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Studies on the Women of the Bible
by Davis W. Huckabee

Chapter 15

THE WOMAN OF 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. There 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.)” (John 4:5-8).

In the previous chapter Jesus had had the secret nighttime interview with the Jew named Nicodemus. Now His public interview with this woman is in contrast in almost every area to that interview except in one point. In both He was seeking out His elect that the Father had given to Him to redeem, wherever they might be, and however circumstances in each case might seem to work contrary to His gracious purpose.

The Gospel of John records a year or more of Jesus’ early ministry that was not recorded by the Synoptic Gospels, so that these generally cover His ministry beginning in His second year of ministry. Any Harmony of the Gospels will bring this out. The appearance of Jesus and His disciples in Samaria is explained by John 4:1-4. This earlier ministry is just barely hinted at in Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke 3:19-20; 4:14. It is because the jealous Jewish religious leaders tried to sow discord between John and Jesus by trying to introduce a competitive spirit between them that Jesus left Judaea and went again into Galilee, necessitating passing through Samaria.

Note an important truth that is just barely suggested in verses 1-2. Jesus never personally baptized any converts, but left that to His disciples. How could this be, if Jesus is the Savior and if baptism is necessary to salvation? The vast majority of the professing Christian world has made an idol of water and trusts in it to save them even while they generally repudiate Jesus’ finished work of salvation on the Cross. Why is this? Because baptism is a work that man can perform, and so, he can take pride in his own works, of which works there are none to trust in Jesus’ redemption by grace.

And note another important truth here. One must be “made” a disciple before he is to be baptized. The warped theology of most denominations is to be seen in that they claim to baptize (what they practice is not Scriptural baptism) in order to make one a disciple. Yet all they do is bring into their churches multitudes of unconverted people, who will never be anything else unless God overrides their church’s teachings.

The extent to which all this can be carried may be seen in the Mormon Church, which, wholly misinterpreting “baptized for the dead” in 1 Corinthians 15:29, practices proxy baptism. That is, one of their members will be baptized for someone that lived in past history but who was never saved, and so, is now in hell. This supposedly frees that person from hell. Of one Mormon woman that frequently was baptized for some person of the past, one of her fellow Mormons said, “That woman has saved more souls than Jesus ever did!” That is blasphemy, plain and simple!

As Nicodemus had all sorts of spiritual advantages, yet was still unsaved until he met Jesus, so this woman at the well had all sorts of spiritual disadvantages until she met Jesus, for grace takes no cognizance of advantages or disadvantages. Normally the Jews and Samaritans had no social contacts if they could help it, for both hated the other. So Jesus’ opening of conversation with this woman was very unusual.

In Jesus’ day, a man would not speak to a woman whom he met on the street whom he did not know. And to ask her for a drink of water would be breaking another long [standing] Jewish tradition. Although both Jews and Samaritans were free to drink from the well, they would usually each have their own bucket as they would not drink from the other’s bucket... So for Jesus to speak to this Samaritan woman and ask her to give him a drink of water from the well would be breaking not only tradition but also the strongly held customs of that day.—Robert M. Ter­hune, Perspectives On Biblical Women, Vol. II, p. 169.

The Samaritans were a mongrel people both in race and in religion. Under King Jeroboam the Israelites fell into idolatry, (1 Kings 12:25ff), and God sent them into captivity. The King of Assyria repopulated the area with Gentiles, with whom the remaining Jews intermarried, (2 Kings 17:24-34, 40-41), and though Levites were sent to teach them, they yet continued in error. When the remnant returned from captivity and built the wall, these attempted to join with them but were repulsed, (Ezra 4:1-6). Later some Levites intermarried with the Samaritans and were put out of their office, (Neh. 13:3, 23-30). Some of these built a temple on Mount Gerazim in rivalry to the Temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans received the Pentateuch as their Bible, but received few of the other Old Testament books. The racial and religious rivalry became more bitter until the height of insult to a Jew was to be called a Samaritan, (John 8:48). Sychar is thought to be the ancient city of Shechem. In the 1950’s only about four hundred of the Samaritans were still living.

The Greek word for “well’ here and verse 14 (paegae) in all its other appearances in the New Testament is rendered “fountain.” It is still known today and was originally nine feet in diameter and over one hundred feet deep, dug through solid rock. The tiredness of the Lord Jesus as He sat upon the well speaks of His humanity. Normally the “sixth hour”—noon—was not the time when the women came to get water, for it was the hottest part of the day. The women usually came to draw water early in the morning, or, as Genesis 24:11 in the late evening. This woman came at this time because she did not want to have to face people and their disapproval of her for she was a social outcast. But it was no accident that Jesus met her here at this unlikely time.

