We saw in our last study of the Fourth Gospel that Yeshua was leaving or abandoning Jerusalem and heading north to Samaria:
He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria. John 4:3-4 NASB
The word "had" in this text is the Greek word dei. It is often translated "must" in the Fourth Gospel. I think the "must" is a prophetic must. By going through Samaria Yeshua is fulfilling prophecy. Yahweh had promised to once again call the Samaritans "the sons of the living God." So Yeshua, in fulfilment of prophecy, is taking the Gospel to the Samaritans. He had left Jerusalem and spent some time in Judea:
After these things Yeshua and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing. John 3:22 NASB
"After these things"—is referring to Yeshua and His disciples time in Jerusalem, when He cleansed the Temple and had His conversation with Nicodemus. At some point "after these things" they went out of Jerusalem into the countryside of Judea.
Israel was divided into three regions back then. Judea was in the South and included Jerusalem; north of Judea was Samaria; and north of Samaria was the region of Galilee, which included the Sea of Galilee.
So in John 4 Yeshua is headed to Samaria where John the Baptist had been preparing his way.
John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized— John 3:23 NASB
Both of these places are in Samaria. So John had been in Samaria preaching and baptizing, preparing the way for Yeshua the Messiah and now Yeshua heads there.
We see in our text that Yeshua is following the order that He commanded the apostles and disciples to take as they took the Gospel message to humanity:
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." Acts 1:8 NASB
Yeshua first preached in Jerusalem, then Judea and now He was on His way to take the Gospel to Samaria.
As we look at our text for this morning keep in mind what we looked at last week as far as the hatred between the Jews and Samaritans. And let me add this to what I said last week. In the second century B.C. the Samaritans helped the Syrians in their wars against the Jews. Then in 128 B.C. the Jewish high priest retaliated and burned the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerazim. Lots of bad blood.
As we look at this text we also need to notice the contrasts between Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. Nicodemus was an eminent representative of orthodox Judaism. Now Lazarus records an interview Yeshua had with one who stood for a class that was wholeheartedly despised by orthodox Judaism. From the point of view of the orthodox Jew there were three strikes against the Samaritan woman: She was a Samaritan, a woman, and a sexual sinner.
So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; John 4:5 NASB
The word Sychar is probably the Greek version of the name of the ancient city of Shechem. The Aramaic name for Shechem is Sichara, which is very similar to the name Sychar. Some scholars identify Sychar as the present day Arab village of Askar at the foot of Mt. Ebal. But recent archaeological excavations have ruled out Askar as the site of this 1st century A.D. village. Askar was not inhabited until the early Middle Ages. The ancient site of Shechem, however, fits both theological and geographically in the encounter between Yeshua and the people of Samaria. The ancient site of Shechem is at the entrance to the mountain pass that is traversed by the road from Jerusalem to the North. The city was destroyed in A.D.67 by the Roman Army of Vespasian and was never rebuilt.
If you are familiar with the Tanakh, Yeshua's meeting with the Samaritan woman at Shechem is thought provoking. We saw last week from 1 Kings 12:1-25, that it was at Shechem that the 12 tribes assembled to proclaim Rehoboam, son of Solomon, as King of Israel:
Then Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. 1 Kings 12:1 NASB
Shechem was the site of the beginning of the end of Israel as a united kingdom. After the civil war the rebel Jeroboam, the new King of Israel, makes Shechem his capital. It is at this very site that Yeshua begins to reunite the twelve tribes as promised in:
Then it will happen on that day that the Lord Will again recover the second time with His hand The remnant of His people, who will remain, From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, And from the islands of the sea. 12 And He will lift up a standard for the nations, And will assemble the banished ones of Israel, And will gather the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth. Isaiah 11:11-12 NASB
The Assyrians had scattered them, but Yahweh had promised to re-gather them. And the re-gathering was about to begin with one Samaritan women.
Just to give you another interesting fact about Shechem. When the Israelites conquered and settled Canaan, they brought with them out of Egypt the bones of their ancestor Joseph, and buried them at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem.
and Jacob's well was there. So Yeshua, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. John 4:6 NASB
At the end of verse 5 and the beginning of verse 6 it says, "Near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob's well was there"—as we'll see as we go on in the story it seems as though this woman (and perhaps the Samaritans more generally) took pride in claiming Jacob as their forefather.
