The Samaritans occupied the country formerly belonging to the tribe of Ephraim  and the half-tribe of Manasseh. The capital of the country was Samaria, formerly  a large and splendid city. When the ten tribes were carried away into captivity  to Assyria, the king of Assyria sent people from Cutha, Ava, Hamath, and  Sepharvaim to inhabit Samaria (2 Kings  17:24; Ezra  4:2-11). These foreigners intermarried with the Israelite population that  was still in and around Samaria. These “Samaritans” at first worshipped the  idols of their own nations, but being troubled with lions, they supposed it was  because they had not honored the God of that territory. A Jewish priest was  therefore sent to them from Assyria to instruct them in the Jewish religion.  They were instructed from the books of Moses, but still retained many of their  idolatrous customs. The Samaritans embraced a religion that was a mixture of  Judaism and idolatry (2 Kings  17:26-28). Because the Israelite inhabitants of Samaria had intermarried  with the foreigners and adopted their idolatrous religion, Samaritans were  generally considered “half-breeds” and were universally despised by the  Jews.

Additional grounds for animosity between the Israelites and  Samaritans were the following:

1. The Jews, after their return from  Babylon, began rebuilding their temple. While Nehemiah was engaged in building  the walls of Jerusalem, the Samaritans vigorously attempted to halt the  undertaking (Nehemiah  6:1-14).

2. The Samaritans built a temple for themselves on “Mount  Gerizim,” which the Samaritans insisted was designated by Moses as the place  where the nation should worship. Sanballat, the leader of the Samaritans,  established his son-in-law, Manasses, as high priest. The idolatrous religion of  the Samaritans thus became perpetuated.

3. Samaria became a place of  refuge for all the outlaws of Judea (Joshua 20:721:21). The Samaritans  willingly received Jewish criminals and refugees from justice. The violators of  the Jewish laws, and those who had been excommunicated, found safety for  themselves in Samaria, greatly increasing the hatred which existed between the  two nations.

4. The Samaritans received only the five books of Moses and  rejected the writings of the prophets and all the Jewish traditions.

From these causes arose an irreconcilable difference between them, so that the  Jews regarded the Samaritans as the worst of the human race (John 8:48) and had no dealings with them (John 4:9). In spite of the hatred between the Jews and  the Samaritans, Jesus broke down the barriers between them, preaching the gospel  of peace to the Samaritans (John  4:6-26), and the apostles later followed His example (Acts 8:25).