the name given to the new and mixed inhabitants whom Esarhaddon (B.C. 677), the king of Assyria, brought from Babylon and other places and settled in the cities of Samaria, instead of the original inhabitants whom Sargon (B.C. 721) had removed into captivity ( 2 Kings 17:24 ; Compare Ezra 4:2 Ezra 4:9 Ezra 4:10 ). These strangers (Compare Luke 17:18 ) amalgamated with the Jews still remaining in the land, and gradually abandoned their old idolatry and adopted partly the Jewish religion.
After the return from the Captivity, the Jews in Jerusalem refused to allow them to take part with them in rebuilding the temple, and hence sprang up an open enmity between them. They erected a rival temple on Mount Gerizim, which was, however, destroyed by a Jewish king (B.C. 130). They then built another at Shechem. The bitter enmity between the Jews and Samaritans continued in the time of our Lord: the Jews had "no dealings with the Samaritans" ( John 4:9 ; Compare Luke 9:52 Luke 9:53 ). Our Lord was in contempt called "a Samaritan" ( John 8:48 ). Many of the Samaritans early embraced the gospel ( John 4:5-42 ; Acts 8:25 ; 9:31 ; 15:3 ). Of these Samaritans there still remains a small population of about one hundred and sixty, who all reside in Shechem, where they carefully observe the religious customs of their fathers. They are the "smallest and oldest sect in the world."
Strictly speaking, a Samaritan would be an inhabitant of the city of Samaria, but the term was applied to all the people of the kingdom of Israel. After the captivity of Israel, B.C. 721, and in our Lords time, the name was applied to a peculiar people whose origin was in this wise. 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 17:24 ) "the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and front Cuthah, and from Av. (Ivah,) ( 2 Kings 18:34 ) and from Hamath, and front 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 hare been placed in "the cities of Samaria" by Esar-haddon, were of course idolaters, and worshipped a strange medley of divinities. Gods 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 despatched 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 childrens children: as did their fathers, so do the unto this day." ( 2 Kings 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. The feud thus unhappily begun grew year by year more inveterate. Matters at length came to a climax. About B.C. 409, a certain Manasseh, a man of priestly lineage, on being expelled from Jerusalem by nehemiah for an unlawful marriage, obtained permission from the Persian king of his day, Darius Nothus, to build a temple on Mount Gerizim for the Samaritans, with whom he had found refuge. The animosity of the Samaritans became more intense than ever. They are sid to have done everything in their power to annoy the Jews. Their own temple on Gerizim they considered to be much superior to that at Jerusalem. There they sacrificed a passover. Toward the mountain, even after the temple on it had fallen, wherever they were they directed their worship. To their copy of the law they arrogated an antiquity and authority greater than attached to any copy in the possession of the Jews. The law (i.e. the five books of Moses) was their sole code; for they rejected every other book in the Jewish canon. The Jews, on the other hand, were not more conciliatory in their treatment of the Samaritans. Certain other Jewish renegades had from time to time taken refuge with the Samaritans; hence by degrees the Samaritans claimed to partake of jewish blood, especially if doing so happened to suit their interest. Very far were the Jews from admitting this claim to consanguinity on the part of these people. The traditional hatred in which the jew held the Samaritan is expressed in Ecclus. 50:25,26. Such were the Samaritans of our Lords day; a people distinct from the jews, though lying in the very midst of the Jews; a people preserving their identity, though seven centuries had rolled away since they had been brought from Assyria by Esar-haddon, and though they had abandoned their polytheism for a sort of ultra Mosaicism; a people who, though their limits had gradually contracted and the rallying-place of their religion on Mount Gerizim had been destroyed one hundred and sixty years before by John Hyrcanus (B.C. 130), and though Samaria (the city) had been again and again destroyed, still preserved their nationality still worshipped from Shechem and their impoverished settlements toward their sacred hill, still retained their peculiar religion, and could not coalesce with the Jews. [E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
sa-mar'-i-tanz (shomeronim; Samareitai, New Testament; (singular), Samarites):
