Why did the Jews and the Samaritans Hate Each Other?
John 4:7-9 “When a Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?'” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Under Jeroboam’s leadership, Samaria became the capital of the northern kingdom, and a temple was eventually built on Mt. Gerizim to mimic Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem as well as a priestly system was established. Both were contrary to God’s plan as he gave the temple building plans to Solomon for its Jerusalem location with the priests to be from the Aaronic line as prescribed through Moses. Both were put in place to keep members of the ten tribes from traveling to Jerusalem on their high holy days and celebrating them.
As time progressed the Northern Kingdom fell into idol worship, sacrificing their children to idols and after failing to repent and turn back to worshipping God through the preaching of many prophets, God allowed them to become captive to the Assyrians. As the Assyrians removed the wealthy, noble, middle-to-upper-middle class, only the poor were left behind. To this people group, the Assyrians added in people from other conquered nations and so over time and marriages they developed a syncretistic religious pattern of worship. The Jews in the Southern Kingdom looked down their noses at them because they considered themselves to be of purer stock. Of course in time the Southern Kingdom followed the pattern of the Northern Kingdom and after ignoring the call to repent and turn back to God by the prophets, God allowed them to be taken captive by the Babylonians for almost seventy years. When they finally returned, while not intermarrying with people of other nations to the degree that those in the Northern Kingdom did, they still looked down on their northern neighbors considering them to be half-Jews at best, little better than mongrel dogs, just above the pig level.
The animosity continued between these two groups during the period of time between the last Old Testament book of Malachi and the first book in the New Testament, Matthew. It was a 400 year period of silence when God did send a prophet to either group of people. Some 300 years before the time of Christ the Greeks had used Samaria as a base for their control of Jewish territory In approximately 128 BC, Jewish soldiers traveled on a covert mission into the Samaritan territory to Mt. Gerizim and burned their temple down. The Samaritans responded by penetrating the temple area of Jerusalem a few years before the birth of Jesus and scattering bones of the dead across the area on the eve of Passover in order to defile the complex and make it impossible for the Jews to keep the feast. (Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 203)
Stayed tuned in for our fourth post in the developing story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan women at the well.