“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.”
Dear friends, God pronounces blessings and curses, dependent upon our obedience to Him! Did you know that?
When Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, one of the Lord’s first lessons was that of blessings and curses, and that lesson was taught in the region of Samaria! It is found in Deuteronomy 11:26-32, where God commands the people to set the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse upon Mount Ebal. Shechem lies in between and was the first capital of Israel.
Mount Gerizim, Mount Ebal and Shechem are right in the heart of Samaria. (See Into the West Bank and Jews and Arabs Side-by-Side for more insight into Samaria.) It is believed that Samaritans rose up against Rome during the Galilean rebellion (67 AD), and Shechem was destroyed. About 5 years later, Vespasian built a new city just west of there and named it Flavia Neapolis (Emperor Flavia’s “new city”).
Though Neapolis once had a Christian presence, it was Islamized in the Ottoman period, and the name was changed to Nablus (though Israelis still call it Shechem). Today, it is a safe haven for terrorists. (No, we did not go to Nablus! We simply viewed it from afar!)
Not too far from Nablus is a “refugee camp,” supposedly home to “refugees” from the War of Independence (1948). That somewhat triangular-shaped refugee camp is pictured to the right. Looks an awful lot like a regular village, doesn’t it!
We were told that Samaria is a lot like a game of tic-tac-toe between the Jews and Arabs. While both live fairly peacefully in neighboring villages, each will build a new village if the other is expanding too greatly in any direction! It is common for Arabs to build down low, at the base of the hills, where fertile land lies in the valleys. Meanwhile, Jews prefer to build higher up, taking advantage of the cool breezes, and the vantage point of higher ground!
Finally, there was another interesting point in regard to this territory. Once most Jews were driven from the land in 70 AD, Arabs took over. When they did, they named many of their cities according to the Arab translation of the Biblical name. Thus, when the land was re-inhabited by Jews about 1,800 years later and archeologists began unearthing ancient Jewish sites, many locations were confirmed because the Arab form of the Hebrew names lent veracity to what was discovered!
A prime example is the fairly recent discovery of Jacob’s altar. Once discovered, it was unclear whether or not it was the actual altar built by Jacob. However, based on Biblical landmarks with Arab translation, the site was confirmed! God uses even Israel’s enemies as His tool!
I’ve got one more bit to share with you regarding Samaria, so check back later! God made promises to Israel that are being fulfilled in exciting ways in Samaria.