The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods






Section VIII

the conversation of jesus with the samaritan woman

(Joh 4:1-42)

Jesus had carried on His ministry in Judea with success probably for more than half a year, when suddenly the hostile feeling of the Pharisaical party compelled Him to quit the region that had been so highly favoured. The Evangelist only slightly hints at the cause of this interruption. The Lord had been informed, and indeed was well aware (ἔγνω), that ‘the Pharisees had heard that Jesus1 made and baptized more disciples than John.’ He had been denounced, and the denunciation had taken effect. But as soon as the ill-will of the Sanhedrim offered opposition to His ministry in this theocratic form, He withdrew, as we have seen, for the sake of social order and truth. But that He at once left Judea, was a consequence of His now modified position. Not only the foresight with which He avoided hazarding His life till the decisive moment, but also the holiness of His consciousness, which abhorred all intermingling of the kingdom of heaven with a corrupt hierarchy, drove him from the public scene of action in Judea. And there was besides another serious motive.2 John was just about this time cast into prison by Herod (Mat 4:12; Mar 1:14). This imprisonment was, it is true, the act of the ruler of Galilee, but it gave, most probably, great satisfaction to the Sanhedrim. To that body the disturber of their repose seemed now put out of the way. But there appeared immediately, as they thought, a greater one in his place (Joh 4:1).3 Hence by the imprisonment of John the Sanhedrim appeared to be excited, and inclined to remove the second hated preacher of repentance, of whom they knew that He did not suit their plans.

Jesus had gone up to the feast at Jerusalem in the month of March. When He returned it was about seed-time, as may be inferred with probability from ver. 35, and therefore in November or December.4 He took His way directly through Samaria, as He often did, without troubling Himself about the scruples of the Jews, who preferred making the journey between Judea and Galilee through Perea. But this time he had a special reason for going through Samaria: because He was probably already near the Samaritan border.5 He must (ἔδει) therefore, under the circumstances, take this route.

A place in Samaria, in which He stayed a short time, claims our attention on three accounts: for its name; for its local and historical relations; and for a memorable relic of former times, Jacob’s well. It has been generally supposed that the city of Sichem6 was the place where Jesus sojourned, but it is remarkable that the Evangelist calls it Sychar. According to different derivations, the place obtained the nickname of the town of the drunken, or the town of falsehood.7 But a third derivation makes the name a title of honour, the town of the sepulchre;8 and since this designation has the support of Jewish tradition,9 it is to be preferred to the former, which rests on mere conjecture. If John had wished to intimate that Jesus was not ashamed to connect Himself with the citizens of that centre of Samaritan life, which by the Jews was called the abode of drunkenness or falsehood, he would have brought it forward more distinctly. But indeed he could without difficulty make use of a more significant designation, deviating from the common appellation, if it were already known, since he was fond of significant names. Yet it was also possible that the Sychar of the Evangelist was distinguished from Sichem proper as a suburb. According to Schubert’s route,10 travellers come first to Jacob’s well, where ‘a few houses are standing close;’ then they reach Joseph’s grave, ‘in a hollow of Mount Gerizim;’ and then, ‘farther westward in the valley, the modern Sichem.’ The city of Sychar, as fixed by the Evangelist, lay near the parcel of ground that Jacob, as the Israelitish tradition reports, according to Jos 24:32, gave to his son Joseph. The district in which the modern Sychem is situated, is, according to K. v. Raumer,11 compared by Clarke to the country about Heidelberg.

‘The city of Nגbulus’ (the former Sichem), says Robinson,12 ‘is long and narrow, stretching close along the north-east base of Mount Gerizim, in this small, deep valley, half-an-hour distant from the great eastern plain. The streets are narrow; the houses high, and in general well built, all of stone, with domes upon the roofs as at Jerusalem. The valley itself, from the foot of Gerizim to that of Ebal, is here not more than some 500 yards wide, extending from south-east to north-west.… Mounts Gerizim and Ebal rise in steep, rocky precipices immediately from the valley on each side, apparently some 800 feet in height. The sides of both these mountains, as here seen, were to our eyes equally naked and sterile; although some travellers have chosen to describe Gerizim as fertile, and confine the sterility to Ebal. The only exception in favour of the former, so far as we could perceive, is a small ravine coming down opposite the west end of the town, which indeed is full of fountains and trees; in other respects, both mountains, as here seen, are desolate, except that a few olive-trees are scattered upon them.’13

The same travellers found the noted Jacob’s well, 35 minutes’ distance from the town. The well had evident marks of antiquity, but was now dry and forsaken. According to Maundrell, the well was dug in a hard rock, was about 9 feet in diameter and 105 feet in depth. It was full of water to the height of 15 feet. But, according to Robinson, the old town probably lay nearer this well than the present. Yet he remarks this could not have been the proper well of the town, since there was no public machinery for drawing water. As the woman came hither and drew water, we must suppose that either she lived near the well, or that the inhabitants attached a particular value to the water of this ancient Jacob’s well, and now and then took the trouble to go and draw from it.

