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1. Therefore. Pointing back to iii. 22, and the controversy which arose about the two baptisms.
The Lord. See on Matt. xxi. 3.
Knew (egnw), or perceived. See on ii. 24.
Pharisees. John never alludes to the Sadducees by name. The Pharisees represented the opposition to Jesus, the most powerful and dangerous of the Jewish sects.
3. He left (afhke). The verb means literally to send away, dismiss. It is used of forgiving offenses (Matt. vi. 43; Jas. v. 15); of yielding up (Matt. xxvii. 50); of letting alone (Matt. xix. 14); of allowing or permitting (Luke vi. 12). See on these passages. Its employment here is peculiar. Compare xvi. 28, of Christ's leaving the world.
Again. See i. 44.
4. Must needs. Because this was the natural route from Jerusalem to Galilee. Possibly with a suggestion of the necessity arising from the Father's will. John does not put this as a mission undertaken to the Samaritans. Jesus observed the law which He imposed on His disciples (Matt. x. 5).
5. Then (oun). Not a particle of time, but of logical connection. Therefore, going by this route, He must needs, etc.
Sychar. Commonly identified with Schechem, the modern Nablous, and regarded as a corruption of Sichem. Some modern authorities, however, argue that a place so famous as Schechem would not be referred to under another name, and identify the site with Askar, about two miles east of Nablous. The name Sychar means drunken-town or lying-town.
Parcel of ground (cwriou). A diminutive from cwra a region.
6. Well (phgh). Strictly, spring. The word for cistern or well is frear, which John uses at vv. 11, 12. Elsewhere in the New Testament always of a pit. See Luke xiv. 5; Apoc. ix. 1, 2. There is no mention of Jacob's Well in the Old Testament. The traditional well still remains. "At the mouth of the valley of Schechem two slight breaks are visible in the midst of the vast plain of corn - one a white Mussulman chapel; the other a few fragments of stone. The first of these covers the alleged tomb of Joseph,... the second marks the undisputed site of the well, now neglected and choked up by the ruins which have fallen into it; but still with every claim to be considered the original well" (Stanley, "Sinai and Palestine"). Dr. Thomson says: "I could see nothing like a well - nothing but a low, modern wall, much broken down, and never, apparently, more than ten feet high. The area enclosed by it is fifty-six paces from east to west, and sixty-five from north to south. The surface is covered by a confused mass of shapeless rubbish, overgrown with weeds and nettles.... The well is near the southeastern corner of the area, and, to reach the mouth of it, one must let himself down, with some risk, about ten feet into a low vault" ("Land and Book"). Dr. Thosson also remarks upon the great discrepancy in the measurements of the well by different tourists, owing to the accumulations of stones and debris from the ruins of the buildings which formerly covered it. "All confirm the saying of the Samaritan woman that 'the well is deep.'" Maundrell, in 1697, makes the depth one hundred and five feet, with fifteen feet of water. Mr. Calhoun, in 1838, found nearly the same depth of water. Dr. Wilson, in 1841, found the depth only seventy-five feet, which is confirmed by the later measurements of Captain Anderson in 1866, and of Lieutenant Conder in 1875.
Wearied (kekopiakwv). See on Luke v. 5.
Thus. Just as He was; or, as some explain, being thus wearied.
Sat. The imperfect tense; was sitting, when the woman came.
7. A woman. Held in low esteem by the popular teachers; a Samaritan, and therefore despised by the Jews; poor, for drawing water was not, as in earlier times, performed by women of station (Gen. xxiv. 15; xxix. 9). Of Samaria. Literally, out of Samaria (ek). Not of the city of Samaria, which was some six miles distant, but the country. A Samaritan by race and religion.
To draw. See on ii. 8.
9. The woman of Samaria (h gunh h Samareitiv). Differently expressed from the same phrase in the preceding verse. Literally, the woman the Samaritan. Here the distinctive character of the woman, as indicated by the race, is emphasized.
Askest (aiteiv). See on Matt. xv. 23.