To “draw water” was her object. She had no thought of anything else, save that she should not be seen. She stole forth at this hour of the midday sun because a woman of her character—shunned by other women—did not care to meet any one. The woman was unacquainted with the Savior. She had no expectation of meeting Him. She had no idea she would be converted that day—that was the last thing she would expect.—A. W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, Vol. I, p. 174.

It is to be noted how that Jesus took the initiative with this woman, yet not in a contemptuous, condemning manner, though He fully knew her disturbed personality and immoral lifestyle. No! He opens the conversation with a quiet request—“give me to drink”—an unparalleled thing for a Jew to do—to ask a favor of a Samaritan! Many texts of Scripture speak of God taking the initiative, as in Genesis 3:9; Isaiah 65:1; John 15:16 and Philippians 3:12. No one by nature seeks God, (Rom. 3:11). Man is always sought out and called by God while going his own way. Often while he is in the height of rebellion against God, (Acts 7:2; Gen 28:10-13; Ex. 3:1-6; Acts 9:1-6), and many, many other such instances. When any sinner thinks he has first sought the Lord it is only because he is blind to the Lord standing behind the scenes, pulling all the strings.

Jesus dealt with her privately, yet openly. Nicodemus came by night, but she in full daylight that there might be no question of any impropriety. He engages her in conversation then turns the subject to a spiritual meaning. Here is a great example of how best to deal with lost souls. Overzealous “soul winners” could learn a lot by observing that Jesus never presses for immediate decision. He does not rush her into a profession of faith but simply teaches the truth, then leaves her to meditate until a Divinely wrought conviction is accomplished. Few genuine conversions are as instan­taneous as that of Saul of Tarsus seemed to be, and it is doubtful if even his was, for all of his fury toward Christians was doubtless because the Spirit of God had been bringing conviction as he observed Christianity at work. Most sinners need time for meditation on their sinfulness and the truths of the Gospel, and it is in times of quiet retirement that that “still small voice” of God best operates, (1 Kings 19:11-13).

This woman is mystified that a Jew would speak to, much less ask a favor of, a Samaritan because of the mutual antagonism between the two groups. This antagon­ism between the two groups puts in an interesting light Jesus’ teaching to the Jews in Luke 10:30-36 and 17:12-19 where He made Samaritans the heroes of these stories. The woman, like Nicodemus, has questions, for it is common for unbelievers instead of accepting the Truth, to rationalize and bring up seeming objections in an attempt to sidetrack the Truth. Almost anyone that has ever dealt with lost people has experienced this ploy. This is why the wise person will keep to the Truth to be presented.

Jesus uses His own thirst and His asking for the gift of a drink to turn all of this to a spiritual purpose, (v. 10). This gift of God is referred to in John 3:16; Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 9:15; Ephesians 2:8, et al. This gift is suggestive of grace, (Rom 5:15), which is always free, undeserved and undeservable. Jesus refers to “living waters” again in John 7:37­39. How wonderful to know that in order to have this living water all one has to do is to ask God for it. However, this will involve having the proper attitude. One must recognize his need and that he does not and cannot deserve it whatsoever. It would not be “the gift of God” if it could be obtained by human effort in any form or degree.

In verses 11-12 she still has her mind on literal water and still sees difficulties, for this Jew now before her has no facilities whereby to bring up water from the well. It is impossible for those yet in a natural condition to be able to understand spiritual truth, (1 Cor. 2:14). Water is a very apt symbol of salvation for. (1) It is a gift from God. (2) It is indispensable. (3) It meets a universal need. (4) It descends from heaven. (5) It cools, refreshes and satisfies. (6) It is something that we never tire of. (7) It is strangely and unevenly distributed by God, (A. W. Pink). The well of salvation truly is deep—too deep for man to draw anything from it, for man has nothing to draw with. Supposed human good works actually cut the rope of grace that brings salvation and so, make impossible any salvation at all to those that are trusting in their own doings.

