The inhabitants of Samaria. But in the New Testament this name is the appellation of a race of people who sprung originally from an intermixture of the ten tribes with gentile nations. When the inhabitants of Samaria and of the adjacent country were carried away by Shalmanezer king of Assyria, he sent in their place colonies from Babylonia, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, with which the Israelites who remained in the land became intermingled, and were ultimately amalgamated into one people, 2Ki 17:24-41. An origin like this would of course render the nation odious to the Jews. The new and mixed race indeed sent to Assyria for an Israelitish priest to teach them the law of Jehovah, and adopted in part the forms of the true religion; but most of them were but half converted from their native heathenism, Mt 10:5; Lu 17:16-18. It was therefore in vain that, when the Jews returned from captivity and began to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, the Samaritans requested to be acknowledged as Jewish citizens, and to be permitted to assist in their work, Ezr 4. In consequence of this refusal, and the subsequent state of enmity, the Samaritans not only took occasion to calumniate the Jews before the Persian kings, Ezr 4:4; Ne 4, but also, recurring to the directions of Moses, De 27:11-13, that on entering the promised land half of the people should stand on Mount Gerizim to respond Amen to the covenant pronounced by the Levites, they erected a temple on that mountain, and instituted sacrifices according to the prescriptions of the Mosaic law, although the original altar, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, stood on Mount Ebal, De 27:4; Jos 8:30-35. Moreover, they rejected all the sacred books of the Jews except the Pentateuch. See SANBALLAT. From all these and other circumstances, the national hatred between the Samaritans and Jews, instead of being at all diminished by time, was, on the contrary, fostered and augmented Lu 9:52-53. Hence the name of Samaritan became among the Jews a term of reproach and contempt, Joh 8:48, and all intercourse with them was carefully avoided, Joh 4:9. The temple on Mount Gerizim was destroyed by Hyrcanus about the year 129 B. C.; but the Samaritans in the time of Christ continued to esteem that mountain sacred, and as the proper place of national worship, Joh 4:20-21, as is also the case with the small remnant of that people who exist at the present day. The Samaritans, like the Jews, expected a Messiah, Joh 4:25 and many of them became the followers of Jesus, and embraced the doctrines of his religion. See Ac 8:1; 9:31; 15:3.
It is well known that a small remnant of the Samaritans still exists at Nabulus, the ancient Shechem. Great interest has been taken in them by the learned of Europe; and a correspondence has several times been instituted with them which, however, has never led to results of any great importance. They have a copy of the Pentateuch, professedly made by Abishua the son of Phinehas, 1400 years before Christ. Several copies of this have been taken, first in 1616, and compared with the received Hebrew text, with which it nearly coincides. There are various classes of different readings, but few or none in which the Samaritan does not appear to be a corruption of the original. Of late years the remnant of Samaritans at Nabulus have often been visited by travellers. They number about one hundred and fifty souls, and are devout observers of the law. They keep the Jewish Sabbath with great strictness, and meet thrice during the day in their synagogue for public prayers. For times in each year, at the Passover, the Pentecost, the feast of Tabernacles, and the day of Expiation, they all resort to the site of their ancient temple on Mount Gerizim to worship. See GERIZIM.
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 (2Ki 17:24; comp. Ezr 4:2,9-10). These strangers (comp. 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" (Joh 4:9; comp. Lu 9:52-53). Our Lord was in contempt called "a Samaritan" (Joh 8:48). Many of the Samaritans early embraced the gospel (Joh 4:5-42; Ac 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."
The descendants of the Cuthites, Avvites, Sepharvites, and Hamathites, established by Sargon in Samaria after he had put an end to the Israelite kingdom. They were instructed in a form of the Hebrew religion (which they grafted on to their own worships) in order to appease the 'God of the land' (2Ki 17:24). To these colonists Ashurbanipal made considerable additions (Ezr 4:9-10). The enmity between Jews and Samaritans began to make its appearance immediately after the return from the Captivity. The Samaritans endeavoured to prevent the re-building of Jerusalem (Ezr 4:7; Ne 4:7), and from time to time their subsequent aggressions and insults to the re-founded Jewish State are recorded by Josephus. After the battle of Issus the Samaritans offered assistance to Alexander, and were allowed to build a temple on Gerizim, where they sacrificed after the manner of the Jews
The only place in the O.T. where these are mentioned gives their origin, and the mixed character of their worship. The king of Assyria had peopled the cities by colonists from the East, they were then in Jehovah's land, but they did not fear Him, therefore He sent lions among them. On the king of Assyria being informed of this, a priest who had been carried away from Samaria was sent thither, to teach them how they should fear the God of that land. The result was that they feared Jehovah, and served their own gods! 2Ki 17:24-41.
