Sebastia (Samaria) – A visit to the capital of the Kingdom of Israel (Omri, Ahab, Jezebel, Elijah)

Sebastia (Samaria) – A visit to the capital of the Kingdom of Israel (Omri, Ahab, Jezebel, Elijah)

Information about Sebastia (Samaria) itself will be provided after this announcement.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to work as a tour guide as from Feb 2020
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Should you have a personal request I will be more than happy to respond and even film it in a personal video.
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Thank you so much
Your tour guide
Zahi Shaked

Sebastia is located in the midst of the mountainous region of Sebastia, approximately eight kilometers northwest of Nablus
This is a proclaimed National Park that covers an area of 714 hectares and is administered by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

Situated on a hill that is 463 meters above sea level, Sebastia is on the main road that traverses the length of the mountain crest, leading north from Nablus to Jenin. The city of Sebastia was discovered there. It served as the capital of Israel during the period of the First Temple, and Sebastiya, an outstanding Roman bastion, was built upon its ruins in 30 B.C.E. at Herod’s orders.

“In the thirty and first year of Asa King of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years; six years reigned he in Tirzah. And he bought the hill Sebastia of Shemer for two talents of silver, and built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built, after the name of Shemer, owner of the hill, Sebastia” ((I Kings XVI 23-25).

Sebastia was built in 879 BCE and served as the capital of Israel until its destruction by the Assyrian army in 722 BCE. During the Hellenistic era, it became home to a Macedonian community called Sebastia. During the period of the Second Temple, Herod altered the name of the city, as is related by Josephus Flavius: “And when he (Herod) went about building the wall of Sebastia, he contrived to bring thither many of those that had been assisting to him in his wars, and many of the people in that neighborhood also, whom he made fellow citizens with the rest. This he did out of an ambitious desire to build a temple, and out of a desire to make the city more eminent than it had been before; but principally because he contrived that it might at once be for his own security, and a monument to his magnificence. He also changed its name (Sebastia), and called it Sebaste…” (Antiquities of the Jews, 15).
Sebaste, the name given to that Roman city, is still used today to designate the Arab village located near Sebastye.

Omri, king of Israel, built Sebastia as the capital of the kingdom of Israel in 879 BCE, after he had reigned in Tirzah for six years. His son and successor, Ahab, who reigned in Sebastia for 22 years, erected an altar to Baal and built a temple for him – “the house of Baal in Sebastia” (I Kings XVI 31-33). The worship of Baal in Sebastia was apparently the result of Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon. The prophet Elijah, who destroyed Baal’s prophets on Mount Carmel, challenged Jezebel and the prophets of Baal (I Kings XVIII). A number of battles took place against the Aramaics during Ahab’s reign, during one of which Sebastia found itself under siege and starving. Ahab was mortally wounded during the decisive battle against the Aramaics – the battle of Gil’ad. His body was brought back to Sebastia, where he was buried, and his chariot washed in the pool of Sebastia (I Kings XXII 33-38). The remnants of a pool that cannot be seen today were found in the northwestern corner of the palace, near the retaining wall, raising the possibility that this is the pool in which Ahab’s chariot was “washed”.

Ahab’s son, Jehoram, was also forced to fight the Aramaics, and during his reign, Sebastia was under siege and suffered from starvation, to the point that, according to the description, mothers ate their sons, and even the dung of doves was very coveted (Kings II, 6:24-30). Sebastia withstood the siege despite the shortage of food. Sebastia rose to greatness once again in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, who ruled Sebastia for 41 years and restored the borders of Israel from the approach to Hamath to the sea of the plain (Kings II, 14:23-26). Most of the remnants of the castle excavated close to the southern wall at the top of the hill apparently belonged to that period.