“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him…” (Luke 10:30-34)
This is the story told by Yeshua in the New Testament known as the parable of “The Good Samaritan”.
Samaritans still live today in the area called Samaria (Shomron in Hebrew). When asked, the Samaritans say that they are the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel that were sent to exile by the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C. Few of them remained in the land and formed the people that today are known as “Samaritans”.
In the New Testament, the Samaritans are mentioned several times, but nothing refers to who they are and what is their origin.
from the New Testament, we learn some interesting facts about them:
So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food 9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
….12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”…
…19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” (John 4:1-20)
Four facts we can learn from this short story:
- Samaritans lived in Shechem and were the main residents there in the 1st century AD
- They considered themselves as the sons of Israel (Jacob)
- Jews and Samaritans did not see themselves as one people
- Samaritans worshiped on mount Gerizim and not in Jerusalem
All those points are still valid today: The Samaritans reside in Shechem, they see themselves as sons of Israel, they do not see themselves as Jews and they claim that mount Gerizim is where the God of Israel commanded to worship.
And in fact, the Samaritans follow the laws from the Torah like the Jews. They celebrate the feasts like the Jews. In the picture below you see Samaritans celebrating Pesach on mount Gerizim.
What does the Bible say?
In the Bible, there is one hint that supports what the Samaritans say about themselves being descendants of Israel:
In the book of Jeremiah, after the people of Judah had been sent to exile by the Babylonian (150 years after the people of the kingdom of Israel had been exiled by Assyria), The Babylonian nominated a new leader that is not from the seed of the kings: Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.
In Jeremiah 40-41 we read about the assassination of Gedaliah by his foe: Ishmael son of Nethaniah. After Ishmael killed Gedaliah we read the following:
4 And it happened, on the second day after he had killed Gedaliah, when as yet no one knew it, 5 that certain men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, eighty men with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the Lord. (Jeremiah 41:4-5)
There were people living in the cities of the previous kingdom of Israel, and they came to sacrifice in the Temple. Who are those people? Jews? remaining of the Israelites? Foreigners? the auther does not tell us. But we know for sure that people lving in the cities of Samaria came to the Temple in Jerusalem many years after the exile of Samaria.
(Samaria – Shomron: In the old testament it is used as he name of a city, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. In the time of second Temple and in the New Testament and even today, Samaria refers to the mountains north of Judea).
Proselytes by Lions
In later Jewish texts, the Samaritans are referred as “Men of Cuth” and “Proselytes of Lions”.
This is based on what we read in II Kings 17. The text describes what was done in the land of the kingdom of Israel after the exile of Israel:
24 Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities. 25 And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, “The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the rituals of the God of the land; therefore He has sent lions among them, and indeed, they are killing them because they do not know the rituals of the God of the land.” 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, “Send there one of the priests whom you brought from there; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the rituals of the God of the land.” 28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord…
…29 However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt…
…34 To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the Lord had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel
According to what is written here, Those who call themselves Samaritan are not from the seed of the sons of Israel, but rather people from the empire of Assyria that were moved to Israel and learned partially how to worship the God of Israel – without much success!
The Jews and the Samaritans became political foes in the time of the return to Zion from Babylon.
The Samaritans sent a letter to the Persian king asking him not to let the Jews to build a Temple:
9 From Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions—representatives of the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the people of Persia and Erech and Babylon and Shushan, the Dehavites, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnapper took captive and settled in the cities of Samaria and the remainder beyond the River—and so forth.
11 To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the men of the region beyond the River, and so forth:
12 Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem, and are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king’s treasury will be diminished. (Ezra 4:9-13)
Later on, When Nehemiah also comes to Zion and wants to build a wall around the city of Jerusalem, we read about some people from the country that want to stop him.
But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. 2 And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?”
3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.” (Nehemiah 4:1-3)
Where is the place to worship?
Back to the Samaritan woman at the well:
“Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” (John 4:20)
How did it come that the Samaritan claim Mount Gerizim to be the place to worship? Where did they take it from? If they are indeed the sons of Israel, and they read the Torah, Where does it say so?
Well, The Torah does not say where is the place to worship. Only later in 2 Samuel, God made his covenant with David and Jerusalem is chosen.
but in the five books of the Torah, the place to worship is yet to be defined, or it can be understood that this place can move from place to place.
In many places in Deuteronomy, we read:
“the place where the Lord your God chooses, to put His name for His dwelling place”
Deu 12:5, Deu 12:11, Deu 12:14, Deu 14:23, Deu 15:2 and many more.
After the sons of Israel had entered the land, the Ark moved from place to place: Jericho, Mount Ebal, Shilo, Bethel, Kirjath Jearim and finally Jerusalem.
We also know that the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel did not want their people to go to Jerusalem. Jeroboam sanctified Bethel to stop the Israelites on their way to Jerusalem.
So the Samaritans, who have not accepted the legacy of David’s seed, and who have not read any the books of the Bible after the first 5 books of the Torah, do not accept Jerusalem as the place that God chose.
