The True Parable of the Good Samaritan

Posted by on Sep 19, 2018

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is perhaps the most recognizable parable among the Christians today, and the term the Good Samaritan has become synonymous with a good person and a good Christian.

On the opposite side, however, very often the Parable of the Good Samaritan has been used to denote “Pharisaic hypocrisy”, as the parable has been interpreted as an apparent illustration of “religious legalism”. But is this the true story of the parable? And should we note that the Messiah has never called it “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” like the parable from the fig tree in Mat 24:32, the parable of the sower (Mat 13:18), the parable of the kingdom of heavens (Mat 13:24-33), the parable of the darnel of the field (Mat 13:36), and the parable of a vineyard (Mat 21:33) to mention a few.

So, Yeshua never called this parable “the parable of the good Samaritan”: this title was coined much later in the Christianity.

Because, had He had the intent to expose the Pharisaic hypocrisy as opposed to “the good Samaritan”,  He would have said it simply and straightforwardly, as He said it in in Matthew 23:

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on the seat of Mosheh. Therefore, whatever he says* to you to guard, guard and do. But do not do according to their works, for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but with their finger they do not wish to move them. And they do all their works to be seen by men … (Hebrew text of Mat 23:1-3) *Greek has they say

But, here in our parable we do not see such a rebuke, as in Matthew. And if we do not see it, most likely Yeshua did not mean it. So, what is the moral of in the parable commonly known as “the parable of the good Samaritan”?

Firstly, let us recall the parable from the Gospel of Luke.

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Yericho, and fell among robbers, who stripped and beat him, and left him half dead. And by a coincidence a priest was going his way. He saw him, but he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite also did. But when a Samaritan saw him, he had compassion on him, bandaged his wounds and he brought him to an inn, and looked after him. And going out on the next day, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper to look after him, and even more: whatever more the innkeeper would spend he would repay him. (Luk 10:30-35)

In order to understand His teaching, we need first to learn what the Torah of YHVH says on such issues like finding a body on the road, because Yeshua Himself said that He had not come to teach His own words but the words of His Father. And because this is true (refer to the article “Has the Messiah Abolished the Law?“) whatever His Father had said in the Torah and the Prophets, His Son Yeshua the Messiah must have taught it without any changes.

And this is what the Torah teaches on when someone is found dead in an open area. Anyone who touches someone slain or dead is unclean for seven days. This law is even extended to a bone of a man, or a burial-site. For the unclean they will take some of the ashes of the burnt heifer and running water and a clean man will take hyssop and dip it in the water, and shall sprinkle it on the unclean. (Num 19:16-18) And the one who has touched a dead body will be clean to attend the Temple service.

In Deu 21:1-9 we find a similar law concerning a dead body found in an open field which also requires the ashes of a red heifer for the cleansing of those who have found and touched it.

But what does the Rabbinical tradition say in such cases? The Sages teach that one who encounters a body of a Jew abandoned by the wayside that has no one to bury it, even the high priest, who is forbidden all contact with the dead, even his own parent or spouse, is obligated to become ritually impure and bury it. This we find in Mishneh Torah, Laws of Mourning 3:8.

And more from the Rebbe,

The principle behind the law of Eglah Arufah [red heifer] is that a person is also responsible for what occurs outside of his domain, outside of the areas where he is fully in control. When a murdered traveler is found out in the field, the elders of the nearest city must go out there and bring the Eglah Arufah to atone for the crime, although it occurred “outside of their jurisdiction”; for it was nevertheless their responsibility to send the traveler off with adequate provision and protection. The same applies on the personal level in all areas of life. A person never has the right to say, “This is outside of my element. I have no obligation to deal with this.” If it is something that, by Divine Providence, one has been made aware of, that means that there is something one can, and must, do to positively influence the end result. (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

Therefore, we see that neither does the Torah, nor does the Rabbinical tradition forbid taking care of a dead body, much less an injured man. On the contrary, the Torah and the tradition do require an immediate attention, because this is the essence of the Torah: love your neighbour as yourself; help the need, the poor, the widows and orphans; help the sick.

So, what was the moral lesson of the parable of the good Samaritan Yeshua taught his disciples? Because we do not see any prohibition in the Torah related to the example Yeshua is giving us in the parable of the good Samaritan. And why would the Messiah bring up this particular setting in the parable, unless to teach us something we have probably missed?

