If you have traveled to Israel in the past decade you likely were not able to visit the region of biblical region of Samaria. Since the beginning of the Second Intifada that area, known as the West Bank, has been tightly controlled by Israel. Several of the folks we have talked with here spoke about how condition have eased in the past few months.
We have a rental car, but it is not to be taken into the West Bank. We had arranged through a reliable travel operator here for a driver and car to take us to several places in the West Bank. We left our hotel in Jerusalem about 8:30 a.m. this morning and got back a little after 4:30 p.m. as the sun was dropping beyond the horizon.
Our first stop was at Jacob’s well in Nablus. There is a piece of land here once owned by Jacob (Genesis 33:19). The territory was apportioned to the descendants of Joseph, and Joseph was buried there at Shechem (Joshua 24:32). It was a place of great historic importance. Jesus came to Sychar, a city of Samaria, near the piece of land Jacob had owned (John 4:5).
The traditional Jacob’s Well is located at Shechem in the valley between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. The modern town of Nablus now fills this valley.
André Parrot says,
“Of all the ‘holy places’ of Palestine, none has more reason to be considered authentic than Jacob’s well. Indeed, there is no reason why its authenticity should be questioned” (Land of Christ 65).
Parrot describes the water as “cool and pleasant-tasting…drawn from a depth of 128 feet.” I have drunk the water several times, but in the few decades my guides have advised against it due to pollution in the area.
A church was erected over the well about A.D. 380. The Crusaders built another church on the site in the 12th century. The property came under the control of the Greek Orthodox church in 1860. By the end of the 19th century the Greeks began a new church, but construction was halted during World War I. The last time I was at Jacob’s well (2000) construction had resumed and the building was completed in 2007. Here is a photo of the interior. The building is unlike most of the Greek Orthodox churches in this part of the world. Instead of being dark and dismal, this one is bright and cheery.
Those of you who have visited Jacob’s well in the past will recognize the entry to the steps going down to the well.
After Jacob’s Well we visited the nearby site of Shechem and made photos of the ruins and of Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. These mountains are where the blessings and curses of the Law were read by the Israelites after they entered the land (Deuteronomy 11:29). It was here in this valley that the land promise was made to Abraham (Genesis 12:6-7).
We continued to the modern village of Sebastiye and the site of biblical Samaria. The hill Samaria was bought by Omri, king of Israel, to serve as the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 16:23-24). We visited the ruins and then had a good lunch at the Samaria Restaurant. I had eaten at this restaurant several times in the past. The food and service were good. Sari and his uncle were gracious to us and told us how they wished for more tourists to come to the site. We told them that we would certainly like to see that, too. Several good things are going on at Sebastiye which we may be able to comment on later.
Samaria was destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. By New Testament times Samaria had been rebuilt by Herod the Great, and was visited by Peter and John (Acts 8).
I wanted to share a photo of the hill of Samaria. The tell is on the top of the hill. The village of Sebastiye can be seen to the right. There are ancient ruins under the village.
I am rather sure that Bible teachers and preachers among our readers would like a copy of this photo to use in presentations. All you need to do is click on the photo for a larger image suitable for use in PowerPoint. I rented an expensive wide-angle lens, to go along with my not-quite-as-expensive camera, to be able to get high quality photos like the one above.
On the return to Jerusalem we drove up to the Samaritan village on Mount Gerizim. We had intended to visit the museum, but just about everything was closed because the Sabbath was being observed.
The weather was great today and we had plenty of sunshine for all of the photography. Thanks for reading. Leave us a comment if you find this material helpful.