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Who Were The Samaritans?

The people of the northern kingdom of Israel (see When Israel Became "Israel" and "Judah") were entirely conquered and taken away from Samaria (the area of Israel south of Galilee, see the map below) by the Assyrians under Sargon (see Ancient Empires - Assyria) by 721 B.C. (see also The Galilee Captivity). Later, about 677 B.C., the Assyrians under Esarhaddon brought people of other nations in to keep the land from turning back into a wilderness. Those non-Israelites became known as "Samaritans."

The Arrival Of The Samaritans In The Land Of Israel

Galilee and Samaria With most of the people of Israel taken away into exile, the Assyrian king brought in foreigners to tend to the land. Because they were pagans, they soon found themselves the subject of God's wrath, not because of who they were, not because of their nationality, but because of the abominable religious things that they did - God accepts anyone who obeys Him.

In an effort to save them from the wrath of God, the Assyrians had a Levite priest (see Levites) brought back from exile to teach the pagans how to obey God (ironic, since the people of Israel, and the Levites with them, had been sent away into exile for doing the very same sort of abominable things that the Samaritans were then doing). The Levite was not very successful, but then he obviously hadn't been a very effective religious leader and teacher for his own people either. Some Samaritans may have listened, but most "made gods of their own."

"So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day."

"And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, 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. And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not The Lord: therefore The Lord sent lions among them, which slew some of them."

"Wherefore they spake to the king of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land."

"Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land. Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear The Lord."

"Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt." (2 Kings 17:23-29 KJV)

Years later, after the people of the southern kingdom of Judah (the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who became totally separate from the northern ten tribes of "Israel") returned to the land of Israel from their 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 contemptuous relationship continued right into New Testament times e.g "for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans" (John 4:9 KJV). "Samaritan" became a term of derision - in an intended insult to Jesus Christ, some of the Jewish authorities said to Him, "Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?" (John 8:48 KJV)

Ironically, the non-Israelite, non-Jewish, Samaritans fared far better when Judaism blossomed into Christianity. The Messiah 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 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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