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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature


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Samar´itans. In the books of Kings there are brief notices of the origin of the people called Samaritans. The ten tribes which revolted from Rehoboam, son of Solomon, chose Jeroboam for their king. After his elevation to the throne he set up golden calves at Dan and Bethel, lest repeated visits of his subjects to Jerusalem, for the purpose of worshipping the true God, should withdraw their allegiance from himself. Afterwards Samaria, built by Omri, became the metropolis of Israel, and thus the separation between Judah and Israel was rendered complete. The people took the name Samaritans from the capital city. In the ninth year of Hosea, Samaria was taken by the Assyrians under Shalmaneser, who carried away the inhabitants into captivity, and introduced colonies into their place from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim. These new inhabitants carried along with them their own idolatrous worship; and on being infested with lions, sent to Esarhaddon, king of Assyria. A priest of the tribe of Levi was accordingly dispatched to them, who came and dwelt in Bethel, teaching the people how they should fear the Lord. Thus it appears that the people were a mixed race. The greater part of the Israelites had been carried away captive by the Assyrians, including the rich, the strong, and such as were able to bear arms. But the poor and the feeble had been left. With them, therefore, the heathen colonists became incorporated. As the people were a mixed race, their religion also assumed a mixed character. In it the worship of idols was associated with that of the true God. But apostasy from Jehovah was not universal. On the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, the Samaritans wished to join them in rebuilding the temple (). But the Jews declined the proffered assistance; and from this time the Samaritans threw every obstacle in their way. Hence arose that inveterate enmity between the two nations which afterwards increased to such a height as to become proverbial. In the reign of Darius Nothus, Manasses, son of the Jewish high-priest, married the daughter of Sanballat the Samaritan governor; and to avoid the necessity of repudiating her, as the law of Moses required, went over to the Samaritans, and became high-priest in the temple which his father-in-law built for him on Mount Gerizim. From this time Samaria became a refuge for all malcontent Jews; and the very name of each people became odious to the other. About the year B.C. 109, John Hyrcanus, high-priest of the Jews, destroyed the city and temple of the Samaritans; but B.C. 25, Herod rebuilt them at great expense. In their new temple, however, the Samaritans could not be induced to offer sacrifices, but still continued to worship on Gerizim. At the present-day they have dwindled down to a few families. Shechem now called Nabulus, is their place of abode. They still possess a copy of the Mosaic law, which, it is well known, forms the only portion of Scripture the Samaritans have ever received or acknowledged. The opinion that copies of the Pentateuch must have been in the hands of Israel from the time of Rehoboam, as well as among Judah, has been held by many distinguished critics, and appears to be correct. The prophets, who frequently inveigh against the Israelites for their idolatry and their crimes, never accuse them of being destitute of the law, or ignorant of its contents. It is wholly improbable, too, that the people, when carried captive into Assyria, took with them all the copies of the law. Thus we are brought to the conclusion, that the Samaritan, as well as the Jewish copy, originally flowed from the autograph of Moses. The two constitute, in fact, different recensions of the same work, and coalesce in point of antiquity.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Samaritans'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature".

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