The well was held in great veneration from the tradition connected with it; the Samaritans were proud of this inheritance of the patriarch Jacob. Jesus was weary with travelling when He reached it, and so sat down at the edge of the well. It was about midday. The disciples were gone into the city to buy food. Jesus therefore accustomed them to combat and lay aside their Jewish prejudices. There came a Samaritan woman to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me to drink!’ These few words were of infinite significance and efficacy. It was the beginning of that agency of Christ’s Spirit which broke down the ancient partition-wall of grudge and hatred between the Jews and Samaritans, who afterwards were to enter the Church of Christ. It shows how an inoffensive, humble request does wonders. But not only that the Lord made his request to a Samaritan woman, and to a woman alone, but lastly, and more especially, to a sinful, erring woman, exhibits him in the full freedom and grandeur of His love. For, as to the first point, it would have been an offence to any Jew, for the Jews avoided all intercourse with the Samaritans; as to the second point, every Rabbi would have taken offence, since, especially for Rabbis, it was unbecoming to converse alone with foreign women; and, thirdly, it would have been an offence to every Pharisee, for it was a pharisaical maxim that the fallen were to be treated with severity. Thus, then, this brief request of the Lord at one and the same time displayed His spiritual glory in three directions. The woman was at once struck with the extraordinary character of this address. She recognized in the language, or in the dress and in the whole bearing of the Man, to what nation He belonged, and could not forbear expressing her astonishment: ‘How is it that Thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?’

Although the woman might vaguely be sensible of the condescension of this wonderful Jew, yet she seemed disposed to gratify her national feeling at His need of help. She lays great stress on the circumstance that He, the supposed proud Jew, is the petitioner, that in His need He is now depending on her benevolence. Her tone leads the Lord to bring forward the opposite relation: that she is the needy person, and that He is the possessor of the true fountain of satisfaction. Oh! hadst thou known to value the gift of God, this singular opportunity, and who it is that offers thee to drink, thou wouldst have asked of Him, and not in vain: He would have given thee living water, water gushing from the fountain. He shows that her answer was quite beside the mark. She made a difficulty of granting the smallest request; He wished from the first to be bountiful to her in granting the highest object of desire. Thus the way of salvation is opened for the heart of a poor creature lost in vanity, but, as it appears, impelled by a deep ardent longing. The woman takes the figurative language literally: ‘Sir,’ she says, ‘Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence, then, hast Thou that living water? Art Thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?’ Still she would persuade herself that He is the needy person, although she cannot get rid of the impression that He is no ordinary man. But since she fancies that He presents Himself to her in Jewish pride as ready to confer a favour, her national feeling rises still higher; she stands before Him as a daughter of Jacob, and will not allow Him to depreciate her Jacob’s well. If one on this occasion spoke to her of superior living water or spring-water, she first of all assumed that he must draw it from the depths of this well. But since Jesus had no vessel for drawing, He seemed disposed to extol perhaps some fountain in the neighbourhood, in preference to the water of this well. But for that He was bound to show a higher authority than that of their father Jacob. Probably it belonged to the orthodoxy of the Samaritans, that the water of this well was superior to that of the neighbouring fountains, and they fortified themselves in this opinion by the authority of the family of Jacob. However sinful the woman was, she strictly adhered to the preservation of the tradition. But Jesus now brought her to institute a comparison between His fountain and her well. ‘Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; 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.’ This is again in the Lord’s wonted manner; it is the decisive word, uttered with the greatest confidence, and rousing the soul of the hearer from its lowest depths. She cannot deny that the water of Jacob’s well, however excellent, cannot quench the thirst for ever. But now she requests the Lord to give her a draught of that water which will quench her thirst for ever. This promise must surely have awakened in her a misgiving feeling of her wants—of the wants of her eternity! Still more the promise, that this mysterious water would be converted in the person who partook of it into a fountain from which streams would flow in rich abundance throughout eternity! The critics make the remark, that in John’s Gospel the Lord always speaks so high, everywhere too high for the understandings of his hearers. It is true He everywhere speaks equally high, down out of high heaven itself, as the Baptist says. And how could He speak lower? But it is manifest that He speaks here as clearly as possible. Nicodemus receives the promise of the Spirit under the image of the blowing wind, of the fresh vitalizing wind which brings the fresh vernal life; the Samaritan woman receives it under the image of a wonderful fountain flowing for ever through an eternal world, and able to quench all her thirst, even her deep, obscure longings. And they both hear Him with a successful result; as all do who hear Him with susceptibility. To this promise the woman answered, ‘Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.’ She can now no longer suppose that He is speaking of earthly water, though she has no clear perception of the heavenly water. At all events, the presentiment of a wonderful satisfying of her unsatisfied life is awakened in her. It is indeed strange that she says, ‘Give me that water, that I come not hither to draw!’ But perhaps the visits of the woman to Jacob’s well were connected with the impression of a meritorious sanctity in them as a kind of religious service. At least, according to Robinson, there must have been wells at Sichem which lay nearer the town. In that case she might easily surmise that her journeys would come to an end as soon as she obtained such satisfaction. At all events, her answer is not to be understood as said in ridicule; it rather seems to express the awakening of an unlimited confidence in this wonderful personage.

