The Samaritans: Hope from the History of a Hated People (2023)

Alyssa Roat

| Contributing Writer


10 Feb

The Samaritans: Hope from the History of a Hated People (1)

Someone who helps others is often referred to as a “good Samaritan.” But what is a Samaritan?

The Samaritans were a people group in the Bible that lived in the area of Israel following the Assyrian conquest. They survived through the time of Jesus, and even, in limited numbers, to the present day.

The Bible mentions plenty of stories about Samaritans, and the hatred between Jews and Samaritans features prominently in the Gospels. So, what did it mean to be a Samaritan?

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/TonyBaggett

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The Samaritans: Hope from the History of a Hated People (2)

Who Were the Samaritan People?

To explain the origins of the Samaritans, we must go back to the days of the kings. After King Solomon ruled over the Israelites – God’s people – the unwise actions of his son Rehoboam in the tenth century BC led to a schism in which the kingdom was split into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, each with its own king.

Both kingdoms devolved into corruption and sin, despite repeated warnings from prophets sent by God. Thus, God warned, they would be overtaken by conquerors. The northern kingdom fared worse than the southern kingdom, with a long line of wicked rulers. It didn’t help that the temple, where God’s people were to worship, was located in the southern kingdom.

In 721 B.C., the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians. Many of the people of Israel were led off to Assyria as captives, but some remained in the land and intermarried with foreigners planted there by the Assyrians. These half-Jewish, half-Gentile people became known as the Samaritans.

In 586 B.C., the southern kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonian Empire once and for all, as the walls of Jerusalem were breached, the temple was destroyed, and the city walls torn down.

Samaritans are first mentioned in the Bible in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the 5th century B.C. At this point, Babylon had given way to the Persian Empire. Nehemiah, a Jew, curried favor with the king and was able to return to Jerusalem to rebuild. However, the Samaritans remaining in the land opposed the rebuilding efforts and caused problems for Nehemiah and his fellow workers (Nehemiah 6:1-14). This was the beginning of a long-lasting hatred between Jews and Samaritans.

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The Samaritans: Hope from the History of a Hated People (3)

Where is Samaria Today?

Samaria as a city was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. After Israel’s fall, Samaria as a region was in the central area of what used to be the northern kingdom. During the time of Jesus, Samaria was located between Galilee to the north and Judea to the south.

(Video) Samaritans Living in Israel as the Ancient Minority | FULL EPISODE | Insights on TBN Israel

Today, Samaria is in what is now the northern West Bank. Several hundred Samaritans still live in Israel and continue to practice their faith centered on the Pentateuch and Mount Gerizim.

Why Were the Samaritans Disliked So Much in Jesus' Time?

The Samaritans, being a mix of already spiritually corrupt Israelites and pagan foreigners, created a religion for themselves that the Jews considered heresy.

They established as their center of worship a temple on Mount Gerizim, claiming it was where Moses had originally intended for the Israelites to worship. They had their own unique version of the five books written by Moses, the Pentateuch, but rejected the writings of the prophets and Jewish traditions. The Samaritans saw themselves as the true descendants of Israel and preservers of the true religion, while considering the Jerusalem temple and Levitical priesthood illegitimate.

When Jews returned to rebuild Jerusalem, they were opposed by Samaritans. This led to further ill-will as the two sects were established in the land in opposition to one another.

To the Jews, a Samaritan was more revolting than a Gentile (pagan); Samaritans were half-breeds who defiled the true religion.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Adolfo Félix

The Samaritans: Hope from the History of a Hated People (4)

Who Was the Good Samaritan?

Jesus often taught spiritual lessons through parables or stories. One of his most famous parables is that of the good Samaritan.

This parable is found in Luke 10:25-37. An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus turned the question back to him, he had to say that the law stated that a person was to love God and love his neighbor as himself. However, the flustered expert wanted to justify himself, so he asked, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).

To this, Jesus responded with a parable.

“In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have’” (Luke 10:30-35).

The Good Samaritan, then, was not a real person. He was a symbol. A religious man wanted to limit who a neighbor was, and thus justify himself. Instead, Jesus flipped the question. He used the backdrop of the Jews’ hatred for Samaritans to show that everyonewas his neighbor, even those considered an enemy.