When Ezra returned from exile to build the temple, some of these people came and said, "Let us build with you: for we seek your God as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him, since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither." Ezra refused to let them have anything to do with building the temple, and this aroused their hatred and opposition. Ezr 4:1-4. We further read that Nehemiah ejected one of the priests who had defiled the priesthood by marrying the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite. Ne 13:28. Josephus speaks of him as Manasseh, and relates that Sanballat built a temple for him at Gerizim, which became a refuge for apostate Jews. This naturally increased the hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans.
This temple was destroyed by John Hyrcanus, son of Simon Maccabaeus, about B.C. 109. The animosity, however, was not removed. The woman of Samaria in John 4 alluded to the differences between Jews and Samaritans, and in Lu 9:52-53 it is said of a village of the Samaritans that the inhabitants would not receive the Lord because His face was turned towards Jerusalem. A Jew regarded it as the extreme of opprobrium, to be called a Samaritan, and those of Judaea added this to the other insults they heaped on the blessed Lord. Joh 8:48.
The Samaritans claimed to be true Israelites. The woman of Samaria said to the Lord, "Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well?" As to their religion, she spoke of 'this mountain' as the proper place to worship; but the Lord said, "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews." The hour had however arrived when they that worship God must worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Many of the Samaritans believed and received the Holy Spirit. Joh 4:9-42; Ac 8:5-17.
It is remarkable that while the Jews have lost all means of keeping their feasts at Jerusalem, a few, still calling themselves Samaritans, at Nablus, in a humble synagogue at the foot of the mountain, continue their worship, and annually ascend the mountain and keep the feast of the Passover with a roasted lamb: a marked instance of imitation, now so common in Christendom. They have an ancient MS called the SAMARITAN PENTATEUCH (q.v.), for which they claim great antiquity.
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 Lord's 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
the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and front Cuthah, and from Av. (Ivah,)
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. God's 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 children's children: as did their fathers, so do the unto this day."
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 Lord's 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.
SAMARITANS, an ancient sect among the Jews, still subsisting in some parts of the Levant, under the same name. Its origin was in the time of Rehoboam, under whose reign a division was made of the people of Israel into two distinct kingdoms. One of these kingdoms, called Judah, consisted of such as adhered to Rehoboam and the house of David; the other retained the ancient name of Israelites, under the command of Jeroboam. The capital of the state of these latter was Samaria; and hence it was that they were denominated Samaritans. Some affirm that Salmanazar, king of Assyria, having conquered Samaria, led the whole people captive into the remotest parts of his empire, and filled their places with colonies of Babylonians, Cutheans, and other idolaters. These finding themselves daily destroyed by wild beasts, it is said, desired an Israelitish priest to instruct them in the ancient laws and customs of the land they inhabited. This was granted them; and they thenceforth ceased to be incommoded with any beasts. However, with the law of Moses, they still retained somewhat of their ancient idolatry. The rabbins say, they adored the figure of a dove on Mount Gerizim. As the revolted tribes had no more of the Scriptures than the five books of Moses, so the priest could bring no others with him beside those books written in the old Phenician letters.
