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                THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY

                      OF THE SAMARITANS





                                        WAYNE A. BRINDLE


The development of Samaritanism and its alienation from Juda-

ism was a process that began with the division of the kingdom of

Israel, and continued through successive incidents which promoted

antagonism, including the importation of foreign colonists into Sa-

maria by Assyria, the rejection of the new Samaritan community by

the Jews, the building of a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim, the political

and religious opportunism of the Samaritans, and the destruction of

both the Samaritan temple and their capital of Shechem by John

Hyrcanus during the second century B:C. The Samaritan religion at

the time of Jesus had become Mosaic and quasi-Sadducean, but

strongly anti-Jewish. Jesus recognized their heathen origins and the

falsity of their religious claims.

*  *  *


RELATIONS between the Jews and the Samaritans were always

strained. Jesus ben Sirach (ca. 180 B.C.) referred to the Samari-

!ans as "the foolish people that dwell in Shechem" (Sir 50:26). There

is a tradition that 300 priests and 300 rabbis once gathered in the

temple court in Jerusalem to curse the Samaritans with all the curses

in the Law of Moses. When the Jews wanted to curse Jesus Christ,

they called him demon-possessed and a Samaritan in one breath

(John 8:48).

       The Samaritans are important to biblical studies for several

reasons:1 (1) They claim to be the remnant of the kingdom of Israel,

specifically of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, with priests of the

line of Aaron/Levi. (2) They possess an ancient recension of the

Pentateuch which. is non-Masoretic and shows close relationship to a

text type underlying both the LXX and some Hebrew manuscripts


1 Cf. Theodore H. Gaster, "Samaritans," IDB, 4.190; and James D. Purvis, The

Samaritan Pentateuch and the Origin of the Samaritan Sect (Cambridge: Harvard

University, 1968) 2-3.



among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and are therefore important both for

textual criticism of the OT as well as the study of the history of

Hebrew. (3) They appear several times in the NT, especially in Luke,

John, and Acts, and may provide the background for controversies

related in Ezra, Nehemiah, and other post-exilic writings. (4) They

provide much insight into the cosmopolitan nature of Palestinian

religion and politics before and at the time of Christ. (5) At one time

the community was large enough to exercise considerable influence in

Palestine, Egypt, Syria, and even Rome. (6) And they were important

enough to be a subject of controversy in Josephus and Rabbinic

literature (notable among which are many references in the Mishnah

and an extra tractate in the Talmud).

       The principal questions addressed in this study are: (1) When

did the Samaritan sect come into existence as a distinct ethnic and

religious group, with its own traditions and teachings? and (2) What

was the development and history of the enmity between Samaritans

and Jews?

       The sources for a history of the Samaritans are predominantly

anti-Samaritan: 2 Kings 17; Ezra and Nehemiah; Sir 50:25-26; 2 Macc

6:2; the Assyrian Annals of Sargon; the Elephantine Papyri; the

Mishnah; the Babylonian Talmud (Masseket Kutim); the New Testa-

ment (Matthew, Luke, John, Acts); and Josephus (especially Ant 9,

11, 12, 13, 18, 20).2  Samaritan literature is largely late; the Samaritan

Pentateuch, however, though copied in the 14th century, dates back

in recensional form at least to the Hasmonean period (ca. 100-

150 B.C.). Many of its peculiarities reflect Samaritan religious ten-

dencies, and it is thus an early witness to their beliefs and claims.

       The problem of sources is compounded by the fact that the name

"Samaritan" occurs only once in the OT (2 Kgs 17:29-translated in

the NASB as "the people of Samaria"), and there it refers not to the

"Samaritans" as they appear in the Talmud, Josephus, and the NT,

but rather to the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel before its

captivity by Assyria! An accurate understanding of the Samaritans as

a religious people must therefore depend on much more than a simple

identification based on names and geography.



       The traditional theories of Samaritan origins are reduced by

Purvis to four basic positions:3 (1) the view of the Samaritans them-

I selves, that their movement is a perpetuation of the ancient Israelite


2 A. Ge1ston, "Samaritans," New Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962) 1132.

3 James D. Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 4-5.

BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                              49


faith as it was practised in the pre-monarchical period at Shechem

(ca. 1400-1100 B.C.); (2) the counterclaim of Judaism, that Samari-

tanism is a heresy derived from a corrupt worship of Yahweh which

developed in northern Palestine after the Assyrian conquest of that

area about 722 B.C.; (3) an interpretation based on Ezra, Nehemiah,

and Josephus, that the Samaritans broke away from the Jews in the

Persian period; and (4) the assertion that a Samaritan schism occurred

in the early Greek period.

        All views demonstrate that there was a definite schism,4 followed

by a long period of independent development of the two groups. The

Samaritans place the schism in the twelfth century B.C., at the time of

Eli. The Jews date it in the eighth century B.C.

      Modern critics have tended to date the schism much later, but

most have retained the schism concept. Some scholars, however, have

begun to question this notion. As Coggins points out:


Two points in particular have remained characteristic of many descrip-

tions: the view of Samaritanism as a debased form of religion, contain-

ing many syncretistic elements; and the notion of a schism-with its

twofold connotation, of a definite break that took place at a specific

moment in history, and of that break as implying the departure of the

schismatic from the accepted norm. ...It is hoped that it will become

clear that neither of these features should be taken for granted as truly

characteristic of the situation.5


Purvis stresses that "the so-called Samaritan schism, or withdrawal

from the mainstream of Judaism, was not so much an event as a

process--a process extending over several centuries and involving a

series of events which eventually brought about estrangement between

the two communities."6 Historians have tended to select one event

and to declare that it was this that caused the emergence of the

Samaritan sect. They have also disagreed as to which element of

Samaritanism represents its crucial distinction from Judaism. The

as Samaritans, for example, say that worship at Gerizim rather than

elsewhere has always been the determining factor. The Jews regard

the intermarriage of Assyrian colonists and northern Israelites and

the development of a syncretistic religion as the origin of the heresy.

Others refer to the erection of a temple on Mt. Gerizim, or the rejec-

tion of the post-Pentateuchal scriptures, as the crucial event.

       The thesis of this article is that the origin of Samaritanism was

indeed a process--a process which began at least with the division of

the kingdom (by ca. 931 B.C.) and continued through each successive


4 R. J. Coggins, Samaritans and Jews (Oxford: Blackwell, 1975) 7.

5 Ibid., 4.

6 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 5.



incident, including the importation of foreign colonists and the build-

ing of the Gerizim temple, right up to their final excommunication by

the Jews about A.D. 300. Thus even in NT times the process of

estrangement was still going on, although the sect could surely be

considered distinct once it had its own temple and worship on


       Most modern critics tend to minimize the OT's witness to the

origin of the Samaritan people and religion, assuming that such

"Jewish" accounts are too prejudiced to be reliable. This attitude

must be avoided, however, since the statements of Jesus Christ show

that he also recognized the dubiousness of their origins and the false-

hood of their religious claims.



       The Samaritans claim to be the true children of Israel, who have

remained faithful to the Law of Moses.7 The Torah in their hands is

"the true, original and faultless Torah in all its sentences, pronuncia-

tions, and its style."8

       The Samaritans claim to be descendants of the tribe of Joseph,

and thus descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh. Their priests are

from the house of Levi, descendants of Aaron. When Israel entered

Palestine, Joshua established the center of his administration at

Shechem, in the valley between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal.9

The high priest at the time was Eleazar, son of Aaron, who also lived

in Shechem. Six years after the entrance into the land, Joshua built

the Tabernacle on Gerizim, where all worship of the Israelites was


        After Joshua's death there was a succession of kings (called

M<yFpw, "judges," by the Jews), the last of whom was Samson. Eleazar

was succeeded at Gerizim by Phinehas, Abishua, Shesha, Bacha, and


      When Uzzi became high priest at the age of 23, Eli (a descendant

of Ithamar rather than of Eleazar10), then 60 years old, was director

of revenues and tithes and director of the sacrifices on the stone altar

outside the Tabernacle.11  Eli became rich through revenues and jealous

of Uzzi, and he decided to take the high-priesthood away from Uzzi.


7 Jacob, Son of Aaron, "The History and Religion of the Samaritans," BSac 63

(1906) 393.

8 Ibid.

9 John MacDonald, The Theology of the Samaritans (Philadelphia: Westminster,

1964) 16.

10 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 88, n. 1.