The Greek word that Lazarus uses to describe this "well" in this verse is pege, meaning "a running spring." But in verses 11 and 12 he uses the word phrear, meaning a cistern or dug-out well. So it seems that "Jacob's Well" was both a spring and a well. It was a deep hole that Jacob had dug in the ground, that was fed by a spring. The site is still a popular tourist attraction, and the deep spring still flows. Edersheim estimated (in 1886) that the well was originally about 150 feet deep.
"So Yeshua, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well— the word "wearied," is kopiao, which means: "to be to the point of sweat and exhaustion." The Greek tense indicates that he had become tired and remained exhausted. So we see that Yeshua was tired and thirsty. People have used verses like this to try to prove that Yeshua was not Yahweh. What they don't understand is the Hypostatic Union.
At the incarnation, God the Son, the Second person of the One Triune God, was forever joined to true humanity. This joining together has been designated as the Hypostatic Union. Hypostatic is from the Greek word hupostasis, which means: "substance or essence." In theological language, it means: "person." So the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union is the doctrine of the personal union of the two natures, the divine and the human, of the Lord Yeshua the Christ.
Yeshua is 100% God and 100% man. This is where we get the theological term "theanthropic," which comes from theos, which means: "God" and "anthropos," which means: "man." Yeshua is the God-Man. He is One person with two natures.
This twofold nature enables Him to present to both God and man proper terms of reconciliation. Being man, He can make atonement for man; being God, His atonement has infinite value.
His weariness and thirst were experiences that arose out of His human nature. He was conscious of thirst, and He was conscious of weariness. But He was also conscious at the same time that He was the eternal and only begotten Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. This is clear from the words that He speaks to Samaritan woman:
but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." John 4:14 NASB
Later in the conversation Yeshua says:
The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." Yeshua said to her, "I who speak to you am He." John 4:25-26 NASB
So at the same time He felt fatigue and thirst in His body, He was conscious in His divine nature that He was the eternal Second Person of the Trinity.
He must be the divine person in order that His redemptive work may have that infinite value, but He also must have a human nature not simply to become our substitute, but also in order that He may understand and experience the experiences of genuine humanity. He can be our great High Priest and understand the things that we experience because He is truly one of us. He possesses a true and genuine humanity apart from sin.
"Behold, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. "In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, 'The LORD our righteousness.' Jeremiah 23:5-6 NASB
In verse 5, we see that He is a descendant of David, which speaks of His humanity. Then in verse 6, He is called, "The Lord our Righteousness," which speaks of His divinity.
Yeshua the Christ is One person with Two natures, we cannot illustrate this in the human realm. Yeshua is different from God in that He is mankind, and different from mankind in that He is God. Yeshua is the unique person of the universe. He is the God-Man. Believers, there is a man in heaven who knows exactly what it is like to be human, he knows our pains and sufferings, and as God, He can get us through them.
"It was about the sixth hour"—this number may be literal or it may be symbolic. Six is the number of man/ humanity. Man and woman were both created on the 6th day. Six is also the number symbolic of man in rebellion. But, if the time is literal, then the question is does Lazarus use Jewish or Roman time? If it were Jewish time, the time would be 12 noon. If the time is Roman time it could be 6AM or 6PM, the normal times that the women of the village would come to the village well, at the beginning and at the end of the day.
Those scholars who support Jewish time point out that this woman is leading a disreputable life and so would be restricted from coming to the village water source with the other women, but if that is the case it does seem unusual that her testimony of Yeshua as the Messiah in verses 28-30 would be so readily accepted by the people of her village. That she may lead a sinful life by Jewish standards does not mean the Samaritan people judged such behavior in the same light. Samaritan customs were not as strict and that was part of reason why the Jews considered the Samaritans to be an unclean, heretical people as bad as or worse than other Gentiles.
Some scholars argue that John followed Roman time, which began at midnight. But there is little evidence for that view. It seem best to see Lazarus here as meaning noon, not 6 p.m. Nicodemus comes to Yeshua at night, but the conversation with Samaritan woman takes place at high noon.
