Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why did the Jews hate the Samaritans?

The Jews and the Samaritans were neighbors in Israel. They both worshipped YHWH (God’s name in the Old Testament), followed the laws of Moses, waited for the Messiah, and observed many of the same festivals and traditions found in the first five books of the Bible (also known as the Pentateuch). So why was there so much bad blood between these two people, especially when they both are worshipping the same God?

Simply put, it was a battle over semantics. The Samaritans believed that the Pentateuch was the only Scripture worthy of reading. The Jews also had the historical books (1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles) and the books of the prophets; basically the Old Testament. Also, these two groups vehemently disagreed over where the proper place was to worship God. The Jews thought worshipping God in Jerusalem (which is called Mount Zion as well) was the most spiritual place to build the Temple. The Samaritans disagreed, and worshipped God at Mount Gerazim, which is where Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.

Now the Samaritans had a history of being from a partly pagan ancestry, though were in all effects adherents of Judaism. Regardless, the Jews despised the Samaritans, and the Samaritans could at times be hostile to the Jews in return. In fact, the Jews thought that they could become contaminated by even traveling through Samaritan country, so they would cross over the Jordan river and go through the Transjordan area to avoid Samaria altogether. Who started the taunting and the battle between prides? No one knows, but both groups were not 100% innocent. The pride of the Samaritans over the zeal for the Pentateuch would lead them to taunt the Jews, and boast in their holdings of more ancient copies of the Pentateuch than the Jews owned.

The Jews returned in kind, and rejected the Samaritan copy of the law, and publicly denounced that Samaritans were of any Jewish birth. In fact, the Samaritans were publicly cursed in the synagogues; they could not serve as a witness in the Jewish courts; they could not be converted to Judaism; and the final blow was that in Jewish minds, they were excluded from the after life.

So why in the world would Jesus, who was a Jew, not only go throughSamaria, but actually stop and talk to a Samaritan woman, and stay in a town for two days? It was obviously not a mistake, since the way to avoid Samaria was not without intent. It is my belief that Jesus had a purpose. He was there to meet people in need, people who were hurt and broken. The outsiders. He brought the message of salvation and grace to those, who like us, were in need of it.

1 comment:

Exantuate said...

Jesus has compassion on those we deem outsiders :) Thanks for you post, it explained a lot.