The answer of the Lord has been thought strange. Suddenly breaking off from what He had been conversing upon, He commands her, ‘Go, call thy husband, and come hither!’ This apparent digression in the discourse has been thus explained: The woman now required to be led back to her own life—to be conducted to self-knowledge and repentance. And as it was necessary for Nicodemus to get an insight into his entire spiritual ignorance before he could be benefited by higher communications, particularly respecting the person of Jesus, so this woman needed to be made sensible of her own unworthiness. But although the Lord had this result in view, yet He might not have used the requirement, ‘Call thy husband!’ as a pretext in order to lead her to a confession of her criminal course of life. Rather a second motive was combined with that first; and caused Him to ask for her husband. It has been remarked, that it was a rule laid down by the Rabbis, that no man should converse for any length of time with a female, particularly with a stranger, and that Christ had this rule in His eye. Lcke, on the contrary, starts the question, ‘If He had any regard for this, why did He not earlier break off the conversation, or indeed why did He enter upon it at all?’ Certainly Christ, according to rabbinical notions, would not have ventured to enter on such a conversation with the woman. But at this moment a turn occurred in the conversation which made the presence of the husband imperative according to a right superior to the rabbinical, when the wife stood (generally speaking) under the rightful authority of a husband. Hitherto the conversation had been the free intercourse of persons brought transiently into each other’s company, and as such raised above the exactions of a punctilious casuistry or scrupulous conventionality. But now, since the woman had shown herself disposed to become a disciple of Jesus, to enter into a nearer relation to Him, it was proper that her husband should now be present. According to Jewish regulations, a wife was not permitted to receive special religious instruction from a Rabbi without the sanction of her husband; indeed, such a condition is involved in the very nature of the marriage relation. The Lord therefore at this moment required, according to the highest, most exact social rights, that the woman should call her husband, though He already knew that she was not living in lawful wedlock.14 The woman replied, ‘I have no husband.’ Upon that the Lord rejoins, and surely with a penetrating look, ‘Thou hast well said, I have no husband; for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband; in that saidst thou (too) truly.’ Confounded, the woman replied, ‘Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet.’ She admitted that he had hit the mark; that He had by one stroke depicted her life. And that she had been conscience-struck by the words of Jesus, is plain from the sequel; she declared to the people in the city, that Christ had told her all things that ever she did.

We pass over the trivial remarks, by which this wonderful insight of Christ has been accounted for as merely accidental, or represented as a glance of absolute omniscience, and impossible. For it is obvious that we have here to do with the insight of the God-man’s deep knowledge of the soul and of life. That a woman has a husband, or is not a virgin, or that a woman is living in a criminal connection-this might perhaps be found out by any other person well versed in the study of human nature. But Christ could read the whole guilty history of the woman in her appearance. And as the forester concludes respecting the age of a tree from the rings in the wood, so Jesus found the different impressions of the psychical influence of the men with whom the woman had stood transiently in connection, again in her appearance. For it must be granted that every life-relation of this kind will leave a trace behind that is discernible by the eye of the highest intelligence. But especially must the images of these men have been strongly reflected in the psychical life of a woman who had been involved so deeply in the sexual relation. Perhaps, also, she had acquired from one a bigoted, from another a fickle disposition, and from another, again, other traits of character which were distinctly apparent.15 It was sufficient, however, that Jesus read the history of her life in her being, in her soul. He expressed her guilt, but also her misery. She had probably passed through a succession of divorces, of which, at all events, she had shared the criminality, and now lived in an immoral relation, either because her last marriage had not yet been dissolved, or because she had disengaged herself from the obligations of social morality. She was a great sinner, but also unhappy; in spite of all the confused restlessness of her soul in which she had been connected with so many husbands one after another, she had no husband. The words of Jesus had struck her conscience. She admitted her guilt in a dexterous manner, by making the admission to the Lord that He now spoke like a prophet. ‘But great is in her the impression of prophetic knowledge.’ It appears, in fact, that she comes to the following question not merely to ward off Christ’s reproof, but in the earnest spirit of religious inquiry.

