When the Assyrians exiled the Ten Tribes, the conquerors brought in a foreign people called Cutheans to populate the vacated territory. These people were idol-worshipers, and G‑d sent lions to decimate them. Out of fear of the lions, the Cutheans converted to Judaism, but the rabbis of the Talmud debated whether their conversion was valid or not. The Cutheans’ Torah observance was spotty — extremely strong in some areas, but very weak or nonexistent in others.

Settling in the Samaria region of Eretz Israel, over time the Cutheans became known as Samaritans. Fearing that the Jews returning from Babylonian exile would reclaim their ancestral lands, the Cutheans became bitter enemies of the Jewish people, even going so far as to attempting to sabotage the construction of the Second Temple. Disguising their evil intentions, the Cutheans offered to help build the Temple. Realizing the Cutheans’ real goal, the Jews rebuffed their proposed aid. Stung by this rejection, the Cutheans convinced Ahasuerus that the Jews wished to foment rebellion against Persian rule, so he suspended construction.

On a number of occasions during the Second Temple Era, the Cutheans were an anathema to the Jewish people. Finally, when the rabbis of the Talmud discovered that the Cutheans were worshiping idols and not keeping the commandments, the sages expelled the Cutheans from the Jewish fold and declared them to be gentiles. Although most of the Cutheans eventually died out, a small group exists today, living around Mount Gerizim in Israel. While they have ancient scrolls that bear some resemblance to the Five Books of Moses, these descendants of the ancient Cutheans have no connection to the Jewish people.