Smith's Bible Dictionary
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 Lordís 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 (2 Kings 17:24) "the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and
front Cuthah, and from Av. (Ivah,) (2 Kings 18:34) 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. Godís 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 childrenís children: as did their fathers, so do the unto this day." (2 Kings 17:41) 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 Gerazim for the Samaritans, with whom he had
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
Gerazim 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 Lordís 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 Gerazim 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.
These files are public domain.
Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Samaríitans'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". 1901.