She brings forward the most decided point of controversy between the Jews and Samaritans, on which she wished to learn the prophet’s judgment: ‘Our fathers worshipped in this mountain.’ In these words she referred to the adjacent mountain Gerizim, on which the Samaritans formerly, in the time of Nehemiah, had erected a temple, and on which they even now offered their prayers, though about the year 129 John Hyrcanus destroyed the temple. ‘But ye say,’ she continued, ‘that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’ That was the point in dispute. But Jesus shows her the reconciliation in the distance which would consist in a decided elevation of both parties above the ancient antagonism: ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither on this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father.’ Then this division will be made up in a higher union. But in the mean-time He declares that the Jews were in the right in opposition to the Samaritans. ‘Ye worship,’ He says, ‘ye know not what;’ that is, the object of your worship, your God, is no longer an object of true knowledge for you, since you have given up the continuance of His revelations, the constant guidance of His Spirit until the appearing of salvation. ‘But we,’ He adds, ‘know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews.’ The true Jews worship the God of a continued revelation. The proof lies in this, that salvation comes forth from Judaism. Therein it is shown that their worship, in the best part of the nation, in their chosen, is clear, true, knowledge. This knowledge is matured in the life-power and form of salvation. But now He leads the woman beyond the difference between the Jews and Samaritans, after He had humbled the proud Samaritan in her, as a little before He had humbled the sinner. He announces to her a new religion, the commencement of which already existed in the true worshippers. Spirit and Truth are the holy mountains of worship for them, the temples in which they stand to offer prayer. And such worshippers God seeks; His Spirit forms them; and with them alone He enters into an everlasting living communion. And this in conformity to His nature. Since He is spirit, the infinitely free, conscious, omnipresent life, so the worshipper only reaches Him when he worships God in spirit, in the inward self-movement of his own life in God, in the eternity which is exalted above space and time. Only this worshipping in the spirit is real worship at all, the worshipping in truth; a worship in which man so becomes one with God in His all-comprehending life, that Gerizim and Moriah and all the mountain heights of the world are embraced by His prayer, as the being of God embraces them. And as life in the Spirit in union with God makes praying in truth the highest act of life, so on their side this energy of worship, in which man consciously comes before God as the eternal conscious Spirit, leads to life in the Spirit.

The woman begins to reflect on the profound words of the Lord, which affect her whole Samaritan view of the world, and dart the first rays of spiritual life into the murky twilight of her bigotry. Should she give her full confidence to the noble stranger? The question is now respecting the highest spiritual surrender, which she can make only to the Messiah, the expectation of whom is now become alive in her soul with the excitement of her deepest feelings and anticipations. The true-hearted one turns again to the subject with earnestness of spirit: ‘I know,’ she says, ‘that Messiah cometh; and when He is come, He will reveal all things to us.’ Adalbert Maier justly remarks, ‘If the Messianic hope of the Samaritans, who received only the Pentateuch, was founded on Deu 18:15, they must have expected in the Messiah principally a divine teacher who would, like Moses, announce to them the divine will and lead them into truths hitherto concealed.’ He adds, it is in accordance with this that the woman says, when Messiah comes, He will tell us all things; also, the appellation of the Messiah which has been common among the Samaritans, that of the converter (הַתָחֵב ,הַשָֹהֵב), accords with this expectation.

We know not what anticipations might move the woman in the last words. At all events, it must have been a feeling of noble longing with which she sighed for the advent of the Messiah, for the Lord surprised her with the declaration, ‘I that speak unto thee am He.’ He was able to announce Himself as the Messiah, in the outlying world of Samaria, because their minds were not pre-occupied with the proud Messianic conceptions of the Jews. The woman longed after the Revealer of heavenly truth; and now the Converter stood before her!