11 Jacob, "History," 395.

BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                                        51


       About the time of Eli, foreigners began to enter Israel and to

teach the people sorcery and magic. Even a large number of priests

learned it and left the ways of God. Eli was one of these, and he

gathered a group of supporters. One day Uzzi the high priest rebuked

Eli for some fault in his sacrificial work, and Eli with his followers

immediately apostatlzed.12 Some of Israel followed Uzzi (especially

the tribes of Joseph), and some followed Eli (especially Judah and


       Eli moved to Shiloh and took copies of the Law with him. There

he made a counterfeit ark and tabernacle and set up a rival sanctuary.

He claimed that God had commanded the tabernacle to be moved to

Shiloh from Gerizim. A majority of the people of Israel began to

follow Eli because of his sorcery, and a deep dissension began to

grow between the two groups. Thus, for a time there were two sanc-

tuaries and two priesthoods (one descended from Phinehas, the other

from Ithamar), and the first division on religious grounds in Israel

was created.13 The Samaritans thereafter rejected the claims of the

Ithamar branch of priests in favor of the sons of Phinehas. As a result

of Eli's defection, Israel was split into three divisions: (1) the followers

of Uzzi, the genuine high priest; (2) the followers of Eli; and (3) many

of various tribes who lapsed into paganism.

        This is the only schism that the Samaritans know.14 Eli's act

ended the era of divine favor (htAUkra, "Rahuta ") and initiated the age

of divine wrath (htAUnPA, "Panuta ").

      One day God told Uzzi to put all of the vessels and furniture of

the tabernacle into a nearby cave, after which the cave miraculously

closed up, engulfing the entire sanctuary. The next day, the cave and

its contents completely disappeared (not to be found again until the

Taheb or Messiah comes).15

       About this time, Samuel, a descendant of Korah, came to live

with Eli at Shiloh. Eli taught him all his evil ways, including sorcery

and witchcraft. When Eli died, the people made Samuel their ruler.

The Philistines took advantage of the corruption and division to

attack Israel. The people demanded a king, so Samuel appointed


       Saul determined to punish the tribes of Joseph because they did

not follow Samuel's cult in Shiloh, so he went to Shechem and

destroyed the remaining altar on Gerizim, killed the high priest Shisha

(son of Uzzi), and destroyed many of the tribe.16 They began to


12 Ibid.,397.

13 MacDonald, Theology, 17.

14 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 88, n. I.

15 MacDonald, Theology, 17.

16 Jacob, "History," 406-7.



worship in their homes, and many moved to Bashan, east of the Sea

of Galilee. But the Torah was kept in its original condition.

After Saul died, David came to Shechem and became king of all

Israel. He captured Jabish (Jerusalem) and moved Eli's ark there.

When David decided to build a temple in Jerusalem, the high priest

at Gerizim, Yaire, told him that he would have to build it on

"Mt. Gerizim instead, according to the Torah. So David, who was a

friend of this high priest (cf. 1 Sam 21:1-7) and had always offered

his tithes at Gerizim, refrained from building the temple and left,it for

his son to do. Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem and led the

people astray from God. Jeroboam later rebelled and led Israel even

further astray. He made his capital in Sabastaba17 (Sebaste, later

called Samaria).

       There were now three groups of Israelites: (1) the Samaritans,

who kept themselves distinct from the rest and called themselves

MyriM;wo, keepers of the Law; (2) the Israelites of the north, who fol-

lowed Jeroboam; and (3) the tribe of Judah, with a mixture of various

other tribes, who followed the line of David.18

       Assyria finally captured the Northern Kingdom and enslaved the

people. An Assynan named Samar controlled Sabastaba, and an

Israelite (of the tribe of Joseph) bought the city and it became known

as Samaria. Its inhabitants thus became known as Samaritans.19

Some of the followers of Uzzi were also taken into captivity by

the Assyrians. Later, Nebuchadnezzar deported people from all tribes

(including the tribe of Joseph) to Babylon. Foreigners immigrated to

Israel in order to settle, but had problems with famine and wild

beasts. So Cyrus sent the "Samaritan" high priest Abdullah (or

Abdel20), along with a host of descendants of Joseph, back to the

Land. Abdullah wanted to build a sanctuary on Gerizim, but Zerub-

babel the Jew wanted to rebuild in Jerusalem. Abdullah appealed to

the Torah, whereas the Jews appealed to David and Solomon. Cyrus

sided with the Samaritans, honored Sanballat their governor, and

allowed many from the tribe of Joseph to return and to build a

temple on Gerizim.

       Enmity between the tribes of Joseph and Judah continued to

grow. Zerubbabel bribed the King of Persia to allow the Jews to

build a temple in Jerusalem, but the Samaritans then received permis-

sion to destroy what they had built. This caused yet greater division.


17 Ibid., 414; actually, it was Herod the Great who gave it the name Sebaste, which

is Greek for Augustus.

18 MacDonald, Theology, 18.

19 Jacob, "History ," 415.

20 Ay. L., "Samaritans," Encyclopaedia Judaica, 14.728.

BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                              53


Ezra (the "accursed Ezra,,21) finally obtained a second decree

(through Esther and by means of witchcraft) from King Ashoresh

(Ahasuerus) to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem and to

exercise authority over all the Land. Since the Jews had lost the

Torah and all their books, Ezra began to collect legends and narra-

tives and invented many things which never occurred. He falsely

claimed (in 2 Kings 17) that the Samaritans were Gentiles with false

gods (cf. Ezra 4). He also invented the idea, popular among later

rabbis, that the Samaritans call Ashina (or Ashima) their god, whereas

in reality they simply substitute the word "Shimeh" (from Mwe, "name")

for YHWH, in the same way that the Jews use the substitution word,

ynAdoxE, "Adonai,,).22 Ezra wrote in the "Assyrian" language (Aramaic),

whereas the Samaritans retained Hebrew. Ezra was wicked and cor-

rupted the Jews even more, and by persecutions and lies caused much

of the hatred between the Jews and Samaritans. These persecutions

kept the Samaritan nation small, but Samaritans still claim to carry

out the ancient customs according to the Mosaic Law.23

       Thus, Judaism is an extension of Eli's heresy through Samuel,

Saul, David, the Judean monarchy, and Ezra, with the rival cult

shifting from Shiloh to Jerusalem and later developing a complete

tradition on which to base it. The true Samaritan claims were dis-

missed with slander and persecution.

      Several things may be said concerning this account by the

Samaritans of their own history. Purvis declares that "to accept the

Samaritan claim at face value would be extraordinarily naive."24 Most

of their sources are extremely late, although their later chronicles do

make use of earlier ones.25

       In their favor, however, is the fact that at regular intervals before

the divided monarchy, all twelve tribes gathered at Shechem to wor-

ship their common God.26 It was to Shechem that Rehoboam went to

be anointed king of all Israel (1 Kgs 12: 1). Jeroboam built up Shechem

as his first capital (1 Kgs 12:25). Gerizim was mentioned as a sacred

mountain in Deuteronomy (11:29; 27:12), whereas Jerusalem and

Mt. Zion were chosen much later.

       Jeroboam also corrupted the priesthood by making priests of

non-Levites (1 Kgs 12:31; 2 Chr 13:9). It may be questioned whether

any of the legitimate priests decided to separate from Jeroboam's


21 Gaster, "Samaritans,"191.

22 Jacob, "History," 424.

23 Ibid.,426.

24 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 92.

25 Ibid.,90.

26 Salo W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 2nd ed. (New York:

Columbia University, 1952) 1.61.



apostate system in order to preserve the true worship of Yahweh.

(Such priests may have simply gone south to Jerusalem, however.) It

is not known whether the priesthood in northern Israel survived the

Assyrian conquest.27 But it does seem certain that "only a very small

percentage of the Samaritan, or northern Israelite, people were exiled,

to judge from Sargon's own account, and he makes no mention of

any religious groups."28

        All of these factors may be explained by the assumption that

when the Samaritan sect finally developed its own identity and organi-

zation (during the last centuries B.C.), it was forced to reinterpret

Israelite history in order to validate its claims to be the true remnant

of Israel. The peculiarities of the Samaritan Pentateuch (which seem

to be rather transparent alterations) also support this hypothesis. The

progress of divine revelation in both testaments also supports this

view, for, as Jesus himself said, "Salvation is from the Jews"

(John 4:22).




The Name "Samaritan"

       About 875 B.C., Omri founded the city of Samaria on a hill

about seven miles northwest of Shechem.29 He bought the hill from a

man named Shemer for two talents of silver, built a fortified city, and

called it Samaria (NOrm;Ow), after the name of the previous owner

(1 Kgs 16:24). Shemer was apparently a widespread clan name in


       Samaria became the capital of the northern kingdom and re-

mained the capital until its destruction by Alexander the Great

(ca. 332 B.C.). The capital soon gave its name to the entire nation (cf.

