Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard,.... As a field ploughed, and laid in heaps; see Micah 3:12; or as stones gathered out of a field, and out of a vineyard planted, and laid in a heap; so should this city become a heap of stones and rubbish, being utterly demolished; and this being done according to the will of God, and through his instigation of Shalmaneser king of Assyria to it, and by his providence succeeding his army that besieged it, is said to be done by him. With this agrees the Vulgate Latin version,
"I will make Samaria as a heap of stones in a field, when a vineyard is planted;'
see Isaiah 5:2; for the city, being destroyed, cannot be compared to the plants of a vineyard set in good order, beautiful and thriving; but, as to heaps of stones in a field, so to such in a vineyard; or to hillocks raised up there for the plants of vines; and if the comparison is to plants themselves, it must be to withered ones, that are good for nothing. The note of similitude as is not in the text; and the words may be read without it, "I will make Samaria an heap of the field, plantings of a vineyard"F20לעי השדה למטעי כרם "in acervum agri, in plantationem, vel plantationes vinae", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version, Cocceius; as Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Burkius. ; that is, it shall be ploughed up, and made a heap of; turned into a field, and vines planted on it; for which its situation was very proper, being on a hill where vines used to be planted, and so should no more be inhabited as a city:
and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley; the stones of the buildings and walls of the city, which, being on a hill, when pulled down, rolled into the valley; and with as much swiftness and force as waters run down a steep place, as in Micah 1:4; where the same word is used as here:
and I will discover the foundations thereof; which should be fused up, and left bare; not one stone should be upon another; so that there should be no traces and footsteps of the city remaining, and it should be difficult to know the place where it stood. This is expressive of the total desolation and utter destruction of it: this was not accomplished by Shalmaneser when he took it; for though he carried captive the inhabitants thereof, he put others in their room; but this was entirely fulfilled, not by Jonathan Maccabeus, though he is saidF21Paschale Chronicon, p. 181. apud Reland. Palestina Illustrata, tom. 2. l. 3. p. 980. to besiege it, and level it with the ground; but by John Hyrcanus; and the account of the destruction of it by him, as given by JosephusF23Antiqu. l. 13. c. 10. sect. 3. , exactly answers to this prophecy, and, to Hosea 13:16; where its desolation is also predicted; he says that Hyrcanus, having besieged it a year, took it; and, not content with this only, he utterly destroyed it, making brooks to run through it; and by digging it up, so that it fell into holes and caverns, insomuch that there were no signs nor traces of the city left. It was indeed afterwards rebuilt by Gabinius the Roman proconsul of Syria, and restored by Augustus Caesar to Herod, who adorned and fortified it, and called it by the name of Sebaste, in honour of AugustusF24Ibid. l. 14. c. 5. sect. 3. &. l. 15. c. 7. sect. 3. & c. 8. sect. 5. ; though Benjamin of Tudela pretends that Ahab's palace might be discerned there in his time, or the place known where it was, which is not likely; excepting this, his account is probable.
"From Luz (he saysF25Itinerarium, p. 38. ) is one day's journey to Sebaste, which is Samaria; and still there may be perceived there the palace of Ahab king of Israel; and it is a fortified city on a very high hill, and in it are fountains; and is a land of brooks of water, and gardens, orchards, vineyards, and olive yards;'
but, since his time, it is become more ruinous. Mr. Maundrell, who some years ago was upon the spot, gives a fuller account of it;
"this great city (he saysF26Journey from Aleppo, &c. p. 59. Ed. 7. ) is now wholly converted into gardens; and all the tokens that remain, to testify that there has ever been such a place, are only on the north side, a large square piazza, encompassed with pillars; and, on the east, some poor remains of a great church, said to be built by the Empress Helena, over the place where St. John Baptist was both imprisoned and beheaded.'
So say othersF1Universal History, vol. 2. p. 439. ,
"the remains of Sebaste, or the ancient Samaria, though long ago laid in ruinous heaps, and a great part of it turned into ploughed land and garden ground, do still retain some monuments of its ancient grandeur, and of those noble edifices in it, with which King Herod caused it to be adorned;'
and then mention the large square piazza on the north, and the church on the east. It was twelve miles from Dothaim, and as many from Merran, and four from Atharoth, according to EusebiusF2In voc. Dothaim, &c. ; and was, as JosephusF3Antiqu. l. 15. c. 8. sect. 5. says, a day's journey from Jerusalem. Sichem, called by the Turks Naplus, is now the metropolis of the country of Samaria; Samaria, or Sebaste, being utterly destroyed, as says Petrus a ValleF4Epist. 14. Morino apud Antiqu. Eccles. Oriental. p. 166. , a traveller in those parts.