The first Altar that Joshua build was on mount Ebal, opposite to mount Gerizim. Mount Ebal was the mountain of the curse, whereas mount Gerizim was the mountain of blessing. But the Samaritans do not read the book of Joshua either.
They claim that mount Moriah and the mountain of the first altar of Joshua is mount Gerizim.
picture: Mount Gerizim
Samaritan people are today about 800 people world wide. Half of them live in a neighbourhood on top of mount Gerizim and half of them in the city of Holon in Israel.
5 thoughts on “Good Samaritan, Bad Samaritan”
Thanks Ran, very intriguing and full of information useful in trying to understand all the tribal relationships (which I find complex given the amount of detail necessary to gain the whole picture) that contribute to this understanding of the Samaritans (clear). It’s disturbing as well – it’s hard to fathom how people could actually know & follow the true & living God in this era of so many laws & leaders (1) Israel leaders anointed by the true & living God vs. (2) evil leaders trying to destroy the children of Israel such as the Persian King (if I read this correctly). The point of all this seems simple yet confounding.
Simple by way of following the clear laws of Israel (interesting that this Persian King tried using a priest to teach them the laws of God) yet troubling due to the lack of knowledge beyond The Torah (by these Assyrian/present day Samaritan remnants). Why Samaritans either did not accept or were not exposed to the additional books in the Old Testament beyond the 1st 5 books seems odd but yet understandable in the day / age of these rulers, laws, tribal policies, etc. If any of the Samaritans truly wanted to become part of the Jews, it sounds as though they would need to denounce Mt. Gerizism as the holy place of worship in lieu of Jerusalem – yet they do not read about or understand Jerusalem (as it’s not pointed out in the 1st 5 books – as you describe).
What makes total sense is the conversation Jesus had with the woman at the well when he clearly brings her the idea that the time is coming when you will not worship God on this mountain or in Jerusalem — he seems to be saying that what we know about worship is neither here nor there but true worship will be in spirit / truth – the only worship worth worrying about is in spirit / truth due to who God really is :Spirit and Truth. I wonder how many Samaritans followed Jesus after they understood this ? Probably the same for all listeners – some embrace / others reject or ignore.
Thank God for His Holy Spirit as this does truly start to make sense but only through this His divine Spirit does this make sense allowing these scriptures to bring forth a certain richness. — it’s so good to be able to see. It’s a humbling epiphany each day — so many it’s hard to keep up therefore one can only be left with trusting His Holy Spirit to bring these stories and truths to bear.
Thank you Elaine!
One note though – the king that sent the Israelites and brought instead of them other people, was Assyrian, not Persian. Confusing, I know.
And to your question: “Why Samaritans either did not accept or were not exposed to the additional books in the Old Testament beyond the 1st 5 books” – The answer is simple: During the time of the kingdom of Judah and Israel, the only books that were considered holy scriptures were the five books of the Torah. The rest of the books of the Old Testament were canonised only in the time of the Second Temple. Some of them were only written in the Second Temple time.
The Samaritans already existed as an Ethnic group or a new religion, and they did not accept the books that were written by the Jews.
Clear and understood — so the Persian King was summoned via a plea by the Samaritans for purposes of preventing the building of Temple #2 — why do you think this is the case? why not the Assyrian king who initially brought these tribes in from other lands? Were the 2 kings aligned in keeping the Jews from progress ? Yet the Assyrian King wanted the priest to teach the “Samaritians” Jewish ways to live by God’s laws. Seems counter intuitive — or perhaps I’m missing a timeline point?
Let’s put a timeline here to make things clearer:
(a good timeline can be seen in this site: http://www.odyeda.com/en/)
Dates are BC so they go backwards:
1000 BC – David and Solomon established the Israelite kingdom (2 Samuel, 1 Kings)
928 BC – Kingdom of Israel was split into two kingdoms: “Judah” and “Israel” (1 Kings)
722 BC – Assyria completed the destruction northern kingdom os Israel and sent the 10 tribes to exile (2 Kings, Isaiah)
After that, the Assyrians brought to Israel people from the north who form the Samaritan people.
586 BC – Babylonians destroyed Temple in Jerusalem and sent Judah to exile (2 Kings, Jeremiah)
538 BC – “Return to Zion”. Cyrus the Persian allowed the Jews to return to build their Temple in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles, Ezra)
516 BC – Second Temple was built and completed (2 chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah)
Note that in this timescale, there were three different powers in Mesopotamia. Each one conquered and replaced the previous: Assyria, Babylon, Persia. (in fact there were more powers).
– The Assyrians exiled the kingdom of Israel and brought in the Samaritans
– The Babylonians exiled the people of Judah
– The Persians allowed the Jews to return and build their Temple again.
Hope that this helps in getting a better overall picture.
This is great – thank you and very timely as I’ve been searching for reference charts /maps to better organize all the dates/events/historical stories, etc..