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Song of Solomon
John 4 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
The ministry and revelation of the Lord to those beyond the strict compass of the theocracy.
This passage describes an incident of consummate interest, and records a specimen of our Lord's intercourse with individuals, and the reaction of that instruction upon the disciples. The event is a solitary chink through which the light of historical fact falls upon an otherwise darkened and unknown period of the Saviour's life. When we skirt a forest we see at intervals, where by some accident of growth the light falls upon a narrow space, a miniature world of life and loveliness of every kind, suggesting what might happen if every square yard of the forest could receive a similar illumination. Every day of that wondrous life of Christ may have been equally full of meaning to some souls. "These things are written, that we may believe that Jesus is the Son of God; and that believing we may have life." The relation of the Jews to the Samaritans gives a special character and both typical and symbolical meaning to the incident. The lifelike reality of the scene, the extreme unlikelihood of such an event having been fabricated with consummate art to establish any specific theological conclusion, the natural appropriateness of the transaction, all confer a high value and historicity upon this paragraph. Thoma, after the manner of Strauss, finds the origin of every detail in the story of Eliezer at the well; but there are no limits to what allegorists may dream, if the reins are thrown on the neck of imagination. The story of Philip's ministry in Samaria and the successes of the gospel in the early days of Christianity are also supposed to have aided the composition of the story. In our opinion,
is better explained from
than the reverse process. Baur's supposition, that the author sought to contrast the cautious hesitation of the Jewish doctor with the susceptible emotional disposition of the Samaritan woman as the representative of the Gentile world, is unreasonable. The woman is represented as a believer in Divine revelation and worship, in the early traditions of the Jews themselves, and even in their Messianic hopes, which, in this instance, were more spiritual than those of the Jews. There are numerous debates as to the origin of the Samaritan nation, and opinions waver as to whether they were the descendants of those remnants of the kingdom of Israel who were left in the district once occupied by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, after the final deportation under Shalmaneser (or Sargon, as the Assyrian inscriptions make probable), together with the heathen settlers who had been mixed up with them, or were solely and purely of Assyrian origin, as they appear to maintain (
). The narrative of
2 Kings 25:12
implies that all the inhabitants were carried away to cities of the Medes, but it is tolerably clear and eminently probable (
2 Chronicles 34:9
) that there were some of the people left behind; so that the extent to which Israelitish blood and ideas prevailed in the mongrel race is very difficult to determine. We know that heathen notions of Jehovah, and the worship of graven images, were curiously blended (
2 Kings 17:28-41
2 Chronicles 34:6, 7
). But this is only what might be anticipated if their moral and religious degeneration corresponded with the charges brought against them by Hosea and Amos. In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, efforts on their part to share in the honours and independence of Judah were sternly interdicted, and the interdict avenged by angry recriminations which delayed the progress of reconstruction. The antagonism commenced then was deepened into a deadly rivalry by the erection of a temple to Jehovah on Mount Gerizim (
), and by Manasseh, brother of the high priest of Judah, being driven from Jerusalem by his refusal to renounce Sanballat's daughter, and by his becoming high priest of the heretical temple. This temple on Gerizim, in close proximity with the site of Shechem, the abode of the first patriarchs, gave dignity and solidity to some of their traditions and claims; and the modifications they had introduced into the text of the Pentateuch in their celebrated version of it helped to aggravate the schism between the two peoples. The district of country was held during the quarrels of the Ptolemies and Seleucidae alternately by both. Samaritan hatred of the Jews led them to purchase peace during the cruel oppression of Judah under Antiochus Epiphanes, by dedicating their temple to Zeus (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 12:05, 5), and again by siding with the Syrians against the Maccabees. Their temple was destroyed by John Hyrcanus,
, and its ruins only were visible in the time of Christ. The city of Sebaste was built by Herod, on the site of the city of Samaria, and
, now called
, was erected on the site or close neighbourhood of the ancient Shechem. There were mutual recriminations between Jews and Samaritans, which led to strained relations and fierce condemnation, and yet, strange to say, the rabbis did not treat the land as "unclean" (Edersheim, 'Life of Jesus the Messiah,' bk. 3, 100, 7), and consequently the disciples were not precluded from purchasing articles of food from the Samaritan village. They were the "foolish people," "abhorred" of devout Jews (Ecclus. 50, 25, 26); and Rabbi Chuda treated them as heathens, yet Simon ben Gamaliel regarded them as Israelites, and the 'Mishnah' shows that in many of their customs they resembled the Jews. It is doubtful whether they denied the resurrection, and it is certain that their principal tenets and practices were derived from the old revelation. The opposition was felt so strongly by some Jews in the northern province of Galileo that they travelled to Jerusalem through Persea in order to avoid it. Our Lord's treatment of Samaritans in this narrative seems at first sight inconsistent with
, where the apostles are advised to avoid cities of the Samaritans on their first experimental journey. Still, there is a difference between Christ's "passing through" Samaria, on his way to Galilee, and his limiting the early proclamation of the kingdom to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The disciples were not then to be entrusted with a commission which, not until after Pentecost, they would fulfil with so much joy (
.). The success of Philip, Peter, and John may have been due to the first sowing of the heavenly seed by the Lord himself. That Christ should have chosen a woman of doubtful reputation from a semi-alien and accursed race to have received some of his greatest teaching (albeit there was no less an ear than John's at hand to record the marvel) is akin to many of the mysteries of his life. Why, it is sometimes asked, did he not proclaim his sublimest thoughts in the schools or temple courts? Why did he confine them to Nicodemus and the Samaritaness? There is no reason to compel us to any such conclusion. The simple fact before us is full justification of the belief that on many another occasion as well as on this, he uttered like things.
