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There had been historical hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans were the occupants of the territory formerly assigned to the tribes of Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Samaria was its capital.

After the invasion of Northern Israel, the Assyrians deported the ten tribes of Northern Israel and scattered them in captivity. “The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. They took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities” (2 Kgs 17:24). They intermarried the remaining Israelites in the newly occupied area. The pagans who inhabited Samaria continued the worship of their idols. So, God send lions among them that killed some people. The King of Assyria sent them an Israelite priest from exile to teach them the worship of the God of the land. They learned the books of Moses and worshipped the God of Israel, but continued their idolatry as well. “They were both venerating the LORD and serving their own gods” (2 Kgs 17:33). Because of this mixed race and mixed worship, the Jews considered the Samaritans as “half-breeds” and hated them.

The animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans increased because of other reasons as well:
(1) When the Jews returned from Babylonian exile and started rebuilding the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, the Samaritans opposed it and halted it for a while (Neh 6:1-14).
(2) The Samaritans perpetuated their idolatrous worship by building a temple for them on Mount Gerizim.
(3) Samaritans offered refuge for all the outlaws of Judea (Josh 20:6-7; 21:21).
(4) The Samaritans, while accepting the Torah, rejected other Jewish scriptures and Jewish traditions.
Hence, the Jews hated Samaritans and had no contact with them (Jn 4:9. 8:48).

The Samaritans followed only the Pentateuch, whereas the Jews follow the other books of the Old Testament, including the Prophets that have additional revelations from God. So, the Samaritans were ignorant of the later divine interventions and the prophetic teachings. They negate the salvation God promised through the Jews just as they negate Jerusalem as the genuine place of worship.


Jesus drew a contrasting picture between the Jews and the Samaritans in the practice of faith. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan, whom the Jews hated and considered worthless because of his non-Jewish beliefs and practices, became compassionate and helping neighbor for the helpless and suffering Jew.

Jesus favored Samaritans in instances like the story of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37), the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4:1-42), and rebuking James and John from calling down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans when they refused to welcome Jesus because he was heading for Jerusalem (Lk 9:53-55). Jesus acknowledged the gratitude of the Samaritan leper and exposed him as an example for others in contrast to the other nine lepers who also got healing from Jesus (Lk 17:11-19).


Through the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus highlighted the Samaritan as a role model for Christian virtue. Unlike the priest and Levite, who passed by on the opposite side, avoiding any contact with the victim, the Samaritan expressed his compassion in action. When the priest and the Levite thought of what bad would happen to them if they take care of the victim, the Samaritan thought of what would happen to the victim if he wound not care for him. With this difference in approach, the Samaritan took the risk of attack by the robbers who had attacked the victim.

The Samaritan spent his oil, wine, and cloth as first aid for the victim. The Jews used these to heal the sore made by circumcision. He spent time in his busy life. He provided the service of his ass to carry the victim while he went on foot to the nearby inn and nursed him there. Forgetting the Jewish-Samaritan rivalry, he treated the victim as his own.


Since the Samaritans were a mixed race of Jews and migrants from Chaldea (2 Kgs 17:24) after the Assyrian conquest, they worshipped Yahweh and the idols. Since the Patriarch Jacob had purchased the land they occupied “for a hundred pieces of money from the descendants of Hamor, the father of Shechem” (Gen 33:19) and had given it to Joseph and his descendants, they honoured Jacob as their father with high esteem.

The Samaritan woman’s disdainful question to Jesus, “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” (Jn 4:12) could only elicit a negative answer: ‘You cannot be greater than our father Jacob. Jacob bought this land, dug this well, used it for years, and handed over to Joseph (Gen 48:22). His son Ephraim and his descendants inherited this. We are now occupying it. Can you find a location and well like this? Are you wiser than he?’ The well was valuable as an excellent source of water and because of its historical prominence. The Patriarch Jacob and his descendants had drunk from it, along with their domestic animals.


The Samaritans worshipped at a temple they built at Mount Gerizim in opposition to the Temple in Jerusalem. Mount Gerizim was a place of worship of the ancestors, like Abraham (Gen 12:6- 7), Jacob (Gen 33:18-20) and Joshua (Deut 27:1-8). According to the Samaritan tradition, Abraham sacrificed Isaac, and met Melchizedek there, which, according to the Jews, was in Jerusalem. So, the Samaritans had justification in worshipping at Shechem by erecting a temple similar to the Temple in Jerusalem. “The Samaritans believe that, since more than 3600 years ago, they came to live on Mount Gerizim because Moses, in his tenth commandment, ordered them to protect it as a sacred mountain and worship on it by making pilgrimages to it three times a year. These beliefs and traditions have been kept alive by Samaritans since then” (https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5706/). Instead, the Jews considered Jerusalem as the sacred mountain and worshipped at the Temple there, making three pilgrimages a year.

The Samaritan woman mentioned how the Jews objected to this worship on Mount Gerizim. King David moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:12) and King Solomon built the Temple there according to God’s direction (2 Chr 3:1). God had prohibited offering sacrifices to God in multiple places like the pagans (Deut 12:4-5). Based on God’s commands, the Jews objected to the temple at Gerizim, built in opposition to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus predicted to the Samaritan woman that the two traditional sites of worship would become history and be replaced with a third one (Jn 4:21). John Hyrcanus had destroyed the temple at Mount Gerizim during the Hellenistic period of 128 BC (https://whc. unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5706/). However, the Samaritans continued to consider it a holy place of worship. Jesus foresaw the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (Mk 13:1-3) that happened in 70 AD. For Jesus, the dispute over the place of worship would be irrelevant because it would not be confined to one or another location.


The faithfulness of the Jews to the True God and avoidance of idolatry were commendable. However, Jesus disapproved of their lack of concern for the less fortunate in the society and hatred towards the Samaritans. Like Jesus, let us be nonhostile to others who disagree with us and be kind and helpful to anyone in need.

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