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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Shomeroni', שֹׁמַרֹנַי, from Shomeron, the Heb. name of Samaria; Sept., New Test., Josephus, and other Greek writers, Σαμαρείτης, fem. laΣαμαρεῖτις; by the later Jews, כּוּתַיַּי ם, i e. Cuthites [q.v.]; by themselves, שֹׁמַרַי ם, Shomerim, watchers [by a play upon their original name], i.e. keepers of the law, as interpreted by Epiphanius, Hoeres. 1, 9), a term which in its strictest sense would denote an inhabitant of the city of Samaria. But it is not found at all in this sense, exclusively at any rate, in the Old Test., nor perhaps elsewhere. In fact, it only occurs there once, and then in a wider signification, in 2 Kings 17:29. There it is employed to designate those whom the king of Assyria had "placed in (what are called) the cities of Samaria (whatever these may be) instead of the children of Israel." Were the word Samaritan found elsewhere in the Old Test., it would have designated those who belonged to the kingdom of the ten tribes, which in a large sense was called Samaria. As the extent of that kingdom varied, which it did very much, gradually diminishing to the time of Shalmaneser, so the extent of the word Samaritan would have varied. In the New Test. it is applied, strictly speaking, to the people or sect who had established an independent worship of their own in a temple or synagogue at Nablfs. Although a comparatively small and isolated community, their history and literature are so closely connected with those of the Hebrew people as to give them great importance in a Biblical point of view. (See SECTS OF THE JEWS).
I. Origin of this Peeople. — As we have seen in the preceding articles, Shalmaneser, or Sargon, his successor (2 Kings 17:5-6; 2 Kings 17:26), carried Israel, i.e. the remnant of the ten tribes which still acknowledged Hosea's authority, into Assyria. This remnant consisted, as has been shown, of Samaria (the city) and a few adjacent cities and villages. Now (a), did he carry away all their inhabitants, or not? (b) Whether they were wholly or only partially desolated, who replaced the deported population? On the answer to these inquiries will depend our determination of the questions, Were the Samaritans a mixed race, composed partly of Jews, partly of new settlers, or were they purely of foreign extraction? Upon few Biblical questions have scholars arrived at conclusions more opposite.
1. Argunents in Favor of an Exclusively Heathen Origin of the Samaritans. — The great advocate of this view is Hengstenberg, who states not only the Biblical reasons, but continues the examination through Sirach, the Maccabees, and the New Test. (Authentie des Pentateuch, 1, 3- 28). In favor of the purely Assyrian origin of the people, Hengstenberg quotes Mill, Schultz, R. Simon, Reland, and Elhnacin. To this list others add Suicer, Hammond, Drusius, Maldonatus, Havernick, Robinson, and Trench (Parables, p. 310 sq.). In ancient times, Josephus, Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, and Theodoret are quoted on the same side. The following is an outline of this position:
It has been asserted that the language of Scripture admits of scarcely a doubt. "Israel was carried away" (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 17:23), and other nations were placed "in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel" (2 Kings 17:24). There is no mention whatever, as in the case of the somewhat parallel destruction of the kingdom of Judah, of "the poor of the land being left to be vine dressers and husbandmen" (2 Kings 25:12). It is added that, had any been left, it would have been impossible for the new inhabitants to have been so utterly unable to acquaint themselves with "the manner of the God of the land" as to require to be taught by some priest of the captivity sent from the king of Assyria. Besides, it was not an unusual thing with Oriental conquerors actually to exhaust a land of its inhabitants. Comp. Herod. 3, 149: "The Persians dragged (σαγηνεύσαντες ) Samos, and delivered it up to Syloson, stripped of all its men;" and, again, Herod. 