1 Kgs 13:32; Hos 8:5; Amos 3:9; Isa 9:9-12). Subsequently, the nation

gave its name to its inhabitants, the Samarians.


27 Ay. L., "Samaritans," 727.

28 John Bright, A History of Israel, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1972) 236;

G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archaeology (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1957) 152; JamesL.

Kelso, "Samaria, City of," Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5.232. The

date is not certain; cf. Eugene H. Merrill, An Historical Survey of the Old Testament

(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1966) 251; Gaalyah Cornfeld and David N. Freedman, Archae-

ology of the Bible: Book by Book (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1976) 119;

Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, rev. ed. (Grand

Rapids: Zondervan, 1983) 36, 88, who, among others, would date the founding of

Samaria ca. 880 B.C.

29 James L. Kelso, "Samaria, City of," Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the

Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975) 5.232.

30 James A. Montgomery, The Samaritans (New York: Ktav, 1968) 317.

BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                                        55


        Yet the name MyniOrm;Ow ("Samaritans") occurs only once in the

entire OT (2 Kgs 17:29), and there it refers not to the so-called "mixed

race" who appear in the NT, but rather to the former inhabitants of

Samaria, many of whom were carried off into exile. As Unger states:

It is customary to refer "Samaritans" in this passage to the colonists

brought by the king of Assyria in place of the deported Israelites; but

the text seems rather to mean that these colonists put their gods into

the houses of the high places which the "Samaritans," i.e., the former

inhabitants of Samaria, had made for their own religious use. ...31

      Indeed, Coggins claims that "there are no unambiguous references

to the Samaritans in the Hebrew Old Testament."32 The LXX has

Samaeitai, again only at 2 Kgs 17:29. This word also occurs in

Josephus and the NT, and from it the English form is derived.

The more usual name found in Josephus and the Talmud is

Kutim or Cutheans, which refers to one of the groups of foreign

colonists mentioned in 2 Kgs 17:24, 30. This name, of course, empha-

sizes the supposed heathen origins and syncretistic practice of the

Samaritans. Another name used several times by Josephus is "She-

chemites" (Sikimitai),33 a name which refers to their principal city.

Josephus also says that the Samaritans of the Hellenistic period

called themselves "Sidonians in Shechem" when they wanted to dis-

sociate themselves from the Jews and win the support of Antiochus


       On the other hand, the Samaritans themselves do not use these

designations at all. Usually they call themselves "Israel."35 But they

also frequently use the term Myrim;wA36 or Nyiram;wA,37 which they contend

means "keepers" or "observers" of the truth, the Law of God, derived

from the verb rmawA (to guard or observe). The use of this term is

admitted early, since it was known by Epiphanus (A.D. 375) and

Origen (ca. A.D. 240).38  Ewing suggests that a derivative of rmawA would


31 Merrill F. Unger, Unger's Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Moody, 1966) 958.

32 Coggins,  Samaritans, 9.

33 Josephus, Ant. 11.8.6.

34 Josephus, Ant. 11.8.6; 12.5.5.

35 Coggins, Samaritans, 10.

36 Ay. L., "Samaritans," 728.

37 Shemaryahu Talmon, "The Samaritans," Scientific American (January, 1977)


38 Epiphanius, Panarion 9.1; Origen, Homily on Ezekiel 9.1-5; Commentary on

.John 20.35; cf. G. W. H. Lampe, ed., A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon,

1961) 1222; N. R. M. de Lange, Origen and the Jews (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer-

sity, 1976) 36; Coggins, Samaritans, 11.



have fit even the city of Samaria in the sense of "outlook," since it

had a commanding view of the Plain of Sharon.39

       The suggestion has also been made that there is an allusion to

the Samaritan self-designation in 2 Chr 13:11, where King Abijah of

Judah condemns the Northern Israelites with the phrase "we are

keepers [Myrim;Ow] of the charge of the Lord our God, but you have

forsaken Him."40 This speech comes shortly after the division of the

kingdom in Chronicles and perhaps may be seen as Abijah's declara-

tion of the "Jewish monopoly of salvation."41 Abijah also emphasizes

the true priesthood at Jerusalem, contrasting it with the illegitimate

priesthood of Northern Israel which served false gods. The suggestion

of some critics is that the author of Chronicles inserted or used this

allusion as a polemic against the Samaritan system of his own day.42

The use of the term here is striking, but in the complete absence

of other evidence, it is doubtful that the technical use of the term was

current at such an early date. It is more likely that the connection

with "keeping" the law was a reaction against the pejorative use of the

name "Samaritan" by the Jews in Rabbinic or later times.


The Samaritan People

       When Jeroboam declared himself king of Israel, his kingdom

included the entire northern two-thirds of the earlier kingdom of

Solomon, from Bethel in the south to Dan in the north, with author-

ity stretching probably to the Euphrates River (1 Kgs 4:24).43 This

dominion was quickly lost,44 however, and during the Assyrian inva-

sions of the ninth and eighth centuries B.C., Israel lost progressively

more territory.45 Finally in 722/21 B.C., the city of Samaria was taken

after a three year siege.46

                 The fall of Samaria ...marked a new era in the history of the

northern kingdom. The leading citizens were deported by Sargon, while

exiles from other parts of the Assyrian Empire were imported by

Sargon, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal.47


39 W. Ewing, "Samaria," ISBE (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939) 4.2671.

40 Coggins, Samaritans, II.

41 Ibid.

42 Ibid.

43 Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah, The MacMillan Bible Atlas (New

York: MacMillan, 1968) 68.

44 Ibid., 76.

45 Ibid., 86-97.

46 Ewing, "Samaritans," 2672.

47 A. Gelston, "Samaritans," The New Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1962) 1131.

BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                                        57


       Sargon carried off 27,290 people, as he recounted in his annals,48

probably mostly influential people from the city of Samaria itself.

Yamauchi estimates that 500,000 to 700,000 people lived in Israel at

this time.49 Thus Sargon neither desolated nor depopulated the land;

he merely took away its independence and its leading citizens. In

720 B.C. Samaria, together with Arpad, Simyra, and Damascus, joined

in a revolt against Assyria headed by Hamath.50 It is likely that large-

scale deportations were carried out by Sargon as a result of this and

similar revolts.51

       According to 2 Kgs 17:24, "the king of Assyria brought men from

Babylon and from Cuthah and from A vva and from Hamath and

Sephar-vaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the

sons of Israel." If these were limited mainly to the vicinity of the city

of Samaria, this would account well for the fact that the Galilee of

NT times remained a Jewish region.52

         The conquests of several of these nations were referred to later,

in 701 B.C., by Rabshakeh when he taunted the people of Jerusalem

with these words:


Has anyone of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand

of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad?

Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they de-

livered Samaria from my hand? (2 Kgs 18:33-34; cf. Isa 36: 18-20)


Additional colonists were imported by Esarhaddon about 680 B.C.

and by Ashurbanipal about 669-630 B.C.53 Many of these peoples

kept their separate identities for several generations, as is shown by

their statement to Zerubbabel (ca. 535 B.C.) that "we have been sacri-

ficing to Him [Yahweh God] since the days of Esarhaddon king of

Assyria, who brought us up here" (Ezra 4:2).

        It is indeed important to recognize that the question of the

national heritage of the Samaritans is to some extent distinct from

the question of their religion (which will be considered below). How-

ever, modern critics have tended to adopt the misguided view that


48 ANET, 284-85; cf. Wright, Archaeology, 162; Bright, History, 274.

49 Edwin Yamauchi, "The Archaeological Background of Ezra," BSac 137 (1980)

195. Coggins (Samaritans, 17) estimates a deportation of between 3% and 4% of the population.

50 Bright, History, 274; Unger, Dictionary, 958.

51 Coggins, Samaritans, 17.

52 Unger, Dictionary, 958; cf. Ezra 4:10.

53 Ibid.; Herbert Donner, "The Separate States of Israel and Judah," in Israelite

and Judaean History, eds. John H. Hayes and J. Maxwell Miller (OTL; Philadelphia:

Westminster, 1977) 434; Siegfried Herrmann, A History of Israel in Old Testament

Times, trans. John Bowden (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975) 251; Thiele, Numbers, 178.



2 Kings 17 says nothing about the origin of the Samaritans.54 It will

be shown below that the rejection of these people by Zerubbabel,

Ezra, and Nehemiah because of their heathen ancestry and the begin-

ning of the worship on Gerizim because of the same kind of rejection

by the Jews are but two milestones in the process of the development

of the Samaritan sect.