The name "Samaritans" in 2 Kings 17:29 clearly applies to the Israelite inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom. In subsequent history it denotes a people of mixed origin, composed of the peoples brought by the conqueror from Babylon and elsewhere to take the places of the expatriated Israelites and those who were left in the land (722 BC). Sargon claims to have carried away only 27,290 of the inhabitants (KIB, II, 55). Doubtless these were, as in the case of Judah, the chief men, men of wealth and influence, including all the priests, the humbler classes being left to till the land, tend the vineyards, etc. Hezekiah, who came to the throne of Judah probably in 715 BC, could still appeal to the tribes Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, Asher and Zebulun (2 Chronicles 30:5,10,11,18); and the presence of these tribesmen is implied in the narrative of Josiah's reformation (2 Chronicles 34:6). Although the number of the colonists was increased by Esar-haddon and Osnappar (Assur-bani-pal, Ezra 4:2,9 f), the population, it is reasonable to suppose, continued prevailingly Israelite; otherwise their religion would not so easily have won the leading place. The colonists thought it necessary for their own safety to acknowledge Yahweh, in whose land they dwelt, as one among the gods to be feared (2 Kings 17:24). In the intermixture that followed "their own gods" seem to have fallen on evil days; and when the Samaritans asked permission to share in building the temple under Zerubbabel, they claimed, apparently with a good conscience, to serve God and to sacrifice to Him as the Jews did (Ezra 4:1). Whatever justification there was for this claim, their proffered friendship was turned to deadly hostility by the blunt refusal of their request. The old enmity between north and south no doubt intensified the quarrel, and the antagonism of Jew and Samaritan, in its bitterness, was destined to pass into a proverb. The Samaritans set themselves, with great temporary success, to frustrate the work in which they were not permitted to share (Ezra 4:4; Nehemiah 4:7; etc.).
From the strict administration of the Law in Jerusalem malcontents found their way to the freer atmosphere of Samaria. Among these renegades was Manasseh, brother of the high priest, who had married a daughter of Sanballat, the Persian governor of Samaria. According to Josephus, Sanballat, with the sanction of Alexander the Great, built a temple for the Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim, of which Manasseh became high priest (Ant., XI, vii, 2; viii, 2). Josephus, however, places Manasseh a century too late. He was a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:28).
When it suited their purpose the Samaritans claimed relationship with the Jews, asserting that their roll of the Pentateuch was the only authentic copy (see PENTATEUCH, THE SAMARITAN); they were equally ready to deny all connection in times of stress, and even to dedicate their temple to a heathen deity (Josephus, Ant, XII, v, 5). In 128 BC, John Hyrcanus destroyed the temple (XIII, ix, 1). In the time of Christ the Samaritans were ruled by procurators under the Roman governor of Syria. Lapse of years brought no lessening of the hatred between Jews and Samaritans (Ant., XX, vi, 1). To avoid insult and injury at the hands of the latter, Jews from Galilee were accustomed to reach the feasts at Jerusalem by way of Peraea. "Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a demon" was an expression of opprobrium (John 8:48). Although Jesus forbade the Twelve to go into any city of the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5), the parable of the Good Samaritan shows that His love overleaped the boundaries of national hatred (Luke 10:30; compare Luke 17:16; John 4:9).
During the Jewish war Cerealis treated the Samaritans with great severity. On one occasion (67 AD) he slaughtered 11,600 on Mt. Gerizim. For some centuries they were found in considerable numbers throughout the empire, east and west, with their synagogues. They were noted as "bankers" money-changers, For their anti-Christian attitude and conduct Justinian inflicted terrible vengeance on them. From this the race seems never to have recovered. Gradually-dwindling, they now form a small community in Nablus of not more than 200 souls. Their great treasure is their ancient copy of the Law.
The best account of the Samaritans is Mills, Nablus and the Modern Samaritans (Murray, London); compare Montgomery, The Samaritans (1907). A good recent description by J. E. H. Thomson, D. D., of the Passover celebrated annually on Mt. Gerizim will be found in PEFS, 1902, 82.
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