Meanwhile the disciples returned from the city, and marvelled that He talked with the woman. But they maintained a reverential silence; no one asked what He sought of her, or why He talked with her. But she left her water-pot, hastened to the city, and eagerly said to the people, ‘Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Messiah?’ She publicly proclaims her discovery, and the people are excited;—a multitude hasted from the city to Jesus. But neither the water-pot, which stands at the well as a witness of the mental emotion of the woman, who had left it in such haste, nor the elevated mood of their Lord, can draw the disciples’ attention to the spiritual transaction; they urge Him to eat. To them it seems the time for taking their repast. Then He says, ‘I have meat to eat that ye know not of!’ And now they express to one another the conjecture, that some one had brought Him food. By this sensuous perplexity they occasioned the utterance of that beautiful saying, ‘My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work!’ That was His pleasure, His life, His food!

Thus a glorious noonday scene is exhibited to our sight. The disciples bring earthly food, and wished to arrange the meal. But their Master has forgotten thirst, and forgotten hunger, in order to save the soul of a poor woman. And the woman herself has already experienced the mighty influence of His Spirit; she has forgotten Jacob’s holy well and her water-pot, and shyness before the people, and even the inclination to palliate her course of life, and hastens to the city to spread the knowledge of Him. Jesus goes on to address the disciples: ‘Say ye not, There are yet four months,16 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.’ They saw the Samaritans coming: that was the harvest which their Master saw commencing, and hailed. Then follows the general remark, that in the spiritual field, the sower and the reaper rejoice together;—the reaper, for he receives his reward, and gains the precious fruit, the souls of men; but also the sower, for the reaper brings the fruit into eternal life, so that in the world of everlasting life the sower can celebrate with him the common spiritual harvest feast. And so it must be, the Lord means to say; for in this relation the proverb, One soweth, and another reapeth, first obtains its full essential verification. The expression is primarily used in reference to earthly relations, to signify the fact, that often one must labour by way of preparation for another, or labour vigorously without his seeing himself the fruit of his labours. But that is in a higher measure true in the spiritual field. Here, very often the sowers go very far before the reapers, and die without seeing any fruit. These are the noblest and severest sorrows on earth; herein the whole bitterness of that saying is felt, ‘One soweth, another reapeth.’ But the rich eternity, the world of eternal life, equalizes this disproportion. And thus in our case the word is true in the highest sense, He would further say: ‘I have sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour; other men have laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.’ Taken in their connection, we cannot consider these words as having any reference to the later conversions at Samaria (Act 8:5); and perhaps some would understand them in the sense that the Lord was now sowing the seed, and that they would one day reap the harvest. But this exposition is not admissible, because Christ would in that case mix two images together—one in which He now was reaping the harvest with His disciples, and the other according to which He, as the sower, preceded them, the reapers. But it is evident, and conformably to the Lord, that He gathers in His harvest with the disciples in living unity. Evidently He is speaking of a harvest to be gathered at the time then present, and His disciples must here regard themselves as generally, after the commission they had received, as the reapers. For these reapers the earlier sources of the seed must now be sought. A sowing certainly had taken place in Samaria, first by means of Moses, whose Pentateuch was in constant use among the people, then by the Jewish priests who had converted the heathen population in Samaria to the rudiments of Judaism; but perhaps, last of all, by John the Baptist, who had baptized at Enon near Salim, at all events not far from this region. If we assume that John the Baptist had kindled afresh in Samaria the expectation of the Messiah, we must regard the expression of Jesus as one of mournful recollection. He who had sown the seed would be rejoicing among the reapers in the eternal life of the other world. This mournful consolation was probable, for John had been apprehended a short time before in this district. But if we refer the words of Jesus to those oldest sowers of the divine seed in Samaria, they will appear to us in all their sublimity. Jesus is struck with amazement, that that ancient divine seed in Samaria, of which the sowers were hardly known, which seemed to be lost and buried in half-heathenish superstition, should now spring up suddenly for the harvest; and it testifies to the singular depth, we might say the exalted gratitude, as well as the love of His heart, that at this hour He is mindful of those ancient sowers, and rejoices in their joy to eternal life. In this state of feeling He says, ‘More than ever in the present case is that proverb verified.’