       That the Samaritan people did have their origin with these im-

portations of foreigners by Assyria into the region of Samaria is

shown conclusively by three statements made by Jesus: (1) Matt

10:5-6: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any

city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of

Israel." The promise of salvation was first to the entire seed of

Abraham, to the whole house of Israel. Clearly Jesus did not consider

the Samaritans (perhaps the "cities of the Samaritans" were not

synonymous with the province of Samaria, but were certain cities

which were predominantly Samaritan--cf. Luke 9:52) to be part of

the "house of Israel" (though not quite Gentiles, either). And this was

despite the fact that they then worshiped the God of Moses and kept

the pure Law even more stringently than the Jews. This fits well with

taking 2 Kings 17 as the description of their origin.

        (2) Luke 17: 18: Jesus calls the Samaritan who returned to thank

him for healing him a "foreigner" (a]llogenh>j). In view of Jesus'

comments elsewhere concerning the Samaritans, it is doubtful that he

would use such a designation simply to accommodate popular Jewish

opinion. He obviously considered Samaritans to some extent non-

Israelites, not simply sectarians or heretics.

       (3) John 4:22: "salvation is from the Jews." This statement was

intended to show the accuracy of genuine Jewish faith as against the

Samaritan system. But it also shows that Jesus distinguished between

the national origins of Jews and Samaritans, for he would never have

made such a distinction with Galileans.




      The roots of the enmity between Jews and Samaritans go back to

the antagonism between the north and the south.55  But this was only

one of the tensions within Judaism (in a Palestinian sense) from

which Samaritanism sprang.


Foreign Settlers and Foreign Gods

       When the foreign settlers from Syria and Mesopotamia began to

colonize Samaria, a problem developed. As 2 Kgs 17:25-33 puts it:


54 Cf. Coggins, Samaritans, IS.

55 Reinhard Pummer, "The Present State of Samaritan Studies," JSS 21 (1976) 52;

cf. Coggins, Samaritans, 81; Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 9, n. 13.

BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                                        59


And it came about at the beginning of their living there, that they did

not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them which

killed some of them. So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, "The

nations whom you have carried away into exile in the cities of Samaria

do not know the custom of the god of the land; so he has sent lions

among them, and behold, they kill them because they do not know the

custom of the god of the land."

       Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, "Take there one of

the priests whom you carried away into exile, and let him go and live

there; and let him teach them the custom of the god of the land." So

one of the priests whom they had carried away into exile from Samaria

came and lived at Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the

Lord. But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the

houses of the high places which the people of Samaria had made, every

nation in their cities in which they lived. And the men of Babylon made

Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath

made Ashima, and the A vvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the

Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and

Anammelech the gods of Sepharvaim. They also feared the Lord and

appointed from among themselves priests of the high places, who acted

for them in the houses of the high places. They feared the Lord and

served their own gods according to the custom of the nations from

among whom they had been carried away into exile.

     Thus, as Montgomery says, "According to this narrative, the

early Samaritan religion was syncretistic, that is, a mixture of different

elements, having arisen from the amalgamation of the ancient religion

of Northern Israel with the heathen cults which the Assyrian colonists

had brought with them to their new home."56 At first the new peoples

still worshiped their own gods, but in the course of time they inter-

mingled with one another and with the native Israelites of Samaria.57

They learned from the Israelite priest and soon adopted the worship

of Yahweh along with their old gods.

       Tadmor relates that "the Assyrians regarded it as a primary state

function to unify the heterogeneous ethnic elements in the main cities

of the kingdom and the provinces and to turn them into cohesive

local units within an Assyrianized society."58 Thus, as time went on,

and at least by the third century B.C., there came into being a new

ethnic and religious entity (apart from the Hellenists introduced by

Alexander and the Seleucids), the "kernel of what later became known

as the Samaritans."59

56 James A. Montgomery, "Were the Samaritans Worthy or Unworthy?" The

Sunday School Times 48 (1906) 383.

57 H. Tadmor, "The Period of the First Temple, the Babylonian Exile and the

Restoration," in A History of the Jewish People, edited by H. H. Ben-Sasson (Cam-

bridge, MA: Harvard, 1976) 137.

58 Ibid.

59 Ibid.



      It is here that a serious problem' arises. On the one hand

2 Kings 17 definitely implies the development of a syncretistic religion

(cf. v 33: "they feared the Lord and served their own gods"). But on

the other hand, as Kelso expresses it, "Samaritan theology shows no

sign of the influence of paganism among the colonists sent by the


       What is the solution to this paradox? Gaster refuses to harmo-

nize the two:

The most plausible conclusion is, then, that after the fall of Samaria in

722, the local population consisted of two distinct elements living side

by side-viz., (a) the remnant of the native Israelites; and (b) the

foreign colonists. For tendentious reasons, however, the Jewish version

ignores the former; the Samaritan version, the latter.61

       It is the opinion of this writer that the religious situation in,

Samaria moved through several phases from 722 B.C. to the Christian

era: (1) At first the Israelites and the foreigners co-existed side by

side; (2) when the teaching priest arrived (2 Kgs 17:28), the religion

of the colonists almost immediately became syncretistic with Yahwism;

(3) during the religious campaigns of Hezekiah and Josiah and there-

after, the bulk of the population of Samaria became more and more

Yahwistic in the Jewish sense, although much of the foreign element

failed to give up its gods (2 Kgs 17:41); (4) when the Samaritan temple

on Mt. Gerizim was built (ca. 332 B.C.),62 the priest Manasseh actively

began to teach the Samaritan people a strict Yahwism based on the

Torah and to develop a more sectarian, but conservative and quasi-

Sadducean, religious system, with an active temple worship; (5) after

the destruction of the Samaritan temple about 128 B.C., the Samari-

tans put even more emphasis upon the Law, and their particular

brand of theology began to solidify in conjunction with the Samaritan

Pentateuch and their anti-Jewish attitudes and conduct.

       Though some of the foregoing is conjecture, the scheme fits the

facts of Scripture and the nature and history of the sect. It hinges on

references in the Bible and elsewhere to an ongoing teaching ministry

among the Samaritans.


The teaching priest

        Some have thought that any priest from the Northern Kingdom

would be syncretistic or pagan in outlook, since the religious system


60 James L. Kelso, "Samaritans," Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible,

5.245; Gaster, "Samaritans," 192.

61Gaster, "Samaritans," 192.

62 Josephus, Ant. 11.8.4.

BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                                        61


founded by Jeroboam introduced idol-worship. It is not certain,

however, that Jeroboam intended to substitute idolatry for the wor-

ship of Yahweh. Wood contends that "the intent was still to worship

Yahweh, but in a new way."63 As Unger points out, the schism was

more political than religious, and Jeroboam's purpose was not to

separate Israel from the true God, but from Jerusalem and the Davidic


        Many scholars note that this was not necessarily a change of

religion. De Vaux, for example, thinks that "the God Jeroboam asked

his subjects to adore was Yahweh who had brought Israel out of


          The novelty lies in the cultic symbol, the 'golden calves.'...They were

wooden statues covered with gold plate. It seems certain that these

statues were not thought of, originally, as representations of Yahweh.

In the primitive religions of Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Egypt, the

sacred animal is not the god and is not confused with the god; it merely

embodies his attributes, is an ornament of his throne or a support for

it, or a footstool for his use. There are several examples extant of gods

riding on the animal which is their symbol. The Temple of Jerusalem

had the Ark, and the Cherubim above it formed the throne of Yahweh;

Jeroboam needed something similar for the sanctuaries he founded,

and he made the 'golden calves' as the throne for the invisible godhead.66

      Archaeologists are in general agreement. Albright was an early

supporter of the idea that "Jeroboam represented Yahweh as an

invisible figure standing on a young bull of gold."67 He points to

cylinder seals of the second millennium B.C. on which the storm-god

of Mesopotamia is represented as a schematic bolt of lightning set

upright on the back of a bull.68

       Wright agrees that for Jeroboam the golden calves (or bulls)

"may have been the pedestal on which the invisible Lord was thought


63 Leon Wood, A Survey of Israel's History (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970) 304;

cf. C. F. Keil, The Books of the Kings, trans. James Martin (Biblical Commentary on

the Old Testament, reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950) 198.

64 Unger, Dictionary, 958.

65 R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2 (New York: McGraw-Hili, 1961) 333.

66 Ibid., 333-34; cf. Donner, "Separate States," 387-88; note I Sam 4:4 and 2 Sam

6:2, where Yahweh is said to be "enthroned above the cherubim."

67 William F. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, 2nd ed. (Baltimore:

Johns Hopkins, 1957) 299; cf. Merrill (Survey, 248), who states that "these calves

certainly were not images of Yahweh, but only representations of the throne upon

which Yahweh stood."

