The Samaritan Temple June 5, 2024

Ruins of the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim overlooking Shechem. A massive, ancient staircase leads up from the valley floor to the temple. A small remnant of Samaritans lives nearby in a village on the mountain. They still practice their ancient religion.

The Samaritan Temple

“Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.” John 4:20-21  

The Samaritan temple stood on Mount Gerizim, near biblical Shechem and modern Nablus. Ultimately, the Jews, under John Hyrcanus, destroyed it in the first century BC. As is well known, Samaritans were despised by the Jews. The Jews, according to the Talmud, looked down on them as heretics and idolators. A famous rabbi from the first century AD ruled that eating bread baked by Samaritans was equivalent to eating pig meat. This makes Jesus’ decision to send His disciples into the city to buy food even more surprising! However, the Samaritans were most hated for allegedly attempting to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem – a charge they deny to this day. In revenge, the Jews destroyed the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim.  

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

In the Talmud, all Samaritan women were deemed to be unclean at all times. So, the unnamed Samaritan woman was surprised that Jesus, as a Jewish man, would even dare to speak with her, much less ask her for a drink of water. Yet, her Savior was concerned by the state of her soul.  Jesus addressed her deepest longings when He spoke of her need for living water. She tried to derail the conversation into the old ethnic quarrel about the Temple in Jerusalem and the still visible ruins of the Samaritan temple up on Mount Gerizim. Jesus no doubt surprised her again when this did not fluster Him. Instead He spoke of the nature of true worship. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) In response, she spoke longingly of a future time when the promised Messiah would come to teach them. “Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.” (John 4:26) 

When the disciples returned with the food, they were puzzled to find Jesus chatting with a Samaritan woman. When they pressed Him to eat, He responded by saying that His meat was to do the will of God. Later, after His resurrection, He twice asked the disciples if they had any meat. Once in the upper room, (Luke 24:41) and again on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. (John 21:5) It is possible He wished to remind them of His encounter with the Samaritans. In both cases, He exhorted them to do the will of God and to preach the Gospel.  

Jesus’ Example to Us

Christian, John 4 should teach you to “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” (John 4:35) Beyond that, you can learn from Jesus’ example and ignore the ethnic and political quarrels of our time, no matter how bitter. In their place, do what Jesus did and see your enemy’s eternal soul. Instead of rehashing the old and new hatreds, or talking of politics, speak to the lost of their need for living water, and of Jesus their Messiah.  

So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” John 4:40-42

Samaritans celebrating Passover on Mount Gerizim. <yoastmark class=

Samaritans celebrating Passover on Mount Gerizim. The small community still celebrates Passover like it was celebrated in the Old Testament. Each man dresses in white linen, and each family group sacrifices a lamb. After the sacrifice, they  roast lambs over open fires. They are still offering lambs, and are still waiting for the Messiah. Photo by John Buckner.

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