6:31, for the application of the same treatment to other islands, where the process called σαγηνεύειν is described, and is compared to a hunting out of the population (ἐκθηρεύειν ). Such a capture is presently contrasted with the capture of other territories to which σαγηνεύειν was not applied. Josephus's phrase in reference to the cities of Samaria is that Shalmaneser "transplanted all the people" (Ant. 9:14, 1). A threat against Jerusalem, which was, indeed, only partially carried out, shows how complete and summary the desolation of the last relics of the sister kingdom must have been: "I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish: he wipeth and turneth it upon the face thereof" (2 Kings 21:13). This was uttered within forty years after B.C. 721, during the reign of Manasseh. It must have derived much strength from the recentness and proximity of the calamity. Hence it is concluded by the advocates of this view that the cities of Samaria were not partially, but wholly, evacuated of their inhabitants in B.C. 720, and that they remained in this desolated state until, in the words of 2 Kings 17:24, "the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava (Ivah, 2 Kings 18:34), 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." Thus the new Samaritans — for such we would now call them were Assyrians by birth or subjugation, were utterly strangers in the cities of Samaria, and were exclusively the inhabitants of those cities. An incidental question, however, arises: Who was the king of Assyria that effected this colonization? At first sight, one would suppose Shallnaneser; for the narrative is scarcely broken, and the repeopling seems to be a natural sequence of the depopulation. Such would appear to have been Josephus's view; for he says of Shalmaneser, "When he had removed the people out of their land, he brought other nations out of Cuthah, a place so called (for there is still in Persia a river of that name), into Samaria and the country of the Israelites" (Ant. 9:14, 1 and 3; 10:9, 7); but he must have been led to this interpretation simply by the juxtaposition of the two transactions in the Hebrew text. The Samaritans themselves (in Ezra 4:2; Ezra 4:10) attributed their colonization, not to Shalmaneser, but to "Esar- haddon. king of Assur," or to "the great and noble Asnapper," either the king himself or one of his generals. It was probably on his invasion of Judah, in the reign of Manasseh, about B.C. 677, that Esar-haddon discovered the impolicy of leaving a tract upon the very frontiers of that kingdom thus desolate, and determined to garrison it with foreigners. The fact, too, that some of these foreigners came from Babylon would seem to direct us to Esar-haddon, rather than to his grandfather Shalmaneser: it was only recently that Babylon had come into the hands of the Assyrian king. There is another reason why this date should be preferred: it coincides with the termination of the sixty-five years of Isaiah's prophecy, delivered B.C. 742, within which "Ephraim should be broken that it should not be a people" (Isaiah 7:8). This was not effectually accomplished until the very land itself was occupied by strangers. So long as this had not taken place, there might be hope of return; after it had taken place, no hope. Josephus (Ant. 10:9, 7) expressly notices this difference in the cases of the ten and of the two tribes. The land of the former became the possession of foreigners, the land of the latter not so.
These strangers, who are thus assumed to have been placed in "the cities of Samaria" by Esar-haddon, were, of course, idolaters, and worshipped a strange medley of divinities. Each of the five nations, says Josephus, who is confirmed by the words of Scripture, had its own god. No place was found for the worship of Him who had once called the land his own, and whose it was still. God's displeasure was kindled, and they were infested by beasts of prey, which had probably increased to a great extent before their entrance upon it. "The Lord sent lions among them, which slew some of them." 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 they unto this day" (2 Kings 17:41). This last sentence was probably inserted by Ezra. It serves two purposes: 1st, to qualify the pretensions of the Samaritans of Ezra's time to be pure worshippers of God — they were no more exclusively his servants than was the Roman emperor, who desired to place a statue of Christ in the Pantheon, entitled to be called a Christian; and, 2ndy, to show how entirely the Samaritans of later days differed from their ancestors in respect to idolatry. Josephus's account of the distress of the Samaritans, and of the remedy for it, is very similar, with the exception that, with him, they are afflicted with pestilence.
Such, according to one view of the history, was the origin of the post- captivity, or new Samaritans — men not of Jewish extraction, but from the farther East. "The Cuthaeans had formerly belonged to the inner parts of Persia and Media, but were then called ‘ Samaritans,' taking the name of the country to which they were removed," says Josephus (Ant. 10:9, 7). Again, he says (Ant. 9:14, 3) they are called, "in Hebrew, ‘ Cuthseans,' but in Greek, ‘ Samaritans.'" Our Lord expressly terms them ἀλλογενεῖς (Luke 17:18); and Josephus's whole account of them shows that he believed them to have been μέτοικοι ἀλλοεθνεῖς though, as he tells us in two places (Ant. 9:14, 3; 11:8, 6), they sometimes gave a different account of their origin.
