Return to ‘Watch Mountain’

TODAY’S ‘Bible in 90 Days’ Reading: 1 Kings 16:21 – 2 Kings 4:37

DID YOU know that the name for Samaria actually means ‘Watch Hill’? I didn’t, not until this morning. This is one reason I’m truly enjoying writing these short studies during this 90 day read-through.

In I Kings 16:23, we learn that Omri (876-869 B.C.) has become king over the northern tribes.

And he [Omri] bought the hill Samaria 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, Samaria. (verse 24)

Samaria, of course, eventually becomes–not only the town from which Omri rules–but also the name for the entire northern kingdom. Now, Shemer is the man who sells the hill to King Omri. This is very mountainous area, and Omri may have considered it a great place, defensively). Shemer’s name is שֶׁמֶר (Shemer) in the Hebrew, and it means ‘dregs’ or ‘preserved’. Oddly enough though, the word Samaria, which is based upon Shemer’s name is שֹׁמְרוֹן (Shomĕrown), which Strong’s translates as ‘watch mountain’ for it is based upon the Hebrew word שָׁמַר (Shamar, which sounds like Shemer, doesn’t it?). Shamar means ‘guard or keep watch’.

Certainly, this could be a palace that would be easy to defend for it rose above all the other hills in the area (according to Carta Jerusalem, the elevation of this area is 750 meters or about half a mile). Like some of you, the term ‘watch’ for a mountain certainly caught my interest, especially since the northern kingdom worshiped a pantheon of false gods.

Centuries later, circa 30 BC, Caesar Augustus (who proclaimed himself to be a living god) gave this same site to King Herod, who rebuilt the old ‘Samaria’ and called it Sebastia (Greek for ‘Augustus’ or ‘Revered One’).

This ‘watch mountain’ would not always house false idols though, for as the Lord promised this to Jeremiah in Jer. 31:4-6:

4Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry. 5Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shall eat them as common things. 6For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God.

Hallelujah! This may one day have its ultimate fulfillment when Christ reigns from David’s throne in Jerusalem, but it’s also true that Philip helped to spread the Truth of Christ to Samaria, stronghold of demons, the site of a temple to Augustus:

5Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 6And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8And there was great joy in that city. (Acts 8:5-8)

Thank you, Lord for keeping watch over us, for caring for us while we were yet sinners, for loving us enough to die for us upon another mountain, Calvary. May your Son’s name be spread to all throughout the world, and may He reign today and always, for only Christ the Lord is worthy. Amen.