The contrast between Jewish unsusceptibility and Samaritan pre-disposition to faith.
Verses 1, 2.
- When therefore the Lord - a few occasions are found in the Gospels where this appellative, without any proper name, is used for Jesus (
), and on these occasions some special suggestion is made of the Divine rank and personality of Jesus -
knew that the Pharisees heard;
were taking notice, after their wont, with secret machination and with open hostility, of the course which he was pursuing. The treatment which John the Baptist received at their hands was pointedly referred to by our Lord on two occasions (
Matthew 17:12, 13
). They did not believe in John's baptism. The publicans and harlots had repented and pressed into the kingdom before them. This "generation" did whatever it listed to the Elias. Therefore we judge that Herod's persecution, stimulated by his guilty passions, was assisted by "the offspring of vipers." They had probably broken up the baptismal enthusiasm of the multitudes, and aided Herod to shut up John in the castle of Machearus, and hence their present "hearing" meant immediate and hostile action. Jesus had left the temple, and retired to the courts and homes and neighbourhood of Jerusalem; and then was only visited at night by solitary men, who ought to have come in crowds. He left Jerusalem itself for some point in Judaean territory, and there continued for a season the preparatory call for repentance and conversion. The extraordinary success of Jesus at this period excited the special attention of the Pharisees. The matter that came to their ears was that
Jesus makes and baptizes more disciples than John.
In other words, they heard of an extraordinary wave of popular excitement, yet of nothing answering to the Baptist's imagination of what ought to have taken place. John's ideas corresponded more closely than the teaching of Jesus did with the tenets and methods of the Pharisees. We find that the disciples of John are coupled with Pharisees in the matter of fasting (
and parallel passages), yet that John's preaching and baptism were distasteful to the Pharisees.
the baptism of Jesus would be still more offensive, for it was doubtless accompanied by more searching demands. It had invaded the temple precincts, it had advanced more conspicuous personal claims. John said, "I am come to prepare the way of the Lord;" Jesus said, "I am come down from heaven." (
baptized not, but his disciples
performed the act.) This parenthetical clause, explanatory of the statement of
, as well as of the previous verse, is justified on the simple ground that Jesus baptized with the Spirit, and not with water. For him to baptize into his own name would have been to darken the mystery; for him to baptize into One who should come would in a way have hidden the fact that he had come. The administration of the rite by the few disciples who were with him would preserve all the symbolism of the new observance. We have no repetition of this statement, nor the faintest hint that the apostles continued this Johannine ceremonial. Moulton and some others lay emphasis on the present; tenses, "makes and baptizes," and therefrom argue that the ministry of John had not yet been brought to a termination, that John was not yet cast into prison, and that the journey into Galilee does not correspond with that described in
, but thai; our Lord removed from Judaea simply to avoid the apparent rivalry between the two baptismal and evangelistic ministries. When Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard, etc., he resolved upon a new and startling course.
(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.
He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee
. But it should be observed that
is a very peculiar word for a simple departure. The verb
is used when
might have been expected (Westcott). The word means "to leave a thing to itself," to its own ways, to treat it as no longer exercising an influence on the mind. (It is, with the noun
, used for "forgive," "forgiveness," of sins.) Jesus left Judaea, which had so imperfectly accepted his claims. The word suggests that his departure was a consequence of the action of the Pharisees;
And he departed again.
