"The country of Samaria lies in the middle, between Judea and Galilee. For it begins at a town called Ginea, lying in the Great plain, and ends at the Toparchy of the Acrabateni: the nature of it nothing differing from Judea," &c.
[Acrabata was distant from Jerusalem, the space of a day's journey northwards.]
Samaria, under the first Temple, was the name of a city,--under the second, of a country. Its metropolis at that time was Sychem; "A place destined to revenges": and which the Jews, as it seems, reproached under the name of Sychar, John 4:5, from the words of the prophet, "Woe to the drunken Ephraimites," Isaiah 28:1. The mountains of Gerizim and Ebal touched on it.
The city Samaria was at last called Sebaste; and Sychem, Neapolis. R. Benjamin thus writes of them: "Sebaste is Samaria; where still the palace of Ahab king of Israel is known. Now that city was in a mountain, and well fortified; and in it were springs, and well-watered land, and gardens, and paradises, and vineyards, and olive-yards. And two parsae thence (eight miles) is Neapolis, which is also Sychem in mount Ephraim. And it is seated in a valley between the mountains Gerizim and Ebal: and in it are about a hundred Cutheans observing the law of Moses only, and they are called Samaritans: and they have priests of the seed of Aaron." And a little after, "They sacrifice in the Temple in mount Gerizim, on the day of the Passover, and the feast-days, upon the altar, which they built upon mount Gerizim, of those stones which the children of Israel set up when they passed over Jordan," &c. And afterward, "In mount Gerizim are fountains and paradises: but mount Ebal is dry, like the stones and rocks: and between them, in the valley, is the city Sychem."
Josephus speaking of Vespasian; "He turned away to Ammaus, thence through the country of Samaria, and by Neapolis so called, but Mabartha by the inhabitants," &c. Maabartha.
"R. Ismael Ben R. Josi, went to Neapolis. The Cutheans came to him: to whom he said, 'I see that ye do not worship to that mountain, but to the idols which are under it: for it is written'; 'and Jacob hid the idols under the grove, which was near Shechem.'"
You may not improperly divide the times of Samaria under the second Temple into heathenism,--namely, before the building of the Temple at Gerizim,--and after that into Samaritanism, as it was distinguished from Judaism, and as it was an apostasy from it: although both religions indeed departed not a hair's breadth from deceitful superstition.
The author of Juchasin does not speak amiss here: "Then" (under Simeon the Just) "Israel went into parties. Part followed Simeon the Just, and Antigonus his scholar, and their school; as they had learned from Ezra and the prophets: part, Sanballat, and his son-in-law: and they offered sacrifices without the Temple of God, and instituted rites out of their own heart. In that Temple, Manasseh, the son-in-law of Sanballat, the son of Joshua, the son of Jozedek the high priest, performed the priest's office. And at that time Zadok and Baithus, the scholars of Antigonus, did flourish; and hence was the beginning of the schism;--namely, when, in the days of Antigonus, many went back to mount Gerizim."
That Temple flourished about two hundred years, and it perished by the sword and fire of Hyrcanus: but the Samaritan superstition perished not, but lasted for many ages; as odious to the Jews as heathenism, John 4:9. Yet they confess that "the land of the Samaritans was clean, and their fountains clean, and their dwellings clean, and their paths clean." But much dispute is made about their victuals, in the place noted in the margin. "R. Jacob Bar Acha in the name of R. Lazar saith, 'The victuals of the Cutheans are lawful,' which is to be understood of that food with which their wine and vinegar is not mingled. It is a tradition. They sometimes said, Why is the wine of Ugdor forbidden? Because of [its nearness to] Caphar Pagash. Why the wine of Burgatha? Because of Birath Sorika. Why the wine of En Cushith? Because of Caphar Salama. But they said afterward, If it be open, it is every where forbidden; if it be covered, it is lawful." And a story concerning R. Simeon Ben Lazar follows; who came into a certain city of the Samaritans, and a certain Samaritan scribe came to me; from whom when he asked something to drink, and it was set before him, "he doubted about it," &c. And other things to that purpose are read not much after: "No wine was found in all Samaria, on a certain eve of the sabbath, but, in the end of the sabbath, there was abundance; for the Syrians had brought it, and the Samaritans received it of them," &c.
They took not the half-shekel of the Cutheans, nor the pigeons of women after child-birth, &c. "Rabbi said, 'A Samaritan is as a heathen.' R. Simeon Ben Gamaliel saith, A Cuthean is as an Israelite in all things. R. Lazar, The tradition is concerning the heathen, not concerning the Cutheans, &c. But the tradition contradicts R. Lazar," &c.
But that deserves to be observed, "The Cuiheans, when they make their unleavened bread with the Israelites, are to be believed concerning the putting away of leaven: but when they do not make their unleavened bread with the Israelites, are not to be believed concerning the putting away of leaven. R. Josah saith, This is to be understood of them as to their houses; but as to their courts, they may be suspected: for so they interpret, 'Leaven shall not be found in your houses'; not, 'in your courts.'--It is a tradition. Rabban Simeon Ben Gamaliel saith, In whatsoever precept the Cutheans converse, they are more accurate in it than the Israelites. This is to be understood, saith R. Simeon, concerning the time past,--namely, when they were scattered about in their towns; but now, when they have neither precept nor any remainders of a precept, they are suspected, and they are corrupted"...It is something difficult what that means, "They were scattered in their towns," whether it is spoken of the Cutheans residing within their own towns,--or of the Jews residing with them,--or of them residing with the Jews. Whatsoever that is, it is clear certainly, both hence and elsewhere, that the Samaritans sometime did dwell together with the Jews, being here and there sprinkled among them, and the Jews here and there among the Samaritans. Certainly that is worthy of observing which Josephus related of Herod's rebuilding Sebaste, heretofore called Samaria: "In the land of Samaria (saith he) he compassed a city with a very fair wall twenty furlongs, and brought six thousand inhabitants into it": (do you think all these were Samaritans?) "and on these he bestowed a very fertile land; and, in the middle of this work, he set up a very great temple to Caesar, and made a grove about it of three half furlongs, and called the city Sebaste."
"The Samaritans (saith R. Benjamin) have not the letters he or ain, or cheth. He is in the name of Abraham, And they have not honour. Cheth, is in the name of Isaac, And they have not mercy Ain is in the name of Jacob, And they have not gentleness. But for these letters they use aleph: and hence it is known that they are not of the seed of Israel." Compare these things with the Samaritan interpreter of the Pentateuch, and judge.