2. Arguments in Favor of a Mixed Origin of the Samaritans. — The above views have been strongly combated by Kalkar (in the Theologische Mitarbeiten, 1840, 3, 24 sq.); and weighty names are on this side, e.g. De Sacy, Gesenius, Winer, Dollinger (Heidenthum u. Judenthum, p. 739), Davidson, Stanley, Rawlinson, etc. The arguments for their views are substantially as follows:
(1.) It is evident that a considerable portion of the original Israelitish population must still have remained in the cities of Samaria; for we find (2 Chronicles 30:1-20) that Hezekiah invited the remnant of the ten tribes who were in the land of Israel to come to the great Passover which he celebrated, and the different tribes are mentioned (2 Chronicles 30:10-11) who did or did not respond to the invitation. Later, Esar-haddon adopted the policy of Shalmaneser, and a still further deportation took place (Ezra 4:2); but even after this, though the heathen element, in all probability, preponderated, the land was not swept clean of its original inhabitants. Josiah, it is true, did not, like Hezekiah, invite the Samaritans to take part in the worship at Jerusalem; but, finding himself strong enough to disregard the power of Assyria, now on the decline, he virtually claimed the land of Israel as the rightful appanage of David's throne, adopted energetic measures for the suppression of idolatry, and even exterminated the Samaritan priests. But what is of more importance as showing that some portion of the ten tribes was still left in the land is the fact that, when the collection was made fior the repairs of the Temple, we are told that the Levites gathered the money "of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraism, and of all the remnant of Israel," as well as "of Judah and Benjamin" (2 Chronicles 34:9). So, also, after the discovery of the book of the law, Josiah bound not only "all who were present in Judah and Benjamin" to stand to the covenant contained in it; but he "took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve Jehovah their God. All his days they departed not from serving Jehovah the God of their fathers" (2 Chronicles 34:32-33).
Later yet, during the vice-royalty of Gedaliah, we find still the same feeling manifested on the part of the ten tribes which had shown itself under Hezekiah and Josiah. Eighty devotees from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, came with all the signs of mourning, and bearing offerings in their hand, to the Temple at Jerusalem. They thus testified both their sorrow for the desolation that had come upon it, and their readiness to take part in the worship there, now that order was restored. This, it may be reasonably presumed, was only one party out of many who came on a like errand. All these facts prove that, so far was the intercourse between Judah and the remnant of Israel from being imbittered by religious animosities, that it was the religious bond which bound them together. Hence it would have been quite possible during any portion of this period for the mixed Samaritan population to have received the law from the Jews.
This is far more probable than that copies of the Pentateuch should have been preserved among those families of the ten tribes who had either escaped when the land was shaven by the razor of the king of Assyria, or who had straggled back thither from their exile. If even in Jerusalem itself the book of the law was so scarce, and had been so forgotten, that the pious king Josiah knew nothing of its contents till it was accidentally discovered, still less probable is it that in Israel, given up to idolatry and wasted by invasions, any copies of it should have survived.
On the whole, we should be led to infer that there had been a gradual fusion of the heathen settlers with the original inhabitants. At first the former, who regarded Jehovah as only a local and national deity like one of their own false gods, endeavored to appease him by adopting in part the religious worship of the nation whose land they occupied. They did this in the first instance, not by mixing with the resident population, but by sending to the king of Assyria for one of the Israelitish priests who had been carried captive. But in process of time the amalgamation of races became complete, and the worship of Jehovah superseded the worship of idols, as is evident both from the wish of the Samaritans to join in the Temple worship after the captivity, and from the absence of all idolatrous symbols on Gerizim. So far, then, the history leaves us altogether in doubt as to the time at which the Pentateuch was received by the Samaritans. Copies of it might have been left in the northern kingdom after Shalmaneser's invasion, though this is hardly probable; or they might have been introduced thither during the religious reforms of Hezekiah or Josiah. Till the return from Babylon there is no evidence that the Samaritans regarded the Jews with any extraordinary dislike or hostility. But the manifest distrust and suspicion with which Nehemiah met their advances when he was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem provoked their wrath. From this time forward they were declared and open enemies. The quarrel between the two nations was further aggravated by the determination of Nehemiah to break off all marriages which had been contracted between Jews and Samaritans. Manasseh, the brother of the high priest (so Josephus calls him, Ant. 11:7, 2), and himself acting high priest, was one of the offenders. He refused to divorce his wife, and took refuge with his father- in-law, Sanballat, who consoled him for the loss of his priestly privilege in Jerusalem by making him high priest of the new Samaritan temple on Gerizim. With Manasseh many other apostate Jews who refused to divorce their wives fled to Samaria. It seems highly probable that these men took the Pentateuch with them. and adopted it as the basis of the new religious system which they inaugurated. (See PENTATEUCH).
