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Samaritans

The title is used to describe the people who inhabited Samaria after the captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel. They were the descendants of (1) foreign colonists placed there by kings of Assyria and Babylonia (2 Kgs. 17:24; Ezra 4:2, 10); (2) Israelites who escaped at the time of the captivity. The population was therefore partly Israelite and partly gentile. Their religion was also of a mixed character (see 2 Kgs. 17:24–41), though they claimed, as worshippers of Jehovah, to have a share in the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem (Ezra 4:1–3). This claim not being allowed, they became, as the books of Ezra and Nehemiah show, bitter opponents of the Jews, and started a rival temple of their own on Mount Gerizim. When Nehemiah ejected from Jerusalem a grandson of the high priest Eliashib on account of his marriage with a heathen woman (Neh. 13:28), he took refuge with the Samaritans, taking with him a copy of the Pentateuch, and according to Josephus became high priest at Gerizim. There are several references in the New Testament to the antagonism between the Jews and Samaritans (see Matt. 10:5; Luke 9:52–53; 10:33; 17:16; John 4:9, 39; 8:48); but the people of Samaria were included among those to whom the Apostles were directed to preach the gospel (Acts 1:8), and a very successful work was done there by Philip (Acts 8:4–25).