Friday, January 21, 2011

Reading In Context Part 2

It is fascinating to see the parallels between this passage and Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan that we will soon read in Luke. The parable begins,

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own donkey, and brought him to an inn and took care of him... (Luke 10:30 - 34)

There are many nuances from Jesus' culture that give light on this parable that won't be discussed here. But one thing that may be significant is that the character of the Samaritan appears to be based on the story from 2 Chronicles. Several parallels give that impression.

Jesus mentions the town Jericho, one of the few times He ever mentions specific places in parables.

The victim is stripped naked, like some of the Judeans were, and the Samaritan anoints the man and puts him on a donkey and carries him to Jericho, like was done with the Judeans.

The Samaritans in Jesus' time were despised by the Jews, and they despised the Jews themselves. They were descendants from the Israelites of the north after the Assyrians had defeated Israel and repopulated the country with a mixture of Israelites and foreign peoples (2 Kings 17:24).

They had a version of the Torah and worshipped God with their own traditions, declaring Shechem as the place where God's true temple dwelt (John 4). Because they called themselves worshippers of the one true God, but used unacceptable forms of worship, they were especially despised by the Jews.

During Nehemiah's time, they even tried to interfere with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. They also had a history of attacking Jews who were traveling to the Temple for festivals. This makes the irony of the Samaritan as the one who helps the wounded man especially powerful.

Jesus was using this hatred between Jews and Samaritans in His time to make the answer to the question "Who is my neighbor?" especially clear. It is interesting to speculate about why Jesus makes the despised Samaritan act so much like the Samaritans in the 2 Chronicles passage.

Typically when a rabbi alluded to a passage of scripture, he expected his audience to see the larger context and bring it into the story he was telling. Jesus surprises His audience who expects a "good guy" to come to the rescue of the wounded man. Instead He brings in one of their worst enemies into his story!

But, more than that, He reminds them that at one time, these same men from Samaria did one of the most merciful things ever done in their history. They had recognized their sin against the Judeans, and realized that their enemies were not only their neighbors, but even their brothers!

Given that Jesus' audience would have been very familiar with history, with the 2 Chronicles passage and the Levitical laws, it is unlikely that they would have missed his message that "our neighbor" is anyone who we can help — even if that means our hated enemy; and furthermore Jesus' stretching "loving our neighbor as ourselves" into "loving our enemies.”



  1. What a stunning "connection" between the Second Chronicles story and this parable of the Savior's. This is a keeper!

  2. I agree with Anonymous. It is a stunning connection. Thanks.

    Steven Montgomery