This refers to the first departure after the early testimonies of John, when Jesus went to Cana and Capernaum (
). Whether this journey corresponded with that mentioned in Matthew and Mark, as following the baptism and temptation of Jesus, or not, it is not to be confounded with the journey which John had already recorded.
And he must needs go through Samaria.
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.
Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
He cometh therefore to a city of Samaria, called Sychar
, with all the principal uncials; not
, as read by the Elzevir edition of Stephens, with one cursive, 69); not "the city" Shechem - the
of Josephus (
) - not Sebaste (Samaria), but "a city," one of the cities requiring special designation beyond its mere name, which would hardly have been necessary, if so renowned a spot as the metropolis of the ancient kingdom, or the ancient patriarchal city of Shechem or Sychem, had been thought cf. The similarity of the names Sychar and Sichem led many to suppose that John confounded either the names or the places. Those who were anxious to undervalue the accuracy of the author have attributed it to mistake. Schenkel still sees the error of a Gentile Christian. Others have supposed that the word meaning "town of drunkards" (
), or "town of liars"
), was intentionally applied by John to
, or that some provincial pronunciation of the name of the old city had thus been commemorated. Hengstenberg suggested that Sychar was a suburb of Siehem or Shechem, and Robinson placed the latter much nearer to Jacob's welt than the present
Tholuck gave a philosophical solution - that
in the two words, being
, were interchanged; and Meyer at one time held that John simply applied the vulgar name. Jerome ('Quaest. Web. in
.') said it was a corruption of the name Sichem. But Eusebius discriminated Shechem from Sychar in his 'Onomasticon,'
; and a place called
is mentioned, and also its "well," in the Talmud. Delitzsch ('Zeitsehrift flit Luth. Theol.,' 1856) has quoted seven passages which refer to the place as the birthplace of rabbis, and as having been alternately occupied by Jews and Samaritans. Moreover, in late years, Palestine explorers have found, within
half a mile
of Jacob's well, a village,
, preserving to the present day the old name. Nor has the name been in late years drawn from this narrative and given to this insignificant village, for a Samaritan chronicle, dating from the twelfth century, preserves the name as
Iskar. A priori
it is far more probable that a woman of Sychar, than one of Shechem, should have come to draw water, in consequence of the nearer proximity of the former "city" than of the latter to Jacob's well. It is further characterized
as near to the parcel of ground
which Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
, we see that Jacob's treaty with the sons of Humor, and the summary violence of his sons in punishment of Dinah's dishonour, were treated by him as giving him special possession in Shechem (the LXX., in
, have translated the word for "portion,"
, erroneously supposing that the word was a proper name, instead of an allusive play on the word "Shechem"), and he solemnly bequeathed it to Joseph. In
we find the bones of Joseph were deposited there. (Knobel translates
as the portion which he, Jacob, (by his sons)
win (not had won) with sword and bow.) Geiger, 'Urschrift.,' p. 80 (referred to by Edersheim
, 1:404), shows that St. John's interpretation of Genesis is perfectly in harmony with rabbinic tradition.
Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with
journey, sat thus on the well:
it was about the sixth hour.
Now Jacob's well was
now there was a spring there, Jacob's.
The word generally translated "well" is
, the representative of
, the word here used, corresponds with
In vers. 11, 12 the word
is used of the same place. To the present day this indubitable site goes by both names. This district abounds in springs (
), and the digging of this deep well was a work of supererogation, such as might be performed by a stranger in the land. The well is indeed fed by fountains of water in the neighbourhood. It has been known as Jacob's well by a continuous tradition, and is situated in the plain of Mukhhan, under the rough sides of Gerizim, just beyond the spot where the plain is entered almost at right angles by the eastern end of the vale of Shechem. The latter vale is constituted by the two mountain ridges of Gerizim on the south and Ebal on the north. Nablous, or Shechem, is not visible from the well of Sychar, being hidden by the spur of Gerizim from view, and higher up the valley of Shechem are the present ruins of Sebastich or Samaria proper. Dean Stanley said it was one of the most beautiful spots in Palestine. Sychar lies half a mile to the north of the traditional well. The well, two hundred years ago, was declared by Maundrell to be a hundred and five feet deep, and built of solid masonry. In 1866 Lieutenant Anderson found it seventy-five feet deep, and quite dry. It is nine or ten feet in diameter; and it is one of the most indubitable spots where we may feel certain that the feet of the blessed Lord have trod. Efforts are now being made by the Palestine Exploration Society to protect and restore the well.
therefore, being wearied
is "to labour unto weariness," from
, exhausting toil)
with his journey.