(2.) That the country should be swept clean of its inhabitants on the downfall of Samaria seems most improbable. It is true Eastern conquerors did sometimes utterly destroy cities, and occasionally extirpate whole islands (Herod. 3, 149). And some have thought that such was the general treatment of the conquered by the Assyrians (Layard, Nineveh and its Remains, 2, 374); but, as Rawlinson justly remarks, "it appears by the inscriptions that towns were frequently spared, and that the bulk of the inhabitants were generally left in the place" (Five Great Monarchies, 1, 304, note). Should it be argued that the conduct of the residents of the city of Samaria was of a character to draw upon them the severest chastisement of their conquerors — an indiscriminate slaughter, with impalement or slavery awaiting the prisoners — there is no reason to suppose that the cities and towns of the provinces met with the same fate. According to the Assyrian inscriptions of Sargon, this removal consisted of only 27,280 families — amounting, let us say, to 200,000 individuals — which certainly would not exhaust the land.
It is popularly said and credited that those Assyrians were placed in Samaria by Shalmaneser soon after the fall of the kingdom; but this is a mistake. It arose probably from Josephus's statement, who, it seems, was led into this error from the juxtaposition in which the two events are related in the Hebrew text. It is doubtful whether Shalmaneser conducted the siege to its end, for there is a supposition that he was treacherously slain by the emissaries of Sargon, who had usurped the throne during his master's absence, and that the siege was terminated under the command of one of his leaders. The following expression is remarkable, and would tend to confirm this opinion: "Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, came up against Samaria and besieged it. And at the end of three years they took it" (2 Kings 18:9-10). Sargon, according to the Assyrian inscriptions, claims the victory to himself, as well as the removal of the Samaritans to Assyria (Rawlinson, Herodotus, 1, 472; comp. Isaiah 20:1). It is a curious and interesting fact, for the knowledge of which we are indebted to Sir H. Rawlinson, that Sargon penetrated far into the interior of Arabia, and, carrying off several Arabian tribes, settled them in Samaria. This explains how Geshem the Arabian came to be associated with Sanballat in the government of Judaea, as well as the mention of Arabians in the army of Samaria (Illustrations of Egyptian History, etc., in the Trans. of the Roy. Soc. Lit. 1860, 1, 148, 149). (See SARGON).
Be this as it may, it is quite certain that some time elapsed from the fall of Samaria to the removal of the Assvrians into its cities. In the Assyrian inscriptions we have a list- probably a complete one — of the monarchs of the latter half of the 8th and the first half of the 7th century B.C., namely, Tiglath-pileser II, Shalmaneser II, Sargon, Sennacherib, and Esar-haddon. Now the Samaritans themselves attribute their removal to this last-named monarch, "Esar-haddon, king of Assur," "the great and noble Asnapper" (Ezra 4:2; Ezra 4:10); and of this there call be no reasonable doubt. He invaded Judah in the reign of Manasseh, about B.C. 677, and probably it was this expedition that moved him to place these his subjects in Samaria. As he is conjectured to have died in B.C. 660, the transmigration must have taken place some time between these dates. Let us suppose that it occurred B.C. 670, and that king Josiah began his reformation B.C. 628. This would have given the strangers a residence of forty-two years. The question now arises, Were these colonists so numerous as to repeople the cities of Israel, from Bethel even to Naphtali? and was it over these that Josiah exercised his authority? Now, we have no means of arriving at any estimate of the number of these aliens; but, whatever it may have been, it is highly improbable that king Josiah would have had the imprudence to interfere with any subjects of the king of Assyria, especially as that government had already laid a heavy hand upon Judah (2 Kings 18:13-15). Neither had he any religious jurisdiction over them. It seems far more likely that Josiah carried out his reform ostensibly among the remaining Israelites, the majority of whom not unlikely placed themselves under his rule. Israel was not at any time all given to idolatry. In one of its unholiest periods (under Ahab) there were 7000 faithful men who had not bowed their knees unto Baal (1 Kings 19:18). Again, when Hezekiah sent his delegates to visit the nation, although the majority of the people "mocked them, nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulon humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem" (2 Chronicles 30:11). The residue of the ten tribes would be still more attached to the government of Judah after the destruction of their own.