The Evangelist informs us that many people of that city believed on Jesus, in consequence of what the woman had communicated to them; how He had exposed to her what she had done; how He had laid before her the register of her criminal life. Hence these persons invited Him to tarry with them, and He abode there two days. For the disciples, this tended decidedly to promote their general philanthropy; it was a preparation for their future universal apostolic ministry. But now many more Samaritans believed on Jesus, and with a very different decisiveness, for they heard His own word; and they declared to the woman that their faith no longer stood on her report, which now seemed to them as insignificant (as λαλιά) compared with what they heard from Jesus Himself. They themselves had now heard Him, and knew that this was in truth the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. A quiet blessing rested on that harvest, which the Lord with His disciples had reaped in Samaria. It did not extend over the whole country. Hatred against the Jews formed too great an obstacle (Luk 9:51). Nor was it the design of Jesus to include Samaria generally in His ministry, since in doing so He might have seriously injured or ruined His ministry in Judea17 (Mat 10:5). But the harvest was at the same time a sowing which, after the day of Pentecost, ripened into a fresh harvest, and from Sichem came forth one of the most distinguished apologists of the ancient Church, Justin Martyr.18



1. Jacob’s ‘parcel of ground’ is situated on a plain to the east of Sichem (Robinson’s Biblical Researches, ii. 287). In going from Judea to Galilee this plain is passed through from south to north, and the valley of the city of Sichem, which runs between the mountains Gerizim and Ebal in a north-western direction, is on the left (Robinson, ii. 274). Hence Christ might send His disciples in that direction to the city, and wait for them at the well: by so doing He would remain meanwhile in the ordinary travelling route. This ‘parcel of ground’ was a constant possession of the children of Israel in North Palestine from the days of Jacob. According to Gen 33:19, the patriarch bought it of the children of Hamor. At a later period (Gen. 34) Simeon and Levi took possession by force of the valley and Sichem, the city of Sichem the son of Hamor. To this event probably the expression in Gen 48:22 refers, which the Septuagint distinctly explains of Sichem.19 But perhaps the language of the patriarch is figurative, and means, ‘I gained the parcel of ground which I gave to Joseph by my sword and bow;’ that is, by fair purchase, not by the sword and bow of his violent sons. According to Jos 24:32, the bones of Joseph were buried here on the conquest of Canaan, and the ground became the inheritance of the sons of Joseph. Abraham himself made the first acquisition of the theocratic race in Canaan, when he purchased the field of Ephron, with the cave in Hebron, for a burial-place (Gen. 23.) This was the first possession of Israel in the southern part of the land.

2. On the history of the hatred between the Jews and Samaritans, see Robinson, ii. 289. The religious archives of the Samaritans consist of a peculiar text of the Pentateuch,20 and ‘a sort of chronicle extending from Moses to the time of Alexander Severus, and which, in the period parallel to the book of Joshua, has a strong affinity with that book;’ besides ‘a curious collection of hymns, discovered by Gesenius in a Samaritan manuscript in England’ (Robinson, ii. 299). A knowledge of the religious opinions of the modern Samaritans has been derived from Samaritan letters, which, since the year 1589, have been received at various times in a correspondence carried on between the Samaritans and European scholars. Since the Samaritan religion was only a stagnant form of the ancient Mosaism in traditionary ordinances, which wanted, together with the living spirit of Mosaism, the formative power, the ability of advancing through prophecy to the New Testament, it is not surprising that the expectation of the Messiah among the Samaritans appears only as a stunted copy of its first Mosaic form. With this remark we may set aside what Bruno Bauer (Kritik der evang. Geschichte der Johannes, p. 415) has inferred from the Samaritan letter against the existence of a Messianic expectation among the Samaritans. In the Hatthaheb, whom they designated as their messiah, they could only have expected the appearance of the Deity returning to them. But the hope of an appearance of the Deity, or the transient revelation of an ‘archangel,’ must never be confounded with the theocratical expectation of a revelation of the Deity transforming the historical relations of the people. It is in favour of the originality of the Messianic expectation of the Samaritans, that they gave the Messiah a peculiar name. Robinson’s Samaritan guide showed him and his fellow-travellers on Mount Gerizim twelve stones, which he said were brought out of Jordan by the Israelites, and added, ‘And there they will remain until el-Muhdy (the Guide) shall appear. This,’ he said, ‘and not the Messiah, is the name they give to the expected Saviour’ (ii. 278). Baumgarten-Crusius, in his Commentary on John (p. 162), remarks, that he could cite it as the last word of Gesenius on this subject, that he had explained this Messianic name el-Muhdy, the leader, as equivalent to the earlier name Hathaf or Tahef, which, according to the explanation of Gesenius, denotes the restorer of the people in a spiritual and moral sense. In this question, as Von Ammon21 justly remarks, the fact is of great importance, that Dositheus,22 in the first century of the Christian era, could act the part of a false Messiah among the Samaritans, and likewise the influence which in a similar manner Simon Magus managed to gain among them when he represented himself as the great power of God (Act 8:9-10). In addition to the above-named, Baumgarten-Crusius mentions also Menander. Very important is the fact brought forward by the last-named theologian, that the apostles (according to Acts 8) found so early an entrance into Samaria on the ground of the Messianic faith. It was indeed very possible that the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well made use of another term for designating the Messiah; but the term here given may be referred to the presumed ministry of the Baptist in Samaria.23

