By Patrick Hawthorne
Join with me on a historical journey to Samaria as we look at the Biblical account of the meeting between Jesus and the woman at the well. This account is very interesting and chocked full of many wonderful truths that tell of the lengths that God will go to reach the lost…the lengths that He will go to meet with you.
Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria. (John 4:1-4 NKJV)
Before beginning the journey, it is important to become familiar with the history behind the conflict and the deep hatred between Israel and Samaria. Without a cursory understanding of how and when the conflict began, it will be difficult to understand why the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman is so noteworthy.
In the year 722 b.c., King Shalmanesser of Assyria conquered Samaria. As was customary, King Shalmanesser deported the elite Israelites to Assyria. To fill the void and to repopulate the land, Shalmanesser brought in Gentile men from surrounding regions. As does happen when boy meets girl, the Gentile men began to marry the remaining Israelite women. To further complicate an already volatile situation, the combining of nations brought with it a combining of its worship of God mixed with the rituals of paganism.
Fast forward around one hundred eighty-four years to the year 538 b.c. Jewish captivity has gone from Assyrian captivity to Babylonian captivity to Persian captivity. Under King Cyrus of Persia, Nehemiah was allowed to return to Israel to begin the rebuilding process of war torn Jerusalem.
Shortly after Nehemiah’s arrival home, a Samaritan governor by the name of Sanballat went out to meet with him. Keep in mind that the distance between Jerusalem and Samaria is only around forty miles, give or take, so it would not be difficult to learn of the arrival of some new residents to the land.
To put things in perspective, Sanballat was more or less a snake in the grass. As a politician, he had a way of using his words to build up or tear down to get his way. When he learned that Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, he became furious. Allying himself with the Ammonites and Arabs, he employed various tactics to hamper the rebuilding of the wall.
Nehemiah was having none of it. God had given him a vision for completing the wall and he was not altering course. Of course, this infuriated Sanballat even more. The bottom line is, God won and Sanballat lost. The wall was rebuilt in record time.
There is more to the story including a mixed marriage * between a Jewish high priest by the name of Manesseh and Sanballat’s daughter. However, I’m sure you get the jest of how deep the resentment was between the two parties. On my next post, I will begin the digging process into the meeting between Jesus and the woman at the well. Until then, be blessed.
*The marriage of Manesseh and Sanballat’s daughter is reported by historian Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews).