Jews Vs. Samaritans: Origin of Conflict

Map of Samaria

Map of Samaria


Anyone who’s read the Bible knows it: first century Jews despised the Samaritans and the Samaritans held no love for their southern brothers.

But how did the enmity between these two groups begin? What led to the intense hatred that we see in the New Testament?

As with most stories that span a thousand years, it’s complicated. But it boils down to four main issues:

Early disagreements on pagan worship:

Trouble started not long after Moses brought the twelve tribes of Israel to the Promised Land. At the death of Solomon in 975 B.C., the kingdom of Israel was split into two parts, Judah in the south, and Samaria in the north. The two kingdoms were often in disagreement. The northern kings loved their pagan idols and were constantly at odds with Jerusalem.

 Conquering armies:

So, when the Assyrians conquered Samaria in 724 B.C., the inhabitants of Judah were not sympathetic. The Assyrians took their captives home and sent their own pagan people to occupy the land of Samaria. Still, some Samaritans remained in their homeland and continued to practice the faith of Moses while intermarrying with the pagan settlers.

Assyria fell to the Egyptians a hundred years later, and Egypt, in turn, was conquered by Babylon. In 586 B.C., the southern kingdom of Israel also fell to the Babylonians, and what the Jews refer to as the “Babylonian Exile” followed.

 Post-exile disagreements:

When the Babylonians allowed the Judeans to return to their homeland,  the rift between the Samaritans and the Judeans widened. Some sources say that the Samaritans offered to help rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, but were rudely refused because of their pagan impurity. Other sources say the Samaritans were the ones who refused to help their brothers of Judah to rebuild.

 Differences in worship:

Meanwhile, the Samaritans who had resisted paganism developed their own version of worship, using only the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy  – and rejecting all other books of the Old Testament. Tensions increased when the Samaritans built their own Temple for worship on Mt. Gerizim, and stated that their mountain was the dwelling place of the Lord, not the Temple in Jerusalem. With that, any hope of reconciliation between the two peoples was lost.

Sadly, disagreements, wars, differences in worship, and miscommunication resulted in the simmering hatred that divided the people of Israel that were once brothers.

Can you see any similarities between the first century Jewish/Samaritan problem and cultural and religious conflicts we face today?
Next time . . .  Jews Vs. Samaritans: Insults and Injury
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42 Responses to “Jews Vs. Samaritans: Origin of Conflict”

  1. A.J. Cattapan | April 30, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    Enjoying the history lesson! I’ve always wondered what caused such enmity between the two.

    • Stephanie Landsem | May 1, 2013 at 9:29 am #

      Glad you liked it, Amy. Next week I’m going to write about how this dislike played out and what they did to each other that cemented this long-standing hatred.

      • Dominic | July 24, 2016 at 9:26 am #

        May I ask if the Samaritans till this current day are regarded as Jews? Since the word Jew derives from the name Judah but yet the Jew identity is that of Israel.

        If you find time, please help. Thank you Sir.

      • Dominic | July 24, 2016 at 9:28 am #

        Sorry I addressed wrongly, madam.

  2. Olaniyi Ayeni | February 8, 2014 at 4:06 am #

    Please, kindly give bible references to back the origin of conflict between them. I need them. I will appreaciate so much, thanks.

  3. Jayson Salano | May 26, 2014 at 6:52 am #

    Woow! I really apreciate the lesson about the history of the enemity between Jews n Samaritans! I’ve always wonderd how this bad blood started n now I know the mystery behind all this! God bless, Shallom

  4. Malcolm Stewart-Morris MD | January 29, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    To better understand this subject realize that the Bible was never intended to be a history. text. There are many non-biblical sources dependent on archeology (both on the ground and in the literature of ALL sources, which not having an emotional agenda can be read in addition to the bible. {one example: where the English translation uses “The Lord” the patron god Yahweh is addressed in the Hebrew text}. The argument between Samaria and Jerusalem resulted from the earlier building of a temple to Yahweh on Mt Gerazim prior to the one in Jerusalem. This was because instructions [found in the Bible] from Yahweh were to build only one…yet the site was never made clear -ergo – a thousand years of hatred of people claiming to be listening to the same deity.

    • Stephanie Landsem | January 31, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

      You are right, Malcolm. We need to look at the context, the history, and the translations in order to get an idea of all the aspects of the problem. Thanks for your comment.

      • Lol | October 6, 2017 at 9:05 am #


  5. Segun fakolade | January 31, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    Love this history

  6. Ray Butterfield | November 8, 2015 at 8:56 am #

    The quarrel between the Jews and the Samaritans occurred back in the eighth century B.C. The Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom whose capital was Samaria. As conquerors did in those days, they transported the greater number of the population and settled strangers in the land. In the sixth century the Babalonians conquered the Southern Kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem and it’s inhabitants were carried away to Babylon; but they refused to lose their identity and remained Jews. In the fifth century B.C. they were allowed to return and to rebuild their shattered city under Ezra and Nehemiah. In the meantime, those of the Northern Kingdom who had been left in Palestine had intermarried with the stranger races who had been brought in. When the people of the Southern Kingdom returned and set to build their city, these people around Samaria offered to help. They were refused because they were no longer pure Jews…From that day forward, there was an unhealed breach and a bitter hatred between Jews and Samaritans…

  7. Faith | January 4, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

    Moses was not the one that had led the people to the promised land. It was his son that had led the people to the promised land. Moses had died along the way.

    • Dagtall | March 19, 2016 at 11:16 am #

      Sources please.

    • Pete | October 20, 2016 at 9:04 am #

      It was actually Joshua, son of Nun, who led the Israelites into the promised land…… He was Moses assistant, but not his son. 🙂

    • Barbara Oshlo | March 18, 2017 at 3:48 pm #

      No…it was Joshua…not Moses’ son.

  8. Jennifer Adeju | January 20, 2016 at 10:04 am #

    waoo thanks, I have always been askiny why Jews and Samaritans were at loggerheads with
    each other.That was why Jesus told the Samaritan woman that they worship on the mountain but the Jews worship in the temple

  9. Robert | February 5, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

    This is very interesting.

  10. Nana Yaw | April 5, 2016 at 3:28 am #

    very interesting
    but where are the supporting scriptures?

    • Stephanie Landsem | April 5, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Nana. This article was written from an assortment of sources that I used while writing The Well. Some information you will find in the Bible, but much came from biblical scholars and other historical sources. Since it’s just a short explanation for my readers, I didn’t cite my sources.

  11. DAUDA MATHIAS | May 11, 2016 at 9:15 am #


    • Jim | February 14, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

      They both thought they were better than each other

  12. Amos | October 14, 2016 at 11:19 pm #

    Thank you so much for the knowledge you shared with us here. It is an eye opening.
    Below site showed some bible reference as regards their hatred

    • stephanie landsem | October 15, 2016 at 11:45 am #

      Thanks for the link, Amos, good information!

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