Saturday, March 19, 2011

Background on Samaria

Ordinarily, most Jews of Jesus’ day, if they wanted to get to Galilee, took the long way around, six days on foot instead of two, so they wouldn’t have to go through Samaria.

A thousand years and more before Jesus’ time, the ten northern tribes of Israel had rebelled and started their own government, leaving only the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin as the "real Israel" under King David’s dynasty. The northern tribes rejected the Jerusalem temple worship and set up golden calves at their own shrines, in "holy cities" of their own making.

Three hundred years later the Assyrians came in and wiped out the northern kingdom, took the people captive, and sent in their own people to repopulate the devastated area. You can read the whole story in 2 Kings 17. Hundreds of years after that, when the Jews came back to Judah to rebuild the temple, they would not let the Samaritans help them and forbade intermarriage with the Samaritans.

For the next 450 years the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. The Samaritan built their own temple on their own mountain, Mt. Gerizim, in the historic area of Shechem where Jacob had originally pitched his tent and dug a well. They only accepted the first five books of the Bible as scripture, and they also worshiped five other deities besides Yahweh. They were a mixed-race people, part Hebrew and part Assyrian, and they had a mixed religion, like New Age today.

When Jesus and His disciples got to Jacob’s famous well, they decided to take a break. Jesus sat down to rest, and the disciples went into the nearest town to go buy some food. They probably passed by the woman with her water jug as they walked into the town of Sychar. Archeologists show there was another well in town, but she was walking the extra half mile every day out of town to go to Jacob’s well, probably because of her low reputation amongst the other town members.

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1 comment:

  1. I have been puzzling over the fact that that the area around the sea of Galilee although part of the Northern Kingdom when Assyria invaded seems not to be populated by mixed breed. Do you know how that area remained or returned to Jewish hands?


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