The construction of the Greek expects a negative answer to her question of verse 12. She claims a relationship to Jacob and exalts him to a greater position than Christ, for at this point she sees Him only as a Jew. Most unsaved people see no beauty in Christ, (Isa. 53:2), for they are spiritually dead, and can see only natural things. Jesus’ answer in verses 13-14 contrasts literal water with the water of everlasting life. This gift of eternal life satisfies as nothing else in the world can do. It has been well said by a writer of the 1700’s that, “In every person there is a great God-shaped vacuum that nothing can fill but God Himself.” Most of man’s indulgence in drinking, drugs, depraved morals, desires for possession, etc., is an endeavor to fill this vacuum, and it never works. The words “never thirst” are a double negative, which, while incorrect in English is perfectly proper in Greek in order to emphasize some truth. It is the strongest possible negative. The inspired Greek is the same as Jesus’ promise in John 10:28, where the same word­ing is used—“shall never, ever perish unto eternity.” The best plans of salvation formed by men still leave man thirsting but not so God’s plan. Eating and drinking are symbols of faith, for both of them involve personal appropriation as in John 6:35-36.

The woman is moved to desire this water of life, (v. 15), but it is more for the sake of convenience than for any other reason. Jesus now touches upon her as yet unmentioned problem when He tells her to go call her husband. Her answer is that she has no husband, which Jesus concedes to be truth, for she had been married five times and was now living in open sin with a sixth man. It is easy for couples in their courtship, to make a mistake and not marry wisely That does not justify them divorcing, but it does happen. However, when any person, male or female, repeatedly marries and then divorces, the problem is in that person and cannot be resolved until that person gets honest with himself or herself and eliminates the utter self-centeredness that makes it impossible to get along with another person.

Though this woman was still woefully ignorant of the truth, many a “soul-winner” of our day would have told her that she was saved because of her request for this satisfying water of life. The Lord Jesus seems to abruptly change the subject in telling her to go call her husband. The Jewish Rabbis discouraged all public conversation with women, and the Law of God gave husbands the right to ratify or disannul a wife’s decision, (Num. 30:6-16). These two factors were the basis of the Lord’s command even though He knew perfectly her background, and He would use His conversation to bring her to repentance for she must be made conscious of her guilt. “The first draught of living water which our Lord gave to the Samaritan woman was conviction of sin,” (J. C. Ryle). Five ex-husbands and a present lover do not constitute a husband. Strangely, such people as this Samaritan woman are often easier to reach with the Gospel than the self-righteous, for she could not deny her sinfulness.

Jesus’ insight into this woman’s private life makes her realize that He is more than a mere Jew—He is a prophet—He is a spokesman from God, (vv. 19-20). A discerning spirit was the mark of a prophet, (1 Sam. 9:6, 19-20; 2 Kings 5:26; 6:32). Jesus’ knowledge of all mankind had earlier been declared in John 2:24-25. But this woman is like most convicted sinners in that she tries to sidetrack the discussion into religious generalities, by reference to the difference between Jews’ and Samaritans’ places of wor­ship. The reference is to Deuteronomy 11:29 which the Samaritans had chosen as the place referred to in Deuteronomy 12:5 and here they had built their Temple. This was one of the main points of difference between the Jews and the Samaritans. Here is a common practice of convicted sinners—trying to turn attention from personal sin to some question of religious practice. In witnessing to a lost person, we must never allow ourselves to be sidetracked into discussions that miss the sinner’s primary need—to see his sins and to see Christ as the answer to them. Until one is born again denominational differences, religious practices and theological niceties can have no great bearing, yet they are often seized upon in order to distract from the main issue.

In verses 21-22 Jesus deals, not with the place of acceptable worship, but with its nature. Perhaps He has in mind the prophecy of Malachi 1:10-11. In a short time all bondage to locality, together with the ritualism associated therewith would pass away, and Jesus would say concerning even the Jerusalem Temple that, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate (empty, deserted),” (Matt. 23:38). Mere ritualism and formalism in whomsoever it is found, is not acceptable to the Father, but it is common for people to idolize rituals and to think that one place is more holy than others. Jesus was not just being a religious bigot in what He says in verse 22, for from the negative side, these Samaritans rejected all of the Old Testament Books except the first five, and so they were ignorant of much of God’s Revelation of His Truth. They had no scriptural sanction for their worship, and their ignorance of the truth is explained in 2 Kings 17:24-41. On the positive side, in spite of the Jews overloading their worship with much humanistic tradition, they had a fuller revelation of God and so, knew more about the character of God. “Salvation is of the Jews” because He Who is Salvation, (Luke 2:26, 29-30; 3:6), was born of the Jews.

