Significance of Samaria and the Samaritans in the Bible

By Alice Bassett
Kelli Harris
Edited by Kelli Harris

Updated April 17, 2023.

Aerial view of the outskirts of the Samaria Gorge

The region of Samaria lies between Galilee and Judea. There has been a great deal of racism and prejudice throughout history between Jewish people and Samaritans. Two popular Christian stories center around Samaria and the Samaritans: The woman at the well and the good Samaritan.

What is the cause of this contempt between Jewish folk and Samaritans, and why is Samaria so significant in the Bible?

Interesting Facts About Samaria

  • In Hebrew, the name Samaria translates to "watch-tower."
  • In biblical times, there was a mutual hatred amongst the Jewish people and the Samaritans.
  • The famous story of the "Good Samaritan" is a bible story found in Luke 10:25-37.
  • Control of Samaria has changed hands many times, including being owned by the Babylonians, Arabs, Canaanites, and Israelites.
  • On their way to Galilee, most Jewish people traveled the long way around to avoid going through or near Samaria.

Significance of Samaria in the Bible

Samaria is nestled between the Sea of Galilee in the north and Judea in the south. The Jordan River lies east and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. When the Kingdom of Israel split, Samaria became the capital of the north, while Jerusalem got the title of the capital of the south. The northern portion in this regard is Israel, and the southern part is Judea.

Samaria was destroyed in 722 by Assyrians, as foretold in a gruesome prophesy in the Bible.

Samaria is held guilty, For she has rebelled against her God. They shall fall by the sword, Their infants shall be dashed in pieces, And their women with child ripped open. - Hosea 13:16 (NKJV)

The Woman at the Well

The chapter in the bible where this story begins is beautifully titled: A Samaritan Woman Meets Her Messiah. Jesus had decided to go through the city of Sychar in Samaria and sat by a well while his disciples went off to buy food. A woman approached the well and spoke with Jesus for a time, although we are never told the woman's name. We gather from their conversation that this woman was a social outcast and had taken many husbands in her life. Jesus offered her living water, which here is symbolic of a relationship with Christ.

but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” - John 4:14 (NKJV).

What can we learn from this encounter?

First and foremost, this encounter in Samaria reminds us that through Christ and Christ alone, we have eternal salvation. The everlasting life referred to in the scripture is symbolic of a life and relationship with Christ.

Secondly, it shows us that Jesus is selfless and loves all equally. Jesus was Jewish himself and yet gave time and kindness to a Samarian woman who most Jewish people would have loathed.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

The Gospel of Luke: 10-35 (NKJV) tells the tale of the good Samaritan. This is a phrase used frequently in the English language for someone who does good and is kind.

The story goes that a Jewish traveler is left beaten and naked in the street to die on his way to Jericho from Jerusalem. He is passed by a Jewish priest and a Levite who ignored the man completely. He was then approached by a Samaritan, who stopped and tended to his wounds. He took the man to an inn and paid for his stay, instructing the innkeeper to look after him. He went as far as saying that if the man used more than the Samaritan had paid upfront, he would return and pay for the rest.

The lesson learned from this story is beautiful:

... which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” - Luke 10: 36-37

Simply put, Jesus is instructing us to do good things for others, much like the good Samaritan.

Samaria's Significance

Historically, we can learn a great deal from Samaria, as it is involved in many conquests, such as why the Kingdom of Israel split. The root of racism and prejudice between the Samaritans and Jewish people is a delicate topic yet incredibly interesting.

The most important part of Samaria, however, is how Jesus uses it to teach us important lessons. Whether it be to welcome him into our hearts like the woman at the well or to do good for others like the good Samaritan. The biblical significance of Samaria teaches us crucial lessons about ourselves and our faith.