Have no dealings (ou sugcrwntai). Have no familiar or friendly intercourse with. That they had dealings of some kind is shown by the disciples going into the city to buy provisions. Some authorities omit for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. The Jews treated the Samaritans with every mark of contempt, and accused them of falsehood, folly, and irreligion. The Samaritans sold Jews into slavery when they had them in their power, lighted spurious signals for the beacon-fires kindled to announce the beginnings of months, and waylaid and killed pilgrims on their road to Jerusalem.
10. If thou knewest, etc. Answering rather something latent in the question than the question itself, as in Jesus' first answer to Nicodemus. The gift (dwrean). Only here in the Gospels, though Luke uses it in Acts four times, and the kindred adverb, dwrhma, freely, is found once in Matthew. The word carries the sense of a bountiful, free, honorable gift. Compare dwrhma, gift, and see on Jas. i. 17.
Asked (hthsav). Jesus uses the same word for ask which the woman had employed of his asking her, the word expressing the asking of the inferior from the superior. Here it is the appropriate word.
11. To draw with (antlhma). The noun means what is drawn, the act of drawing, and the thing to draw with. Here the bucket, of skin, with three cross sticks at the mouth to keep it open, and let down by a goat's-hair rope. Not to be confounded with the water-pot (udria) of ver. 28. The word is found only here in the New Testament.
12. Art thou greater (mh su meizwn). The interrogative particle indicates that a negative answer is expected: Surely thou art not. The su, thou, first in the sentence, is emphatic, and possibly with a shade of contempt.
Our father Jacob. The Samaritans claimed descent from Joseph, as representing the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.
Children (uioi). Rev., correctly, sons.
Cattle (qremmata). Only here in the New Testament. From (trefw) to nourish. A general term for whatever is fed or nursed. When used of animals - mostly of tame ones - cattle, sheep, etc. It is applied to children, fowls, insects, and fish, also to domestic slaves, which, according to some, is the meaning here; but, as Meyer justly remarks, "there was no need specially to name the servants; the mention of the herds completes the picture of their nomadic progenitor."
13. Whosoever drinketh (pav o pih). Literally, every one that drinketh. So Rev. 14. Whosoever drinketh (ov d an pih). So Rev.. The A.V. renders the two expressions in the same way, but there is a difference in the pronouns, indicated, though very vaguely, by every one that and whosoever, besides a more striking difference in the verb drinketh. In the former case, the article with the participle indicates something habitual; every one that drinks repeatedly, as men ordinarily do on the recurrence of their thirst. In ver. 14 the definite aorist tense expresses a single act - something done once for all. Literally, he who may have drunk.
Shall never thirst (ou mh diyhsei eiv ton aiwna). The double negative, ouj mh, is a very strong mode of statement, equivalent to by no means, or in nowise. It must not be understood, however, that the reception of the divine life by a believer does away with all further desire. On the contrary, it generates new desires. The drinking of the living water is put as a single act, in order to indicate the divine principle of life as containing in itself alone the satisfaction of all holy desires as they successively arise; in contrast with human sources, which are soon exhausted, and drive one to other fountains. Holy desire, no matter how large or how varied it may become, will always seek and find its satisfaction in Christ, and in Christ only. Thirst is to be taken in the same sense in both clauses, as referring to that natural craving which the world cannot satisfy, and which is therefore ever restless. Drusius, a Flemish critic, cited by Trench ("Studies in the Gospels"), says: "He who drinks the water of wisdom thirsts and does not thirst. He thirsts, that is, he more and more desires that which he drinks. He does not thirst, because he is so filled that he desires no other drink." The strong contrast of this declaration of our Lord with pagan sentiment, is illustrated by the following passage from Plato:
"Socrates: Let me request you to consider how far you would accept this as an account of the two lives of the temperate and intemperate: There are two men, both of whom have a number of casks; the one man has his casks sound and full, one of wine, another of honey, and a third of milk, besides others filled with other liquids, and the streams which fill them are few and scanty, and he can only obtain them with a great deal of toil and difficulty; but when his casks are once filled he has no need to feed them any more, and has no further trouble with them, or care about them. The other, in like manner, can procure streams, though not without difficulty, but his vessels are leaky and unsound, and night and day he is compelled to be filling them, and if he pauses for a moment he is in an agony of pain. Such are their respective lives: And now would you say that the life of the intemperate is happier than that of the temperate? Do I not convince you that the opposite is the truth?
