The origin of the Jewish-Samaritan antagonism

The origin of the Jewish-Samaritan Antagonism

            When reading the gospels we observe that during Jesus' time, there was a certain antagonism between the Jews and Samaritans. Because of this, we sometimes believe that Samaritans were not Hebrews. We observe this hostility in many passages of the Bible. The most known case was the woman in the well (John 4:9) and the case of the ten lepers (Luke 17:12-19). Samaritans were considered outsiders even though they were Hebrews. Samaritans (who lived in the region of Samaria) were not well perceived by the Jews of the south, because of the racial differences that existed since the time of captivity. That is why the Samaritan woman was surprised when Jesus talked to her.

       "Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him: How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans."                                                                (John 4:9)


       "15 And one of them, when he saw he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks; and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said: Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.”                                                                                                 (Luke 17:15-18)

            These two passages, and there are others we could show the same, indicate that Samaritans (from the north) even though they were Hebrews, they were unappreciated, considered as Hebrews foreigners or second class Hebrews, by the ones from Judah (from the south). Something similar to what happened with blacks in other times.

            This antagonism originated many centuries before, when the region of Samaria received immigrants that weren't Hebrews. What we see in the next verse and there after gives us an idea about this antagonism. Remember, the kingdom of Solomon was divided in two: one called Israel from the north, and other called Judah, from the south. The kingdom of the north fell in the hands of the Assyrians, long before the south fell in the hands of the Babylonians.

       "And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah and form Ava , and from Hamah, 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."                                                                                                  (2 Kings17:24)

            We can see in this verse that much of the population in Samaria were from Assyria and Babylon. Therefore their descendants were not Hebrews. It is certain that some of these foreigners were mixed with some of the Hebrews who remained in Palestine after the captivity to Assyria. The ones that remained are the ones referred in Second Kings 24:14; 25:12, as "the poor of the land".

       "And he carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valour, even ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths; none remained, save the poorest sort of people of the land"                                               (2 Kings 24:14)


       "But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen"                                                                       (2 Kings 25:12)

            In other words, they only took Hebrews from Samaria, the ones who were warriors, those who could be leaders and those who had useful trades. The ones that were left behind in the northern kingdom (Israel) and in its capital Samaria were those who had nothing and were nothing. They were given land so they get in favor of the conquerors, and to sow, and pay taxes. There were also those Hebrews who had escaped from the disaster fleeing to the mountains.

            We know this is true because the Hebrews were still there after the Assyrian captivity of Israel's Northern kingdom. These Hebrews from the north, were invited to the Passover by king Hezekiah of Judah, (he was from the kingdom of the south). We can see this in 2 Chron 30:1-11. We can see the same participation during the Passover, from the Hebrews from the north and from the south, during the kingdom of Josiah of Judah, as we see in 2 Chron 35:17. If they were invited was because they considered them to be Hebrews; otherwise they were not going to invite them.

       "1 I and Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover unto the LORD God of Israel6 So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah and according to the commandment of the king, saying: Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the king of Assyria."                                                                (2 Chron. 30:1-6 abbreviated)


       "16 So all the service of the LORD was prepared the same day, to keep the Passover, and to offer burnt offerings upon the altar of the LORD, according to the commandment of King Josiah. 17 And the children of Israel that were present kept the Passover at that time, and the feast of unleavened bread seven days."                 (2 Chron. 35:16-17)

            Some of the Hebrews that stayed behind were mixed with outsiders from Assyria and Babylon. Not all Samaritan Hebrews were mixed. Even though a small percentage of them would mix, this was reason enough for the Jews of the South (tribe of Judah) to consider them as racially impure.

            The Samaritan Woman shows us that she thought of herself a descendant of Jacob, in John 4:12. We already know that there were Samaritans who were a mix of Assyrians, Babylonians, and Hebrews, etc., but there were other Samaritans who were one hundred percent Hebrews.

       "Art thou grater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?                                         (John 4:12)

            The Samaritan woman which considered herself a descendant of Jacob, was waiting in anticipation for the Messiah as we can see in John 4:25. They had a complicated situation because they were racially doubtful, religiously like the Jews, but were rejected by them.

       "The woman saith unto him: I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ; when he is come, he will tell us all things."                                             (John 4:25)

            In Summary, this is the origin of the Jewish-Samaritan antagonism we can see in the gospels. Through the centuries this animadversion, even though it decreased in intensity, has not fully vanished and continued until the times of Christ.

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