A long, exhausting march told upon him, and he felt the weakness of our humanity. Thoma suggests that, because the woman that Jacob found at the well was Rachel, the mother of Joseph, the Samaritans' special patriarch, and because Leah was the mother of Levi and Judah, and her name means "wearied," so Jesus is represented as weary with his journey unto the home of Rachel! It is far more important to notice that the author of this Gospel, whose main idea was that Jesus is "the only begotten Son of the Father," "the Word made flesh," yet impresses upon us continually his realization of the full humanity, the definite, concrete human existence of Jesus. His life was no phantasm of the imagination, no mere docetic manifestation, as the Tubingen school attribute to the Johannine Christ, but veritable man. This Gospel alone records his presence and miracle at Cana, his travel-worn sympathy with our weakness, his making clay with spittle, his weeping over the grave of a friend, his thirst upon the cross, the blood that issued from his wounded side, and the obvious physical reality of his risen body, and thus furnishes the Church with the grounds on which the apostle maintained his Divine humanity.
was seated thus
wearied, exhausted -
on the well;
or on the low parapet of the well, which protected its mouth, he sat there comparatively, if not quite, alone. The position of the word "thus" after "sat" would, in classic Greek, make the
mean "simply, without other preoccupation;" but there is no logical reason to deprive the
of its full meaning (Hengstenberg). The Lord, taking his seat by this memorable spot, rich in varied associations, becomes at once a type of the richer and diviner supply of life which he is able and ready to dispense to mankind. The weariness and waiting of the Lord at the well was a sublime hint of the exhaustless supply of grace which was ever flowing from the broken heart of the Son of God.
about the sixth hour
. The author is remarkable for his repeated mention of the hours at which some of the most memorable crises of his life took place, and thus gives a vivid impression of reality and of the presence of the eyewitness. He must himself have waited by the side of the Lord, and overheard the conversation which followed, just as he did the conversation with Nicodemus. Great difference of opinion prevails as to his method of computing time;
whether he adopted the Jewish computation, from sunrise to sunset into twelve variable hours, or the Roman method of computation, from midnight to midday, from noon to midnight, into twelve hours of equal length. Some difficulties are reduced by the latter hypothesis (see M'Clellan and Westcott, 'Additional Notes to
, 1:405; Moulton,
; Townson, 'Discourses of the Four Gospels,' p. 215). The hour referred to would then be
six o'clock in the evening, the very time when purchases would be made, and when women are in the habit of drawing water. The difficulty that presents itself is the brevity of the time remaining for all that happens as described in vers. 27-38, broad daylight being almost presupposed in ver. 35. Still, if "about the sixth hour" was five o'clock, even in January there would be possible time for the conversation, for the return of the disciples, and also for the approach of the Samaritans; though it must be remembered that twilight in Palestine is very brief, and that the whole narrative suggests the idea of leisure rather than hurried converse. If the Roman method of interpretation were adopted, the sixth hour
mean six o'clock in the morning, which was the hour intended, if the Roman computation
be supposed in
. This suggestion has further difficulties. The weariness of the Lord at that early hour would imply a long journey before daybreak, which is extremely improbable (see
). Besides, though Townson and M'Clellan lay emphasis on this Roman computation of time in Asia Minor, and advance some proof of it, yet some of their authorities are far from proving it. Luthardt says we have no right to suppose that John would deviate from the current Jewish computation. "About the sixth hour" would therefore mean "about noon," the very time when it is so common to rest after a morning journey. Lucke, Meyer, Hengstenberg, Godet, Lange, Schaff, Geikie, Watkins, all press the same interpretation of the words. Lucke justly says that there is no hint of the Lord and his disciples intending to remain by the well, but to pursue their journey after rest and food. This is inconsistent with the idea of an evening halt.
There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
The revelations and misunderstandings comprised in the interview with the Samaritaness.
The Giver of all asks alms, submitting to conditions of humanity.
There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water.