"Callicles: You do not convince me, Socrates, for the one who has filled himself has no longer any pleasure left; and this, as I was just now saying, is the life of a stone; he has neither joy nor sorrow after he is once filled; but the life of pleasure is the pouring in of the stream.
"Socrates: The life, then, of which you are now speaking is not that of a dead man, or of a stone, but of a cormorant; you mean that he is to be hungering and eating?
"Socrates: And he is to be thirsting and drinking?
"Callicles: Yes, that is what I mean; he is to have all his desires about him, and to be able to live happily in the gratification of them" ("Gorgias," 494). Compare Apoc. vii. 16,17.
In Him. A supply having its fountain-head in the man's own being, and not in something outside himself.
A well (phgh). The Rev. retains well, where spring would have been more correct.
Springing up (allpmenou). Leaping; thus agreeing with shall become. "The imperial philosopher of Rome uttered a great truth, but an imperfect one; saw much, but did not see all; did not see that this spring of water must be fed, and fed evermore, from the 'upper springs,' if it is not presently to fail, when he wrote: 'Look within; within is the fountain of good, and ever able to gush forth if you are ever digging'" (Plutarch, "On Virtue and Vice").
Come hither (ercwmai enqade). The best texts read diercwmai, the preposition dia having the force of through the intervening plain.
16. Husband (andra). See on i. 30.
19. I perceive (qewrw). See on i. 18. Not immediate perception, but rather, I perceive as I observe thee longer and more carefully.
20. Our fathers. Probably meaning the ancestors of the Samaritans, as far back as the building of the temple on Mount Gerizim in the time of Nehemiah. This temple had been destroyed by John Hyrcanus, 129 B.C., but the place remained holy, and to this day the Samaritans yearly celebrate there the feast of the Passover. See the graphic description of Dean Stanley, who was present at the celebration ("Jewish Church," vol. 1, Appendix 3).
This mountain. Gerizim, at the foot of which lies the well. Here, according to the Samaritan tradition, Abraham sacrificed Isaac, and met Melchisedek. By some convulsion of nature, the central range of mountains running north and south, was cleft open to its base at right angles to its own line of extension, and the deep fissure thus made is the vale of Nablus, as it appears to one coming up the plain of El Mukhna from Jerusalem. The valley is at least eighteen hundred feet above the level of the sea, and the mountains on either hand tower to an elevation of about one thousand feet more. Mount Ebal is on the north, Gerizim on the south, and the city between. Near the eastern end the vale is not more than sixty rods wide; and there, I suppose, the tribes assembled to hear the "blessings and cursings" read by the Levites (Deuteronomy 27, 28). The panorama seen from the top of Gerizim is about the most extensive and imposing in all Palestine. The summit is a small level plateau. In the midst of the southern end is a sloping rock, said by the Samaritans to be the site of the altar of their temple, and on approaching which they remove their shoes. At the eastern edge of the plateau, a small cavity in the rock is shown as the place on which Abraham offered up Isaac. Ebal is three thousand and seventy-nine feet above the sea-level, and more than two hundred and thirty feet higher than Gerizim. 24 Ought to worship (dei). Better, must worship. She puts it as a divine obligation. It is the only true holy place. Compare ver. 24.
Shall ye worship (proskunhsete). See on Acts x. 25. The word was used indefinitely in ver. 20. Here with the Father, thus defining true worship.
The Father. This absolute use of the title the Father is characteristic of John. He speaks of God as the Father, and my Father, more commonly the former. On the distinction between the two Canon Westcott observes: "Generally it may be said that the former title expresses the original relation of God to being, and specially to humanity, in virtue of man's creation in the divine image; and the latter more particularly the relation of the Father to the Son incarnate, and so indirectly to man in virtue of the Incarnation. The former suggests those thoughts which spring from the consideration of the absolute moral connection of man with God; the latter those which spring from what is made known to us, through revelation, of the connection of the Incarnate Son with God and with man." See vi. 45; x. 30; xx. 21; viii. 18, 19; xiv. 6-10; xv. 8. John never uses our Father; only once your Father (xx. 17), and never Father without the article, except in address.
