Travel (virtually) to Mount Gerizim, where the Samaritans “worshiped” (and their ancestors still do)

Believers are familiar with the Biblical account of the amazing meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well described in John 4:4-42.

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4:19-24

What was the “mountain” that the woman was referring to in John 4 where the Samaritans worshiped? She was speaking of Mt. Gerizim. With the help of the Google Earth app on your smart phone, you can get an excellent understanding of the geographical context involved in this passage. Jacob’s Well was located not too far from “Har” (Hebrew: “Mount”) Gerizim and Har Ebal. Type “Har Gerizim” into your Google Earth app search box and you’ll get a bird’s-eye-view of both mountains in relation to the location of Jacob’s Well (see photo above). Zoom in on Gerizim and you’ll be able to see the impressive ruins that cover the top of the hill/mountain (photo below). The temple site looks to have been a vast, impressive complex that would have been very visible to Jesus and the Samaritan woman as they conversed at the well. She may have pointed up to the complex with misplaced pride when she referred to it in her conversation. But Jesus dismissed the worship site and the bastardized Samaritan religion. True worship and salvation came through the Jews, through the lineage of King David, and to its ultimate fulfillment in the Savior, Jesus the Messiah.

According to many scholars, archaeological excavations at Mount Gerizim indicate that a Samaritan temple was built there in the first half of the 5th century BC. -from Wikipedia

Mt. Gerizim is mentioned by name four times in the Bible, while Mt. Ebal, to the east, is mentioned five times. Some (including myself, initially) mistakenly assume that the distinctive, octagon-shaped ruins in the photos and video below are the remains of the Samaritan Temple building, but they are actually the remnants of a Byzantine church that was built upon the site at a later period.

A very small remnant of Samaritans still “worship” amidst the ruins atop Mt. Gerizim. There are currently only about 800 Samaritans living in Israel.

What would religious relativists say about the exclusiveness of the Gospel taught by Jesus Christ in this passage? They would certainly claim that the Samaritans were “fine” as long as they were “good” and “sincere” in their religiosity, but that is NOT what Jesus taught.

 Addendum: Our dear sister in the Lord, Mandy, at Blue Collar Theologian provided the following excellent details about Shechem, Mt Gerizim, and Mt Ebal. Thanks, Mandy!

Shechem was located in the valley between Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal and was the main settlement of the Samaritans. Shechem has a long and important history! In fact, Shechem can trace its history back to Abraham when he first entered Shechem (Canaan) from Haran (Gen 12). In Shechem Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped and in retribution Simeon and Levi killed all the weak men from circumcision (Gen 34). Joseph’s tomb is also located in close proximity to Jacob’s well. In Deuteronomy 11:29 Moses spoke of this region in that Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal were the mountains of covenant blessings (Gerizim) and curses (Ebal). Moses also instructed Joshua to build an altar on Mt Ebal with uncut stone when Israel entered the Promised Land (Deut 27; Josh 8). After Israel divided, Jeroboam originally ruled the Northern Kingdom from Shechem and erected the golden calf where the 10 tribes could worship (1 Kings 12; he also erected on in the N at Tel-Dan). Shechem was pretty much abandoned when Assyria destroyed the Northern Kingdom. At this time it turned into a Samaritan city where the Assyrians relocated exiles from other nations to the Northern Kingdom. When Judah returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon, the returning Jews did not grant the Samaritans request to help rebuild the temple. Jews felt the Samaritans weren’t authentic Yahweh worshipers. This was a major cause for the hatred between the two, resulting in the Samaritans building their own temple on top of Mt Gerizim. The Samaritans only use(d) the Torah/Pentateuch (aka Samaritan Pentateuch). By the point in time Jesus met the woman at the well, Shechem ceased to exist BUT was a historic location. Today, Mount Gerizim is located in Nablus (Samaria) which is one of the largest Palestinian cities in Israel.