Upon the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, the religion of the Samaritans received another alteration on the following occasion; one of the sons of Jehoiada, the high priest, whom Josephus calls Manasseh, married the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite; but the law of God having forbidden the intermarriages of the Israelites with any other nation, Nehemiah set himself to reform this corruption, which had spread into many Jewish families, and obliged all that had taken strange wives immediately to part with them, Ne 13:23-30. Manasseh, unwilling to surrender his wife, fled to Samaria; and many others in the same circumstances, and with similar disposition, went and settled under the protection of Sanballat, governor of Samaria. Manasseh brought with him some other apostate priests, with many other Jews, who disliked the regulations made by Nehemiah at Jerusalem; and now the Samaritans, having obtained a high priest, and other priests of the descendants from Aaron, were soon brought off from the worship of the false gods, and became as much enemies to idolatry as the best of the Jews. However, Manasseh gave them no other Scriptures beside the Pentateuch, lest, if they had the other Scriptures, they should then find that Jerusalem was the only place where they should offer their sacrifices. From that time the worship of the Samaritans came much nearer to that of the Jews, and they afterward obtained leave of Alexander the Great to build a temple on Mount Gerizim, near the city of Samaria, in imitation of the temple at Jerusalem, where they practised the same forms of worship. To this mountain and temple the Samaritan woman of Sychar refers in her discourse with our Saviour, Joh 4:20. The Samaritans soon after revolted from Alexander, who drove them out of Samaria, introduced Macedonians in their room, and gave the province of Samaria to the Jews. This circumstance contributed in no small degree to increase the hatred and animosity between those two people. When any Israelite deserved punishment on account of the violation of some important point of the law, he presently took refuge in Samaria or Shechem, and embraced the worship at the temple of Gerizim. When the affairs of the Jews were prosperous, the Samaritans did not fail to call themselves Hebrews, and of the race of Abraham. But when the Jews suffered persecution, the Samaritans disowned them, and alleged that they were Phenicians originally, or descended from Joseph, or Manasseh his son. This was their practice in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. It is certain, the modern Samaritans are far from idolatry; some of the most learned among the Jewish doctors own, that they observe the law of Moses more rigidly than the Jews themselves. They have a Hebrew copy of the Pentateuch, differing in some respects from that of the Jews; and written in different characters, commonly called Samaritan characters; which Origen, Jerom, and other fathers and critics, ancient and modern, take to be the primitive character of the ancient Hebrews, though others maintain the contrary. The point of preference, as to purity, antiquity, &c, of the two Pentateuchs, is also much disputed by modern critics.
The Samaritans are now few in number; though it is not very long since they pretended to have priests descended directly from the family of Aaron. They were chiefly found at Gaza, Neapolis or Shechem, (the ancient Sichem or Naplouse,) Damascus, Cairo, &c. They had a temple, or chapel, on Mount Gerizim, where they performed their sacrifices. They have also synagogues in other parts of Palestine, and also in Egypt. Joseph Scaliger, being curious to know their usages, wrote to the Samaritans of Egypt, and to the high priest of the whole sect, who resided at Neapolis. They returned two answers, dated in the year 998 of the Hegira of Mohammed. These answers never came to the hands of Scaliger. They are now in the library at Paris, and have been translated into Latin by Father Morin, priest of the oratory; and printed in the collection of letters of that father in England, 1662, under the title of "Antiquitates Ecclesiae Orientalis." M. Simon has inserted a French translation in the first edition of "Ceremonies et Coutumes des Juifs," in the manner of a supplement to Leo de Modena. In the first of these answers, written in the name of the assembly of Israel, in Egypt, they declare that they celebrate the passover every year, on the fourteenth day of the first month, on Mount Gerizim, and that he who then did the office of high priest was called Eleazar, a descendant of Phinehas, son of Aaron. In the second answer, which is in the name of the high priest Eleazar, and the synagogue of Shechem, they declare, that they keep the Sabbath in all the rigour with which it is enjoined in the book of Exodus; none among them stirring out of doors, but to the synagogue. They add, that they begin the feast of the passover with the sacrifice appointed for that purpose in Exodus; that they sacrifice no where else but on Mount Gerizim; that they observe the feasts of harvest, the expiation, the tabernacles, &c. They add farther, that they never defer circumcision beyond the eighth day; never marry their nieces, as the Jews do; have but one wife; and, in fine, do nothing but what is commanded in the law; whereas the Jews frequently abandon the law to follow the inventions of their rabbins. At the time when they wrote to Scaliger, they reckoned one hundred and twenty-two high priests; affirmed that the Jews had no high priests of the race of Phinehas; and that the Jews belied them in calling them Cutheans; for that they are descended from the tribe of Joseph by Ephraim.