Title: The imprisonment of John the Baptist
Scriptures to Read: Read Mark 1:14; Matthew 4:12; Luke 3:19-20; John 4:1-4
John the Baptist is arrested
In Luke’s account we read that it was when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody that He withdrew into Galilee. Luke adds that John was arrested because of his statements about the false marriage of Herod to Herodias. That problem will be explained later on, but she married him when her first husband, Philip, was still alive. And Philip and Herod were brothers. According to Josephus, John’s place of imprisonment was Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea, very close to the Old Testament area that is called Mt Nebo and Mt Pisgah.
Jesus returns to Galilee for three reasons
In John 4:1-4 he gives three reasons why Yeshua left Judea to go to Galilee. Firstly, the Pharisees had heard that Yeshua was making and baptizing more disciples than John. So they were beginning to take notice of Him. Secondly, Yeshua left for Galilee because of the arrest of Yochanan. Thirdly, in God’s plan Yeshua must go through Samaria, for He was to have an encounter there.
A quick history of the Samaritans
Samaritans generally would not allow Jews to travel through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem. They are very anti-Jewish. The background of the Samaritan and Jewish conflict goes back to the return of the Jewish captives from Babylon in 536 BC. When the Jews arrived back in the Land the people in the northern part of the land where a mixed breed. The poor Israelites that remained in the land after the Assyrian Captivity in 722 BC where mixed with the pagan gentile peoples that the Assyrians moved into the area from other countries that they had conquered. So the coming together of the two groups became known as the Samaritans. These Samaritans who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel wanted to help the remnant that returned from Babylon rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. It was not allowed because the Samaritans were a mixed breed racially and a mixed breed religiously. The mixed racial problem was a big problem but the religious problem was even worse. These pagan gentiles who were forcibly moved into the land by the Assyrians also brought with them their pagan gods. These people intermarried with the Jews in the land and they embraced Jehovah as the God of the land but worshiped their pagan gods as well. So they accepted Jehovah without doing away with the gods they brought with them. The Samaritans in reaction to the Jews did two things:
1. They made Mount Gerizim their place of worship.
2. They went through the five books of Moses and eliminated any references to Jerusalem. Example would be in Genesis 22 where Abraham offers Isaac on Mount Moriah. The Samaritan version reads that it was Mount Gerizim that Abraham went too.
The Jews and the Samaritans despised each other
Because of the corruption of the faith, the Jews limited contact with the Samaritans. One popular saying of the time was “may I never set mine eyes on a Samaritan”. There is another Rabbic source that says, “let no Israelite eat one mouth full of anything that is a Samaritans, he that has eaten a mouth full is as he who has eaten swine”. The Samaritans where excommunicated from Israel.