Wednesday, May 18, 2022

he story of the Jews and Samaritan is one I believe everyone should know and learn from.

It is well known that there is no love lost between Jews and Samaritans, even though they are blood relations.

Imagine the hatred between Serbs and Muslims in modern Bosnia, the enmity between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, the animosity between Sunni and Shia Muslins in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and the feuding between street gangs in Los Angeles or New York, and you have some idea of the feeling and its causes between Jews and Samaritans in the time of Jesus. This is feud fuelled by politics and religion.

After the separation of Judah and Israel in the ninth century, King Omri of the Northern Kingdom bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer (1 Kings 16:24). He built there the city of Samaria which became his capital.

It was strong defensively and controlled the valley through which the main road ran between Jerusalem and Galilee.

In 722 B.C. the city fell to the Assyrians and became the headquarters of the Assyrian province of Samarina.

While many of the inhabitants of the city and the surrounding area of Samaria were led off into captivity, some farmers and others were left behind. They intermarried with new settlers from Mesopotamia and Syria.

Though the Samaritans were condemned by the Jews, Hartman says they probably had as much pure Jewish blood as the Jews who later returned from the Babylonian exile.

The story of both Israel’s and Samaria’s failures in keeping to the way of Yahweh is partly told in Chapter 17 of the Second Book of Kings.

There, too, the sacred author tells how the king of As-syria sent a priest from among the exiles to teach the Samaritans how to worship God after an attack by lions was attributed to their failure to worship the God of the land.

Second Kings recounts how worship of Yahweh was mixed with the worship of strange gods.

When Cyrus permitted the Jews to return from the Babylonian exile, the Samaritans were ready to welcome them back. The exiles, however, despised the Samaritans as renegades.

When the Samaritans wanted to join in rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem, their assistance was rejected. You will find this in the Book of Ezra, Chapter Four.

With the rejection came political hostility and opposition. The Samaritans tried to undermine the Jews with their Persian rulers and slowed the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its temple.

Nehemiah tells us (Nehemiah 13:28-29) that a grandson of the high priest, Eliashib, had married a daughter of Sanballat, the governor of the province of Samaria.

For defiling the priesthood by marrying a non-Jewish woman, Nehemiah drove Eliashib from Jerusalem–though Sanballat was a worshiper of Yahweh.

According to the historian Josephus, Sanballat then had a temple built on Mount Garizim in which his son-in-law Eliashib could function. Apparently this is when the full break between Jews and Samaritans took place.

According to John McKenzie in his Dictionary of the Bible, the Samaritans later allied themselves with the Seleucids in the Maccabean wars and in 108 B.C. the Jews destroyed the Samaritan temple and ravaged the territory.

Around the time of Jesus’ birth, a band of Samaritans profaned the Temple in Jerusalem by scattering the bones of dead people in the sanctuary.

In our own era which has witnessed the vandalism of synagogues and the burning of black churches, we should be able to understand the anger and hate such acts would incite.

The fact that there was such dislike and hostility between Jews and Samaritans is what gives the use of the Samaritan in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) such force!

The Samaritan is the one who is able to rise above the bigotry and prejudices of centuries and show mercy and compassion for the injured Jew after the Jew’s own countrymen pass him by!

It is with those centuries of opposition and incidents behind their peoples that we can understand the surprise of the Samaritan woman (John 4:9) when Jesus rises above the social and religious restrictions not just of a man talking to a woman, but also of a Jew talking to a Samaritan.

The Samaritan is the one that teaches gratitude in the miracle of the 10 Lepers.

He demonstrated how to respond when we benefit from the grace and goodness of others.

The Samaritans showed by their behaviour that they were better than the Jews in understanding and demonstration of the essence God and godliness.

They exposed the difference between the religiosity of the Jews and their piety.

In spite of this, the Jews looked down on them and believed them to be inferior and unworthy to worship in the same temple with them.

Today we see the same script played out in different parts of the world, only with different casts.

All over the world, Liberals are demonstrating that they are more compassionate, more tolerant, more sensitive, non-judgemental in attitude, less prejudiced, more peaceful and more caring.

They stand against death penalty and defend human dignity and sanctity of life. Yet they are pro abortion rights for women.

while the religious right advocate for death penalty and discrimination and criminalisation of those who are not like them.

Liberal stand against racial and religious discrimination. They stand against Islamic extremism and white supremacy. They fight against ethnic and religious intolerance, persecution of non Muslims in Islamic countries and homosexuals in western countries.

And what do you get from the extreme religious conservatives right? Talibans, subjugation of women, Support for sex and gender inequality and justification of prejudice and segregation.

I suppose we should stop and think about the Good Samaritan and rise above ethnic and religious prejudices, which are the two main constructs at the root of our problems and descent into anarchy.

All men are brothers. God created them many nations out of one blood. Jesus said, leave them to grow together until the harvest. This world is for the righteous and sinners to share. We just have to live peacefully together until the judge decides.