ἐκ τῆς Σαμαρείας
undoubtedly qualifies the word
, and not
; therefore the country, not the city, of Samaria is referred to. Besides, that city was at much too great a distance to be the home of this Samaritaness. There were other springs still nearer to the city of Sychar, which the women of the place would frequent. We need not, with Hengstenberg, suppose that, from a religious motive, one of reverence for the well of Jacob, this woman had chosen the longer walk and greater exertion, in the heat of the day. No hint of the kind occurs. The simple supposition that her home was hard by the well is sufficient to explain the somewhat unusual circumstance that she should have come alone and at midday. No longer, as in ancient times, did women of social position perform this duty (
). She by her action proclaimed her humble station in life. Hard work is performed by women at the present day in the East and South.
Jesus saith to her, Give me to drink.
This form of expression is not uncommon. The Lord was not only weary, but veritably thirsty. He had taken upon himself all our innocent desires and cravings. "He would know all, that he might succour all," and was intent upon conferring a blessing by asking a favour. He put it into her power to do him a kindness, just as when God evermore says, "Give me thy heart," when he is yearning to give himself to us. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." He will at once confer on this poor "waif and stray" the unspeakable privilege of bestowing the cup of cold water on the Lord of all. It is not that in the first instant he implied that he was thirsting for her salvation; that interpretation would almost lift the narrative into the purely symbolic region, greatly to its injury, and to the damage of the entire Gospel.
(For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
For his disciples had departed into the city to buy food.
This is stated as a reason why he asked water from the chance wayfarer, who had obviously with her the "water pot" and the
(ver. 11), a word used for the rope with which the bucket or water jar was let down into the well. There are very discordant statements as to the degree of separation which the Jews insisted upon between themselves and Samaritans. The later rabbis greatly aggravated the feeling. They refused to eat the bread of Samaritans, as though it were more defiling than swine's flesh; objected to drink their wine or vinegar; and, if this animosity at the time of Christ had been equally pronounced, would have limited the disciples in their choice of food to uncooked eggs, fruits, and vegetables, and possibly to meal and wine. But it seems, from the earlier rabbinical books (Edersheim quotes several, which modify Lightfoot's authorities), that the meat of a Samaritan was lawful food if an Israelite had witnessed its killing, and that their bread, wine, etc., were not forbidden. We see no reason for thinking that Jesus was left absolutely alone on this occasion, and, from John's habitual method of avoiding direct mention of himself, it becomes perfectly possible that he was there listening silently to all these gracious words. Moulton cannot doubt that the beloved disciple subsequently received the whole from the Lord's own lips; but there is no reason to conclude that he must have been absent, and very much to suggest his quiet presence (Weiss, 'Life of Christ,' 2:34).
Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
- The Samaritan woman therefore saith to him, How is it (compare this "how" with that of Nicodemus. Jesus had at once provoked inquiry, which he was not unwilling to gratify) - How is it that thou, being a Jew? She would have known that he was a Jew by his speech, for the Samaritans were accustomed to turn the sound of
into that of
; and so, when Jesus said in Jewish Aramaic,
, "Give me to drink," while she would herself have said,
, his speech would betray him. Again, the contour of the Jewish face differs greatly from that of the Samaritan, and the customary fringes on their robes were of different national colours. Moreover, his appearance, travel stained, weary, and thirsty, on the great highway between Galilee and Judaea, would have suggested at once that he was no Samaritan.
Askest drink from me, who am a Samaritan, and a woman, too?
Already this was a startling puzzle, for her experience so far had only shown her that
Jews have no dealings
(a word only once and here used in the New Testament)
. Most commentators suppose that this is an explanatory remark of the evangelist, pointing to the absence, in a hostile and haughty spirit, of all pleasant relations between the peoples (see note at commencement of chapter). We are not compelled to this conclusion. The words may just as likely have been the pert, half-ironical tone of the woman, who was drawing a contrast between the current profession of Israelites and the request which the need of Jesus had extorted (Moulton). The eighth verse had just said that the disciples had clearly some dealings with Samaritans, and had gone to purchase food at Sychar, taking with them the apparatus used for drawing water. This last fact is the evangelist's reason for introducing the remark of the woman. He would hardly have made it himself.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
The living water offered and misunderstood.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou hadst known the gift of God
(but thou dost not; - this conclusion is involved in the form of the conditional sentence),
and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink.