To answer these questions, we need to learn who “the good Samaritans” were in the first place, because we cannot take certain verses out of their context and interject our personal opinion in order to create our own theology, doctrines, etc. After all, Apostle Shaul (Paul) says that the Scripture is not of private interpretations. In order to do this, we need to see the Scriptural and historical context of the Samaritans; we need to have a holistic approach in studying the matter.

We find first about the Samaritans in 2Kings 17. We read that the king of Assyria brought people from Babel, and from other parts of the empire, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel and they dwelt there from that moment on. (2Ki 17:24)

But the new dwellers did not fear the Elohim of Israel, and He sent lions among them, which killed many. In their fear the new Samaritans petitioned the king of Assyria, saying, ‘The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the manner of the God of the land, and He sent lions among them, and see, they are slaying among them because they do not know the manner of the God of the land.’  (2Ki 17:25-26)

And the king of Assyria sent one of the priests of the Israelites exiled from Samaria to dwell in Samaria, and teach them how to fear YHVH. But every nation made gods of its own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt. (2Ki 17:27-29)

From this learn that the king of Assyria replaced the exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel with people from other parts of his empire, which he did also to other nations. The new Samaritans out of fear of the wild beasts wanted to appease the God of the people who lived there before them, the Israelites, and asked the king to send priests of those people to teach them about their God.

We should also recall that when the Kingdom of Israel was divided between the Southern Kingdom of Judea and the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the tribe of Levi remained in Judea and “the priests” of the Northern Kingdom were members of the other tribes of Israel.

Those “priests” the king of Assyria brought back to Samaria to teach the new Samaritans the laws of the God of the Hebrews. And as a result, “the good Samaritans” learned in some way the laws of the land. Thus, the Samaritans came into contact with the Elohim of Israel.

Assyria was conquered by Babylon, and Babylon exiled the Southern Kingdom of Judah. After seventy years of exile were completed, Babylon was conquered by Persia whose king Cyrus let the Jews returned to Jerusalem and build the Temple of YHVH.

They had hardly commenced building, when the Samaritans came with a request that they might take part in the building of the Temple, because they also sought the God of the Jews (Ezr_4:1-2). But, when the rulers of Judah refused to grant them this request, as being heathen colonists who had been transplanted into the kingdom of the ten tribes whose worship of Elohim of Israel was greatly distorted (see 2Ki_17:24-41), they disturbed the building of the Temple to prevent its completion.

And it came to be that the Samaritans frightened the Jews while building, and sent counsellors against them to frustrate their work and to thwart the building of the Temple all the days of King Cyrus of Persia. And in the beginning of the reign of Ahashverosh, they wrote an accusation against the Jews (Ezr 4:4-6) so that the work at the Temple ceased and was suspended until the second year of Darius king of Persia (Ezr_4:24).

These adversaries of the Jews were, according to Ezr_4:2, the people whom Esarhaddon king of Assyria had settled in Judah. If we compare with this verse the account in 2Ki_17:24 that the kings of Assyria brought men from Cuthah, and other parts of Assyria, and placed them in Samaria to take possession of the depopulated kingdom of the ten tribes, and dwelt there, then these adversaries of Judah are the inhabitants of the former kingdom of the House of Israel, who were called Samaritans after the land of their settlement: Samaria.

Additional information we gather from Flavious Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews – Book 9, Chapter 14, which throws more light on the so-called “good Samaritans”. We read thus,

But now the Cutheans, who removed into Samaria, (for that is the name they have been called by to this time, because they were brought out of the country called Cuthah, which is a country of Persia, and there is a river of the same name in it,) each of them, according to their nations, which were in number five, brought their own gods into Samaria, and by worshipping them, as was the custom of their own countries, they provoked Almighty God to be angry and displeased at them, for a plague seized upon them, by which they were destroyed; and when they found no cure for their miseries, they learned by the oracle that they ought to worship Almighty God, as the method for their deliverance. So they sent ambassadors to the king of Assyria, and desired him to send them some of those priests of the Israelites whom he had taken captive. And when he thereupon sent them, and the people were by them taught the laws, and the holy worship of God, they worshipped him in a respectful manner, and the plague ceased immediately; and indeed they continue to make use of the very same customs to this very time, and are called in the Hebrew tongue Cutlans, but in the Greek tongue Samaritans. And when they see the Jews in prosperity, they pretend that they are changed, and allied to them, and call them kinsmen, as though they were derived from Joseph, and had by that means an original alliance with them; but when they see them falling into a low condition, they say they are no way related to them, and that the Jews have no right to expect any kindness or marks of kindred from them, but they declare that they are sojourners, that come from other countries. But of these we shall have a more reasonable opportunity to discourse hereafter.