There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Yeshua said to her, "Give Me a drink." John 4:7 NASB
"There came a woman of Samaria to draw water"—as I said earlier, this woman has three strikes against her, she is a Samaritan, she is guilty of sexual immorality, and third, she is a woman. We talked last week about how the Jews felt toward the Samaritans. We know from Scripture exactly how the Pharisees would have dealt with such a woman:
Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner." Luke 7:36-39 NASB
This woman will be surprised that she doesn't get this kind of treatment from Yeshua.
So here we have Yeshua meeting a woman at a well. What's interesting is that three times in the Tanakh we see a man finding a woman at a well. In Genesis 24:10-67—Rebecca, the future bride of Isaac, is found at a well by Abraham's servant. In Genesis 29:1-30—Jacob (Israel) meets Rachel, his future bride, at a well. And in Exodus 2:15-21—Moses meets Zipporah, his bride, at a well. So we see over and over that a bride is courted at a well. And here Yeshua the divine bridegroom has come to court His Covenant Bride, Israel (Samaria), as symbolized by this woman and as promised by the prophet of Yahweh in Hosea chapter 2:
"I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In lovingkindness and in compassion, And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD. Hosea 2:19-20 NASB
"I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they will say, 'You are my God!'" Hosea 2:23 NASB
So Yeshua, the Bridegroom, meeting this Samaritan woman at the well has much symbolism which Lazarus earlier prepared us for:
"He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. John 3:29 NASB
The Bridegroom as come for His bride.
"Yeshua said to her, 'Give Me a drink'"—this is an aorist active imperative which carried a sense of some urgency. In doing this, Yeshua violated a number of social customs of that time. The normal prejudices of the day prohibited public conversation between men and women, between Jews and Samaritans, and especially between strangers. A Jewish Rabbi would rather go thirsty than violate these proprieties.
Remember the Samaritans were considered to be worse than Gentiles! The Jews typically regarded the Samaritans as unclean apostates. Shortly after this incident, the Jews made a law stating that "the daughters of the Samaritans are menstruants from their cradle"—and therefore perpetually unclean. Mishnah Niddah 4:1. The Pharisees actually prayed that no Samaritan would be raised in the resurrection! This accounts for the woman's shock at Yeshua's request.
Considering the depth of this breach between Samaritans and Jews, you may understand the importance of Yeshua's teachings about Samaritans in His parable of the "Good Samaritan" where a Lawyer knowing that he should love his neighbor asks Yeshua, "Who is my neighbor?" The Lord answers in the parable where a Samaritan acted on his compassion and helped a man in need at great risk to himself. Yeshua then asks the "expert in the Torah":
"Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" Luke 10:36 NASB
Yeshua asks, "Who is the neighbor?" Most commentators and Bible teachers say that your neighbor is anyone with a need. Is that right? According to the text, who is the neighbor?:
And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." And Yeshua said to him, "Go and do the same." Luke 10:37 NASB
Who is the neighbor? The one who showed mercy. Who was that? The guy that was beaten up? No! It was the Samaritan! So what is the answer to the man's original question: Who is my neighbor? The Samaritan! Who is it that you have to love? The Samaritans! Yeshua was forcing this man to say: Even my enemy is my neighbor. Yeshua says to the man: "You go, love your enemy!"
In our text Yeshua asks this woman for a drink. In order for this woman to give Him a drink he would have to drink from her cup or bucket. In New Testament times Jews assumed that Samaritans were ritually unclean and thus to have contact with them was to render oneself ritually unclean. To share a drinking vessel with the Samaritan woman was a dramatic disregarding of the details of Pharisaic interpretation of the Old Covenant Law. Notice what Peter says to his Gentile audience:
And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. Acts 10:28 NASB
The word "unlawful" here is from the Greek word athemitos. It emphasizes the violation of established order. It means: "taboo." The Old Covenant Ceremonial Law didn't say that it was unlawful for Jews to keep company with Gentiles; the rabbis added that. The rabbis said that going into a Gentile home resulted in a seven-day defilement.
So by talking to this woman and asking her for a drink Yeshua is rejecting the basic assumptions of Pharisaic Judaism.