Many suggestions are offered as to the meaning here of the "gift of God." Elsewhere (
) Christ is himself God's Gift, and St. Paul speaks of Christ as God's unspeakable Gift (Hengstenberg). Paul also declares that "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ." The living water, the refreshing, life-giving stream of blessedness which Christ is opening in this wilderness, is the meaning put back by some into these memorable words as they first fell from the lips of Jesus. So Lampe and Godet. But Augustine and others point to
, where John tells us that the living water of which Jesus speaks as welling up like a river in the heart of a believer, in the bosom of one who has come to him to slake his otherwise quenchless thirst, is "the Spirit," which those who believe on him should receive when Jesus would be glorified. This sublime renewal of the greatest gift of God by the Spirit is set forth under similar imagery in
. However, words are functions of two minds; what they must or might have meant to her must have been Christ's meaning when he uttered them. The explanatory clause,
Who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink
, solves the perplexity. That the Son of God, that the Logos in flesh, should have so emptied himself of his eternal glory as to ask for water from a Samaritan, and a woman, is in itself a gift, the supreme gift, of God. She did not know the fulness of his nature. So Lange, Grotius, and others. A remark by Dr. Yeomans is singularly suggestive: "The context shows that 'the gift of God' is a gift which God had already given, rather than one yet held in reserve - the
of his condescension, rather than the offered gift of living water, or the Holy Ghost." Had she known it and put the two thoughts together in the rudest fashion, she would have known the gift of God, and she would have become the suppliant at once and he the Giver.
Thou wouldest have asked
(prayed, taken the position of the inferior)
of him, and he would have given to thee living water
. (For the phrase, "living water," see
; and for its application,
.) The Divine supply of heaven-sent life, which will slake all thirst for lesser gifts, and which will constitute the perennial blessedness of saved and glorified spirits. The gift of God is the full discovery of personal relations with the veritable Source of all life. This becomes life eternal as it leads to knowledge of the only God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent; and assists a full realization of the life, the Source and End of which are God. It is interesting to notice that Philo, in many places, declares these wells of water (
) to mean "true philosophy or wisdom, deep and only with difficulty drawn upon." "Flowing water is the Logos himself, 'cisterns' represent memories of past knowledge;" but the Old Testament usage quoted above is a far more rational justification of the language used by our Lord.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
- The answer of the woman shows that, though startled as Jesus meant her to be by his self-assertion, she had not moved out of the limited region of her own thoughts - her physical thirst, her daily needs, and common appliances for meeting them. There is a touch of humour for this light-hearted creature in the contrast between the large offer and the apparent helplessness of the Offerer. God's folly is compared with man's wisdom; God's weakness is set over against man's strength.
(my master - a phrase here of simple courtesy, yet showing some advance on what had gone before, "Thou being a Jew"),
neither hast thou the vessel to draw with, and,
the well is deep
(see above on ver. 6). The water of this well cannot be lifted without an
, and, when the water is reached, it is still open to question whether it be living, flowing water or not.
Whence then hast thou the living water
of which thou hast spoken?
Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his sons, and his cattle?
We observe here the Samaritaness's claim to be a descendant of Ephraim, of Joseph, of Jacob himself who dug the well. By rising up behind the family of Ephraim to the father of Judah as well as of Joseph, the woman claims a kind of kinship with Jesus. The "our" in this case is not a monopoly of the honours of Jacob for herself and her people. Her national pride is softening under the glance of the great Son of David, and she has a growing sense of the claims and dignity of the Person she is addressing, though her thought is couched in words that may be ironical. This was the kind of challenge which our Lord never refused to honour. Just as on other occasions he claimed to be "greater than the temple," and "Lord of the sabbath," and "before Abraham," and "greater than Moses, Solomon," or "Jonas," so here he quietly admits that he is indeed greater than "our father Jacob." The lifelike reality of the scene is evidenced in the alertness and feminine loquacity of the final clause (
are "cattle," not "servants," as seen in passages quoted by Meyer from Xenophon, Plato, Josephus, etc.). The nomadic condition of the first fathers of this race is brilliantly touched off by the sentence.
Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
Jesus answered and said
- leaving the question of his superiority to "our father Jacob" to be settled when she should understand him better -
Every one who drinketh
is in the habit of drinking
from this water, or any similar fountain, will thirst again.
Earthly desires obtain temporary satisfaction, and then resume their sway. Our whole life is made up of intermittent desires and partial satisfaction, of passion and satiation, of
and then of some new longing. This flow and ebb, ebb and flow, of desire belong to the very nature of human appetite. More than that, human desire is never really satiated. Our souls can never be at rest till they find rest in God. This water, even from the well of Jacob, is no exception to the rule.
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.
But whosoever shall have drunk of the water which I will give him
(of which I am speaking)
(by any means,
thirst again forever.