(3.) On the whole, therefore, notwithstanding the force of the counter- arguments, we conclude that, although the city of Samaria itself was probably razed to the ground, and its population wholly carried away, yet a considerable remnant of the inhabitants of the adjoining country was left. Consequently in later times the people, in their origin, were a mixed race. Doubtless the heathen element prevailed, because the colonists were greatly superior in numbers. When they came, they found none but the dregs of the populace, whom the victors had left. All power was in the hands of the colonists. All that the words in 2 Kings 17:24 prove is that the colonists who had been transplanted thither took the place of the deported Israelites as owners of the soil. The Israelites were no longer the chief inhabitants. The petition of the heathen colonists does not show that the last remnant had been removed by the Assyrians. From the removal of all the priests, it does not follow that all the inhabitants had been carried away; and the petition of the inhabitants merely speaks of sending a priest, of whom it was thought that he alone could offer worship acceptable to a local deity. The people wanted priests to teach them the right worship of the God of the land; nor is aught said of giving the inhabitants the rudest idea of the manner of worshipping such a deity.
According to the analogy of similar deportations, such as that of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, we must suppose that the principal inhabitants of Israel — those fit for war, the priests, and others were carried away; leaving the poor, weak, and aged, in the country districts, who had little or nothing to do with war. The prophetic expressions in Jeremiah and Zechariah speak only of the Israelites as a whole, of their rejection and banishment. The fact that the Samaritans in Ezra 4:1, etc., do not mention their Israelitish origin is easily explained, because heathen blood had overpowered the Israelitish element. Had the latter retained its distinctive existence, they would probably have referred to their origin; but as it had become almost extinct, the wiser policy was to make no allusion to descent. The very fact, however, of their application for admission to the national worship of the Jews, and all their subsequent history in connection with this people, imply an Israelitish element in their origin. Had they been of pure heathen descent, what propriety was there in the application? What had they to do with Jewish worship, on the supposition that they were mere heathens? How is it that the Samaritans always claimed descent from Ephraim and Manasseh? Have they been continuous liars in making this pretension? If so, their history proves an unaccountable imposture. Was there ever before a heathen people so desirous to unite with the worshippers of the true Jehovah as to become implacable enemies to their recusants? Moreover, the writers of the New Test., with the Jews of that period, looked upon them in the light of a schismatical community from themselves, rather than a distinct nation. Though the Savior calls the Samaritan leper whom he healed a stranger, ἀλλόγενης, he used the expression more for the purpose of contrasting the unthankfulness of the nine Jews with the gratitude of the Samaritan, than of ethnological distinction (Luke 17:11-19). For it is certain that he did not class the Samaritans with the Gentiles, but made a marked distinction between them (Matthew 10:5). Notwithstanding the animosity of the two peoples, there are some few circumstances on record which indicate that they felt themselves to be in truth brethren and coreligionists. Thus, during the feasts they were admitted like the Jews to the Temple (Josephus, Ant. 18:2, 2). Their food also was by the Jew deemed cosher, or lawful (John 4:8-40). Circumcision performed by a Samaritan was held to be valid. Down to the time of the Mishnic authors a Samaritan was regarded as a brother; nor did the Talmudists all agree in his condemnation, for while some looked upon him as a heathen, others treated him in every respect as an Israelite.
II. History. — As already seen, the new inhabitants of Samaria carried along with them their idolatrous worship. In the early period of their settlement they were attacked by lions, which they regarded as a judgment inflicted by the deity of the land, whom they did not worship. Accordingly, they applied to the Assyrian king Esar-haddon for an Israelitish priest to teach them the proper worship of the local god. The request was granted. One of the transported priests was despatched to them, who came and dwelt at Bethel, and instructed them in the worship of Jehovah. He was not a Levitical priest, but an Israelitish priest of the calves; because there had been no Levitical ones in the kingdom when the inhabitants were carried away, and because Bethel, where he settled, was the chief seat of the calf worship.
On the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, the Samaritans wished to join them in rebuilding the Temple at Jerusalem, saying, "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 4:2). It is curious, and perhaps indicative of the treacherous character of their designs, to find them even then called, by anticipation, "the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin" (Ezra 4:1), a title which they afterwards fully justified. But, so far as professions go, they are not enemies; they are most anxious to be friends. Their religion, they assert, is the same as that of the two tribes; therefore they have a right to share in that great religious undertaking. But they do not call it a national undertaking. They advance no pretensions to Jewish blood. They confess their Assyrian descent, and even put it forward ostentatiously, perhaps to enhance the merit of their partial conversion to God. That it was but partial they give no hint. It may have become purer already, but we have no information that it had. But the proffered assistance was declined. Thenceforward they threw all obstacles in the way of the returned exiles. Nor were their efforts to frustrate the operations of the Jews entirely unsuccessful. Two Persian kings were induced to hinder the Jews in their rebuilding; and their opposition was not finally overcome till the reign of Darius Hystaspis, B.C. 519.