22. Ye know not what (o ouk oidate). Literally, what ye know not. Rev., rightly, that which ye know not. Compare Acts xvii. 23, where the correct reading is o, what, instead of on, whom: "what therefore ye worship in ignorance." This worship of the unknown is common to vulgar ignorance and to philosophic culture; to the Samaritan woman, and to the Athenian philosophers. Compare John vii. 28; viii. 19, 27. The neuter expresses the unreal and impersonal character of the Samaritan worship. As the Samaritans received the Pentateuch only, they were ignorant of the later and larger revelation of God, as contained especially in the prophetic writings, and of the Messianic hope, as developed among the Jews. They had preserved only the abstract notion of God.
Know what we worship (proskunoumen o oidamen). Literally, and as Rev., we worship that which we know. On know, see on ii. 24. The neuter that which, is used of the true as of the unreal object of worship, perhaps for the sake of correspondence with the preceding clause, or because the object of worship is conceived abstractly and not personally. Compare xiv. 9.
Salvation (h swthria). The word has the article: the salvation, promised and to be revealed in Christ.
Is of the Jews. Rev., rightly, from the Jews (ek). Not therefore belongs to, but proceeds from. See Genesis 12; Isa. ii. 3; Micah iv. 2. Even the Old Testament idea of salvation is bound up with Christ. See Rom. ix. 4, 5. The salvation is from the Jews, even from that people which has rejected it. See on i. 19. On the characteristic is from, see on i. 46. The passage illustrates John's habit of confirming the divine authority of the Old Testament revelation, and of showing its fulfillment in Christ.
23. And now is. This could not be added in ver. 21, because local worship was not yet abolished; but it was true as regarded the true worship of the Father by His true worshippers, for Jesus was already surrounded by a little band of such, and more were soon to be added (vv. 39-42). Bengel says that the words and now is are added lest the woman should think that she must seek a dwelling in Judaea.
True (alhqinoi). Real, genuine. See on i. 9.
Worshippers (proskunhtai). Only here in the New Testament.
In spirit and in truth (en pneumati kai ahqeia). Spirit (pneuma) is the highest, deepest, noblest part of our humanity, the point of contact between God and man (Rom. i. 9); while soul (yuch) is the principle of individuality, the seat of personal impressions, having a side in contact with the material element of humanity as well as with the spiritual element, and being thus the mediating element between the spirit and the body. The phrase in spirit and in truth describes the two essential characteristics of true worship: in spirit, as distinguished from place or form or other sensual limitations (ver. 21); in truth, as distinguished from the false conceptions resulting from imperfect knowledge (ver. 22). True worship includes a spiritual sense of the object worshipped, and a spiritual communion with it; the manifestation of the moral consciousness in feelings, motions of the will, "moods of elevation, excitements," etc. It includes also a truthful conception of the object. In Jesus the Father is seen (xiv. 9) and known (Luke x. 22). Thus the truthful conception is gained. He is the Truth (xiv. 6). Likewise through Him we come to the Father, and spiritually commune with Him. No man can come in any other way (xiv. 6). To worship in truth is not merely to worship in sincerity, but with a worship corresponding to the nature of its object.
For the father (kai gar o pathr). The A.V. fails to render kai also, and Rev. places it in the margin. It emphasizes the conclusiveness of the reason assigned: "for the Father also, on His part, seeketh," etc. For a similar use of kai, see on Matt. viii. 9; also Matt. xxvi. 73; Acts xix. 40. Seeketh such to worship Him (toioutouv zhtei touv proskunountav auton). A rather peculiar construction. Literally, seeketh such as those worshipping him: as His worshippers. Such: i.e., those who worship in spirit and in truth, and are therefore real (alhqinoi) worshippers of the real God (alhqinon Qeon).
24. God is a Spirit (pneuma o Qeov). Or, as Rev., in margins, God is spirit. Spirit is the emphatic word; Spirit is God. The phrase describes the nature, not the personality of God. Compare the expressions, God is light; God is love (1 John i. 5; iv. 8).