“[Jesus asked,] ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’

(Video) The 'good' Samaritan!?! All Samaritans were DOGS (Religion pt5)

The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’

Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise’ (Luke 10:36-37).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain Image/Nicolaes Roosendael

The Samaritans: Hope from the History of a Hated People (5)

Who Was the Samaritan Woman at the Well?

On one occasion, Jesus was passing through Samaria on his way from Judea to Galilee. Tired, He sat down at a well.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus asked her for a drink. The woman was shocked. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (John 4:9).

In response, Jesus said that if she asked Him, He could give her living water. She asked for the water, and He responded that she should get her husband and come back. When she replied that she had no husband, He said, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband” (John 4:17-18).

At this point, the woman realized He must be some kind of prophet. She thus asked Him about the true worship, whether it was of the Jews or the Samaritans.

He gave an unexpected response:

“’Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’

The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’

Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you — I am he’ (John 4:23-26).

Jesus was coming to establish something new. The Jerusalem/Gerizim debate would soon be obsolete; He was ushering in a new era.

(Video) The Chosen Why The Samaritan Prejudice

The woman went to tell everyone, and as a result, many Samaritans listened to Jesus and believed.

Photo credit: Pexels/Frans Van Heerden

The Samaritans: Hope from the History of a Hated People (6)

Why Did Jesus Interact with Samaritans So Much?

Everywhere He went, Jesus interacted with the poor and outcast. Whether He was healing lepers, eating with tax collectors, or speaking to Samaritans, Jesus constantly demonstrated care for those the world had rejected and showed that He didn’t care what the “religious” people thought of Him.

Jesus showed that the Gospel is for everyone. He said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

Hope for Samaria

From the fall of the rebellious northern kingdom of Israel, to a mixed idolatrous religion, to a people group hated by the Jews, the Samaritans had a rocky history.

However, the Gospel brought hope to Samaria. Upon the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the believers went out into all the world, bringing the Good News.

“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So, there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:4-8).

The history of Samaria reminds us that no matter who you are or where you come from, there is Good News through Jesus Christ.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Motortion

(Video) Bonus (John 4) // Who were the Samaritans?

The Samaritans: Hope from the History of a Hated People (7)Alyssa Roatstudied writing, theology, and the Bible at Taylor University. She is a literary agent atC.Y.L.E., the publicity manager atMountain Brook Ink, and a freelance editor withSherpa Editing Services.She is the co-author ofDear Hero and has 200+ bylines in publications ranging fromThe Christian Communicator toKeys for Kids.Find out more about herhere and on social media@alyssawrote.


What is the main message in the parable of the Good Samaritan? ›

Jesus used the Parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of loving those who may not be our friends. Jesus was asked to confirm what he meant by the word 'neighbour'. This is when he told the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), to explain that people should love everyone, including their enemies.

What is the history of the Samaritans in the Bible? ›

Samaritans claim to be descended from the Israelites of ancient Samaria who were not expelled by the Assyrian conquerors of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BCE. They had their own sacred precinct on Mount Gerizim and claimed that it was the original sanctuary.

What lessons do we learn from the story of the Good Samaritan? ›

Having the intent to help is good but acting on that intent is much better. The Samaritan's intent didn't save the wounded man from death. It's his actions that ultimately saved the man's life. He didn't walk away just like the two men before him.

What did the Samaritans believe? ›

Samaritans believe that the Jewish Torah, and Judaism, have been corrupted by time and no longer serve the duties that God mandated to the Israelites on Mount Sinai. The holiest site for Samaritans in their faith is Mount Gerizim near Nablus, while Jews view the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as their most sacred location.

What is the lesson of the parable? ›

The moral lesson of the Parable of the Talents is that we are to use and grow our gifts from God (blessings) for His glory.

What virtue does the parable of the Good Samaritan show? ›

The Samaritan, through merciful actions, restores the human dignity of the anonymous man on the dangerous Jericho road. The parable clearly reveals virtues such as compassion, mercy, solidarity, generosity, hospitality, etc.