68 Albright, Stone Age, 300; cf. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (Lon-

don: University of London, 1968; reprint; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1978) 197-

98; Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1956) 156.



to stand."69 As an example he refers to a carving from northern Syria

(8th century B.C.) picturing the storm-god Hadad (Baal) standing on

the back of a bull.

       Whatever the origin and intention of the golden calves, it is clear

that they were a serious offense to God70 and represented a grave

danger to the continued worship of Yahweh in Israel The bull was

the animal which symbolized Baal, and the mass of people would

confuse the "bull of Yahweh" and the "bull of Baal."72 The door was

thus opened to syncretism and idolatry. According to Wood, "Jero-

boam's innovation made the later introduction of Baal worship into

the land under Ahab and Jezebel (I Kgs 16:30-33) much easier."73

        The prophet Ahijah condemned these "molten images" (I Kgs

14:9). Jeroboam is said to have sacrificed to the calves as though they

were gods (I Kgs 12:32).74 His great sin, shared by all his successor~

(d. 2 Kgs 10:29) and the people of Israel (2 Kgs 17:8, 12, 16, 21, 22),

consisted especially in setting up these images. More broadly, how-

ever, Jeroboam violated God's law in four principal ways:75 (1) he

changed the symbols of worship, introducing images associated with

pagan worship clearly prohibited by God76 (Exod 34: 17); (2) he

changed the center of worship (I Kgs 12:29-30), away from God's

appointed center; (3) he changed the priesthood, abandoning the

chosen tribe of Levi (I Kgs 12:31; 13:33; 2 Chr 13:9); and (4) he

changed the schedule of feasts (I Kgs 12:33).


69 Wright, Archaeology, 147; cf. Bright, History, 234; W. Eichrodt, Theology of the

Old Testament, vol. I, trans. J. A. Baker (OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961) 117.

70 Wood, History, 305.

71 Bright, History, 234; R. K. Harrison (Old Testament Times [Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1970] 210) contends that Jeroboam was essentially an apostate who created

a thoroughly pagan system.

72 De Vaux, Ancient Israel, 2.334; Wright, Archaeology, 148; cf. Eichrodt (Theol-

ogy, vol. 2 (1964) 22, n. I), who is among many who contend that the bull-image of

Jeroboam had nothing to do with the Egyptian bull-cult of Memphis.

73 Wood, History, 305; cr. Shalom M. Paul and William G. Dever, eds., Biblical

Archaeology (Jerusalem: Keter, 1973) 270.

74 Jeroboam's declaration, "Behold your gods, 0 Israel, that brought you up from

the land of Egypt" (I Kgs 12:28) is probably meant to refer directly to an identical

statement by the Israelites in Exod 32:4. There they "worshiped" a golden calf and

"sacrificed" to it, for which God desired to kill them (32:8-10). God called Aaron's calf

a "god of gold" (32:31), and Paul later referred to this incident when he related God's

judgment of some Israelites as "idolaters" (I Cor 10:7). It is noteworthy, however, that

Jeroboam's system is not specifically called "idolatry" in either Kings or Chronicles,

and whether Jeroboam intended to copy Aaron's sin is not clear.

75 Cf. John J. Davis and John C. Whitcomb, A History of Israel (Grand Rapids:

Baker, 1980) 359.

76 James A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of

Kings (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1951) 257, n. 4.

BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                                        63


       The outcome of these changes was that many of the priests and

Levites of the North migrated to the South (2 Chr 11:14-16). How-

ever, even at the peak of Baal-worship in Israel, at least 7,000 men

were still following the true God (I Kgs 19:18).

      The point here is that Jeroboam's religious system was not neces-

sarily designed to turn the people away from Yahweh to idolatry and

paganism. It is possible that the worship of Yahweh continued in

Israel even among the priesthood and that the teaching priest of

2 Kings 17 may have helped to introduce a Mosaic Yahwism to the

foreign settlers.77 Both the priest and the settlers recognized that the

"god of the land" was Yahweh. At the very least, he taught them to

"fear the LORD" (2 Kgs 17:28), and his teaching had some effect (v 32).


The Kings of Judah

       Montgomery assumes that the teaching priest had the benevolent

assistance of Hezekiah.78 Gelston contends that the Israelites who

were left after the Assyrian deportation formed the core of the new

Samarian community and, "despite the introduction of various cults,

guaranteed the continuity of the worship of Yahweh."79 Closer rela-

tions, he believes, were maintained with Judah before and after the

fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

       At any rate, about 715 B.C. Hezekiah issued an invitation to all

of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, to come to Jerusalem to celebrate

the Passover together (2 Chr 30: I, 5-6). Many people, especially of

Ephraim and Manasseh, mocked the messengers (v 10), but many

others attended (from Asher, Manasseh, Zebulon, Ephraim, and

Issachar-vv 11, 18). A revival took place, and the people went out to

destroy all the high places and altars throughout Ephraim and

Manasseh (2 Chr 31:1). .

        Josiah (ca. 622 B.C.) initiated another revival, and 2 Chr 34:9

records that contributions were received "from Manasseh and Eph-

raim, and from all the remnant of Israel." Jeremiah records a visit of

80 men from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria (the chief cities of

Samaria) who came on the day after the murder of Gedaliah (586 B.C.)

"with their beards shaved off and their clothes torn and their bodies

gashed, having grain offerings and incense in their hands to bring to

the house of the Lord" (Jer 41:4-5). Evidently the reforms of Hezekiah

and Josiah had made some lasting inroads into the north.80


77 Cf. Keil, Kings, 423-27.

78 Montgomery, Kings, 473.

79 Gelston, "Samaritans," 1131.

80 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 9.



        Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel understood God's plans as including

all Israel: "Again you shall plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; . . .

For there shall be a day when watchmen on the hills of Ephraim shall

call out, 'Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God'"

(Jer 31:5-6); "For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-

born" (Jer 31:9); "Say to them 'Thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I

will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and

the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with

the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in

My hand"'" (Ezek 37:19). God's plans thus include the remnant and

exile of Israel as well as Judah.


Manasseh and the Samaritan Temple

        It will be shown below that a crucial factor in the "Judaizing"

of the Samaritans was the erection of the Samaritan temple on

Mt. Gerizim and the creation of the Samaritan high-priesthood by

Manasseh, Jewish son-in-law of Sanballat III. Modern critics usually

recognize that Samaritanism shows a strong dependence on and

indebtedness to post-exilic Judaism.81 Cross indicates that


it is evident that the religion of Samaria derived from Judaism. Its

feasts and law, conservatism toward Torah and theological develop-

ment, show few survivals from the old Israelite religion as distinct from

Judean religion, and no real evidence of religious syncretism. Even the

late Jewish apocalyptic has left a firm imprint on Samaritanism.82


      Such a perspective allows one to explain not only Samaritanism's

conservative (Pentateuchal) Jewishness, but also its early striking

similarities to the priestly Sadducees.


The foreign gods

         Before leaving the subject of the foreign colonists, it will perhaps

be instructive to note whence they came and what kind of religions

they brought to Samaria. According to 2 Kgs 17:24, the settlers came

from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (the location

of Avva is unknown, but may be identical with the Ivvah of 2 Kgs

18:34,83 which is also unknown).


81 Ibid.

82 Frank M. Cross, "Aspects of Samaritan and Jewish History in Late Persian and Hellenistic Times," HTR 59 (1966) 205-6.

83 Avva," ISBE, 1.340.

BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                              65


       Babylon was defeated by Sargon II in 710 B.C. and again by

Sennacherib in 703, 700, and 695.84 Tadmor feels that it was Sen-

nacherib, being anti-Babylonian, who carried off people from Babylon

and Cuthah to Samaria.85

      Cuthah was also one of the most important cities of Babylonia,

situated about twenty miles northeast of Babylon.86 It was destroyed

by Sennacherib. Apparently these deportees were predominant among

the colonists, for the Samaritans were long called Cutheans by the


       Hamath was a city of Syria about 125 miles north of Damascus,

on the Orontes River. Sargon II destroyed it in 720 B.C.87 Sepharvaim

was probably a Syrian town captured by Shalmaneser also called

Shabarain,88 located between Hamath and Damascus.89

       Seven gods are listed among the religious I cultural baggage of the

immigrants. (1) Succoth-Benoth means. "tabernacles or booths of

girls" in Hebrew. It has been identified with Sarpanitu, the consort of

Marduk, god of Babylon.90 She also appears as the "seed-creating

one." (2) Nergal was the god of pestilence, disease, and various other

calamities.91 He was worshipped with his consort Ereshkigal at

Cuthah. Temples at other sites (Larsa, Isin, Assur, etc.) were also

dedicated to him. (3) Nothing is known of Ashima, though the

suggestion has been made that it is a corruption of Asherah the

Canaanite mother-goddess.92 (4) Nibhaz perhaps refers to a "deified

altar."93 On the other hand, it may have been worshiped in the form

of an ass.94 (5) Tartak is possibly a corruption of Atargatis, a goddess

worshiped in Mesopotamia.95 (6) Adrammelech means "Adar is


84 Donald J. Wiseman, "Babylon, OT ," ZPEB, 1.444; cr. Merrill, Survey, 278;

Bright, History, 285.