What Josephus is saying here is that the Samaritans were actually Cutlans, from Persia, unrelated to the Hebrew in any aspects. We also learn that they had a very selective “kinship” with the Jews: in cases when the Jews were prosperous, the Samaritans called themselves “Jews”. But when the Jews were in trouble before foreign invasions (like of the Greeks or of the Romans), they quickly abandoned the “kinship” with the Jews in order to avoid any persecution.

But, there is more from Josephus about “the good Samaritans”, 

As Coponius, who we told you was sent along with Cyrenius, was exercising his office of procurator, and governing Judea, the following accidents happened. As the Jews were celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which we call the Passover, it was customary for the priests to open the Temple-gates just after midnight. When, therefore, those gates were first opened, some of the Samaritans came privately into Jerusalem, and threw about dead men’s bodies, in the cloisters; on which account the Jews afterward excluded them out of the Temple, which they had not used to do at such festivals; and on other accounts also they watched the Temple more carefully than they had formerly done. Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 2:2

This legitimate exclusion of “the good Samaritans” out of the Temple service led to the creation of their own temple which they built on Mount Gerizim (the mountain in question in the parable of the good Samaritan) and to the establishment of their own religion (similar to the Torah observance) which they follow until this day in Israel.

Mount Gerizim, Nablus, Israel

Mount Gerizim, Nablus, Israel. The temple is visible at upper left corner.

Nevertheless, in the period following the Babylonian captivity the Samaritans relinquished the idolatry, and by the adoption of the Torah were converted to monotheism. Even more, the Samaritans founded their expectation of the Messiah, as we find this in Joh_4:25, upon these words of Mosheh (Moses) who commanded his people to await for a prophet like him. From the later history of the Samaritans, we learn that there is a small handful that have been preserved in the State of Israel to the present day, in the ancient Sichem, the present Nablus.

So, at the time of the first century Judea, there was a complete separation of Jews and Samaritans due to the above said historical animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews.

But, for more information on the Samaritans and how and why they changed even the Name of the Creator, not only His Torah, the reader is encouraged to refer to the article “The Hebrew Yehovah vs. the Roman Yahweh“.

Let us return to our story in the parable of the good Samaritan.

After Yeshua chose His disciples, He sent the twelve out, having commanded them, saying,

Do not go into the way of the nations, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, proclaim, saying, ‘The reign of the heavens has drawn near.’ (Mat 10:5-7)

Below is a commentary by F.B. Meyer of the above command of the Messiah and we will not be far from the truth, if we see it as a typical interpretation of all Christian commentaries. We read,

For the present, the Twelve were to confine themselves to Jews, because the Lord’s ministry was the climax of the Jewish probation and it was desirable that every opportunity should be given to the lost sheep of the house of Israel to repent. God can never be unmindful of any covenant into which He has entered with the soul. If we believe not, He remaineth faithful. (Through the Bible Day by Day Commentaries by F.B. Meyer)

What F.B. Meyer is actually saying is this: in the duration of Jesus’ ministry, the Jews were called for repentance, as the twelve were sent to the Jews only, because His ministry was the last chance in the Jewish probation. Therefore, it was desirable that every opportunity should be given to the lost sheep of the house of Israel to repent. If they do not repent, they would be replaced with the gentiles.

The term “the lost sheep of the House of Israel” is well known to refer to the ten lost tribes, as “the House of Israel” and “the House of Judah” are well known terms for the divided kingdom after the reign of King Solomon.

“The lost sheep of Israel” by no means refer to “the unbelieving Jews” as F.B. Meyer seems to allude, but to the ten lost tribes of Israel. And whether the lost tribes of Israel are lost, the reader may want to refer to the article “Where are the Lost Tribes of Israel?

This is a typical teaching for the Replacement theology: the unbelieving Jews are replaced by the faithful gentiles.

It is not in the scope of this teaching to deal with falsehood of the Replacement Theology in the Christianity today. There are many evidences in the entire Scripture that can rebuff this false teaching, but it suffices to remind those theologians the words of Apostle Shaul in Romans 11; words that can rarely be heard in the churches today:

And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, have been grafted in among them, and came to share the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. And if you boast, remember: you do not bear the root, but the root bears you! You shall say then, ‘The branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Good! By unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by belief. Do not be arrogant, but fear. For if Elohim did not spare the natural branches, He might not spare you either. (Rom 11:17-21)

So, what Yeshua the Messiah said to the twelve was: Do not go to the nations, and especially to the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost tribes of the House of Israel (whom the Samaritans replaced) proclaiming, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’

Therefore, Yeshua was not commanding the twelve to bring back “the unbelieving Jews”, but He was referring to the ten lost tribes of the Northern Kingdom; His brothers of the lost tribes were in His heart and mind.

