The woman at the well (Bible commentary)

The woman at the well

When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in John 4 he openly confessed to her that he was the Messiah.  We can see from scripture that Jesus strategically orchestrated his whereabouts and his speech in order for prophecy to be totally fulfilled.  In other words there were certain events and encounters that were meant to happen for the sole purpose of being inserted in scripture and changing the systems of belief.  Although Jesus declined to be straightforward with the Pharisees on his identity (without falsifying his identity) in some scripture he does the exact opposite in this case here. In this event Jesus reveals a good lesson on witnessing for anyone seeking advice on evangelism.  For on many occasions he spoke to the multitudes, while other occasions he interacted one on one with individuals such as the Samaritan woman at the well.  Samaria was a strip of foreign land that separated Judea from Galilee and thereby was not considered to be Holy Land by the Jews.  So we can see that the Lord was not hesitant to decussate into Samarian territory.  In fact John 4:1-6 tells us that Jesus was compelled to cross through Samarian land by reason of the Pharisees.  When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.  Although the well that John refers to as Jacob’s well is not recorded in Genesis 33:18-20 or Joshua 24:32 the parcel of ground is as well as the location, which Genesis 33:18 and Joshua 24:32 both refer to as Sheckem is found.  Sheckem lies a mile and a half west of Jacob’s well, while the real Sychar, now called ‘Askar, lies scarcely north of the well.  Joseph’s body was buried in a tomb one hundred yards east of the city of Sychar.  Today the well can still be found on the plain of Moreh, which is known today as el-Mukhnah, which lies one hundred yards east of Mt Gerazim.  The fact that the well is the same well mentioned in scripture is seemingly undisputed and is considered a Christian holy site to this day.  For it was here that Jesus arrived as a fatigued traveler revealing the humanity of himself and speaking the words Give me to drink.In fact this element of his humanity would later again be revealed upon the cross when he would say I thirstThere cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. There are several things that we should derive from reading this passage.  The Samaritan woman was very surprised that a Jewish man was asking her for water and secondly it was quite out of the ordinary for a man to speak to a woman in public as Jesus was doing. The most common view on the origin of the Samaritans is that they were a people formed from the intermarriages between Hebrews of the northern kingdom of Israel and the Assyrian settlers in Israel following the captivity of the northern kingdom in 722-21 B.C.  In Ezra 4:1-4 we can still see the strife that the Jews and Samaritans expressed towards one another while the Jews were rebuilding their temple following the Babylonian captivity (606-536 B.C.) Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel; Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. In the eyes of the Jewish people the Samaritans were heathen.  They are mentioned in 2 Kings 17:29 29 Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt.  This is why the disciples were surprised when they arrived to find Jesus teaching the woman. 27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?   During the first century Samarian religion was similar to that of the Jews, but not entirely.  For example John 4:25 shows that they indeed expected the Messiah.  Of course in Matthew 10:5-9 Jesus commanded his disciples to refrain from entering Samarian territory. These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Of course we must consider that Jesus strategically orchestrated prophecy and events to accurately occur.  Because after his death and resurrection Jesus says to his disciples 15 Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.Returning now to John 4 we notice that Jesus is promising the woman an eternal quenching from thirst and through himself he was offering her the free gift of salvation.  This very event between the Samaritan and Jesus was an expression of God’s grace and furthermore, proved that it could not be merited by any human being.  Reading Ephesians 2:1-22 we are reminded that salvation is a free gift from God both to the Jews and Gentiles. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. 11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. We can return to the book of Genesis and find a similarity between the Samarian woman and the bondswoman Hagar who was the mother of Ishmael and surrogate wife of Abraham.  For in the wilderness of Bersheba she wondered helplessly without water after she was cast out, rejected, alone and on the brink of death with her infant.  19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink. Genesis 21:19.  We can compare the conditions that Hagar was experiencing to our own personal lives of sin.  Before Jesus Christ and without Jesus Christ everyone was guilty before the judgment seat of God and already condemned.  However through mercy Jesus Christ has the ability to save those who desire him even though all are still deserving of damnation to begin with.  If we review Jeremiah 2:13 we see the Lord referring to himself as the fountain of living waters.  13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13  and once again in Jeremiah 17:13 we see the same title the fountain of living waters.  Therefore, we can understand what Jesus meant when he told the woman that she should look to him for eternal water that will last forever, than depending on water from the well.  In this life there are many desires we thirst for: actual water to sustain physical thirst, thirst for knowledge and truth, thirst for love etc.  The only quenchable drink we can truly obtain is of the spirit and Holy Spirit enters into us the minute we become fully submissive to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Isaiah prophesied of this salvation in Isaiah 12 12 And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.

Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.

5 Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.

6 Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.  

The woman at the well

15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias (Messiah) cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. 27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? 28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. 31 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. 32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. 33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? 34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. 37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. 38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. 39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. 40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his own word; 42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. John 4:15-42.  Jesus tells her of her life story in detail that none could know, but her concerning her marriage life and the number of her husbands.  The knowledge that Jesus expresses convinces the woman that he is unlike any other and so she considers him to be a prophet. So in this instance Jesus acknowledges to this specific Samarian woman that he was the expected Messiah.  She believed on him to be the Christ because he proved himself through the knowledge he possessed about the details of her life.  She then ventured into the city and told the Samaritans that Jesus was the Christ, which led to more believers who would spread the message of his arrival and believe on him.  Interestingly enough we hear Jesus mention “my meat is to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.”  I think it is important to note that when Jesus was being tempted by Satan being weak and hungry in the wilderness and he mentions something precisely similar. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.Matthew 4:4.  The opening passage of John reads In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. John 1:1-2.  Therefore if men do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3) then Jesus Christ is that very Word we are to adhere to.  For in John 6:35 Jesus says 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.   


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