85 Tadmor, "Period," 137.

86 R. Clyde Ridall, "Cuthah," ZPEB, 1.1050; cr. John Gray, I & II Kings, 2nd ed.

(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970) 651; Montgomery, Kings, 472.

87 Gray, Kings, 651; Steven Barabas, "Hamath," ZPEB, 3.22.

88 Montgomery, Kings, 472; Gray, Kings, 652; Andrew Bowling, "Sepharvaim,"

ZPEB, 5.342; cf. Albright, Yahweh, 241.

89 T. G. Pinches, "Sepharvaim," ISBE, 4.2722.

90 Gray, Kings, 654; Montgomery, Kings, 473; Harvey E. Finley, "Succoth-Benoth,"

ZPEB, 5.529.

91 Albright, Yahweh, 139; Larry L. Walker, "Nergal," ZPEB, 4.410; cf. Gray, Kings,

654; Herrmann, History, 251.

92 Duncan Mcintosh, "Ashima," ISBE, 1979 ed., 1.318.

93 Gray, Kings, 654; Wilber B. Wallis, "Nibhaz," ZPEB, 4.434; Montgomery, Kings,


94 Steven Barabas, "Tartak," ZPEB, 5.603.

95 Ibid.



king",96 and may be related to the god Athtar-Venus Star (Atar

Milki).97 (7) Anammelech means "Anu is king." Anu was the great

sky-god of Babylonia.98 The latter two gods were Syrian or Canaanite

deities,99 and their worship included the offering of children as burn

offerings (2 Kgs 17:31).

      As was mentioned above, there is no sign of the worship of these

deities in later Samaritan ism. Though their influence continued among

many of the foreign families even to the time of the Babylonia

captivity of Judah (2 Kgs 17:41), this does not imply an inherent

syncretism among the Samaritans of NT times.


Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah

       When the Jewish exiles had returned to Jerusalem and laid the

foundation for the second temple (ca. 535 B.C.), the descendants of

the foreign colonists came to Jerusalem and asked to take part, claim

ing that they were true worshipers of Yahweh. Ezra relates the inci-

dent as follows:


      Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the

people of the exile were building a temple to the Lord God of Israel,

they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers' households, and

said to them, "Let us build with you, for we, like you, seek your God;

and we have been sacrificing to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king

of Assyria, who brought us up here." But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and

the rest of the heads of father's households of Israel said to them, "You

have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God; but

we ourselves will together build to the Lord God of Israel, as King

Cyrus, the king of Persia has commanded us." (Ezra 4: 1-3)


        Thus began another round of conflict between the people of

Samaria (cf. Ezra 4: 10) and the Jews. The former are here called

"enemies of Judah and Benjamin" (v i). This does not imply that they

were considered enemies before their later attempt to stop the con-

struction of the temple and the city. Unger notes that "in the refusal

no charge of hypocrisy was made against them."tOO It was only that


            96 Willis J. Beecher, "Adrammelech," ISBE, 1.61.

97 Gray, Kings, 654; Andrew K. Helmbold, "Adrammelech," ZPEB, 1.64; but cf,)

Albright, Yahweh, 241.

98 William W. Hallo and William K. Simpson, The Ancient Near East: A History

(New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1971) 170; Gray, Kings, 655; Steven

Barabas, "Anammelech," ZPEB, 1.153. :':i

99 William Sanford LaSor, "Anammelech," ISBE, 1979 ed., 1.120.

l00 Unger, Dictionary, 959; Bright, however, regards their religion as "surely some-

what synchretistic" (History, 383). Perhaps a combination of nationalistic, racial, and

religious motives was involved in the Jews' response (cf. William Barclay, et. al., The

BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                                        67


the right to build belonged to the Jews, and they could have no part

in it.101

      Unger asks, "Were the Jews right?" He concludes that they

apparently knew what they were doing, but that "their course in

regard to aliens and children of mixed marriages, as shown in

Ezra 10:3, and indicated in Neh 13:1, 3..., though natural and

probably justifiable under the circumstances, was yet, so far as we

know, somewhat in advance of what God had required."102 Even

aliens were allowed to eat the Passover if they were circumcised (cf.

Exod 12:44, 48, 49).

        When Ezra arrived in Jerusalem (ca. 457 B.C.), he was appalled

at the news that many of the people, including priests and Levites,

had intermarried with "the peoples of the lands" (Ezra 9: 1-3). He

confessed this sin to God, quoting Exod 34: 15-16 and Deut 7:3, which

forbade the Hebrews under Moses and Joshua to marry the people of

the land of Canaan, which they were about to enter, because of their

"abominations" (Ezra 9:12, 14). He thus saw himself in the role of a

new Moses, delivering and applying the Law of God to the returned

exiles exactly as Moses had done to the new nation of Israel 1,000

years earlier. The "Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites," etc., of old became

the Samaritans, etc., of the post-exilic period, in spite of their claim

to be worshiping Yahweh and following his Law. Ezra led the people

to put away their foreign wives (Ezra 10:2-5) and even made a list of

those who had married outside Jewry (10:17-44).

      Nehemiah arrived about 444 B.C. as a special representative of

the Persian king and was opposed by Sanballat, governor of Samaria

(Neh 2:10). Apparently, Judah had been added to the province of

Samaria by Nebuchadnezzar. Sanballat thus recognized that Nehe-

miah was creating a new political entity centered in Jerusalem and

that this territory would be taken from his control.103 Sanballat was a


Bible and History [Nashville: Abingdon, 1968] 130, 159). Derek Kidner (Ezra and

Nehemiah, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries [lnterVarsity, 1979] 49) suggests

that the Jews left their real (religious) motives unspoken.

            101 In the light of Ezra 4:2, Bishop (Eric F. F. Bishop, "Some Relationships of

Samaritanism with Judaism, Islam and Christianity," The Moslem World 37 [1947]

129) cannot be right when he says that "the Samaritans felt that the rebuilding of the

Temple postponed the day when the Judeans might return to the true fold, and

acknowledge the sanctuary on Gerizim rather than on Moriah," since they obviously

had not yet (in 525 B.C.) developed the idea of a rival sanctuary for Yahweh on


102 Unger, Dictionary, 959; cf. Deut 7:1-4; 23:3; Exod 34:15-16; Judg 3:5-6; Mal


103. James L. Kelso, "Samaritans," ZPEB 5.245; Barclay, et. al., Bible and History,

130; cf. Herrmann, History, 308.



worshiper of Yahweh,104 as were most of the people of the province.

This conflict, therefore, was a political one, not a religious issue. As

Gaster shows, the Samaritans had a two-fold fear: that (1) Nehemiah's

work in Jerusalem might lead to the growth of a dangerous Judean

power, and that (2) it might provoke repercussions from the Persian

Government that would work against them also.105 Nehemiah pre-

vailed, however, in spite of Sanballat's opposition (cf. Neh 2:19-20;

4: 1-2, 6-7; 6: I, 15-16), fortified the city, and increased its population.

Nehemiah's separatism may have fueled the Samaritan-Jew alien-

ation. He records in Neh 13:1-3 these words:


                On that day they read aloud from the book of Moses in the

hearing of the people; and there was found written in it that no

Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, because

they did not meet the sons of Israel with bread and water, but hired

Salaam against them to curse them. However, our God turned the;

curse into a blessing. So it came about, that when they heard the law,

they excluded all foreigners from Israel.


      Note that the command to exclude Ammonites and Moabite

from the assembly was extended under Nehemiah to exclude "all

foreigners from Israel," regardless of ethnic mixture or religious

practice. The Samaritans were automatically included in this group.

      Toward the end of his governorship, Nehemiah discovered that

one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, had

married a daughter of Sanballat. He was so furious that he chased the

young man out of Jerusalem (Neh 13:28). And so, he says, "I purified

them from everything foreign" (13:30).

       Naturally, the reaction of the Yahweh-worshiping Samaritan

was resentment. They were faced with deciding what was the best way

to worship the Lord apart from the Jerusalem cult. This led them

inevitably to an even more crucial estrangement from Judaism about

a century later.


