Subdivision B. At Jacob's Well, and at Sychar.
^D John IV.5-42.
^d 5 So he cometh to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.6 and Jacob's well was there. [Commentators long made the mistake of supposing that Shechem, now called Nablous, was the town here called Sychar. Sheckem lies a mile and a half west of Jacob's well, while the real Sychar, now called 'Askar, lies scarcely half a mile north of the well. It was a small town, loosely called a city, and adjoined the land which Jacob gave to Joseph (Gen. xxxiii.19; xlvii.22; Josh. xxiv.32), Joseph's tomb being about one hundred yards east of it. The mummy of Joseph, carried out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, was buried in this parcel of ground, and there is but little doubt that it really rests in the place indicated by the tomb; and though the name Sychar may be derived from the words |liar| or |drunkard,| it is more likely that it means |town of the sepulchre,| referring to this tomb. The Old Testament is silent as to when or why Jacob dug this well. It lies on the southern side of the valley of Shechem, where it opens upon the plain of Moreh (now called el-Mukhnah), about a hundred yards south of the foot of Mt. Gerizim. It is one of the few Biblical sites about which there is no dispute, and probably the only place on earth where one can draw a circle of a few feet, and say confidently that the feet of Christ have stood within the circumference. Maundrell, who visited it in 1697, said that it was 105 feet deep, and had in it fifteen feet of water. But travelers have thrown stones into it to sound its depth, until at present it is only sixty-six feet deep, and has no water in it except in very wet winters. It is seven and half feet in diameter, and is walled with masonry to a depth of about ten feet, below which it is cut through the solid rock. It lies 400 nearly due south from Joseph's tomb. As the neighborhood abounds in springs, the well would hardly have been dug save by one who wished to be independent of his neighbors -- as Jacob did.] Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus by the well. [John gives us important items as to the humanity of Jesus. He tells us how he sat as a wayworn traveler, hungry and thirsty, at Jacob's well; and he alone records the words, |I thirst,| spoken on the cross (John xix.28). The top of the well is arched over like a cistern, and a round opening is left about twenty inches in diameter. On this arch or curbing Jesus sat. We should note the perpetuity of blessings which springs from a good deed. Gutenberg did not foresee the newspaper when he invented printing; Columbus did not anticipate the land of the free when he led discoverers to our shore, nor is it likely that the prophetic eye of Jacob ever saw the wearied Christ resting upon the well-curb which he was building.] It was about the sixth hour. [That is, twelve o'clock, if we reckon by Jewish time, or six o'clock in the evening, if we reckon by the Roman method. We prefer the latter method.] 7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water [She was not of the city of Samaria (which was then called Sebaste -- the Greek word for Augustus -- in honor of Augustus C√¶sar, who had given it to Herod the Great), but a woman of the province of Samaria, which lay between Jud√¶a and Galilee, and reached from the Jordan on the east to the Mediterranean on the west, comprising the country formerly occupied by the tribe of Ephraim and the half tribe of Manasseh]: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.8 For his disciples were gone away into the city to buy food. [Had the disciples been present they would have bargained with the woman for the use of her rope and pitcher; but in their absence Jesus himself asked her for a drink. He met her on the ground of a common humanity, and conceded to her the power of conferring a favor. Women have been immemorially the water-carriers in the East (Gen. xxiv.13, 14; Ex. ii.16). Palestine is in summer a parched land, inducing intense thirst, and the people usually comply cheerfully with the request for water; it was probably so in Jesus' day (Matt. x.42). Mohammed commanded that water should never be refused.] 9 The Samaritan woman therefore saith unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew [as his language and dress declared], askest drink of me, whom am a Samaritan woman? (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) [It is not likely that she meant to refuse his request, but she yielded to the temptation to banter one who she thought despised her, and whose necessities now caused him for a moment to forget his pride. The ancestors of the Samaritans were introduced into the land of Israel by the king of Assyria, after he led the ten tribes into captivity (II. Kings xvii.24-41). When the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon and began to rebuild their temple, the Samaritans asked permission to build with them, and when this was refused, an enmity arose between the two people which never died out (Ez. iv.1-5; Neh. ii.10, 19; iv.1-3). We must, however, restrict the word |dealings| to social intercourse. Race antipathy did not ordinarily interfere with trade or other matters involving money, as is shown by verse 8 above. According to later tradition, a Jew accepted no hospitality from a Samaritan, and to eat his bread as a guest was as polluting as to eat swine's flesh, but such social courtesy was the very thing which Jesus here asked. There are to-day between one and two hundred Samaritans dwelling in Shechem at the foot of Mt. Gerizim, and Dr. Robinson says of them that they |neither eat, nor drink, nor marry with the Jews, but only trade with them.