The enmity which began at the time when the cooperation of the Samaritans in rebuilding the Temple was refused continued to increase till it reached such a height as to become proverbial in after times. It is probable, too, that the more the Samaritans detached themselves from idols and became devoted exclusively to a sort of worship of Jehovah, the more they resented the contempt with which the Jews treated their offers of fraternization. Matters at length came to a climax. About B.C. 409, in the reign of Darius Nothus, one Manasseh, of priestly descent, was expelled from Jerusalem by Nehemiah for an illegal marriage, and took refuge with the Samaritans. Whether the temple on Mount Gerizim was actually built in the days of Manasseh is doubtful. Probably he labored to unite the people in a common worship. The temple is not said to have been erected till the time of Alexander the Great, who gave permission to build it. If so, it did not exist till about one hundred years after Manasseh. It is difficult to make a consistent and clear account of the matter out of Josephus, who has evidently fallen into error, since he is inconsistent with Nehemiah 13:28, etc. The establishment of a separate worship made the breach existing between the Jews and Samaritans irreparable. From this time malcontent Jews resorted to Samaria; and the very name of either people became odious to the other. About the year B.C. 129, John Hyrcanus, high priest of the Jews, destroyed the city of the Samaritans. The Cuthaean Samaritans had possessed only a few towns and villages of the large area generally known as Samaria, and these lay almost together in the center of the district. Shechem, or Sychar (as it was contemptuously designated), was their chief settlement, even before Alexander the Great destroyed the city of Samaria, probably because it lay almost close to Mount Gerizim. Afterwards it became more prominently so, and there on the destruction of the city of Samaria by Alexander they had built themselves a temple, which remained till the capture of Gerizim by John Hyrcanus (Joseph. Ant. 13:9, 1). (See SHECHEM).
The only thing wanted to crystallize the opposition between the two races — viz. a rallying point for schismatical worship — being now obtained, their animosity became more intense than ever. The Samaritans are said to have done everything in their power to annoy the Jews. They would refuse hospitality to pilgrims on their road to Jerusalem, as in our Lord's case. They would even waylay them in their journey (Joseph. Ant. 20:6, 1); and many were compelled through fear to take the longer route by the east of Jordan. Certain Samaritans were said to have once penetrated into the Temple of Jerusalem, and to have defiled it by scattering dead men's bones on the sacred pavement (ibid. 18:2, 2). We are told, too, of a strange piece of mockery which must have been especially resented. It was the custom of the Jews to communicate to their brethren still in Babylon the exact day and hour of the rising of the paschal moon by beacon fires commencing from Mount Olivet, and flashing forward from hill to hill until they were mirrored in the Euphrates. So the Greek poet represents Agamemnon as conveying the news of Troy's capture to the anxious watchers at Mycenee. Those who "sat by the waters of Babylon" looked for this signal with much interest. It enabled them to share in the devotions of those who were in their fatherland, and it proved to them that they were not forgotten. The Samaritans thought scorn of these feelings, and would not unfrequently deceive and disappoint them by kindling a rival flame and perplexing the watchers on the mountains. "This fact," says Dr. Trench, "is mentioned by Makrizi (see De Sacy, Chrest. Arabe, 2, 159), who affirms that it was this which put the Jews on making accurate calculations to determine the moment of the new moon's appearance (comp. Schottgen, Hor. Heb. 1, 344)."