The Samaritan Temple on Gerizim

       According to Haacker, "The most important single event in the

history of the rise of the Samaritan community was probably the

construction of the temple to Yahweh on Mount Gerizim towards the

end of the 4th cent. B.C."106 Josephus relates the episode generally as

follows:107 Darius III of Persia (336-331 B.C.)108 sent to Samaria a


104 Bright, History, 383; James L. Kelso, "Samaritans," 5.245.

105 Gaster, "Samaritans," 192.

106 Klaus Haacker, "Samaritan," NIDNTT, 3.451.

107 Josephus, Ant. 11.8.2-4.

108 George E. Wright, "The Samaritans at Shechem," HTR 55 (1962) 361.

BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                              69


Cuthean named Sanballat to be governor. This Sanballat gave his

daughter Nikaso to be the wife of Manasseh, a brother of the high

priest Jaddua, in order to develop good relations with the Jews in

Jerusalem. The elders in Jerusalem, however, resented this marriage

to a foreigner, and ordered Manasseh to have the marriage annulled.

Sanballat, confident of the good will of Darius, promised Manasseh

the high priesthood of the Samaritans. So Manasseh stayed with

Sanballat, thinking that Darius would give him the high priesthood.

Many from Jerusalem deserted to Manasseh, and Sanballat gave them

money, land, and places to live.

        When Alexander the Great began his campaigns against Darius,

Sanballat and Manasseh were certain that Darius would win. The

opposite happened. So in 332 B.C. when Alexander was besieging

Tyre, Sanballat went up to see him, offered him 8,000 Samaritans to

fight for him, and accepted his rule. In return Alexander gave his

consent for the Samaritans to build a temple on Mt. Gerizim, since

Manasseh, brother of the Jewish high priest, and many of the Jewish

people had defected to Samaria, which became the natural refuge "for

all who were dissatisfied with the stringent reforms taking place in

Jerusalem."109 Alexander apparently considered it an advantage to

have the Jews split into two groups, instead of being united;110 he was

also grateful for the military support.111  So the temple was built (very

quickly) and Manasseh was appointed its high priest. Sanballat died

after Alexander had spent seven months on the siege of Tyre and two

,months on the siege of Gaza.

       Given the remarkable similarity of this story of the priest

Manasseh to the account of the priestly son of Joiada by Nehemiah

(13:28), many have doubted the historical accuracy of Josephus at

this point. The Jewish Encyclopedia says, "It is most unlikely that

there were two Sanballats whose daughters married sons (or a son

and a brother) of high priests, and that these sons were expelled from

Jerusalem at dates just 100 years apart",112 and it concludes that

Josephus intentionally tried to discredit Samaritan claims by connect-

ing the temple with Manasseh as a bribe for his apostasy.

         Rowley declares that Josephus' account is so "garbled" that there

is "no means of knowing when the Samaritan Temple was built."113

Unger assumes that it was Nehemiah who expelled Manasseh, and

places the building of the temple about 409 B.C.114 Others say that


109 A. Co., "Samaritans," Jewish Encyclopaedia, 10.671.

110 Wright, "Samaritans," 361.

111 Haacker, "Samaritan," 451.

112 Co. "Samaritans," 671

113 Harold H. Rowley, "Sanballat and the Samaritan Temple," BJRL 38 (1955)


114 Unger, Dictionary, 959.



Josephus has confused two separate incidents (the expulsion of

Manasseh and the building of the temple), while some even move

Nehemiah down into the fourth century.115

       Until recently there was no evidence outside of Josephus for two

Sanballats. A Sanballat is mentioned in the Elephantine papyri, but

he is clearly the contemporary of Nehemiah.116

       But in 1962-63, papyri of the fourth century B.C. were discovered

in a cave of the Wadi Daliyeh north of Jericho.117 The name San-

ballat appears twice, described as the father of Hananiah, governor

Samaria in 354 B.C. Now the Sanballat of Nehemiah's day was suc-

ceeded by his sons Delaiah and Shelemiah in the last decade of the

fifth century.118 So the father of Hananiah would be Sanballat

(perhaps ca. 380-360 B.C.). If so, then the objections to a Sanballat

as governor in 332 B.C. disappear. High offices often were heredi-

tary.119 And the practice of papponymy. (naming a child for its grand:'

father) was much in vogue during this era.120

     We can reconstruct with some plausibility, therefore, the sequence

of governors of Samaria in the fifth and fourth century. Sanballat the

Horonite is evidently the founder of the line, to judge by the fact that

he bears a gentilic, not a patronymic. He was a Yahwist, giving good

Yahwistic names to his sons Delaiah and Shelemiah. Sanballat I must

have been a mature man to gain the governorship, and in 445, when

Nehemiah arrived, no doubt was already in his middle years. His son

Delaiah acted for his aged father as early as 410. The grandson of

Sanballat, Sanballat II, evidently inherited the governorship early in

the fourth century, to be succeeded by an elder son (Yeshuac?), and

later by his son Hananiah. Hananiah was governor by 354 B.C., and his

son, or his brother's son, Sanballat III, succeeded to the governorship

in the time of Darius III and Alexander the Great.121


      Thus Wright concludes that Josephus' story about the founding

of the temple on Mt. Gerizim by permission of Alexander the Great is

substantially reliable.122 It was the founding of this rival temple which

did more than anything else to aggravate the traditional bad relations

between Samaritan and Jew.


115 Cross, ..Aspects," 203.

116 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 103.

117 Cross, "Aspects," 201.

118 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 104.

119 Cross, "Aspects," 203.

120 Ibid.; cf. the Tobiads of Ammon and the Oniads of Judah.

121 Cross, "Aspects," 204.

122 Wright, "Samaritans," 364.

BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                              71


       Some have contended that "the mere existence of a Temple on

Mount Gerizim need not itself have involved an irreparable breach."123

They point to other Jewish temples at Elephantine in Upper Egypt in

the fifth century B.C., at Leontopolis in Lower Egypt in the second

century B.C., and at cAraq el-Emir in Transjordan.123a

       However, only the Gerizim temple became a real challenge to the

Jerusalem temple, because it represented a considerable political fac-

tion and was also a rival for the allegiance of Yahweh-worshipers of

the north.124 The Jews understood the prophets and Deuteronomy to

point to Jerusalem as the only legitimate place for sacrifice, at least in


       The new temple on Gerizim would have provided the base for a

distinct and separate religious community. It also provided a "Jewish"

priest, who probably brought with him a copy of the Pentateuch and

began to teach the people the ways of God and worship along a line

which became more and more Mosaic. The temple drove a wedge

between the two communities, which in time was to split them into

two hostile groups.

       The Destruction of Samaria and the Rebuilding of Shechem

When Alexander the Great had finished with Tyre and Gaza, he

installed Andromachus as governor of Syria (including Palestine) and

went south to invade Egypt.125 In 331 B.C., the city of Samaria revolted

and burned the governor alive. Alexander immediately marched north

against Samaria and captured it. Those who had killed Andromachus

fled with their families to the Wadi Daliyeh, where they were found in

a cave and suffocated to death by Alexander's soldiers.126 Alexander

then resettled Samaria with Macedonians and made the city a Greek


       The Samaritans were then forced to establish a new capital, and

the logical place was old Shechem.128 It was a time-honored site,

hallowed by the most ancient Hebrew traditions and adjacent to the

holy mountain of Gerizim on which a new temple had just been built.

With the development of Shechem, the Samaritan religious and cul-

tural center was firmly established.129


123 Rowley, "Samaritan Temple," 189.

123a Haacker, "Samaritan," 451.

124 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 12.

125 Wright, Shechem, 178.

126 Frank M. Cross, "The Historical Importance of the Samaria Papyri," BARev 4

(1978) 25.

127 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 107.

            128 Wright, "Samaritans," 365; cf. Cross, "Aspects," 25.

129 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 109.



      Waltke says that Wright has conclusively shown that Shechem

was Samaria's replacement as the Samaritan capital after Alexander

captured Samaria.130 This accounts for: (1) the archaeological evi-

dence for the reestablishment of Shechem in the late fourth century

after having been virtually uninhabited during the Persian period;

(2) the elaborate attempts the Samaritans made to refortify Shechem--

to maintain their claims against the Jews; (3) Josephus' implication

that Shechem was the Samaritan capital in the period of Alexander

and thereafter (cf. Ant. 11.8.6-7); and (4) Sir 50:25-26 (ca. 180 B.C.)

which refers to "the foolish people who dwell in Shechem."131

        Bickerman notes that "it often happened that when a Greek

colony was established, native villages under its control formed a

union around an ancestral sanctuary."132  It was possibly after such

a pattern that the Samaritans were organized at Shechem and

Mt. Gerizim. There can be little doubt that the city was rebuilt by the

remnant of the Samaritans driven out of their newer capital at



The Destruction of the Temple and Shechem

       With their establishment at Shechem and Gerizim, the Samaritans

began a long and painful process of self-identification.134 And the

enmity toward Jerusalem and the Jews grew rapidly.