3. The coincidence noticed by Hengstenberg and others, of the five husbands of the Samaritan woman with the fivefold idolatrous worship which, according to 2 Ki 17:24, was practised by the five nations from Assyria, and the relation of the sixth husband, who was not the legal husband of the woman, to the mixed Jehovah-worship of the Samaritans, is an ingenious combination of the ‘coincidence of the history of this woman with the political history of the Samaritan people,’ which, according to Baumgarten-Crusius (Commentar z. Joh. 153), ‘is so striking, that we might be disposed to find in this language a Jewish proverb respecting the Samaritans applied to an individual of the nation.’ But thus much is clear in the simple historical construction of the Gospel, that Jesus makes the remark to the woman in a literal sense respecting the husbands whom she formerly had and the one whom she then had. For, had He wished to upbraid the national guilt of the Samaritans by an allegorical proverb, He could not have made use of the accidental turn which the conversation took by the guilty consciousness of the woman in order to appear as a prophet; but He would have felt Himself still more bound to have further developed the obscure proverb. Add to this, the Samaritan people practised the five modes of idolatrous worship and the service of Jehovah simultaneously, while this parallel is wanting in the history of the woman. At all events, an allegorical representation of the relation must have treated quite differently those historical relations. According to prophetic analogies, it must have been said inversely, Thou hast lived at the same time with five paramours, and now thou hast not returned to thy lawful husband; thou dost not yet fully belong to him. But allowing the simple fact of the narrative to remain intact, there lies in the aforenamed reference of it certainly no more than a significant, striking correspondency of the relations of this woman to the religious relations of her nation.



1) That the name of Jesus is introduced here instead of the pronoun, makes the sentence appear as a report,—as the report of those who had first stated the fact to the Pharisees.

2) See Maier's Commentar, p. 327.

3) On Wieseler’s chronological view in his Chronol. Syn. p. 224, compare what has been said above, p. 4.

4) Wieseler adopts the latest terminus, since he puts off the journey to January 782. [Meyer, Lichtenstein, and Ellicott prefer December, Alford thinks that ver. 35 does not afford a safe chronological datum.—ED.]

5) Maier, Commentar, p. 328.

6) שְֹכֶם, Συχὲμ, Σίκιμὸ (Acts vii. 16), afterwards Flavia Neapolis, in honour of the Emperor Vespasian—the modern Nablûs.

7) The derivation is ‘ either from שֶֹקֶר, a lie, the lying city, alluding to the Samaritan worship on Mount Gerizim, at the foot of which Sichem lay; or from שִֹבּר, drunken, with a reference to Isa. xxviii. 1, where Samaria is called ‘the crown of pride to the drunkards of Ephraim.” In Sirach 1. 26 it is said, καὶ ὁ λαὸς μωρὸς ὀ κατοικῶν ἐν Σικίμοις.’—Lücke, i. 577.

8) So Hug in his Einleitung, iii, 218, derives the word from סוכד, remarking that it denotes the burial-place where the bones of Joseph (Josh, xxiv. 32) and according to a report common in the time of Jesus, the bodies of the twelve patriarchs of the people of Israel were deposited (Acts vii. 15, 16).

9) In the Talmud, the name of a place עין סוכר occurs, Wieseler finds in this (p. 256) a designation of the city of Sychar, since he translates the words the fountain of Sychar. Apart from this, the appellation of the fountain of the sepulchre might, conneet for the Israelites, in a very significant manner, the hallowed well of Jacob with the hallowed sepulchre, and thus the name Sychar might originate.

10) It is worthy of notice, that according to both Schubert and Robinson, the ancient Sichem was situated nearer Jacob's well than the modern town. Besides this, it is to be observed, that in the days of Eusebias, Syehar and Sichem were regarded as two places ; a view to which Eusebius himself assents (Onomast. art. Sichar, Sichem). Robinson would find in this tradition confusion and inconsistency, but does not give his reasons (ii, 262). But if Jerome treated the reading Sychar in the Gospel of John as false, this at least is important, that in his treating of the Onomasticon of Ensebias he passes over his view of it in silence.

11) Palästina, p. 159.

12) Biblical Researches, ii. 275.

