Trust me, this is going somewhere. And I think you’ll agree and say this info was worth it to understand a little better a certain portion of Scripture. But you need some background to get there. 🙂
Ok, so you have the Jews rebuilding their Temple in Jerusalem. Ezra 4 mentions a group of people that came to Jerusalem and asked to help rebuild the Temple bc they too “worship the LORD God of Israel.” Many scholars believe this other group who came were Samaritans, the half Jew-half Gentile group. Which I think makes sense. Who else would care about the Temple in Jerusalem but the Samaritans? Memories run LONG in the Middle East. Stories were very likely handed down in some Samaritan families of how great-great grandma and grandpa worshiped at the beautiful Temple in Jerusalem. Of course the Samaritans would feel a connection to it and want to help. But, according to the Jews – they had forfeited their right to help by intermarrying with Gentiles and they were told NO. (Which I think Scripture shows that the Jews were right to be honest)
So, what do the Samaritans do? First of all, a temple was built by the Samaritans and for the Samaritans on top of Mt. Gerizim. (Why here, we’ll get to that in a minute). According to remains it looked almost exactly like the Temple in Jerusalem that was being built at this time. Secondly, the Samaritans decided only the first 5 books of the Bible were actual Scripture from God. The first 5 books being Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Now, when does the city of Jerusalem become important in Scripture – it’s hinted at in Joshua and Judges but not really until David in 1 Samuel does Jerusalem become THE city of Israel. Now, if you are only reading the first five books as Scripture then Jerusalem becomes relegated to just another city and therefore the Temple within Jerusalem is nothing special either.
One city that does show up a lot in those 5 books is Shechem. Both Abraham and Jacob stop there during their travels; that’s a huge connection in the Middle East mindset. My ancestors stopped and worshiped here not in Jerusalem! Second, right next to Shechem are two mountains, Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. These are the two mtns that Joshua brings all of Israel to and tells them to recite the blessings and curses of the covenant God had made with them. And he does this two times in his life. Another huge connection! Plus, Joseph’s bones (Jacob’s most favored son) are buried in Shechem. So you tell me, why did they build their temple on Mt. Gerizim?
How do you think the Jews felt about all this? How do you think the Samaritans began looking at the Jews in return? Both probably felt the other was blasphemous in their beliefs and in their Temple. About 200 years after the Samaritan temple was built the Jews began to regain power and control of the land, including Samaria. Around 129/128 BC the Jews came and destroyed the Samaritan Temple. Now, let’s turn to the time of Jesus…