Their own temple on Gerizim the Samaritans considered to be much superior to that at Jerusalem. There they sacrificed a passover. Towards 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. They professed to observe it better than did the Jews themselves, employing the expression not unfrequently, "The Jews indeed do so and so; but we, observing the letter of the law, do otherwise." The Jews, on the other hand, were not more conciliatory in their treatment of the Samaritans. The copy of the law possessed by that people they declared to be the legacy of an apostate (Manasseh), and cast grave suspicions upon its genuineness. Certain other Jewish renegades, as already observed, 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 (Joseph. Ant. 11:8, 6; 9:14, 3). A remarkable instance of this is exhibited in a request which they made to Alexander the Great, about B.C. 332. They desired to be excused payment of tribute in the sabbatical year, on the plea that as true Israelites, descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh, sons of Joseph, they refrained from cultivating their land in that year. Alexander, on cross-questioning them, discovered the hollowness of their pretensions. (They were greatly disconcerted at their failure, and their dissatisfaction probably led to the conduct which induced Alexander to besiege and destroy the city of Samaria. Shechem was, indeed, their metropolis, but the destruction of Samaria seems to have satisfied Alexander.) Another instance of claim to Jewish descent appears in the words of the woman of Samaria to our Lord, John 4:12 : "Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well?" a question which she puts without recollecting that she had just before strongly contrasted the Jews and the Samaritans. Very far were the Jews from admitting this claim to consanguinity on the part of these people. They were ever reminding them that they were, after all, mere Cuthaeans, mere strangers from Assyria. They accused them of worshipping the idol gods buried long ago under the oak of Shechem (Genesis 35:4).
They would have no dealings with them that they could possibly avoid. This prejudice had, of course, sometimes to give way to necessity, for the disciples had gone to Sychar to buy food while our Lord was talking with the woman of Samaria by the well in its suburb (John 4:8). From Luke 9:52 we learn that the disciples went before our Lord at his command into a certain village of the Samaritans "to make ready" for him. Perhaps, indeed (though, as we see on both occasions, our Lord's influence over them was not yet complete), we are to attribute this partial abandonment of their ordinary scruples to the change which his example had already wrought in them, "Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil" was the mode in which the Jews expressed themselves when at a loss for a bitter reproach. Everything that a Samaritan had touched was as swine's flesh to them. The Samaritan was publicly cursed in their synagogues; could not be adduced as a witness in the Jewish courts; could not be admitted to any sort of proselytism; and was thus, so far as the Jew could affect his position, excluded from hope of eternal life. The traditional hatred in which the Jew held him is expressed in Sirach 1:25-26, "There be two manner of nations which my heart abhorreth, and the third is no nation: they that sit on the mountain of Samaria; and they that dwell among the Philistines; and that foolish people that dwell in Sichem." So long was it before such a temoer could be banished from the Jewish mind that we find even the apostles believing that an inhospitable slight shown by a Samaritan village to Christ would be not unduly avenged by calling down fire from heaven. "Ye know not what spirit ye are of," said the large-hearted Son of Man; and we find him on no one occasion uttering anything to the disparagement of the Samaritans. His words, however, and the records of his ministrations confirm most thoroughly the view which has been taken above that the Samaritans were not Jews. At the first sending forth of the twelve (Matthew 10:5-6), he charges them, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles; and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." So, again, in his final address to them on Mount Olivet, "Ye shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1, 8). So the nine unthankful lepers, Jews, were contrasted by him with the tenth leper, the thankful stranger (ἀλλογενής ), who was a Samaritan. So, in his well known parable, a merciful Samaritan is contrasted with the unmerciful priest and Levite. And the very worship of the two races is described by him as different in character. "Ye worship ye know not what," this is said of the Samaritans: "We know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22).
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 been gradually contracted, and the rallying-place of their religion on Mount Gerizim had been destroyed one hundred and sixty years before, and though Samaria (the city) had been again and again destroyed, and though their territory had been the battlefield of Syria and Egypt — still preserved their nationality, still worshipped from Shechem and their other impoverished settlements towards their sacred hill, still could not coalesce with the Jews.