How different from the words of the son of Sirach (Ecclus. 24:21), "They who drink of me," says Wisdom, "shall thirst again"! They will experience neither continuity nor completeness of enjoyment, but periods of incessant and recurrent desire. Jesus speaks of a Divine and complete satisfaction. The spiritual thirst once slaked, the heavenly desire once realized by appropriating the gift of God, is fundamentally satisfied. The nature itself is changed. How closely this corresponds with the idea of birth into a new world! and how nearly akin to the promise of living water in
, etc. (see also the language of
)! But the water that I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water leaping up (welling, bubbling up and forth) into eternal life. This is the explanation of the full satisfaction of desire. I do not give a simple "drink of water," but I cause a spring, a perennial fountain, a river of Divine pleasure to issue and flow from that inward satisfaction which follows a reception of my gifts; and it is so abundant that it is enough foreverlasting needs. The water that I give becomes a fountain, and the fountain swells into a river, and the river expands into and loses itself in the great ocean of eternity. The beauty of the image is lost if, with Luthardt and Moulton, we attach the
εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον
is not elsewhere applied to water, and this use of it gives the metaphor all the more force). The imagery is not without its difficulty. We are tempted to conclude from it that the Divine life, once given, becomes consciously a self-dependent force within the soul; but this would not be justified by all the analogy of the Divine working in humanity, which, though abundant, efficacious, and satisfying, never repudiates its Divine source, but continually proclaims it. If the desire for what God alone can supply is eager and quenchless, and if God meet the craving, then the desire is absolutely satisfied. There is a superfluous fulness in the girt of God which will transcend all the needs of this life, and be enough for eternity.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
- The woman has not yet emerged out of the region of her physical desires and her daily requirements, and needs a deeper apprehension of her real necessities. By reason of the subsequent narrative she ought not to be credited now with impertinence or irony (Lightfoot, Tholuck). She could not understand the miraculous water of which the Stranger spake, but had some dim notion that he might be able to deliver her from her toilsome and exhausting life. She replies to him,
Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come all the way hither to draw.
The Lord had spoken of eternal life, and she is content to have temporal satisfaction to the extent of thirsting no more. Some commentators, with Lange and Hengstenberg, suppose that the journey to Jacob's well was in her mind a quasi-religious act, the insufficiency of which to meet her case is at length becoming apparent. This view seems to us inconsistent with the sudden change of metaphor and alteration of his method of approach to this woman's consciousness and need. He resolved rather to search her heart and reveal her to herself - to bring forth from its hiding place the torpid conscience, and reveal to her the grievous need in which she stood of that Divine cleansing, healing, nutrition, refreshment, which he had been sent into the world to supply. This reflection renders the reply of Jesus less obscure than its abrupt transition seems to imply.
Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.
The heart-searching issuing in perception of the prophetic rank of Jesus.
saith unto her, fie, call thy husband, and come hither.
Our Lord, by that Divine penetration and thought reading which the evangelist attributes to him (ch. 2), knew exactly what manner of woman this was, and wished to bring her secret sins to the light of her own conscience. The demand touched her heart at its most tender place, and was indeed a partial answer to her prayer, "Give me this water." Conviction of sin is the beginning of the great work of the Paraclete; it will end in full assurance of faith (so Neander, Stier, Tholuck, Luthardt, Weiss, and Edersheim). Numerous have been the explanations of the Saviour's demand, but none of them so congruous as this:
Lucke supposes that Christ would have the husband share in the bounty.
Meyer suggests that the Lord, by proving to her his prophetic glance in a region she could verify, was preparing her for similar confidence in himself in a higher and more momentous region.
Hengstenberg makes it part of his curious, mystical interpretation of the entire narrative, and by "husband" thinks that Jesus meant the true Lord and Husband of the kingdom of God, in contrast to the heathen lordships and polluting idolatries which Samaritans had blended with their Jehovism (of which more in the next verse).
Lange has supposed that Jesus here conforms to law and custom with reference to the superior claim of the husband, and declares that the wife must submit to it in receiving the gift of the kingdom of God; and Godet says, "Jesus did not wish to influence a dependent person without the participation of the man with whom she was united." Jesus surely never waits upon conventionalisms, sabbatic rules, current fashions of any kind; and some deeper reason than this is more than apparent from the startling response.
The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
Verses 17, 18.
The woman answered, and said to him, I have no husband. Jesus saith unto her, Thou said correctly, Husband have I none: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband. This true thing hast thou spoken.
