32 AD A Man Born Blind Is Healed 32 AD The Parable of the Good Samaritan 32 AD Mary Chooses the Good Part
Did you know?

The Greco-Syrian empire conquered the Holy Land in 175 B.C. The Samaritans denied they were Jews in order to fit in. In Judea, the Maccabees revolted and became the rulers of Judea. Their kingdom was smaller, but they forayed north into Samaria to expand it.

Why The Conflict Between Jews and Samaritans?

First, let’s find Samaria:

This map shows Samaria at the time Jesus lived. Around 930 B.C. Israel divided in two. Samaria was part of the northern kingdom of Israel with Judea as the southern kingdom. The kings of Israel were mostly wicked. To keep their people from going to Jerusalem to worship, they set up two altars with golden calves, one in Samaria, and one way up north in Dan.

In 732 B.C., the Assyrians swooped in and conquered the northern kingdom. The Assyrians killed a lot of people, but many they carried off to Assyria. In their place, Assyria planted pagan Gentiles from around their empire and these Gentiles intermarried with remaining Israelites. Many of their descendants considered themselves Jews.

The Jews in Judea did not agree. They considered the Samaritans to be a mongrel race and saw many problems with the way they practiced Judaism. This offended the Samaritans. Then in 585 B.C. Judea itself was conquered and many of its citizens were carried off to Babylon. After 70 years of captivity, when Babylon was conquered by the Medes and Persians, the Jews were encouraged to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. 

Many were enjoying their life in Persia and chose to stay there or to move to other locations, but some did go back to Judea. They tried in fits and starts to rebuild their temple, and the Samaritans wanted to help. The Jews turned them down. The Samaritans began to interfere with the project by petitioning the kings of Persia. Bad feelings deepened between the Samaritans and the Jews.

Around 332 B.C. Alexander the Great conquered the Holy Land and it became Greek. The Samaritans cooperated; the Jews rebelled. After Alexander died, his two generals divided his empire. The Greco-Syrian empire conquered the Holy Land in 175 B.C. The Samaritans denied they were Jews in order to fit in. In Judea, the Maccabees revolted and became the rulers of Judea. Their kingdom was smaller, but they forayed north into Samaria to expand it.

In 113 B.C. the Hasmoneans (kingly descendants of the Maccabee family) destroyed the Samaritans’ temple on Mt. Gerazim. The hatred between the two groups grew even deeper. Jesus was born into a culture where the Jews deeply mistrusted the Samaritans and vice versa. Some points to remember:

  • Jesus was called by His Father to teach the Jews. Jesus explained this to the Samaritan woman at the well. He was willing to teach her and her village, and many converted.
  • The parable of the Good Samaritan has many interesting things to say. One is that the Samaritan was on his way up to Jerusalem. Why, when his holy place was at Mt. Gerazim? Was he a believer willing to risk entering Jewish territory? If so, he was a special person in many ways.
  • Jesus Himself mostly avoided Samaria. The town of Bethany where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived was a way-station for pilgrims coming down from Galilee to Jerusalem. Bethany was actually south of Jerusalem, but travelers would go east of the Jordan River and walk down through Perea to Bethany, then up to Jerusalem to avoid Samaria. (Notice that there are two towns called Bethany on the map. Look for the one south of Jerusalem.)