        Josephus relates that when Alexander granted the Jews freedom

from tribute every seventh year, the Samaritans requested it also,

claiming to be Jews.135 But whenever any Jew was accused by the

authorities at Jerusalem of breaking the Law or of any other crime,

he would flee to Shechem and say that he was unjustly accused.

About 193 B.C., Antiochus III gave Samaria and Judaea to

Ptolemy Epiphanes as his daughter Cleopatra's dowry. Josephus says

that during this time the Samaritans were flourishing and doing much

mischief to the Jews by cutting off parts of their land and "carrying

off slaves."136

       When Antiochus Epiphanes was harrassing Judea (ca. 168-

67 B.C.), the Samaritans at Shechem sent a letter to him disclaim-

ing any relationship to Jews or to their God and asked that their


130 Bruce K. Waltke, "Review of The Samaritans, by James A. Montgomery," BSac

126 (1969) 84.

131Wright, "Samaritans," 359, 365-66.

132 Elias Bickerman, From Ezra to the Last of the Maccabees (New York: Schocken,

1947) 43-44.

133 Cross, ..Aspects," 207.

134 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 109.

135 Josephus, Ant. 11.8.6-7.

136 Ibid., 12.4.1.

BRINDLE:  The SAMARITANS                               73


temple on Gerizim be named the Temple of Zeus Hellenios.137 It

is this opportunism which Haacker labels "decisive for the ultimate

schism.”138 Thus, the Samaritans escaped persecution, while the Jews

resisted with their lives. The success of the Maccabean revolt led later

to the expansion of Judaea at the expense of Samaria (cf. 1 Macc

10:38; 11 :24, 57).

       Josephus relates an interesting story which supposedly took place

in Alexandria (Egypt) about 150 B.C. in the days of Ptolemy Philo-

meter. The Jews and Samaritans there were disputing about which

temple was the true one. Ptolemy became the judge at a debate, and

the Jewish side won, appealing to the Law and the succession of high

priests and the age and prestige of the Jerusalem temple.139 (The

appeal to Moses and the priesthood shows that the basic Samaritan

doctrines had already solidified in general form by this time.)

        John Hyrcanus (134-104 B.C.) decided-to put an end to the

Samaritan rivalry. In 128 B.C. he destroyed the temple on Mt. Gerizim,

and in 107 B.C. he destroyed both Samaria and Shechem.140 Purvis

sees several motivating factors behind these acts.141 First, the Samari-

tan temple was an irritating and divisive factor in Palestine. Second,

animosities between Shechem and Jerusalem had been rapidly in-

creasing, leading to actual harrassment by the Samaritans. And third,

Hyrcanus wanted to solidify the extent of Judaean authority and hold

firmly to the "inheritance of our fathers" (1 Macc 15:33-34).

       The Samaritans must have breathed a sigh of relief when Pompey

conquered Palestine in 64-63 B.C. They developed good relations with

both the Romans (until A.D. 52) and the house of Herod (which was

closely tied to Rome).142 Shortly after A.D. 70, Emperor Flavius Ves-

pasian rebuilt Shechem (about one-half mile west of the old city) and

named it Flavia Neapolis (New City), which survives as the modern

S city of Nablus.143


The Samaritan Pentateuch

       The Samaritan recension of the Pentateuch also played its part

in the development of the sect. Purvis believes that "the Samaritan

ir Pentateuch is the chief sectarian monument of the community, and it


            137 Ibid., 12.5.5.

            138 Haacker, “Samaritan,”  452

            139 Josephus, Ant. 13.3.4.

            140 Wright, Shechem, 183-84; cr. Josephus, Ant. 13.10.2,3.

            141 Purvis, Samaritan Pentateuch, 113-15.

            142 Haacker, "Samaritan," 452.

            143 Bishop, "Relationships," 112.



is hardly possible to conceive of Samaritanism as a sect apart from


      The most prized possession of modern Samaritanism is its scroll

of the Pentateuch, known as the Abisha scroll.145  Abu’l Fath, in his

Chronicle (written in A.D. 1355), says that the Abisha scroll was "dis-

covered" in A.D. 1355.146 Crown contends that the scroll is "not to be

regarded as a unitary work, but as a manuscript assemblage of frag-

ments of various ages.”147 He believes that Abisha, son of the high

priest Pinhas (d. A.D. 1364), fabricated the scroll between A.D. 1341

and A.D. 1354.148 Whatever the case, similar scrolls are also in exis-

tence, and the text type is definitely pre-masoretic. The date of this

recension is helpful in determining the time of the Samaritan emer-

gence from Judaism as a distinct sect.

      Purvis, in his exhaustive study of the Samaritan text, offers the

following observations and conclusions:149

     (1) The script of the Samaritan Pentateuch is a sectarian script

which developed from the paleo-Hebrew forms of the Hasmonean

period. This script is not a descendant of the paleo-Hebrew of the

earlier Persian or Greek periods or of the later Roman period.

     (2) The orthography of the Samaritan Pentateuch is the standard

full orthography of the Hasmonean period, which contrasts with the

restricted orthography seen in the Pentateuchal text of the earlier

Greek and the later Rabbinic periods.

     (3) The textual tradition of the Samaritan Pentateuch is one of

three textual traditions which are now known to have been in use in

Palestine during the Hasmonean period. Moreover, it is most likely

that this textual tradition completed its development during this

period, rather than at an earlier time.

     (4) When the final break between the Shechemites and the Jews

was consummated, the Samaritans took as the basis of their biblical

text proto-Samaritan tradition, a Palestinian text type preserved in

the paleo-Hebrew script. The proto-Samaritan had been in process of

development from the Old Palestinian textual tradition from the fifth

to the second centuries B.C., when it reached its fullest stage of devel-

opment during the Hasmonean era. Hebrew orthography also reached

its fullest stage of development at this time, and the comparable

phenomena of full text and full orthography may be due to more


            144 Purvis. Samaritan Pentateuch. 13-14.

            145 Alan D. Crown. "The Abisha Scroll of the Samaritans," BJ RL 58 (1975). 36.

            146 Ibid..39.

            147 Ibid.. 37.

            148 Ibid.. 64.

            149 Purvis. Samaritan Pentateuch. 16-17.84-85. 118.

                        BRINDLE: THE SAMARITANS                              75


than coincidence. For their sectarian recension, the Samaritans se-

lected the full text of the proto-Samaritan tradition and the full

orthography in vogue at that time.

       (5) The complete and irreparable break in relations between the

Samaritans and the Jews occurred neither in the Persian nor the

Greek periods. It occurred in the Hasmonean period as the result of

the destruction of Shechem and the ravaging of Gerizim by John


      Waltke declares that "Professor Cross has now shown that the

Samaritan recension proper branches off in the early Hasmonean

Period.”150 Cross concludes as follows:


               We can now place the Samaritan Pentateuch in the history of the

          Hebrew biblical text. It stems from an old Palestinian tradition which

          had begun to develop distinctive traits as early as the time of the

          Chronicler, and which can be traced in Jewish works and in the manu-

          scripts of Qumran as late as the first century of the Christian era. This

          tradition was set aside in the course of the 1 st century in Jerusalem in

          favor of a tradition of wholly different origin (presumably from Baby-

          lon), which provided the base of the Massoretic Recension. ...The

          Samaritan text-type thus is a late and full exemplar of the common

          Palestinian tradition, in use both in Jerusalem and in Samaria.151



     The development of Samaritanism and its alienation from Judaism

may thus be seen as a process with important milestones which pro-

moted the antagonism: (1) the division of the kingdom into north

and south (ca. 931 B.C.); (2) the conquest of Israel by Assyria, with

resulting importation of foreign colonists and religions (ca. 722-

630 B.C.); (3) the rejection of the new Samaritan community by

Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and later leaders (ca. 535-332 B.C.);

(4) the building of a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim (332 B.C.); (5) the

reconstruction of Shechem as the capital of the Samaritans, followed

by growing harrassment of Jews (ca. 332-170 B.C.); (6) political and

religious opportunism shown by the Samaritans during the persecu-

tions of Antiochus IV (ca. 168-67 B.C.); (7) the destruction by John

Hyrcanus of both the Samaritan temple and Shechem (ca. 128,

107 B.C.); and (8) growing hostilities and harrassment on both sides

during the next several centuries.


            150 Waltke, "Review." 84.

            151 Cross. "Aspects." 208-9.



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