Who were the Samaritan people? ›

Samaritan, member of a community, now nearly extinct, that claims to be related by blood to those Israelites of ancient Samaria who were not deported by the Assyrian conquerors of the kingdom of Israel in 722 bce.

What did Jesus say about the Samaritans? ›

In Matthew, however, Jesus instructs his disciples not to preach to Gentiles or in Samaritan cities. In the Gospels, generally, "though the Jews of Jesus' day had no time for the 'half-breed' people of Samaria", Jesus "never spoke disparagingly about them" and "held a benign view of Samaritans".

What was the problem with Samaritans? ›

The Jews called them "half-breeds" and sent them home. The Samaritans built their own temple which the Jews considered pagan. The feud grew, and by the time of Christ, the Jews hated the Samaritans so much they crossed the Jordan river rather than travel through Samaria.

What are examples of the Good Samaritan? ›

The phrase 'Good Samaritan' is used to describe someone who compassionately helps others. Example of Use: “A good Samaritan stopped to help me change my tire.”

What is the culture of the Samaritans in the Bible? ›

The Samaritans are a religious sect of ethnic Jews living near Mount Gerizim, Nablus, Hebron, and the West Bank in Israel. This community differs from mainstream Judaism by claiming that followers only accept the five books of Moses (Torah), and not the books of the Prophets or later texts.

What does the word Samaria mean? ›

Samaria is a girl's name of Hebrew origin. Meaning “watch tower,” this may just be the perfect name for an astute little one who doesn't let any detail pass her by. Samaria is also the name of the capital of ancient Israel, giving baby a rich and diverse history to her title.

What powers do Samaritans have? ›

Superhuman Strength: Samaritan can use his energy to supplement his strength, which allows him to lift and pull heavy objects or force himself to withstand the pressures of flying in and out of orbit. It was alleged by Infidel that Samaritan has also 'fought his way back into ' reality after being cast from it.

What do you believe is the main lesson to be learned from this Parable of the Sower? ›

The man represents God and the seed is His message. Just as a planted seed starts to grow, the word of God starts to deepen and grow within a person.

What is the most important lesson from Matthew 25? ›

In Matthew 25, Jesus calls us to feed those who are hungry. We've made great progress in overcoming hunger, but millions of children around the world still don't get enough nutritious food to live healthy lives.

What is the moral lesson of the parable of the unforgiving servant? ›

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant lesson was that we must forgive others their sin against us if we want our sins against God to be forgiven.

Why did the Good Samaritan helped the stranger? ›

Sure, the priest and the Levite probably had feelings of compassion as they walked by. But it says the Good Samaritan not only felt compassion but actually did something about it—he took the stranger, bandaged up his wounds, poured oil and wine on them, and took him to the inn and made sure he was taken care of.

What are the manifested values of the Good Samaritan? ›

showing compassion to others; upholding dignity; supporting the potential in everyone.

Why did the Samaritan help the man? ›

The Samaritan saw the injured Jewish man lying in the road. Unlike the priest and unlike the Levite, he stopped and took pity on the man. He bent down and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He helped the man climb up onto the back of his own donkey and then took him to an inn, walking alongside.

What does Samaria mean in the Bible? ›

Samaria, Hebrew Shomron, the central region of ancient Palestine.

Where are Samaritans today? ›

By 1919, there were only 141 Samaritans left. Today they number more than 800, with half living in Holon (south of Tel Aviv) and the other half on the mountain. They're one of the world's oldest and smallest religious groups and their songs are among the most ancient in the world.

How strong is Samaritan? ›

Samaritan is a type of superhero that relies on his brute strength mostly as he is superhumanly strong. He is able to lift people in the air and throw them at far distances. He has the brute force and can run through walls destroying them in the process.

What does the Bible say about Samaritan people? ›

Upon hearing the name “Samaritans,” many people are immediately reminded of the famous passage from the Gospel of Luke (10: 25-37), the so called 'Good Samaritan' parable. Jesus tells of a Levite (a Jew) who is beaten and left on the side of the road. None who pass by the injured man stop to help, save a Samaritan.

Why is Samaria important to Jesus? ›

New Testament references

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached and healed the sick there. In the time of Jesus, Iudaea of the Romans was divided into the toparchies of Judea, Samaria, Galilee and the Paralia. Samaria occupied the centre of Iudaea (John 4:4).

