. (Comp. Micah 1:6.) In the time of Christ, Western Palestine was divided into three provinces, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Samaria occupied the centre of Palestine (John 4:4). It is called in the Talmud the "land of the Cuthim," and is not regarded as a part of the Holy Land at all. It may be noticed that the distance between Samaria and Jerusalem, the respective capitals of the two kingdoms, is only 35 miles in a direct line.
the name conferred on Jacob after the great prayer-struggle at Peniel (Gen. 32:28), because "as a prince he had power with God and prevailed." (See JACOB.) This is the common name given to Jacob's descendants. The whole people of the twelve tribes are called "Israelites," the "children of Israel" (Josh. 3:17; 7:25; Judg. 8:27; Jer. 3:21), and the "house of Israel" (Ex. 16:31; 40:38). This name Israel is sometimes used emphatically for the true Israel (Ps. 73:1: Isa. 45:17; 49:3; John 1:47; Rom. 9:6; 11:26). After the death of Saul the ten tribes arrogated to themselves this name, as if they were the whole nation (2 Sam. 2:9, 10, 17, 28; 3:10, 17; 19:40-43), and the kings of the ten tribes were called "kings of Israel," while the kings of the two tribes were called "kings of Judah." After the Exile the name Israel was assumed as designating the entire nation.