In the Gospel according to Luke we find another references to the Samaritans.

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, praising Elohim with a loud voice, and he fell down upon his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. And Yeshua answering, said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Was no one found to return to give praise to Elohim, except this stranger? (lit. foreigner) (Luk 17:15-18)

And another encounter of Yeshua and the Samaritans, as we read in Chapter 9. The present author considers this incident in Samaria very significant to understand the real problem behind “the good Samaritan” doctrine.

And it came to be, when the days of His taking up were being completed, even He set His face to go to Jerusalem, and He sent messengers ahead of Him. And they went and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. And they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. (Luk 9:51-53)

In what way these words of Apostle Luke are significant, because we find nothing that can expose “the good Samaritan”. There is nothing at least at first glance, because this is another verse that can be hardly taught in the church today. 

First. we need to note that that was not Yeshua’s first visit in Samaria. In Joh_4:1-35 we find another record of Yeshua being in Samaria, but that was not the visit in Samaria Yeshua made in Luk 9:51-53, because Yeshua was telling them (in Joh_4:35) that the harvest in the autumn, at the Festival of Sukkot, was still four months off. We read,

Do you not say, There are still four months, and the harvest comes’? See, I say to you, lift up your eyes and see the fields, for they are white already to harvest! (Joh 4:35)

What Yeshua was saying was that the harvest was ready, as the wheat fields were already white and ready for the harvest. And we know that four months before Sukkot is the Festival of Shavuot, which is the wave offering of leavened wheat loaves. This places His visit in Joh 4:35 in Shavuot, the Festival of the Weeks and the visit in Luk 9:51-53: in the Festival of the Unleavened Bread at the end of His ministry. 

In other words, here in Luk 9:51 we see that the second visit was close the Feast of Unleavened Bread when on the Passover day He would be crucified and on the First Fruits He would be taken up (resurrected). That places the encounter at the well in Joh 4 before His visit in Samaria in Luk 9:51-53.  

At His first visit the Samaritans received Him well and believed in Him (Joh 4:39-41). But, there is something that we need to take a close look at. We keep on reading. 

Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where one needs to worship’. Yeshua said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you shall neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because the deliverance is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father also does seek such to worship Him. (Joh 4:20-23) 

We should recall that when the Samaritans say “this mountain” they mean Mount Gerizim where they built there own temple (in which they worshipped YHVH) opposing the Temple of YHVH in Jerusalem. 

The Christian theologists and preachers interpret these words of the Messiah in a way that the present author believes is very religiously biased.  

How they interpret them is this: The Samaritans worshipped God on Gerizim and the Jews in the Temple in Jerusalem. But the time will come, Jesus said, when God shall be worshipped neither on Gerizim, nor in Jerusalem. [They skip, ‘You worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because the deliverance is of the Jews’, because this does not fit into their Replacement Theology of salvation.] But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers [understand the gentile Christians] shall worship the Father in spirit and truth and not in obedience to the Law, because Christians are not under the Law, the Jews are. 

For more understanding on misunderstanding Paul, the reader is encouraged to read the article Misunderstanding Paul. But it suffices for now to quote Peter’s warning in his second letter: 

… do your utmost to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and reckon the patience of our Master as deliverance, as also our beloved brother Sha’ul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, as also in all his letters, speaking in them concerning these matters, in which some are hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the other Scriptures. You, then, beloved ones, being forewarned, watch, lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the delusion of the lawless, (2Pe 3:14-17)

So, at Yeshua’s first visit the Samaritans received Him well and believed in Him. But at His second coming to Samaria (in Luk 9) something happened. Let us read again the verses in question, this time with more knowledge.

And it came to be, when the days of His taking up were being completed, even He set His face to go to Jerusalem, and He sent messengers ahead of Him. And they went and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. And they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. (Luk 9:51-53) 

At His second coming, “the good Samaritans” did not receive Him. Why?! 

The Samaritans did not receive Him, because this time Yeshua set His face towards Jerusalem. He set His face towards Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread where and when He would die for the forgiveness of all.  