Under Vespasian, the city of Sichem received the new name of Neapolis, which still remains in the Arabic form Nablus. At the time of Pilate a tumult was excited among the Samaritans by an adventurer who persuaded the common people to follow him to the summit of Gerizim, where he pretended that Moses had buried the golden vessels. But Pilate dispersed the multitude with troops, and put the heads of the sedition to death. In consequence of the Samaritans complaining of his conduct to Vitellius, Pilate was deposed and sent to Rome (Joseph. Ant. 18:4, 1). Josephus relates (War, 3, 7, 32) pliat while Vespasian was endeavoring to subjugate the neighboring districts, the Samaritans collected in large numbers and took up their position on Mount Gerizim. The Roman general attacked and slew 11,600. Under Septimius Severus they joined the Jews against him; and therefore Neapolis was deprived of its rights. In the 3d and 4th centuries, notwithstanding their former calamities, they seem to have greatly increased and extended, not only in the East, but in the West. They appear to have grown into importance under Dositheus, who was probably an apostate Jew. Epiphanius (Adv. Hoereses, lib. 1), in the 4th century, considers them to be the chief and most dangerous adversaries of Christianity, and he enumerates the several sects into which they had by that time divided themselves. They were popularly, and even by some of the fathers, confounded with the Jews, insomuch that a legal interpretation of the Gospel was described as a tendency to Σαμαρειτισμός or Ι᾿ουδαϊσμός . This confusion, however, did not extend to an identification of the two races. It was simply an assertion that their extreme opinions were identical. But the distinction between them and the Jews was sufficiently known, and even recognizer: in the Theodosian Code. In the 5th century a tumult was excited at Neapolis, during which the Samaritans ran into the Christian church, which was thronged with worshippers, killing, maiming, and mutilating many. The bishop, Terebinthus, having repaired to Constantinople and complained to the emperor, the latter punished the guilty by driving them from Mount Gerizim and giving it to the Christians, where a church was erected in honor of the Virgin. Under Anastasius an insurrection headed by a woman broke out, and was soon suppressed. Under Justinian there was a more formidable and extensive outbreak. It is related that all the Samaritans in Palestine rose up against the Christians and committed many atrocities, killing, plundering, burning, and torturing. In Neapolis they crowned their leader, Julian, king. But the imperial troops were sent against them, and great numbers, with Julian himself, were slain. In the time of the Crusaders, Neapolis suffered, along with other places in Palestine. In 1184 it was plundered by Saladin.
After the battle of Hattin, in 1187, it was devastated, and the sacred places in the neighborhood were polluted by Saladin's troops. Having been several times in the hands of the Christians, it was taken by Abu ‘ Aly in 1244, since which it has remained in the power of the Mohammedans. No Christian historian of the Crusades mentions the Samaritans; but they are noticed by Benjamin of Tudela in the 12th century, who calls them Cuthites, or Cuthaeans. In the 17th century Della Valle gives an account of them; subsequently, Maundrell and Morison. After an interest in the people had been awakened by the reception of copies of their Pentateuch, their answers to the letters which Joseph Scaliger had sent to their communities in Nablus and Cairo came into the hands of John Morin, who made a Latin translation of them. The originals and a better version were published by De Sacy in Eichhorn's Repertoriam, vol. 13. In 1671 a letter was sent by the Samaritans at Nablus to Robert Huntington, which was answered by Thomas Marshall of Oxford. The correspondence thus begun continued till 1688. De Sacy published it entire in Correspondance des Samaritains, contained in Notices et Extraits des MSS. de la Bibliotheque du Roi, vol. 12. The correspondence between Ludolf and the Samaritans was published by Cellarius and Bruns, and is also in Eichhorn's Repertorium, vol. 13. These letters are of great archaeological interest, and enter very minutely into the observances of the Samaritan ritual. Among other points worthy of notice in them is the inconsistency displayed by the writers in valuing themselves on not being Jews, and yet claiming to be descendants of Joseph. In 1807 a letter from the Samaritans to Gregoire, the French bishop, came into De Sacy's hands, who answered it. This was followed by four others, which were all published by the eminent French Orientalist.
At Nablus the Samaritans have still a settlement, consisting of about two hundred persons. Yet they observe the law, and celebrate the Passover on a sacred spot on Mount Gerizim, with an exactness of minute ceremonial which the Jews themselves have long intermitted. The people are very poor now, and to all appearance their total extinction is not far distant. In recent times many travelers have visited and given an account of the Samaritan remnant, such as Pliny, Fisk, Robinson, and Wilson. See also Shelaby, Notices of the Modern Samaritans (Lond. 1855). One of the late notices is that of M.E. Rogers, in Domestic Life in Palestine (1863, 2d ed.), ch. 10. Another and fuller account is given in Mill, Three Months' Residence in Nasblus, and an Account of the Modern Samaritans (1864, 12mo); see also Barges, Les Samaritains de Naplouse (Paris, 1855, 8vo). Mr. Grove has given an account of the ceremonial of their atonement, in Vacation Tourists for 1861; and Stanley, of their Passover, in Lectures on the Jewish Church, Append. 3, and still more minutely in Sermons in the East, Append. 2. For older monographs on the Samaritans, see Volbeding, Index Programmatum, p. 44. (See SAMARITAN LANGUAGE, LITERATURE, AND LITURGY); (See SAMARITANS, MODERN).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Samaritan'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/s/samaritan.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34