|] 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. [Jesus is himself the Gift of God (John iii.16; II. Cor. ix.15). But she knew not that God had bestowed a special Gift, and much less that the one to whom she spoke was that Gift. Had she known she would have understood that though physically Jesus was the object of her charity, spiritually their cases were reversed, and she was the needy one, as Jesus intimates. Living water would mean literally |running| or |spring water,| as contrasted with still or cistern water (Gen. xxvi.19; Lev. xiv.5). Jesus here uses it in the spiritual sense. He fills us with his grace and truth (John i.14) and grants unto us continual, untold refreshing (Rev. vii.17). The reviving and regenerating effects of the Holy Spirit are likewise called living water (John vii.37-39).] 11 The woman saith unto him, Sir [the word |Sir| is elsewhere translated |Lord|], thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: whence then hast thou that living water? [She understood his words literally, and was puzzled by them; but, won by the courtesy which suggested an exchange of gifts, she answered respectfully, though incredulously.] 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his sons, and his cattle? [We should note three points in this verse: 1. The greatness of Jesus. The woman had just called him |Lord.| The man at Bethesda, though he knew not Jesus, afterwards did the same (John v.7). People felt the majesty and dignity of Jesus. When he offered to give a greater blessing than that given by Jacob, the woman at once contrasted him with Jacob -- Jacob with sons and cattle and wealth -- and wondered if this lonely stranger could really imagine himself greater than the illustrious patriarch.2. She claimed descent from Jacob; it was a false claim. Jesus classed the Samaritans with Gentiles (Matt. x.5), and spoke of them as strangers or aliens (Luke xvii.18).3. She spoke of the well as given by Jacob. She meant that it had been given to Joseph (Gen. xlviii.22), and that her people had inherited it as descendants of Joseph.] 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst [Jesus here draws a contrast between earthly and heavenly blessings. No worldly joy gives lasting satisfaction, but Jesus is the bread and water of life to his disciples (John vi.35) their unfailing satisfaction]; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life. [A beautiful figure of the joy in Christ. In heat, in cold; in drought, in shower; in prosperity, in adversity; it still springs up, cheering and refreshing the soul, and this unto all eternity -- Rev. vii.17; xxi.6 .] 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come all the way hither to draw. [She but dimly comprehended the nature of Christ's offer, but was persuaded of two things: 1. The wonderful water was to be desired.2. Jesus was able and willing to give it. When she spoke of coming |to draw| her words suggested the household to which it was her duty to minister, and prepared the way for the command of Jesus to bring the head of the household.] 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. [She had asked Jesus for the water of God's grace, but she needed to be made conscious of how much she needed it -- conscious (if we follow the figure) of her dormant thirst. Jesus, therefore, gave command to call her husband, that by so doing he might reveal her life and waken her to repentance.] 17 The woman answered and said unto him, I have no husband. Jesus saith unto her, Thou saidst well, I have no husband: 18 for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now has is not thy husband: this hast thou said truly. [The divine wisdom of Jesus brought to light a sad state of affairs. During the period of five marriages the woman's life had at least some outward show of respectability, but now it was professedly unclean. The number of marriages reflects somewhat upon the character of the woman, and hints that some of them may have been dissolved by her own fault, though the loose divorce law of that age permitted a man to dissolve the marriage ties on very slight provocation. Among the Jews the great Hillel is reported to have said that a man might properly divorce his wife if she burnt his dinner while cooking. It is not likely that any higher ideals of matrimony obtained among the Samaritans.] 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. [She had heard of the miraculous knowledge of the Jewish prophets, and this evidence given her by Jesus persuaded her that he was one of them, as a like evidence had persuaded Nathanael (John i.48, 49 ). By thus calling him a prophet she virtually confessed the truth as to all the things concerning which he had accused her.] 