For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. John 4:8 NASB
He sent the disciples into a Samaritan town to buy what? Food. They were going to eat Samaritan food bought out of the hands of Samaritans. Pharisees would not have purchased food from Samaritans as Yeshua's disciples were attempting to do.
Why did all the disciples go to buy food? How many men does it take to buy lunch? Yeshua must have wanted to be alone with this woman so He sent the disciples away:
Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) John 4:9 NASB
This woman is astonished at Yeshua's willingness to speak to her and reminds Him of proper Jewish/Samaritan etiquette. That raises a question, How did she know He was a Jew? Probably from His clothing:
"Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. Numbers 15:38 NASB
These tassels on the corners of their garment would distinguish them as Jews.
(For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans)—with this parenthetical statement Lazarus explained for his readers who were unfamiliar with Palestinian prejudices that the Jews did not have dealing with Samaritans. We saw in verse 8 that the disciples were gone away into the city to buy food, so it's obvious that they did have some dealings with the Samaritans. So why does Lazarus say this? The Greek word used here is sugchraomai, which means: "use the same objects or utensils." Literally, the verb is, "They don't use the same utensils." Or "use not anything together with Samaritans." They don't use the same things. They don't drink out of the same cup. It's very specific. It's not saying they have no dealings, it's saying they don't use the same utensils.
This woman is saying, "I know your culture, I know what you think about us." And Yeshua shattered that because that was non-biblical tradition. That kind of hatred toward the Samaritans that came from the Jews was wrong, it was illegitimate:
Yeshua answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." John 4:10 NASB
Just like in His conversation with Nicodemus, Yeshua uses the words of the other person as a catalyst to deliberately turn the conversation into a spiritual challenge aimed at confronting the person with his/her need for spiritual life.
Both Nicodemus and the woman initially understood Yeshua's words in a straight, literal, physical sense. Nicodemus thinks he is talking about physical birth; the woman thinks He is talking about physical water. Both see the impossibility of the physical action that they think Yeshua is talking about. Nicodemus knows it is impossible for a man to enter his mother's womb and be reborn; the woman knows that this stranger cannot give her water because he has no bucket.
Yeshua points both to the unseen, spiritual dimension of which He is really speaking. There is a "birth" which is spiritual, not physical. There is "water" that eternally sustains and satisfies spiritual life, not physical life, so that one is never spiritually thirsty ever again.
"Yeshua answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God"—"If" here is a second class conditional sentence which is called "contrary to fact." A statement is made that is false to highlight a conclusion that is also false. She didn't know the gift of God.
Yeshua implied that God had a greater gift for her, and that He had the authority to give it to her. The word that Yeshua used for "gift" (Gr. dorea) occurs only here in the Gospels. Judaism used the phrase, "gift of God," to refer to the Torah. However, on some occasions, Jews referred to the Messiah as "the gift of God." Perhaps more likely, "the gift of God" would be understood as the Holy Spirit. Most interpreters understand Yeshua's reference to "the gift of God" as a reference to the Holy Spirit or eternal life.
"He would have given you living water"—the word "living" is from the Greek word zoe which means: "life or to live." The "living water" that Yeshua promised has two meanings. Literally it refers to flowing water in contrast to stagnant water. Metaphorically it refers to the cleansing and refreshing grace that the Holy Spirit brings. Just as in His encounter with Nicodemus, Yeshua uses common words and expressions to express a deeper teaching.
The Tanakh used "water" to symbolize teaching or doctrine, and "living water" as a metaphor for Yahweh:
"For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13 NASB
They have rejected the fresh, running supply of God's faithful goodness, choosing instead the stagnant waters of cisterns they themselves prepared:
O LORD, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the LORD. Jeremiah 17:13 NASB
Both of these verses refer to Yahweh as "living water." Zechariah 14:8 speaks of living waters flowing out of Jerusalem in the day of the Messiah. Ezekiel 47 spokes of water flowing out of the Temple that brought life in the desert:
"It will come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Ezekiel 47:9 NASB
The Greek phrase, "living water," might also be translated "water of living," or "water of life." Yeshua is speaking of "living water." which here is spiritual life given by the Spirit. This is a Johannine figure for the Holy Spirit:
"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified. John 7:38-39 NASB
So "living water" is the Spirit who gives life!
