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When they were building the temple, the descendants of these emigrants from beyond the Euphrates, who occupied the territory of the ten tribes, having been partially instructed in the Jewish religion, sent to them an offer to join with them in the work. “Let us build with you,” said they," for we seek your God as ye do: and we do sacrifice to him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hitherto.” This offer was rejected, as an impartial judge of the present times would say, in terms by no means courteous or conciliating. “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together, will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus, the king of Persia, hath commanded us.” Here then was the first offence between the Jews and Samaritans, as they were afterwards called from Samaria the ancient capital of the country, which aggravated by repeated ill offices, ripened at last into the most deadly hostility. Rejected and insulted by the Jews, the Samaritans began to obstruct their undertaking. They wrote slanderous letters to the court of Persia, and finally caused the enterprise for a while to be broken off. A few years afterwards a circumstance took place, which very much widened the breach. Nehemiah, who had been cupbearer to the Persian king, and had amassed immense wealth, was permitted by his master to come to Jerusalem, in the capacity of governor. He there found various
abuses to have crept into their sacred things. Among others, Eliashib, the high priest, had married a grandson to the daughter of Sanballat the governor of the Samaritans, and the last record of the Old Testament, is his banishment from Judea. From Josephus we learn that the name of this priest was Manasseh, and that his father-in-law, Sanballat, to compensate him for the loss of the high priesthood at Jerusalem, promised him that he would build him a temple on Mount Gerizim, and bestow on him the sacerdotal dignity. This promise he afterwards performed, and it is supposed that Manasseh took from Jerusalem, a copy of the law of Moses, from which was derived the Samaritan Pentateuch so famous in modern times. The building of this temple, served still farther to exasperate the two nations against each other. Their hostilities were waged not only in Palestine, but were pursued even in exile. It is related in one of the Rabbinical books, that “Ezra, Zorobabel and Jeshua, gathered all the congregation into the temple, and brought in three hundred priests, and three hundred books of the law, and three hundred infants, and they blew trumpets, and the Levites sung and chanted, and cursed, and excommunicated, and separated the Samaritans by the sacred name of God, and by the glorious writing of the tables, and by the curse of the upper and lower house of judgment, that no Israelite eat of anything that is a Samaritan's, for he that doth, does as if he eat swine's flesh. Nor that any Samaritan be proselyted to Israel, nor have any part in the resurrection.” This horrid curse, though it sounds somewhat apocryphal, is a sufficient testimony of the state of feeling which existed when it was committed to writing, which was not long after Christ. They carried the same animosity into foreign countries. When Alexander had conquered Syria, Palestine and Egypt, and had determined to build the city which bears his name, he transported thither a large colony of Jews, and mingled with them were likewise, not a few of their old neighbors, the Samaritans. There in the reign of Ptolemy Philometor, one hundred and forty-seven years before Christ, the old animosity broke out afresh, and the parties came to open arms. Ptolemy in order to settle this dispute between them, which was of no more moment than which was the true temple, that upon Mount Gerizim, or that on Mount Moriah, commanded them to argue their cause before him by deputation. Two were appointed on each side, and so great was their animosity, and so confident were each of their cause, that they bound themselves by oath, that whichever should lose their case in argument, should be put to death. The Samaritans were vanquished and were executed upon the spot.
Another cause which contributed to their hatred, was the fact, that Samaria became a sort of refuge, for fugitives and outlaws among the Jews. By the influence of these refugees, and that of the law of Moses, which gradually reformed their manners, the Samaritans became in the course of ages, quite as religious, and quite as just in their religious sentiments as the Jews themselves. Still the enmity continued, and perhaps was never greater than at the period of the ministry of our Lord. As it happened Samaria was directly between Galilee and Jerusalem, so that the Galileans were obliged to pass through that country on their way to their national festivals.
One there was, who was superior to these bitter and irrational prejudices. Let us see on what occasions he rebuked and condemned them. 66 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received
up, that he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before his face, and they went and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples, James and John saw this, they said : Wilt thou that we command fire to come down from Heaven, and consume them as Elias did? And he turned and rebuked them and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is come not to destroy men's lives, but to save them."
On another occasion, we read that a certain lawyer stood up and tempted him, saying: “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, what is written in the law? How readest thou ? And he answering, said : Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right, this do and thou shalt live. But he willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus : And who is my neighbor? And Jesus answering, said: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed came where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pieces of money and gave them to the host, and said unto him: Take care of him, and whatever thou spendest more, when I come again I will repay thee. Which now of these three,