25. Messiah cometh. The woman uses the Jewish name, which was known in Samaria. The Samaritans also expected the Messiah, basing their hopes on such Scriptures as Gen. iii. 15; xlix. 10; Num. xxiv. 17; Deut. xviii. 15. They looked for Him to restore the kingdom of Israel and to re-establish the worship on Gerizim, where they supposed that the tabernacle was hidden. They called Him Hushab or Hathab, meaning the Converter, or, according to some, the Returning One. The Samaritan idea was less worldly and political than the Jewish.
Which is called Christ. Added by the Evangelist. Compare i. 41.
He is come (ekeinov). Emphatic; pointing to Messiah as contrasted with all other teachers.
He will tell (anaggelei). Literally, proclaim or announce. The compounded preposition ajna, the radical meaning of which is up, signifies throughout, from bottom to top. The verb is used in xvi. 13, of the revelations of the Comforter.
26. I - am He (eimi). Literally, I am. The less political conception of the Samaritan Messiah made it possible for Jesus to announce Himself to the woman without fear of being misunderstood as He was by the Jews.
This incident furnishes a notable illustration of our Lord's love for human souls, and of His skill, tact, and firmness in dealing with moral degradation and ignorant bigotry. He conciliates the woman by asking a favor. Her hesitation arises less from prejudice of race than from surprise at being asked for drink by a Jew (compare the story of Zacchaeus). He seizes upon a near and familiar object as the key-note of His great lesson. He does not overwhelm her with new knowledge, but stimulates question and thought. He treats her sin frankly, but not harshly. He is content with letting her see that He is aware of it, knowing that through Him, as the Discerner, she will by and by reach Him as the Forgiver. Even from her ignorance and coarse superstition He does not withhold the sublimest truth. He knows her imperfect understanding, but He assumes the germinative power of the truth itself. He is not deterred from the effort to plant His truth and to rescue a soul, either by His own weariness or by the conventional sentiment which frowned upon His conversation with a woman in a public place. Godet contrasts Jesus' method in this case with that employed in the interview with Nicodemus. "With Nicodemus He started from the idea which filled every Pharisee's heart, that of the kingdom of God, and deduced therefrom the most rigorous practical consequences. He knew that He had to do with a man accustomed to the discipline of the law. Then He unveiled to him the most elevated truths of the kingdom of heaven, by connecting them with a striking Old Testament type, and contrasting them with the corresponding features of the Pharisaic programme. Here, on the contrary, with a woman destitute of all scriptural training, He takes His point of departure from the commonest thing imaginable, the water of the well. He suddenly exalts it, by a bold antithesis, to the idea of that eternal life which quenches forever the thirst of the human heart. Spiritual aspiration thus awakened in her becomes the internal prophecy to which He attaches His new revelations, and thus reaches that teaching on true worship which corresponds as directly to the peculiar prepossessions of the woman, as the revelation of heavenly things corresponded to the inmost thoughts of Nicodemus. Before the latter He unveils Himself as the only-begotten Son, but this while avoiding the title of "Christ." With the woman He boldly uses this term; but he does not dream of initiating into the mysteries of incarnation and redemption a soul which is yet only at the first elements of religious life and knowledge" ("Commentary on the Gospel of John").
27. Came - marvelled (hlqan - eqaumazon). The tense of each verb is different: the aorist, came, marking as in a single point of time the disciples' arrival, and the imperfect, they were wondering, marking something continued: they stood and contemplated him talking with the woman, and all the while were wondering at it.
He talked (elalei). The imperfect tense, he was speaking. So Rev..
The woman. Rev., correctly, a woman. They were surprised, not at his talking with that woman, but that their teacher should converse with any woman in public. The Rabbinical writings taught that it was beneath a man's dignity to converse with women. It was one of the six things which a Rabbi might not do. "Let no one," it is written, "converse with a woman in the street, not even with his own wife." It was also held in these writings that a woman was incapable of profound religious instruction. "Rather burn the sayings of the law than teach them to women."
28. Water-pot. See on ii. 6.
29. All things. Jesus' insight in the one case convinced her that He knew everything, and to her awakened conscience it seemed as though He had told everything.