What is the name of the Samaritan woman in the Bible? ›

Photini aka the Samaritan woman at the well

You may never have heard of Photini, yet you know her story. This is the name the Eastern Orthodox church has given to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.

What is the story of the Samaritan woman at the well? ›

The Samaritan woman Jesus met faced prejudice from her own community. She came to draw water at the hottest part of the day, instead of the usual morning or evening times, because she was shunned and rejected by the other women of the area for her immorality.

Why did the priest and Levite not help? ›

A lesser class of priests, the Levites did chores in the temple. At least this Levite came close to helping; he “came” and saw. He may have wanted to help, but perhaps he viewed himself as too lowly to help; he also lacked the power to save the dying person.

Which mountain did the Samaritans worship on? ›

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.

What do you believe is the main lesson to be learned from this parable of the sower? ›

The man represents God and the seed is His message. Just as a planted seed starts to grow, the word of God starts to deepen and grow within a person.

What are the manifested values of the Good Samaritan? ›

showing compassion to others; upholding dignity; supporting the potential in everyone.

Who was the Good Samaritan written for? ›

Luke was writing for Greek speaking, gentile (non-Jewish) Christians. Luke's interpretation of events is influenced by his desire to show how Christianity is compatible with citizenship in the Roman Empire, that is, how one can believe in Jesus and, at the same time, be loyal to (if not worship) the emperor.

What is the moral behind the parable of the unforgiving servant? ›

The Bible gives many reasons why humans should be forgiving, but they all lead back to the important lesson that forgiving others leads back to your own forgiveness. The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant lesson was that we must forgive others their sin against us if we want our sins against God to be forgiven.

What is the moral lesson of the Parable of the Sower Luke 8 4 15? ›

Hence, no matter who and what they are, we should show authentic care, love and compassion as our founder and even our Lord did during their time. They left a living example for us to contemplate and emulate in our everyday dealings.

Why is it important to understand the Parable of the Sower? ›

He is teaching us about how we receive His words. Not understanding this parable limits the power of Jesus. If we neglect what Jesus teaches here, then we can't understand or receive God's Word. Having an understanding of this parable is what opens the door to the rest of Jesus' teaching.

What do the 4 soils represent in the Parable of the Sower? ›

Jesus later explains to his disciples that the seed represents the Gospel, the sower represents anyone who proclaims it, and the various soils represent people's responses to it.

What are examples of the good Samaritan? ›

The phrase 'Good Samaritan' is used to describe someone who compassionately helps others. Example of Use: “A good Samaritan stopped to help me change my tire.”

How did the good Samaritan show mercy? ›

Showing Mercy

The Samaritan showed mercy to the wounded man and drew on all he had available to care for him. He used the medicinal qualities of oil and wine on his wounds and fabric for bandages. His animal carried the wounded man and he paid for the stay at the inn with coins.

Who does the Samaritan represent? ›

Some Christians, such as Augustine, have interpreted the parable allegorically, with the Samaritan representing Jesus Christ, who saves the sinful soul. Others, however, discount this allegory as unrelated to the parable's original meaning and see the parable as exemplifying the ethics of Jesus.

What's another word for Good Samaritan? ›

In this page you can discover 7 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions, and related words for good samaritan, like: good neighbor, helping-hand, humanitarian, boy-scout, samaritan, johnny on the spot and do-gooder.

Why did the Israelites not like the Samaritans? ›

However, for hundreds of years the Jews and the people of Samaria had been enemies. They did not agree about where God's people should worship. Jews worshipped at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans had made another place for worship.

Who is the unforgiving servant in the Bible? ›

The parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35)

A man owed the king ten thousand talents . He could not pay so he begged for mercy – and the king cancelled the debt. The man then met a fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii .

What happens if we don't forgive others? ›

The negative consequences of not forgiving has been documented in studies that show that it can lead to emotional pain of anger, hate, hurt, resentment, bitterness and so on and as a consequence can create health issues, affect relationships and stop us from experiencing the freedom that forgiveness enables.

What happened to the unforgiving servant at the end of the original parable? ›

But because he couldn't pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!'


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