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain [i. e., Mt. Gerizim]; and ye [ye Jews] say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. [Though a desire to divert the conversation from her own sins may have, in some slight measure, prompted the woman to bring up this question about places of worship, yet her main motive must have been far higher. If we ourselves stood in the presence of one whom we felt assured to be fully inspired of God, how hastily would we propound to him some of the vexed questions which befog the religion of our time! Prompted by such a feeling, this woman sought to have the great dispute between Jew and Samaritan decided. Solomon's temple in Jerusalem was soon after its erection confronted by those who denied its claims to be exclusively the place set apart for divine worship. Jeroboam, the rebellious servant of Solomon, taught the people that Bethel and Dan were as acceptable for worship as Jerusalem. But Jerusalem, as the site of the first great temple, held precedence above all rivals until its claims were discredited in popular estimation by the fact that it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. When, after many years, the returning captives rebuilt its walls, it lacked the sanction of age, and it had lost many of the features of divine recognition, which contributed to the sacredness and grandeur of the first structure. Soon after its erection in the days of Nehemiah, Manasseh, son of the high priest Joiada, and brother of the high priest Jonathan (Neh. xii.10, 11; xiii.28), married to the daughter of Sanballat, Persian governor of Samaria. Refusing to dissolve this marriage at the decree of the governor of Jerusalem, Manasseh was chased by Nehemiah from Jerusalem, and his father-in-law made him high priest of the Samaritans, and undertook to build for him the temple which afterwards crowned the summit of Mt. Gerizim. Manasseh left Jerusalem about b.c.332. The temple built for him was destroyed by John Hyrcanus about b.c.129, but the place where it stood was still the sacred center of Samaritan worship, as it is to this day. Mt. Gerizim, and its supporting city of Shechem, had many grounds on which to base their claims to be a sacred locality: 1, Here God appeared to Abraham for the first time after his entering Canaan (Gen. xii.6, 7); 2, here Jacob first dwelt (Gen. xxxiii.18); 3, here Joseph came seeking his brethren (Gen. xxxvii.12, 13); 4, here was a city of refuge ( Josh. xx.7-9); 5, here Joshua read the blessings and cursings (Josh. viii.33); 6, here also he gave his last address (Josh. xxiv.1); 7, here were buried the bones of Joseph (Josh. xxiv.32), and the neighborhood was prominent at the time of the division of the ten tribes (I. Kings xii.1, 25 ). If we may consider Samaritan traditions of that day as similar to those of the present, they had added greatly to the real importance of the neighborhood, for they now contend that 1, Paradise was on the summit of Gerizim; 2, Adam was formed of the dust of Gerizim; 3, on Gerizim Adam reared his first altar; 4, Seth here reared his first altar; 5, Gerizim was the Ararat on which the Ark rested, and the only spot which the flood did not overflow; and therefore the only place which escaped the defilement of dead bodies; 6, on it Noah reared his altar; 7, here Abraham attempted to offer Isaac; 8, here he met Melchizedek; 9, here was the real Bethel, where Jacob slept and saw his ladder vision. Backed by such high claims, the woman deemed it possible that this prophet might decide in favor of Samaria's holy place. We should note that the Samaritans worshiped in Mt. Gerizim because they could say, |Our fathers did so.| Thus many errors are perpetuated to-day because our fathers practiced them; but our fathers had no more authority to alter or amend God's word than we have. The Jews worshiped in Jerusalem because it had been prophesied that God would select a spot as the peculiar place for his worship (Deut. xii.5-11), and because according to this prophecy God had selected Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem -- I. Kings ix.3; II. Chron. iii.1, 2.] 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father. [Jesus uses the word |hour| to indicate that the time was near at hand when all religious distinctions as to places would be abolished, and when every spot might be used for purposes of worship -- I. Tim. ii.8.] 22 Ye worship that which ye know not: we worship that which we know. For salvation is from the Jews. [Jesus here speaks as a Jew, and draws a comparison between the intelligent worship of his people and the ignorant worship of the Samaritans. Though the Samaritans possessed the Pentateuch, they were without the revelation of God which the prophets of Israel had developed, and their worship was neither authorized nor accredited by God. Moreover, it led toward nothing; for salvation was evolved from the Jewish religion, and not from that of Samaria. Salvation proceeded from the Jews. From them, according to the flesh, Christ came, and from them came also the prophets, apostles, and inspired writers who have given us that full knowledge of salvation which we possess to-day. We must take the words of Jesus as referring rather to the two religions than to the two peoples. Though as a body the Jews did not know whom they worshiped, and though their teachers were blind leaders of the blind, yet the fault was in their unbelief, and not in the revelation or religion in which they refused to believe. On the contrary, if the Samaritans had believed his religion to the full, it would hardly have been sufficient to have enabled him to know what he worshiped. Samaria was, in the days of idolatry of Israel, a chief seat of Baal worship, and in later days it was the home of magicians and sorcerers.] 