The Samaritans


‘Who are the Samaritans?’


Samaria was an area of land stretching from just north of Jerusalem to a line from Caesarea in the west to the Jordan in the east. It ran from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, sandwiched between Judea in the south and Galilee in the north. It follows similar lines to the old Northern Kingdom.

The Samaritans

The Samaritans were the inhabitants of Samaria and they were people of mixed origin, due to the mingling of the remnant left behind when Samaria and the Northern tribes, fell into the hands of the Assyrians in 722 BC. 2 Kings 17:5-6.

Assyria resettled the land with pagans from other nations, who brought their gods with them. As far as the southern tribes of the Babylonian captivity were concerned, they had become tainted with the idolatry of the nation they were captives to, and therefore were unclean, 2 Kings 17:28-41.

The religion that the pagan settlers brought meant that those who were left began to be syncretic in their faith, they became a mixture of Judaism and paganism. They built their own temple on Mount Gerizim in 400 BC, which was destroyed by a Jewish army led by Hyrcanius in 128 BC, but they still held to the Pentateuch as their scriptures,

When the Jews, the Southern tribes, were returning after the Babylonian exile, the Samaritans did their best to interfere with the rebuilding of the temple, Ezra 4:1-3.

The Jews and the Samaritans therefore developed a long-term hate-based relationship. The Jews referred to them as cursed dogs, fleas ridden and filthy.

By the time, Jesus came along, this relationship was so bad that many Jews passing from Judea to Galilee would prefer to travel east of the Jordan, thus avoiding Samaria and any chance of bumping into a Samaritan, this trip was the long way around. However, such was the distaste of the Jews for the Samaritans, they thought the trip well worthwhile.

The rift was widened by the erection of a rival temple on Mount Gerizim. In the Rabbinical literature, specific prohibitions exclude virtually all contact between the two parties. When the Jews wanted to be offensive to Jesus they called him ‘a Samaritan’ in John 8:48.

Jesus on the contrary made a Samaritan the hero of one of His parables, Luke 10:25-37, please note neither the Scriptures or Jesus calls him ‘good’, and of course there is the encounter with the Samaritan woman which was one of the most significant incidents in Jesus’ earthly ministry, John 4:4-26.



"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."