In verses 23-24 Jesus shows that spiritual worship was even then required—“now is” —even though the Jewish ritual had not yet been abolished as it was in 70 A. D. when the Romans destroyed the Temple. Matthew 23:38-39 marked the time when Jesus ceased to recognize the Temple as God’s “House,” after which it was henceforth only “your (the Jews) house,” and Matthew 27:50-51 was God’s manifestation that the way into heaven was now opened. See Hebrews 9:7-8 and 10:19-20, which shows that in His human nature, (symbolized by the veil) the Lord Jesus opened the way into heaven for every trusting soul. Worship “in spirit” is opposed to all external, carnal, ritualistic and formalistic worship, while worship “in truth” is not only opposed to all insincere worship, but also to all worship through types, symbols, etc. Just any kind of worship will not please God. Only one kind will find acceptance before Him.

“Spirit” in verse 24 describes God’s nature, as does “light” in 1 John 1:5 and “love” in 1 John 4:8. Worship of Him must correspond to His nature. This is a truth that most of the religious world has never learned. What is worship? It is the action of a renewed heart going out in grateful love and adoration to the One that redeemed it, seeking to honor and glorify Him by knowing and doing His will. There must always be a proper balance between Spirit and Truth in worship.

God, as a Spirit, is immaterial, immortal, invisible, and an intelligent, willing, and active being; but differs from other spirits in that he is an uncreated one, an immense and infinite Spirit, and an eternal one, which has neither beginning nor end. He is therefore a Spirit by way of eminency, as well as effectively, he being the author and former of all spirits. Whatever excellence is in them, must be ascribed to God in the highest manner; and whatever is imperfect in them, must be removed from him.—John Gill, An Exposition Of The Bible, Vol. 5, p. 633.

The Samaritans knew about the coming of the Messiah, (v. 25), but it was based almost entirely on Genesis 3:15; 49:10, Numbers 24:17 and Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, and for this reason they did not expect Him to be a great conquering King so much as a great teacher. They seemed to have had more spiritual views of the Messiah than did the Jews. This woman has begun to suspect that Jesus is the Messiah because, as she will tell her fellow Samaritans later, He knows everything about her, (v. 29). “Christ” is the Greek form of the Hebrew title “Messiah” and both mean the Anointed One. And Jesus immediately declares Himself to be the Messiah, which He never did to the Jews until the last week of His life. To have done so earlier would have led to His premature death. Also a plainer declaration of this truth was necessary for the Samaritans who had much less spiritual light on this truth than the Jews did.

The disciples now return and they marvel that Jesus talked with the woman, who now leaves and hurries into the city to report her encounter with the Messiah. Having now received the living water, she is no longer concerned about ordinary water, and so she left the large, bulky pot (the same Greek word is used as in 2:6-7). Though she is convinced in her own mind that this is the Messiah she does not presume to declare this, but asked the question of verse 29f. The form of the question in the inspired text expects the negative answer—”Surely this is not the Messiah, is it? She piques their curiosity, then uses the standard Bible invitation, “Come and see,” (John 1:39, 46). It is inherent in the new nature to want to share the blessings of salvation with others. And her invitation brings out many from the city, (v. 30), and as a result of their two day conversation with Jesus, many believe in Him, (vv. 41-42).

She invites them to him under the notion of a man, who had told her all things that she ever did. Christ doubtless had told her, and spoken to her, much more than John hath left us upon sacred record; yet not all things she ever did, but all things (as often) signifies many things. And those such things as she might know that he who could tell those things could have told her all things, if they had been so proper for him to have repeated to her as those things which he did tell her. This induced her to believe that he was the Messiah; she offereth it to their opinion and judgment.—Matthew Poole, Commentary On The Holy Bible, Vol. 3, p. 298.

This ingathering of many believers into the Kingdom of Christ is explained by Jesus to His disciples in the words of verses 31-38, as being fields white unto harvest, often prepared by others than the reapers, (v. 37). It is no one’s duty to convert others, but it is every saved person’s duty to bear witness of what he or she has personally experienced with the Lord. This, the Samaritan woman faithfully did. Jesus performed no miracle here, yet many believed on Him. He performed many miracles in Judaea, yet few truly believed on Him, so that obviously miracles have little if anything to do with conversion. It is the sovereign grace of God alone that converts sinner.

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