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The people of the northern kingdom of Israel (today known as the "Lost Ten Tribes of Israel" - see Children of Jacob and The Tribes Of Israel) were conquered and taken away from Samaria by the Assyrians under Sargon (see Ancient Empires - Assyria) in 721 B.C. Later, about 677 B.C., the Assyrians under Esarhaddon brought people of other nations in to keep the land from becoming desolate. These non-Israelites became known as "Samaritans." According to The Bible record -

Samaria "The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns. When they first lived there, they did not worship The Lord; so He sent lions among them and they killed some of the people. It was reported to the king of Assyria: "The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what The God of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what He requires." Then the king of Assyria gave this order: "Have one of the priests [see Levites] you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what The God of the land requires." So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship The Lord. Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places." (2 Kings 17:24-29)

After people of the southern kingdom of Judah (the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile (see Why Babylon?) they refused to allow the Samaritans to take part in the rebuilding of the Temple because they were not Israelites. This tense and contemptuous relationship continued right into New Testament times e.g "Jews do not associate with Samaritans." (John 4:9), and in an attempt to insult Jesus Christ, the Jewish authorities said to Him, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon possessed?" (John 8:48)

The Samaritans fared far better with Christianity. The Lord freely and openly accepted and associated with Samaritan people (John 4:1-26), and ironically, they recognized and accepted Him as The Savior (John 4:39-42), while the Jewish leadership, His own nation (see The Chosen People) generally rejected Him (see Pharisees and Sadducees). Samaritans were among the earliest Christians (Acts 8:25, 9:31, 15:3).

Fact Finder: How did the story of the "good Samaritan" originate?
Luke 10:29-37

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