The origin of the Samaritans, as described in the book of Kings, is a group of people brought from Mesopotamia to Samaria by the Assyrians:

The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria in place of the people of Israel; they took possession of Samaria, and settled in its cities. (2 Kings 17:24 NRSV)

This also seems to be their origin story in Ezra 4:10.

However, they seem to be described later as having been taken out of the land of Egypt by God.

The Lord had made a covenant with them and commanded them, “You shall not worship other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them, but you shall worship the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm; you shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. [...]” (2 Kings 17:35-36)

This is presumably a reference to the Children of Israel's exodus from Egypt. Why are the Samaritans described as having been taken out of Egypt according to the story given previously which says they came from Mesopotamian cities?

Could the word "with them" (אִתָּם) in 17:35 refer to the "children of Jacob" mentioned in the previous verse? It seems to refer to the Samaritans, and not to the Israelites, because it concludes by saying (v. 40) that they continued to practice their former custom, which makes more sense in the context of the Samaritans (as in v. 34).

It would seem from the fact that the Samaritans (at least the Samaritans of a later period) accept the Pentateuch that they might have believed themselves to have been part of the exodus. To my knowledge, the Bible doesn't give any other account of the Samaritans being part of the exodus from Egypt.

Does this sentence in fact mean to say that the Samaritans were part of the exodus from Egypt?

2 Answers 2



The words "with them" certainly refer to the children of Jacob, and this seems to be the assumption of all commentaries that I have seen. This is because the description in verses 35-40 is too reminiscent of previous descriptions of the Jewish nation (see Pulpit commentary to these verses) to be referring to the Samaritans. On the other hand, your issue with verse 40 sounding like it refers to the Samaritans (especially compared to verse 34) is a serious one. I can think of two possible resolutions:

  1. Classical Jewish commentaries, based on Kiddushin 75b, suggest that the Samaritans were quasi-converts. If this is the case, stories that apply to the regular Jewish nation could be referenced when talking about nations that converted, not as historical fact about that segment of the Jewish population, but as a general reminder that what they had accepted upon themselves stemmed from the experience of their religious brethren.
  2. If I understand him correctly, Rabbi Joseph Kara, in his commentary to verse 34 suggests that verse 34 refers to the Jews who were exiled from that land, as mentioned in verse 33. This is because while the Samaritans are God-fearing (also v. 33), the group mentioned in verse 34 is not. Therefore, the parallel language in verse 40 would also be referring to the Jewish people. According to this interpretation, when verse 41 reintroduces the Samaritans, it is necessary, and not superfluous (as it would be if 35-40 were already discussing them).
  • On the first paragraph: is it really too reminiscent? There are similarities, but also differences between 35-40 and verses 13-23 (which is certainly about Israel). In the verses about Israel we see references to the prophets, fathers, other deities, and rejection (וימאס) which are absent from the second account.
    – b a
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 9:57
  • On point 1: Are there any other examples of Israelite history being applied to converts in the Bible? There is no "you shall love the stranger because God took the stranger out of Egypt." It might be a more interesting possibility if you consider it with that of the pulpit commentary you link to earlier, which seems to take the verses as speaking to the remaining Israelites who intermarried with the Samaritans (which, however, isn't part of the Bible's narrative).
    – b a
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 9:57
  • On point 2: This is an interesting interpretation I hadn't thought of. When I read כְּמִשְׁפַּט֙ הַגּוֹיִ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־הִגְל֥וּ אֹתָ֖ם מִשָּֽׁם in verse 33, I had understood it to be a reference to nations in Mesopotamia, meaning "like the law of the nations who had exiled them from there (Babylon, Cuthah, Avva...)" (alternatively reading הָגְלוּ אִתָּם referring to the fellow exiled nations), not "whom they had exiled from there (Samaria)" referring to Israel as "the nations." ....
    – b a
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 9:58
  • ... However, the word הַגּוֹיִם throughout the narrative seems to be referring to nations other than Israel (verse 8 and 15 referring to the Canaanites, verse 26, 29 referring to the Samaritans). Having a digression about Israel in the middle of a discussion of the Samaritans is also not a very fluid reading. The contradiction about them being God-fearing is an interesting point, though.
    – b a
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 9:58
  • 1
    @ba Excellent points, as usual. This was the best I could do with my limited knowledge of Nach and limited time, and I truthfully don't have any serious answers to your questions based on last night's quick jump into this. God willing I will have some time to research this further, but until then, I wish you luck for your own further research.
    – user22655
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 13:10

The issue raised in the OP can be resolved by understanding that the entire land of (northern) Israel, already called Samaria after its capital city, was never emptied of Israelites by the the Assyrians. 2 Kings 17:24 stipulates that people from the Assyrian Empire were "settled in its cities." But most people at the time lived in villages just as they did nearly everywhere at the time. Moreover, while the Assyrians settled the cities with colonists, the text does not indicate that the cities were emptied. The likely scenario is that leading citizens were forced into exile but not menial workers, and those who lived outside of the cities were left in place to farm the land and tend flocks. In his book The Bible Unearthed, Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein estimates that only a fifth (about 40,000) of the population of the northern kingdom were actually resettled out of the area.

Such a scenario also fits with what the Bible, especially the Book of Jeremiah, tells of the Babylonian Exile, which affected the southern kingdom of Judah. The New World Encyclopedia explains:

According to the Book of Jeremiah (52:28-30), 3,023 Jews [probably not counting women and children] were deported in the first wave, 832 in the second, and 745 in the third, making 4,600 in all... A larger estimate is given in 2 Kings 24:14-16, which refers only to the first deportation 597 B.C.E. Verse 14 gives the numbers as 10,000 men, while verse 16 puts the number at 8,000, an estimate roughly double that of Jeremiah's for all three deportations. Scholars tend to accept Jeremiah's figures as more accurate. In either case, since scholars estimate the total population of the Kingdom of Judah during this time at between 120,000 and 150,000, less than one quarter of the population was actually taken into exile. However, since this included a high percentage of court officials, the priesthood, skilled craftsmen, and other wealthy citizens, the exiles constituted the majority of the cultural elite of the nation.

So neither Judah nor Samaria/Israel faced a situation of total population replacement. The majority of the inhabitants were still descendants of Jacob. Thus, the phrase "who brought you out of the land of Egypt" refers to those Israelites who lived in Samaria, some of whom intermarried with other nationalities. There were not yet "Samaritans." At the time in question they are more properly thought of as Israelites of Samaria, just as the residents of Judah were not yet "Jews" but Israelites living in Judea.

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