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17.2.2. Samaritans

Another view is that the tribes, after being carried into Assyria, intermarried with other peoples and became the Samaritans, considered as “half-Jews” by many.

Some say the Samaritans were the result of intermarriage of the Jews that were left in the land of Israel with the people that were deported by the King of Assyria from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim. Nehemiah separates the pure Jews from those that intermarried (Nehemiah Ne. 13:28-29). Josephus says that the “Samaritans” is their Greek name while “Cutheans” is their Hebrew name. They were brought out of the country of Cuthah which is in Persia. They continued to worship false gods until God sent a plague resulting in their worship of the God of Israel and His laws (Antiquities of the Jews Book IX, 14:3). According to Josephus during the Greek period Manasseh, the brother of Jaddua the high priest had married Nicaso, a foreign woman. The priests demanded that Manasseh divorce his wife or not approach the altar. Sanballat II (different from the one mentioned in Nehemiah) his father-in-law told Manasseh that he would build him a temple on Mount Gerizim just like the one at Jerusalem if he would not divorce his wife. Alexander the Great gave Sanballat, a general in his army, permission to build the temple (Antiquities of the Jews Book XI, Ne. 8:2-4). Some Two hundred years later Hyrcanus destroyed the temple on Mount Gerizim (Antiquities of the Jews Book XIII, Ne. 9:1).1

It is not entirely clear whether intermarriage with Jews was involved, or whether the Samaritans were actually Assyrians who adopted elements of the Jewish religion after being relocated to Syria:

At the final captivity of Israel by Shalmaneser, we may conclude that the cities of Samaria were not merely partially but wholly depopulated of their inhabitants in B.C. 721, and that they remained in this desolated state until, in the words of 2 Kings 2K. 17:24, “the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava (Ivah, 2 Kings 2K. 18:34), and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.” Thus the new Samaritans were Assyrians by birth or subjugation. These strangers, whom we will now assume to have been placed in “the cities of Samaria” by Esar-haddon, were of course idolaters, and worshipped a strange medley of divinities. God’s displeasure was kindled, and they were annoyed by beasts of prey, which had probably increased to a great extent before their entrance upon the land. On their explaining their miserable condition to the king of Assyria, he dispatched one of the captive priests to teach them “how they should fear the Lord.” The priest came accordingly, and henceforth, in the language of the sacred historian they “feared the Lord, and served their graven images, both their children and their children’s children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day.” 2 Kings 2K. 17:41. A gap occurs in their history until Judah has returned from captivity. They then desire to be allowed to participate in the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem; but on being refused, the Samaritans throw off the mask, and become open enemies, frustrate the operations of the Jews through the reigns of two Persian kings, and are only effectually silenced in the reign of Darius Hystaspes, B.C. 519.2

The Samaritans had their own version of the Books of Moses, the Samaritan Pentateuch, which included modifications from the Jewish Torah placing the center of worship on Mount Gerizim rather than Jerusalem (cf. Deu. Deu. 11:29; Deu. 27:12; Jos. Jos. 8:33; John John 4:20).3 There, in their own temple, their priesthood practiced a modified form of OT law. Their relationship to the Jews through belief and practice of common elements of the OT law, as well as their hatred by the Jewish, is recognized by the NT (Luke Luke 10:33; John John 4:9; John 8:48). They were the second people group to receive the Holy Spirit, after the Jews, but prior to the Gentiles (Acts Acts 1:8; Acts 8:14-17 cf. Acts Acts 10:15, Acts 10:44-45). Although Samaritans have claimed descent from Israel,4 it seems unlikely that the Samaritans can be considered descendants of the “lost tribes”:
  • Although there was undoubtedly some intermarriage with Jews, the Samaritan’s themselves indicated they were not of Israel, but from elsewhere: “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the LORD God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers’ houses, and said to them, ‘Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here’ ” [emphasis added] (Ezra Ezra 4:1-2). Ezra 4:2). Their blood would become more and more Hebraized by the addition of renegade Jews and by the intermarriage with surrounding Israelites, who would find among them the familiar worship of former times.”5
  • The Samaritan woman who Jesus spoke with at the well differentiated between “our fathers” and “you Jews (John John 4:20).
  • Jesus, in his divine knowledge, specifically excluded them from “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mtt. Mat. 10:5-6).

Notes

1 [www.bibleandscience.com/archaeology/losttribes.htm].

2 William Smith, Smith’s Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), s.v. “Samaritans.”

3 Modifications included: “1. Emendations of passages and words of the Hebrew text which contain something objectionable in the eyes of the Samaritans, on account either of historical improbability or apparent want of dignity in the terms applied to the Creator. Thus in the Samaritan Pentateuch no one in the antediluvian times begets his first son after he has lived 150 years; but one hundred years are, where necessary, subtracted before, and added after, the birth of the first son. An exceedingly important and often-discussed emendation of this class is the passage in Ex. Ex. 12:40, which in our text reads, ‘Now the sojourning of the children of Israel who dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.’ The Samaritan has ‘The sojourning of the children of Israel [and their fathers who dwelt in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt ] was four hundred and thirty years’; an interpolation of very late date indeed. Again, in Gen. Gen. 2:2, ‘And God [?] had finished on the seventh day,’ is altered into ‘the sixth,’ lest God’s rest on the Sabbath day might seem incomplete. 2. Alteration made in favor of or on behalf of Samaritan theology, hermeneutics and domestic worship.”—Ibid., s.v. “Samaritan Pentateuch.”

4 “The Samaritans claim descendancy from the northern Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh following the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Since Assyrian documents record deporting a relatively small proportion of the Israelites (27,290), it is quite possible that a sizable population remained that could identify themselves as Israelites, the term that the Samaritans prefer for themselves, indicating their status as remnants of the northern kingdom.”—R. T. Anderson, “Samaritans,” in Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979, 1915), 4:303.

5 Merrill K. Unger, R. Harrison, Frederic F Vos, and Cyril J. Barber, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1988), s.v. “Samaritans.”