Where is Samaria and who are the Samaritans? We’ll first explore the history of Samaria and then the significance of the people.
Israel was a united nation under King Saul, King David, and King Solomon. Solomon was one of the wisest men that ever lived, but possessed a weak character. He violated God’s commandments in Deuteronomy 17:16-17 by indulging in idolatry, wealth, and women (300 wives and 700 concubines). In 1 Kings 11:4, Solomon’s wives turned his heart after other gods. They came from gentile nations, maintaining their idolatrous ways, which influenced Solomon. He incurred the wrath of God for idolatry resulting in the punishment of a divided kingdom after his death. In 1 Kings 11:30-34, God removes 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Ten of the tribes revolted against Rehoboam, David’s son, as the King of Israel. This revolt resulted in a split of the kingdom. The northern kingdom composed of ten tribes is called Israel. The southern kingdom composed of two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) is called Judah. (See map below).
Jeroboam, the king of Israel, corrupted the worship of God by turning to idolatry. His infamous legacy became the standard for all future evil kings in Israel. All kings were either more evil than him or less evil than him. This caused a spiritual division between the northern and southern kingdoms.
Judah’s capital was Jerusalem and Israel’s capital was Samaria.
All that hailed from Israel were known as Samaritans because of the capital. The nation practiced idolatry and corrupt religion for centuries, following the practices of their founder, Jeroboam.
The people of Judah were called Judeans, later a derivative of Jew. The Judeans despised the Samaritans including using the slur dog to reference them. In Matthew 15, Jesus uses this figure.
24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
25 Then came she and worshiped him, saying, Lord, help me.
26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.
27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.
Since Jesus ministry was to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”, let’s consider the meaning of Acts 1:8.
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost comes upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
It is the day of his ascension, ten days before Pentecost. Jesus is giving his disciples his final instructions while on earth. This is a power verse. He gives them two commandments.
- You will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you
- You will be witnesses in Jerusalem, Samaria, and the rest of the earth.
What does Jerusalem, Samaria, and the rest of the earth mean? The kingdom is still split during Jesus ministry. His instructions mean to be witnesses at
Jerusalem – to all of the true worshippers in the nation of Judah
Samaria – to all of the false and corrupt worshippers in the nation of Israel
Uttermost parts of the earth – to all of the remaining nations (called the gentiles) on the earth
This verse does not make sense without understanding the split of the kingdom. Your enriched understanding will help with the following,
John 4:1-28 – Jesus encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Notice the disciple’s thoughts in v. 27 after observing Jesus talking with the woman.
27 And upon this came his disciples, and marveled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?