In the eyes of “the good Samaritans” the Messiah wanted to worship the Father with the Jews, in Jerusalem, not with them, on Gerizim. “The good Samaritans” wanted the Messiah for themselves only; they did not want to share anything with the Jews, not even the prophet Mosheh wrote about. For them, the wild branches, the foreigners, it was not enough that they were grafted in the olive tree of Israel among the natural branches; they wanted to replace all branches. The Samaritans, then and now, did not want to have anything to do with the Jews.  

Sadly, there are many Christians today who do not want to have anything to do with the Jews, either; or they are just indifferent. They, like “the good Samaritans”, want to worship the Father without the Jews, on their own mountains where they have built cathedrals and mega churches. That was the Replacement Theology, then, and this is the Replacement Theology, now. There is nothing new under the heavens! And it should not surprise us why the parable of the good Samaritan is so popular among the Christians! 

However, there was something more than what happened between Yeshua and “the good Samaritans”. We derive this from the following verses,

And His disciples, Ya’akov and Yochanan, seeing it said, “Master, do You wish us to command fire to come down from the heaven and destroy them, as also Eliyahu did? (Luk 9:54)

The brothers, Ya’akov and Yochanan, saw what? What did they see that would provoke such a harsh reaction? Because the Jewish disciples wanted to command fire from heaven on the Samaritans, as also Eliyahu (Elijah) did (2Ki_1:9-16). 

Something happened right there; something more than just jealousy on the part of the Samaritans. “The good Samaritans” were seeing themselves, even today, as a true Israel, and the Jews who returned from the Babylonian exile back then, and from the Roman exile now, they see as supplanters; just as another infamous anti-Semite, Esav the Edomite, accused his brother Ya’akov (Israel) of stealing his “birth-right”. Probably, the Samaritans were suspicious or fearful of being displaced by the rivalrous Jews, and even envious, when they saw that Yeshua set His face towards Jerusalem. Probably, the brothers saw that envy and hatred towards the Jews and reacted in the most natural way for them. 

But, Yeshua rebuked them because they were of different spirit; it was not the time for the Messiah to come and destroy then, but to save; that would be His mission at His second coming. And they went on to another village where they could be received (Luk 9:54-56).  

Probably, that was what Yeshua meant when He said:

Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is for us! (Luk 9:49-50)

But, the opposite is also true: Forbid him, for he who is against us is not for us! 

In the parable of the good Samaritan (Luk_10:29-37) Yeshua argues that we cannot be sure who our neighbour is, so in order to make sure we do not violate Lev_19:18 we should love everyone.

Do not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people. And you shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am Yehovah! (Lev 19:18)

So, when Yeshua rebuked His disciples, Ya’akov and Yochanan, they must have understood Him that the vengeance is not theirs, nor should they have had a grunge, but to love their country-men as themselves. And if their country-men envy them or bear grudge, it is up to the Messiah to bring vengeance.

And the parable of the good Samaritan ended like this,

Who, then, of these three, do you think, was neighbour to him who fell among the robbers? And he said, He who showed compassion on him. Then Yeshua said to him, ‘Go and do likewise!’ (Luk 10:36-37)

In conclusion, what is the moral lesson in the parable of the good Samaritan? 

With all things considered, we can conclude that in the parable of the good Samaritan, Yeshua is not teaching us how good the Samaritans are, much less how bad the Jews are. It is not all about the good Samaritan in Yeshua’s parable, after all. There is something more to it than that. So, why then did Yeshua use the Samaritans to make His point? 

As we learned from the Biblical accounts in 2Kings and Ezra, and from Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, the Samaritans were adversaries to the Jews throughout history, because there is nothing more adversarial for the Jews than making false accusations and hostility towards hindering the building of the Temple of YHVH. 

And when Yeshua gave His disciples the parable of the good Samaritan in Luk_10:29-37, He must have meant that since they could not possibly know who their neighbour was, even if he happened to be a Samaritan, and despite the animosity between them, they were to show kindness, because a Samaritan could be the one who could show kindness to them on the road. 

Therefore, Yeshua is not teaching us in the parable of the good Samaritan, how good the Samaritans are and how bad the Jews are, but what Yeshua is teaching us is the Torah of His Father, directly taken from Deu 6:5 and Lev 19:18:

And he answering, said, ‘You shall love Yehovah your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and ‘your neighbour as yourself.’ And He said to him, you answered rightly. Do this and you shall live. (Luk 10:27-28)

And Yeshua Himself answered rightly, as His Father commands:

And you shall guard My laws and My judgments, which a man does and lives by them. I am Yehovah. (Lev 18:5)

And if we set our faces towards Jerusalem, like the Messiah did, we will not be received, either.


May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.