Q: When did the Samaritans
come into existence and what was their relationship to the Jews?
A: The formation of the
Samaritan race is an important part of Jewish history. The nation
of Israel was united under the rule of three kings, Saul, David
and Solomon. With the death of Solomon, it has been observed that
the tears shed over his grace were insincere. Indeed, Solomon
fulfilled the prophetic warnings in 1 Samuel 8:10-18.
When Solomon's son Rehoboam attempted to become king,
he was rejected by the northern 10 tribes because he pledged a
harsh and tyrannical rule, even worse than his father. In his
place, the people of the northern 10 tribes, known as Israel,
made Jeroboam king. The remaining southern tribes, known as Judah,
allowed Rehoboam to rule over them.
In this division, the northern tribes gained a major
portion of the fertile land and springs. The boundary of separation
between the north and south ran directly across the central highland,
through the valleys of Michmash to the east and Ajalon to the
west, giving the northern tribes three times the square miles
that Judah retained. The northern tribes continued as a separate
nation for just over 200 years. During this time, some nineteen
kings reigned over Israel representing nine families. Eight of
these northern kings were either assassinated or committed suicide.
None of these kings were faithful to the Lord. Each of them promoted
Because of disobedience (cf. 1 Kings 11:13, 17),
the Lord allowed the Assyrian monarch Shalmaneser V to march against
the northern kingdom. The siege against Samaria lasted from 724
to 722 B.C. when the capital city fell, bringing the rule of the
ten tribes of Israel to a close.
An Assyrian governor was placed over the territory.
Many of the Jews were taken as captives by Assyria and in their
place a foreign upper class of people were imported from Babylon,
Cuthah, Acca, Harnath and Sepharvaim (2 Kings 12:24). Mixing ethnic
populations of captured nations had been instituted by an earlier
Assyrian king to diminish chances of rebellion among conquered
people. This resulted in the formation of a hybrid race, who came
to be the Samaritans.
Historically, there was never a feeling of kinship
between the Samaritans and the remnant of the southern kingdom
of Judah. In fact, the Jews, who resettled Jerusalem after the
captivity, considered the Samaritans as mongrels or half-breeds
who were not regarded as Jewish.
However, before the alienation, there was considerable
intermarrying. As religious and social exclusiveness grew stronger
in Judea, intermarriage became a serious issue. This situation
continued until Manasseh, brother of the Jewish high priest, married
the daughter of a Samaritan. The controlling religious party in
Jerusalem demanded that he divorce her at once. Rather than comply,
Manasseh withdrew from Jerusalem at the invitation of his father-in-law,
taking many priests from the Jerusalem temple with him.
The father-in-law of Manasseh, a man of considerable
wealth, soon built and established a rival Jewish temple on Mount
Gerizim where the Samaritans set up a form of Jehovah worship
complete with animal sacrifices. They used a copy of the Law of
Moses in their worship which they had brought with them from the
temple in Jerusalem. They also dedicated a set time to observe
the various ritual feasts and offerings, although with some minor
differences than those observed in Jerusalem.
These two religious groups, the Jews and Samaritans
developed side by side, each one charging the other was debased
and corrupt. In Jesus' day it was well understood that "Jews
have no dealing with Samaritans (John 4:9). Jesus' parable about
the good Samaritan (Luke 10:2-37) and, the Samaritan leper (Luke
17:15-16) attacked the prejudice of traditional Judaism as they
taught the virtue of mercy and thankfulness.
Today, a small number of Samaritans maintain a temple
on Mount Gerizim.