23 But the hour cometh, and now is [the hour is really here, but the knowledge of it is not yet comprehended], When the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. [Jesus draws the mind of the woman from the place of worship to the Person or Being worshiped, and from the form to the spirit of worship. God seeks for genuine and not formal worshipers, and for those who worship him in truth; i. e., those who render him the obedience of faith with a filial spirit, and not those who render him the empty service of types and shadows, ceremonies and rites, which, through disbelief, have lost their meaning.] 24 God is a Spirit [These words contain one of the most simple, yet most profound, truths which ever fell upon mortal ear. Their truth is one of the great glories of revelation, and corrects the mistaken conclusion of human reason. They show that 1, God is absolutely free from all limitations of space and time, and is therefore not to be localized in temples (Acts vii.48); 2, that God is not material, as idolaters contend; 3, that he is not an abstract force, as scientists think, but a Being; 4, that he is lifted above all need of temples, sacrifices, etc., which are a benefit to man, but not to God (Acts xvii.25). Spiritual excellence raises man above the beast, and spiritual excellence in turn raises God above man -- Isa. xxxi.3]: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth. [That is, men must offer a worship corresponding with the nature and attributes of God.] 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messiah cometh (he that is called Christ): when he is come, he will declare unto us all things. [The breadth and largeness of Jesus' teaching suggested to her the great Teacher who was to come, and caused her to yearn for him who could tell, as she thought, perhaps even larger things. The Samaritans justified their idea of a coming Benefactor by passages found in the Pentateuch, and got their name for him from the Jews. Relying on the prophecy found at Deut. xviii.18, modern Samaritans regard the Messiah as a returning Moses, calling him El-Mudy -- the Guide. They contend that his name will begin with M, and that he will live to be 120 years old. This woman's idea of the Messiah was probably also very crude, but it was in part an improvement on the general Jewish conception, for it regarded him as a teacher rather than a world-conquering, earthly prince.] 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak to thee am he. [This is the first recorded declaration of his Messiahship made by Jesus. He was not confessed to be Messiah by Simon Peter (Matt. xvi.16) till the last year of his ministry. Jesus spoke more freely as to his office in Samaria than in Jud√¶a or Galilee; for, 1, the Samaritans would make no effort to take him by force and make him a king ( John vi.15); 2, his short stay in Samaria justified an explicit and brief revelation.] 27 And upon this came his disciples; and they marvelled that he was speaking with a woman. [The spirit of the Rabbis is shown by their later precept; viz.: |Let no one talk with a woman in the street, no, not with his own wife.| The estate of woman was then, and had been for a long time previous, very low. Socrates thanked the gods daily that he was born neither a slave nor a woman. Roman law gave the husband absolute authority over the wife, even to put her to death; and Jewish contempt for women is made apparent by the readiness with which the Jews divorced them]; yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why speakest thou with her? [So deep was their reverence and respect that they did not question, though they did not understand.] 28 So the woman left her waterpot [in the forgetfulness of great joy, and as the unconscious pledge of her return], and went away into the city [Sychar], and saith to the people, 29 Come, see a man, who told me all things that ever I did [To publish Christ is one of the first impulses of those who feel Christ's gracious power. Her invitation is like that given by Philip (John i.46). On second thought her statement is not so much of an exaggeration as it at first appears. Her five marriages and present state covered the whole period of her maturer life, and the way in which Jesus had disclosed it all convinced her that every detail of it was spread out before him]: can this be the Christ? [Her question does not imply that she herself had any doubts about the matter. She uses the interrogative form because she does not wish to be dogmatic, but prefers to let the people judge for themselves. Observe the woman's change of mind concerning Jesus. She first called him |Jew| (ver.9), then |Sir| (ver.11), then |prophet| (ver.19), and now she invites her city to come forth and see |the Christ.