13) It must not be forgotten that Robinson saw Gerizim in the middle of June. But in the hot season many tracts of the warm south lose the ornament of grass and other kinds of vegetation which they possess in another part of the year, Von Schubert saw Gerizim in April, yet he speaks only of the foot df the mountain, which he describes as fertile compared with Ebal. In the same way it may be explained that Robinson found Jacob's well dry. Schubert, on the contrary, tasted its ‘refreshing water.’

14) [The author has been censured for this interpretation, on the ground that, in the ease of this woman, who had but a paramour and no husband, there was no ‘social right’ existing which our Lord could meet. On the other hand, it is diffident to believe that our Lord had no meaning in His order, save to convince of sin; that He did not intend that, first of all, His order should be executed, ‘Nugas sane meras hic agunt Patres, qnando ea de causa id postulatum esse putant, quod non satis honestum videretur, nupte mulieri quicquam donari inseio marito. ... Neque tamen ctiam illis adscendo, qui simulato soltun Jesum id jussisse volunt, ut scilicet tantum viam ad sequens colloquium idoneam sterneret’ (Lampe, i. 729). If, then, our Lord wished the woman to bring her husband, what was the reason of this? May it not have been that, in the presence of him with whom she had sinned, she might be shown the evil of her sin; and that, with the reality of her guilty life thus distinctly brought to view, she might receive that ‘living water’ she had asked for? Otherwise, she night have thought it a gift that bore no relation to her present guilt and future character.—ED. ]

15) [Yet if such insight as this is not to be ascribed to the divinity of Christ's person, it is difficult to select or suppose any case in which His divinity may be said to be operative. If it is not to be kept in the background throughout His life, and conceived of as a mere inoperative constituent of His person, as the necessary condition or substratum of perfect humanity, then surely this is an instance of which we may say, Divinity is here directly in exercise. We would not, as is too commonly done, separate what God has so joined that they never exist in separation ; we would not say, Up to this point humanity is in exercise, and here divinity comes into action; but we would point to such cases as that before us, and say confidently, There is something more than mere human faculty.—ED.]

16) If Jesus had not uttered this saying to the disciples nearly about the time of sowing, He must either have used it as a proverb, or probably must have said : Do not you generally say about seed-time, There are four months to harvest, &e. ? (see Wieseler, p. 216.) The seed-time in Palestine lasted altogether from the end of October to the beginning of February, ‘The harvest began on the plains generally in the middle of April (in the month of Abib), but it was formally opened on the second day of the Passover, therefore on the 16th of Nisan, and lasted till Pentecost. The first reaping was the barley, sown perhaps in November and December, or in part still later, in January, Here the proverb would apply, if they reckoned the intervening months in the gross.’—Lücke, i. 605, The proverbial expression of four months for the time from sowing to harvest is stated from the Jews by Lightfoot and Wetstein, and from Varro by Wetstein,’—Baumgurten-Crusius, p. 166,

17) Strauss (i. 537) finds a contradiction between the command excluding the Samaritans in the instructions given by Jesus to His disciples, and His own journey to the Samaritans previously to giving those instructions. But if this connection with the Samaritans be properly estimated, it will rather tend to confirm those instructions, We find that Jesus, in travelling through, only concerned Himself with the Samaritans in consequence of being in their vicinity ; that He spent only two days with them, while He devoted the whole time of His ministry to Judea, Galilee, and Perea. Heuce it follows that His plan, which His disciples were to follow literally, required the temporary exclusion of Samaria from His ministry, while His spirit contemplated them as called with the rest; and accordingly He attended to the Samaritans when an occasion offered, and in preference to the Gentiles.

18) [See Semisch’s monograph On the Life, Writings, and Opinions of Justin Martyr, translated by J. E, Ryland, 2 vols, Edinburgh, 1544: in Clark's Biblical Cubinet.]

19) I have given thee one portion (שְֹכֶם) above thy brethren’—A, V. Ἐγὼ δὲ δίδωμί σοι Σίκιμα ἐξαίρετον ὑπὲρ τοὺς ἀδελφούς σου.—LXX.

20) [On the Samaritan Pentateuch, see Hävernick’s Introd. to the Pentateuch, 431.—ED.]

21) Die Geschichte des Lebens Jesu, i. 354.

22) [Neander's Church History, ii, 123 (Bohn’s Tr.); Dr Lange, Die Apostolische Zeitulter, ii, 103, 104; Braunschweig, 1854; Gieseler, Lehrbuch der Kirchengeschichte, i. 63.—TR]

23) [On the Samaritan expectation of a Messiah, see Heugstenberg’s Christology, i. 75 (2d edit. Clark), and the references there.—ED.]