Is not this the Christ (mhti estin)? Rather, as Rev., can this be. The particle suggests a negative answer. Surely this cannot be, yet with some hope.
30. Then. Omit.
Went out - came unto Him (exhlqon - hrconto prov auton). Went out is the aorist tense, denoting the coming forth from the city as a single act at a point of time. Came is the imperfect, denoting action in progress. The observance of the distinction makes the narrative more graphic. They were coming. Unto should be toward (prov). The imperfect also is required by the following words: "In the mean while" (while the woman was still absent and the Samaritans were coming toward Him) "the disciples were praying" Him to eat. This last imperfect is overlooked by the Rev..
32. Meat (brwsin). Originally the act of eating (Col. ii. 16), but often of that which is eaten. A parallel is found in the vulgar phrase, a thing is good or poor eating. The word is always used by Paul in its original sense.
Know not of (ouk oidate). Incorrect. Rev., rightly, ye know not; i.e., you do not know its virtue.
33. Said (elegon). Imperfect tense: began to say, or were saying. The question was discussed among them.
One to another. Fearing to ask Jesus.
34. Meat (brwma). A different word from that in ver. 32, signifying what is eaten.
To do (ina poiw). Literally, in order that I do. Emphasizing the end and not the process. Frequently so used in John. See on iii. 19.
Finish (peleiwsw). Better, as Rev., accomplish. Not merely bring to an end, but perfect. From teleiov, perfect. The verb is characteristic of John, and of the Epistle to the Hebrews. See v. 36; xvii. 4; xix. 28; 1 John ii. 5; iv. 12; Heb. ii. 10; v. 9, etc.
35. Say not ye. In what follows, Jesus is contrasting the natural harvest-time with the spiritual, which was immediately to take place in the ingathering of the Samaritans. Ye is emphatic, marking what the disciples expect according to the order of nature. As you look on these green fields between Ebal and Gerizim, ye say, it is yet four months to harvest. There are four months (tetramhnon estin). Properly, it is a space of four months. Only here in the New Testament.
Harvest (qerismov). See on Luke x. 2.
White (leukai). See on Luke ix. 29.
Already unto harvest. Spiritual harvest. The crowd of Samaritans now pouring out toward the well was to Jesus as a ripe harvest-field, prefiguring the larger harvest of mankind which would be reaped by His disciples. By the best texts the already is joined with the next verse, and the kai, and, at the beginning of that verse is omitted: Already he that reapeth receiveth, etc.
Together (omou). The construction is peculiar: that both the sower may rejoice together and the reaper. Together signifies not in common, but simultaneously. So quickly does the harvest follow the gospel-seed sown among the Samaritans, that the sower and the reaper rejoice together.
37. Herein (en toutw). Literally, in this. In this relation between sower and reaper.
Is that saying true (o logov estin o alhqinov). Rev., properly, the saying; the common proverb. True: not only says the truth, but the saying is completely fulfilled according to the ideal in the sowing and reaping of which Jesus speaks. The literal rendering of the Greek, as given above, is, "the saying is the true (saying);" but several high authorities omit the article before true.
38. I sent (egw apesteila). The I is emphatic. The aorist tense points back to the mission of the disciples as involved in their original call. Other men. Jesus himself and all who had prepared the way for Him, such as John the Baptist.
39. The saying (ton logon). Rev., better, the word. It does not refer merely to the woman's statement, He told me, etc., but to her whole testimony (marturoushv) concerning Christ.
40. To tarry (meinai). Better, as Rev., to abide.
41. Many more (pollw plei). Literally, more by much; i.e., far more, with reference to the simple polloi, many, in ver. 39.
42. Said (elegon). The imperfect tense: said to the woman as they successively met her.
Saying (lalian). Another word is designedly substituted for logon, word (vv. 39, 41). In ver. 39 logov, word, is used of the woman, from the Evangelist's standpoint, as being a testimony to Christ. Here the Samaritans distinguish between the more authoritative and dignified word of Jesus, and the talk of the woman. Rev., speaking. Compare the kindred verb lalew, in vv. 26, 27; also viii. 43; Matt. xxvi. 73.
The Christ. The best texts omit.