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Song of Solomon
John 4:4 MEANING
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Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
He must needs go through Samaria
--i.e., following the shortest and most usual road, and the one we find Him taking from Galilee to Jerusalem (
; see Note there). Josephus spoke of this as the customary way of the Galileans going up during the feasts at Jerusalem (
xx. 6, ? 1). The Pharisees, indeed, took the longer road through Peraea, to avoid contact with the country and people of Samaria, but it is within the purpose of His life and work ("needs go,"
i.e., was necessary that He should go
) to teach in Samaria, as in Judaea, the principles of true religion and worship, which would cut away the foundations of all local jealousies and feuds, and establish for all nations the spiritual service of the universal Father (
And he must needs go through Samaria.
There was no physical necessity about it. He might, as bigoted Jews were accustomed to do, have crossed the Jordan and passed through Peraea instead. There was no such animus in the heart of Jesus, and a Divine and providential monition was the occasion of his taking the direct road. Geikie has drawn a vivid picture of the difficulties to which Jewish travellers on the borders of Samaria were exposed (see
; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 20:06. 1; 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:12. 4; 'Vit.,' 52), and also of the physical features of the land. Samaria, as a name of the small district of central Palestine, arose from the name of the city "Samaria," built by Omri, and made the site of the kingdom of Israel (
1 Kings 16:24
), and that of the Baal- and of the calf-worship. Samaria suffered from the siege, and the city was depopulated by Shalmanezer (Sargon), and colonized with Assyrians under Esarhaddon. It was destroyed by Hyrcanus, and rebuilt in splendour by Herod the Great, and by him dedicated to Augustus, and called
after him. Though Shechem (equivalent to Sichem) was the more famous site, and overshadowed Herod's city by its historical interest, yet "Samaria" was the name which has survived all others, and covered a larger space. Jesus was probably on the borders of Samaria, in the Judaean country, before he commenced his journey. Samaria was included in the tetrarchy of Archelaus, and formed part of the province under the pro-curatorship of Pontius Pilate; while Herod Antipas reigned over Galilee and Persia. The Lord was fulfilling the Divine will, in commencing his Galilaean ministry, in leaving Judaea proper for the present, and passing through Samaria. It is worthy of notice that John here attributes to "the Pharisees," rather than "the Jews," the opposition which indicated the wisdom or necessity of this course.
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
4:4-26 There was great hatred between the Samaritans and the Jews. Christ's road from Judea to Galilee lay through Samaria. We should not go into places of temptation but when we needs must; and then must not dwell in them, but hasten through them. We have here our Lord Jesus under the common fatigue of travellers. Thus we see that he was truly a man. Toil came in with sin; therefore Christ, having made himself a curse for us, submitted to it. Also, he was a poor man, and went all his journeys on foot. Being wearied, he sat thus on the well; he had no couch to rest upon. He sat thus, as people wearied with travelling sit. Surely, we ought readily to submit to be like the Son of God in such things as these. Christ asked a woman for water. She was surprised because he did not show the anger of his own nation against the Samaritans. Moderate men of all sides are men wondered at. Christ took the occasion to teach her Divine things: he converted this woman, by showing her ignorance and sinfulness, and her need of a Saviour. By this living water is meant the Spirit. Under this comparison the blessing of the Messiah had been promised in the Old Testament. The graces of the Spirit, and his comforts, satisfy the thirsting soul, that knows its own nature and necessity. What Jesus spake figuratively, she took literally. Christ shows that the water of Jacob's well yielded a very short satisfaction. Of whatever waters of comfort we drink, we shall thirst again. But whoever partakes of the Spirit of grace, and the comforts of the gospel, shall never want that which will abundantly satisfy his soul. Carnal hearts look no higher than carnal ends. Give it me, saith she, not that I may have everlasting life, which Christ proposed, but that I come not hither to draw. The carnal mind is very ingenious in shifting off convictions, and keeping them from fastening. But how closely our Lord Jesus brings home the conviction to her conscience! He severely reproved her present state of life. The woman acknowledged Christ to be a prophet. The power of his word in searching the heart, and convincing the conscience of secret things, is a proof of Divine authority. It should cool our contests, to think that the things we are striving about are passing away. The object of worship will continue still the same, God, as a Father; but an end shall be put to all differences about the place of worship. Reason teaches us to consult decency and convenience in the places of our worship; but religion gives no preference to one place above another, in respect of holiness and approval with God. The Jews were certainly in the right. Those who by the Scriptures have obtained some knowledge of God, know whom they worship. The word of salvation was of the Jews. It came to other nations through them. Christ justly preferred the Jewish worship before the Samaritan, yet here he speaks of the former as soon to be done away. God was about to be revealed as the Father of all believers in every nation. The spirit or the soul of man, as influenced by the Holy Spirit, must worship God, and have communion with him. Spiritual affections, as shown in fervent prayers, supplications, and thanksgivings, form the worship of an upright heart, in which God delights and is glorified. The woman was disposed to leave the matter undecided, till the coming of the Messiah. But Christ told her, I that speak to thee, am He. She was an alien and a hostile Samaritan, merely speaking to her was thought to disgrace our Lord Jesus. Yet to this woman did our Lord reveal himself more fully than as yet he had done to any of his disciples. No past sins can bar our acceptance with him, if we humble ourselves before him, believing in him as the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And he must needs go through Samaria. Not the city, but the country of Samaria; for the way to Galilee from Judea, lay through the midst of Samaria; nor was there any other way, without going a great way about; see
; and which is also confirmed by Josephus (c): and this accounts for his going through Samaria, consistently with his forbidding his apostles going in the way of the Gentiles, or into any of the cities of the Samaritans; since here was a necessity for it, or otherwise he himself would not have gone, where he forbid his disciples; though the prohibition may be understood, not of barely going into a Samaritan city; for it was lawful for them, notwithstanding that, to go into one of them, as appears from
; but of going to preach there,
. And besides this necessity, there was another thing that lay upon him, and obliged him to take this tour, and that is, the calling and conversion of a certain woman, and other Samaritans, whom the Father had given to him, and he was to redeem by his blood; and the time of whose effectual calling was now come; and therefore he must needs go this way, and at this particular time. The Arabic and Persic versions represent it, as a purpose and determination in his mind to go this way.
. c 5. & in vita sua, p. 1019.
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