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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The World into Which Jesus Came

Don Stewart :: Who Were the Samaritans?

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Who Were the Samaritans?

The World into Which Jesus Came – Question 13

During the earthly ministry of God the Son, Jesus Christ, He had contact with a group of people known as the Samaritans. The Samaritans were half-Jew, half-Gentile. The race came about after the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C. There were certain people from the nation of Israel stayed behind. These people intermarried with the Assyrians producing the Samaritans. We can make a number of observations about these people.

1. They Had No Dealings with the Jews

The Bible says that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. In a conversation that Jesus had with a Samaritan woman we are told that she said the following:

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans). (John 4:9 NRSV)

They would not have any dealings with one another.

2. They Had Their Own Temple and Religious System

We also discover that the Samaritans had their own temple, their own copy of the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, as well as their own religious system.

There was a burning issue among the Jews and Samaritans as to where was the proper place of worship. The following exchange took place between Jesus and the Samaritan woman which highlighted these differences:

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:19-23 NIV)

Jesus responded to the woman’s accusations about the proper place to worship. He made it clear that the Samaritans were wrong. God had established the city of Jerusalem, with its temple, as the place the people were to worship and offer sacrifices.

3. Many Samaritans Believed in Jesus

From this episode we find that a number of the people of that Samaritan town came to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. John records what took place:

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:39-42 ESV)

While they had a different system of worship than the Jews, these Samaritans were still able to receive the message of Jesus, the genuine Messiah.

4. One Samaritan Village Rejected Jesus When He Passed through Their Region

The gospels tell us that when Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world, He passed through the area of Samaria. The Samaritans did not receive Him because He was on His way to Jerusalem. Luke records it as follows:

Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51-53 NKJV)

Jesus was on His way to die for the sins of the world, including the sins of the Samaritans. Though this particular village would not receive Him, He would receive any of them who turned to Him in faith.

Summary – Question 13
Who Were the Samaritans?

The Samaritans were a group of people who lived in Samaria, an area north of Jerusalem. They were half-Jews and half-Gentiles. When Assyria captured the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C. some were taken in captivity while others left behind. The ones left behind intermarried with the Assyrians. Thus these people were neither fully Hebrews nor fully Gentiles.

The Samaritans had their own unique copy of the first five books of Scripture, the Law of Moses, as well as their own unique system of worship.

At the time of Jesus the Jews and the Samaritans did not deal with one another. Jesus, however, ministered to the people of Samaria preaching the good news to them. He brought them a message of hope. We find that a number of people from Samaria did believe in Jesus as the Promised Messiah. Though they had a different system of worship, a different temple, and a different copy of the Torah, they recognized the genuine Messiah when He arrived.

Luke tells us that later in Jesus’ ministry one particular Samaritan village did not receive Jesus because He was on His way to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the world.

In sum, we find certain of the Samaritans believing in Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah even though they had a running dispute with the Jews of their day as to the proper place of worship. This illustrates how God’s truth can certainly break down all barriers which people put up.

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