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The Samaritans were originally the descendants of the ten revolted tribes who had chosen Samaria for their metropolis. Subsequently, the Samaritans were conquered by the Assyrians under Shalmaneser, who carried the greater part of the inhabitants into captivity, and introduced colonies in their place from Babylon, Cultah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim. These colonists, who assumed the name of Samaritans, brought with them of course the idolatrous creed and practices of the region from which they emigrated. The Samaritans, therefore, at the time of the rebuilding of the second Temple, were an idolatrous race, and as such abhorrent to the Jews. When they asked permission to assist in the pious work of rebuilding the Temple, Zerubbabel, with the rest of the leaders, replied, "Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, has commanded us."

Hence it was that, to avoid the possibility of these idolatrous Samaritans polluting the holy work by their co-operation, Zerubbabel found it necessary to demand of every one who offered himself as an assistant in the undertaking that he should give an accurate account of his lineage, and prove himself to have been a descendant, which no Samaritan could be, of those faithful Giblemites who worked at the building of the first Temple.

There were many points of religious difference between the Jews and the Samaritans. One was, that they denied the authority of any of the Scriptures except the Pentateuch; another was that they asserted that it was on Mount Gerizim, and not on Mount Moriah, that Melehizedek met Abraham when returning from the slaughter of the kings, and that here also he came to sacrifice Isaac, whence they paid no reverence to Moriah as the site of the Holy House of the Lord. A few of the sect have long survived at Nabulus. They did not exceed one hundred and fifty. They had a High Priest, and observed all the feasts of the ancient Jews, and especially that of the Passover, which they kept on Mount Gerizim with all the formalities of the ancient rites.

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