34 thoughts on “Travel (virtually) to Mount Gerizim, where the Samaritans “worshiped” (and their ancestors still do)

  1. Will read this when I wake up! To answer your question: OUr area fire picked up a little again but its not as bad as other places especially the new one that started way south of us; we are ok this time

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 👍🏻
      Glad you’re not affected. But I’m mindful that many families in Cali are being impacted by these fires. I don’t think I’ve ever heard as much about the annual West Coast fires as I have this year.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yup. I was listening to the radio when I was out driving this morning and a shrimper down in Louisiana was saying the five hurricanes this year are four more than usual.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Paula! Google Earth is a wonderful resource while reading the Bible by providing a geographical context. I’ve also used it while reading many nonfiction books and it’s added to the enjoyment. Blessings to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey, Tom! I hope you don’t mind me adding some OT context to this. Shechem was located in the valley between Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal and was the main settlement of the Samaritans. Shechem has a long and important history! In fact, Shechem can trace its history back to Abraham when he first entered Shechem (Canaan) from Haran (Gen 12). In Shechem Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped and in retribution Simeon and Levi killed all the weak men from circumcision (Gen 34). Joseph’s tomb is also located in close proximity to Jacob’s well. In Deuteronomy 11:29 Moses spoke of this region in that Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal were the mountains of covenant blessings (Gerizim) and curses (Ebal). Moses also instructed Joshua to build an altar on Mt Ebal with uncut stone when Israel entered the Promised Land (Deut 27; Josh 8). After Israel divided, Jeroboam originally ruled the Northern Kingdom from Shechem and erected the golden calf where the 10 tribes could worship (1 Kings 12; he also erected on in the N at Tel-Dan). Shechem was pretty much abandoned when Assyria destroyed the Northern Kingdom. At this time it turned into a Samaritan city where the Assyrians relocated exiles from other nations to the Northern Kingdom. When Judah returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon, the returning Jews did not grant the Samaritans request to help rebuild the temple. Jews felt the Samaritans weren’t authentic Yahweh worshipers. This was a major cause for the hatred between the two, resulting in the Samaritans building their own temple on top of Mt Gerizim. The Samaritans only use(d) the Torah/Pentateuch (aka Samaritan Pentateuch). By the point in time Jesus met the woman at the well, Shechem ceased to exist BUT was a historic location. Today, Mount Gerizim is located in Nablus (Samaria) which is one of the largest Palestinian cities in Israel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Mandy! Thank you very much for all of the detailed information regarding Shechem, Mt Gerizim, and Mt Ebal. I was actually hoping you would after our previous discussion. My post obviously did not get into the historical details. I’m going to take the liberty of adding your comments as an addendum to the post for the benefit of readers. I hope that you don’t mind.
      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I learned quite a bit from your post Tom and also for the additional information from Mandy. Thanks Mandy and thank you Tom! For instance I didn’t know there’s still Samaritans around today in Israel.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Jimmy! I enjoyed researching this post and I’m also glad for Mandy’s additional information, which brings more context. Yes, I was also surprised to learn there’s a small remnant of Samaritans in the region and that they still offer animal sacrifices at the old Samaritan temple site.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks for the compliments guys, I appreciate it! I wish I would have included Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). While people know that Samaritans were hated as known from the woman at the well. This gives more historical-cultural background to the parable. Jim, I know you have done a lot of research/work with textual criticism. I’m not sure how interested either of you are in this but the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP) is becoming a hot area for research. https://www.sbl-site.org/assets/pdfs/pubs/060372C.front.pdf this is a sample from a book on the history and origin of the SP. This was an area (both geographically and biblically) of interest for me before I withdrew from the PhD program. Tom, I know you noted the Samaritans still make sacrifices. Here’s an article from 2019 on the Passover practice if y’all are interested.

        From the bottom of my heart, thank you Tom and Jim (and Kent as well if he read this) for your consistent encouragement. It would be great if we could all arrange a time to Skype or Zoom! Love in Christ, Mandy

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Thanks, Mandy! I knew Pastor Jimmy would also appreciate the details you provided. Whoops! It appears the link to the article about Samaritan sacrifice didn’t make it. Hey, I appreciate your consistent encouragement as well! A Zoom meet-up would be fun, although I’m somewhat tech savvy-less. 🤯

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks for the article with the great pictures. It’s amazing the Samaritans were able to maintain an enclave in Palestine for almost two-thousand years after Titus defeated and dispersed the Jews.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Wow awesome comment Mandy and thanks for the PDF on the Samaritan Pentateuch. I took Old Testament textual criticism for an elective and my mind was blown with the Samaritan Pentateuch and the field of LXX studies and it’s contribution towards OT TC. That is so cool that SP was an area of interests!

        Liked by 2 people

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