She said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? John 4:11 NASB
"She said to Him, 'Sir'"—the Greek word translated "sir" here is kurios, which means both: "sir" and "lord." She is addressing Yeshua with increasing respect, unlike Nicodemus who becomes more skeptical in each exchange in his encounter with Yeshua.
"Where then do You get that living water?"—as Nicodemus did earlier, the woman takes Yeshua literally. She thinks Yeshua is telling her that He can give her better water than that which this well provides. By "living water," she understands Yeshua to be speaking of flowing water. Considering that they are at a well it is natural that she is thinking of water on a materially, earthly level as "flowing" water which is a preferable source of water to stagnant well water. Since Yeshua has nothing to draw the water with, she asks, "Where are you going to get the water from?":
"You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?" John 4:12 NASB
To obtain water on this spot, even the patriarch Jacob found it necessary to dig a well and he also had to have the means for raising the water from the deep hole. If Yeshua was offering fresh water without having to dig and without means for raising the water He was greater than Jacob.
This is an example of Lazarus' use of irony. The woman is using Jacob as her authority. Since the 5 different foreign colonists imported into the region intermarried with the remnant of Israelites who had not been deported and assumed their worship, Jacob (Israel) became in some cases a physical "father," but in all cases a spiritual "father." But she is also unconsciously and ironically stating a truth; Yeshua is greater than Jacob!
Her reference to "our father Jacob" may have been a barb, designed to remind this Jew that Jacob was the Samaritans' ancestor as well as the Jews'. The Samaritans traced their descent from Jacob through Joseph and his sons: Ephraim and Manasseh.
The contrast between Yeshua and Judaism is again obvious. Jacob, a Jewish patriarch, gave the well that fails to satisfy thirst. Yeshua provides the water that forever satisfies. There is also a contrast between container and contents. Jacob provided the well, but the water was God's gift. Yeshua does not come offering a well, a container; rather He offers water, the content of the well. Thus Yeshua offers what only God could provide according to Judaism. This is a key point for Lazarus. The implication is that Yeshua provided the Spirit rather than the form for worship.
As we saw earlier the Tanakh uses of the expression "fountain of waters" is used of Yahweh. So Yeshua is reminding this woman of the fact that He not only is greater than Jacob, but He is Jacob's God! He's the one with whom Jacob wrestled at Peniel. He's the one who stood by Jacob at Bethel and gave him those great promises. He's the one who was there, who said, the elder shall serve the younger. Here He is standing in front of the woman who's citing Jacob:
Yeshua answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." John 4:13-14 NASB
To be able to provide such water, Yeshua would indeed have to be "greater"than Jacob. Yeshua described this water as "welling (springing) up" within the individual. Clearly He was referring to the "Holy Spirit" who provides eternal life.
The Greek verb for "springing up" referred to the quick movements that living beings (both animals and people) make when they jump, dart, and run. The Greek translation of the Tanakh (the Septuagint) used this same verb to describe God's spirit coming upon Samson, Saul, and David. In John 7:37-39 living water is specifically stated to mean the Holy Spirit. So clearly Yeshua was referring to the Holy Spirit in this text.
The verb "drink" in verse 14 is in the aorist tense. This means that the author has in mind the single act or event of taking a drink. He is not referring to frequent and repeated drinking as would be the case with drinking literal or ordinary water. It is the event of receiving the Holy Spirit that satisfies thirst forever.
In the encounter with Nicodemus, the teaching is that through water and the Spirit a new birth is promised. In the encounter with the Samaritan woman, the symbolism is different: not a birth through water, but the drinking of living water. Nevertheless, in both cases, the water is a symbol of the Spirit:
The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw." John 4:15 NASB
She still doesn't get it. She hasn't realized that He is referring to "living" and not "flowing" water. She is still thinking on a, literal plane. She wanted the water so she didn't have to keep coming to the well to draw water.
Yeshua broke a lot of cultural taboos by getting into a conversation with this woman. So let me ask us, "What cultural taboos do we face that may keep us from talking with sinners about Christ?"