1. A few remarks upon the Samaritan affairs.
1. Of the name of the Cuthites.
That the 'Samaritans' ware called 'Cuthites' by the Jews is unquestionable; "Those that in the Hebrew tongue are called Cuthaeans, in the language of the Greeks are Samaritans."
But why Cuthites rather than Babylonians, Hamathites, Avites, &c., is uncertain: for thence, as well as from Cutha, were colonies transplanted into Samaria, 2 Kings 17:24: nay, they were called Cuthites even at that time, when a great part of the Samaritan nation consisted of Jews.
I am apt to apprehend there was some virulent design even in the very name. The name of Cushites amongst the Jews was most loathsome and infamous; as they were not only a hostile country, but a people accursed. Perhaps in the title of the seventh Psalm there is no little severity of reproach hinted in the name Cush. Something of the like nature may be couched in the word Cuthim. For it may be an easy conjecture, that the Jews, calling the Samaritans (a nation peculiarly abominated by them) Cuthites, might tacitly reproach them with the odious name of Cushites.
2. Josephus mistaken.
Rabbi Ismail saith, "that the Cuthites are proselytes of lions." R. Akiba saith, "that they are true proselytes." The story of the lions, 2 Kings 17:26, is well enough known; which Josephus, faltering very lamely, reports in this manner; He tells us that as every one brought their several gods into Samaria, and worshipped them accordingly, so the great and true God was infinitely displeased with them, and brought a destructive plague amongst them. He makes no mention of lions being sent amongst them, according to what the sacred history relates. Probably the story of that horrible destruction upon Sennacherib's army by a wasting plague, gave the first rise to Josephus' fancy of a plague amongst the Samaritans; though it is very odd that he should have no touch of the lions, being so remarkable a judgment as that was.
3. Samaria planted with colonies two several times.
There are the colonies which Asnapper is said to have brought into Samaria, Ezra 4:10, as well as those by Esarhaddon, verse 2.
The Jews do judge this 'Asnapper' to be the same with 'Sennacherib,' and that he had eight names. The first syllables of the names, indeed, agree pretty well, Sena and Asna; but whether they denote the same persons, I leave undetermined.
However, whether this Asnapper was the same with Sennacherib, or Shalmaneser, or some great minister, or the king's commander-in-chief, in the transplanting of a colony, it seems evident that Samaria was planted with colonies two several times. The first, immediately after the taking of the city, being then furnished with Cuthites, Avites, Sepharvaites, &c., under Asnapper; be he king, or only chief commander in the action. And when multitudes of them had been devoured by lions, then was it afresh planted by the Shushanchites, Tarpelites, &c. in the days of Esar-haddon, with whom a priest went up to instruct them in the worship of the true God. How greatly Epiphanius confounds these things may be seen in his Haeres. viii. cap. 9.
4. Of Dosthai, the pseud-apostle of the Samaritans.
"When the lions had devoured the Samaritans, the Assyrian king, hearing the news, calls to him the elders of Israel, and asks them, Did the wild beasts ever use to tear and mangle any of your people in your own land, when you dwelt there? Therefore, how comes it to pass that they do so now? They answer him, Our own land bears no nation, that is not conversant in the law, or will not be circumcised. Send, therefore, saith he, two, that may go and instruct the people. So they sent R. Dosthai the son of Jannai, and R. Sabia, who taught them the book of the written law."
But is this likely? that Dosthai, the Samaritans' oracle, should be in the times of the Assyrian empire? whence then had he that Greek name of his? and the name of his father Janneus was Greekish too. It is much more probable, what Eulegius hath in Photius; "The Samaritan people, having divided into various factions, disagreed amongst themselves, and brought in foreign opinions. Some were of opinion that Joshua was he of whom Moses spoke, when he tells them, 'A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me.' Others, rejecting this opinion, cried up one Dosthai, or Dositheus, a native Samaritan, and contemporary with Simon Magus."
From Dosthai and Sabia, the Dostheni and Sebuei, two Samaritan sects, originally sprang.
5. The language of Ashdod, Nehemiah 13:24, whether the Samaritan language or no?
"And the children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language." What language was this at this time?
I. The Arabian version tells us it was the Chaldee. But was not the Jewish and the Chaldee tongue at that time all one? It may be questionable whether it were so "at that time or no"; but I shall wave that controversy.
II. As to the question in hand, it may not be amiss to consider that passage, Acts 2:11: "Cretes and Arabians." Who are these Cretes? who would not think, at first sight, that, by the Cretans were meant the inhabitants of the island of Crete? I myself have sometime fallen into this error; but now I should be ready to say they were the Cherethim, a Philistine nation and country. And there is some reason to apprehend that St. Luke, in the place above quoted, understands the same people, because he joins them with the Arabians.
Targum on 2 Chronicles 26:7: "And the word of the Lord helped them, against the Philistines, and against the Arabians dwelling in Gerar."
Observe, Arabians dwelling in Gerar, a city of the Philistines;--and it is well enough known that Arabia joins to the land of the Philistines. And one may suspect the language of Ashdod might be the Arabian, rather than the Samaritan tongue; especially when as the name of Idumea obtained as far as these places: and was not the Arabic the language of the Idumeans?