|] 30 They went out of the city, and were coming to him.31 In the meanwhile [the time between the departure of the woman and the arrival of her fellow-townsmen] the disciples prayed him, saying, Rabbi, eat.32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.33 The disciples therefore said one to another, Hath any man brought him aught to eat? [They understood his words literally, as a declaration that he had dined.] 34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work. [His delight at the woman's conversion, as a part of the work which his Father had given him to do, overcame for a time his desire for food. Food has several characteristics: 1. enjoyment; 2. satisfaction of desire; 3. refreshment and strength. God's work had these characteristics to Jesus, whose life fulfilled the principle that man shall not live by bread alone.] 35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white already unto harvest. [Jacob's well overlooked the luxuriant grainfields of the plain of Moreh. As the disciples looked abroad over its patches of varying green, they would say that it would yet be four months before these patches could be harvested. The harvests in the natural world are slow. But turning their eyes toward Sychar, the disciples could see the citizens of the town in their white garments pouring forth to see Jesus, and to be gathered by him as a harvest of disciples which had sprung up and ripened from the seeds of truth sown by the woman but a few moments before. Spiritual sowing brings speedy harvests. Some commentators look upon the words of Jesus as proverbial, but there is no proverb extant which places only four months between sowing and reaping. In Palestine this period covers six months. We must, therefore, take the words of Jesus as a plain statement as to the length of time between the date of his speaking and the date of harvest. Harvest begins about the middle of April, and counting back four months from that date we find that this visit to Sychar occurred somewhere about the middle of December.] 36 He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. [Harvest times were seasons of great joy (Deut. xvi.13-15; Ps. cxxvi.6; Isa. ix.3). But the joy of joys shall come when God gathers his redeemed into the heavenly garner. In this present the humble teacher sows and the evangelist, or more gifted brother, reaps; but in that glad hour it shall matter little whether we have been a sower or a reaper, for we shall all rejoice together. Sower and reaper alike shall receive wages, a part of which shall be the |fruit| gathered -- the souls saved. Jesus regarded gaining a brother as a large compensation, a great gain -- Matt. xviii.15.] 37 For herein is the saying true [see Isa. lxv.21, 22; Lev. xxvi.16; Job xxxi.8; Mic. vi.15], One soweth, and another reapeth.38 I sent you to reap [Christ, as Lord of the harvest, sent both sowers and reapers] that whereon ye have not labored: others have labored, and ye are entered into their labor. [In earlier days many prophets and holy men had labored to prepare the people of Palestine, that they might be gathered of Christ as disciples. Later John the Baptist had wrought a mighty work toward this same end. Into a field thus sown and cultivated Jesus was now leading his apostles, that they might reap for him the ripened harvest. He bids them observe the speedy and easy reaping on this occasion as an encouraging example to them, that they may go forth with strong assurance and confidence. Even the minds of the Samaritans were prepared to receive him, and a quick harvest could be gathered among them.] 39 And from that city many of the Samaritans believed on him because of the word of the woman, who testified, He told me all things that ever I did. [The Jews rejected the testimony of the prophets and holy men of God as recorded in the Scripture (John v.46, 47), but the Samaritans accepted the testimony of this woman, and she was a sinner.] 40 So when the Samaritans came unto him, they besought him to abide with them: and he abode there two days. [|His own| received him not, but these |strangers| welcomed him. The stay was brief, but long enough to prepare the way for a future church among the Samaritans in the neighboring city of Samaria (Acts viii.5-8). From the nearer town of Shechem came Justin Martyr, one of the greatest Christian writers of the second century.] 41 And many more believed because of his word: 42 and they said to the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world. [Only such ready hearers could arrive at so great a truth in so short a time. Wealth of revelation and blessing had made the Jews selfish, and their conception of the Messiah was so perverted by this selfishness that they could not conceive of him as being a world Saviour. Thus wealth often dwarfs where it should rather enlarge the heart. The incident comprised in this section presents the expansiveness of Christianity in a threefold aspect; viz.: 1, we see it breaking down the walls of racial prejudice; 2, we observe it elevating woman, and certifying her fitness to receive the very highest spiritual instruction; 3, we behold it lifting up the degraded and sinful, and supplying them from the fountains of grace. Such is real Christianity -- the Christianity of Christ.]