Monday, January 28, 2008

More on the Homeland of the Good Samaritan

I’m sure you’ve heard of the story of the good Samaritan, right? If not you can read it here.. When I was little girl the story would often be used in Sunday School to remind us to be nice and loving to one another…even those that were different, but did you ever wonder like me…..why did the Jews hate the Samaritans so much?

To obtain the answer we need to go back many hundreds of years before before Jesus Christ told the story of the good Samaritan to the reign of King Omri of the Northern Kingdom. Upon seizing power he transferred his capital city from Tirzah to Samaria. He fortified the city against his enemies including his rival, Jerusalem, to the south. Originally Omri’s new capital was called “Shemer” for the original owner of the land that surrounded Samaria. Eventually the name Samaria not only represented the capital city of Israel, but the entire Northern Kingdom came to be known as Samaria.

The city of Samaria was a very diverse town economically, politically, and socially. There were several temples….some for the Hebrew God and others were devoted to the Phoenician god Baal. King Omri’s son, Ahab and his wife Jezebel, increased the Northern Kingdom’s devotion to Baal during their reign.

Eventually the Northern Kingdom of Israel was taken over by the Assyrians in 724 B.C. after an extensive siege. Those that survived the seige were taken in captivity to Assyria where they eventually blended with the the native peoples there. The Assyrians repopulated the Northern Kingdom with people of their own choosing called the Cuthaeans.

Memories apparently didn’t fade fast in the Southern Kingdom. Samaria had such a bad reputation as a place filled with idol worshippers, and the addition of the Cuthaeans didn’t help matters as their foreign ideas were also disagreeable to the people of the Southern Kingdom. To put it simply the people of Samaria were heretics. In the minds of the people of Judah the Samaritans were inferior racially and inferior religiously.

The Samarians on the other hand thought their “sophisticated” views were more intelligent and liked their ideas of polytheism. Even those Samaritans who believed in the God of Abraham didn’t see the need to travel to Jerusalem in order to worship.

Once the Assyrian Empire fell the entire region of Samaria fell into the hands of the Babylonian Empire ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar along with the entire Kingdom of Judah as well. Records indicate Samaria as a whole was loyal to the Persian government.

Later the area would be taken over by Alexander the Great, the Seleucids, and the Romans. You can read more about it here. During the Roman occupation the Northern and Southern Kingdoms were finally reuinted once more.

The image with this post is the human head of a relief of a winged bull, from the palace of the Assyrian king, Sargon II. It was under his leadership that Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom.

Related Posts: 13 Things About King Omri and His Fortressed City of Samaria
Keeping the North and South Straight

1 comment:

cameron said...

This was very interesting. I love posts where I can learn some history.

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