The woman resists the description which Jesus assumes that she bears to the man with whom she stands in illegal relations. Convinced, brought to bay, she cannot lie to Jesus. She says, in penitence and shame, "I have no husband." There is no concealment of the fact; she must need the cleansing of the life-giving stream. Jesus, not without a tone of solemn remonstrance, accuses her of a life of loose morals. It is implied that the first five husbands were conventionally allowable; but the suggestion is that, either by divorce or wanton rushing to further nuptials if the former had been ruptured by death, her character had been ever deteriorating until, under present circumstances, she was committing an overt act of illegality and impurity. "In saying thou hast no husband, thou hast spoken to the point, and for the reasons I recite thou hast made a true statement." As the woman in ver. 27 tells her friends "He told me all things that ever I did," we may easily believe that she felt, under his searching glance, that no folly, no weakness, no rebellious deed, no damning compromise, was hidden from him. How much more he said we can only conjecture. The revelation thus recorded is akin to other events in our Lord's life, which we cannot account for by the supposition that information concerning her had been conveyed by some rumour which thus he flashed upon her. This would suffer from the intolerable supposition that his claim to have prophetic light was a self-conscious fraud, and that by such a subterfuge the entire Samaritan mission had been characterized and controlled. Lunge thought that the definite traces of the five marriages were in some mysterious fashion hieroglyphed upon her face. This is a great extravagance of the working of natural law, to avoid the supernatural perception which our Lord exercised whenever he chose to draw upon the inexhaustible resources and powers at his disposal. Hengstenberg ('Contributions to Genuineness of the Pentateuch,' and in his 'Commentary'), while he recognizes the historical fact here mentioned and penetrated by our Lord, considered that there was a twofold meaning in our Lord's reply. Thou hast had five husbands;
there were five gods - those of Cuthah, Babylon, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 9:14, 3;
2 Kings 17:24
), whose worship by spiritual adultery the Samaritan people (of which you are a representative) have tolerated, and HE, Jehovah, whom thou now hast by surreptitious claim, is not thy covenanted Lord. Unfortunately, this too ingenious interpretation fails, first of all in this, that to the five nations
gods are reckoned (
2 Kings 17:30, 31
). Again, it is inconceivable that the worship of Jehovah should be represented as on a par with these idolatries, and that Jehovah himself should be set forth as the sixth and worst of the theocratic husbands of the Samaritan state. Nor can we suppose that Christ, who said such wondrous things about the spirituality and the love of God to man, and was in the same breath about to utter one of the grandest of them, should thus have poured contumely on the Samaritan worship of Jehovah. Thoma practically adopts Hengstenberg's speculative interpretation. Strauss (1st and 2nd edit. 'Leb. Jes.') made use of Hengstenberg's admission to find in the whole narrative a mythical fiction; and Keim has only made matters worse by ascribing the entire narrative to the unknown author of the Fourth Gospel. Christ's own Divine penetration revealed the woman to herself, and she knew how hateful her life must have been in his sight. She made no attempt at denial, or concealment, or self-justification. The events referred to had burnt themselves on her memory, and her only refuge is in a bold admission of the right of the unknown Stranger to teach. She concedes his claim to solve perplexities, and penetrate other mysteries as well as the depths of her own heart.
For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
This meant more from a Samaritaness than from a Jewess. The Samaritans accepted the books of Moses, and did not adopt the teaching of the historical or prophetical books, on which the Jews had built up their exaggerated and carnal views of the Messiah and his kingdom. They were not anticipating a King, but a "Prophet like unto Moses." They placed the great Prophet above the King, as a peer of their legislature, and as superior to their rabbis and priests. The sense of standing in the presence of One who looked down into human hearts, justified her in putting the great case of her people and her own sins before him. Let him speak further. Peradventure he will set the relative claims of Zion and Gerizim at rest, so far as approach to the Holy One is concerned. More than ordinary candour was required to make the admission that a Jew might decide the agelong controversy.
Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
The "our" refers here to the Samaritans, just as the "ye" does to the Jews. She may be going back once more to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who worshipped and laboured at Shechem - but the mountain itself was not the site of a temple until the days of Nehemiah, and the temple in which the apostate Manasseh, son of Jaddua, offered sacrifices had been destroyed for nearly a hundred and fifty years. A chronological, if not more serious, difference is apparent between Nehemiah and Josephus (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 11:08. 2;
). According to the former, the Samaritan schism which led to the erection of the temple was a hundred years before the period assigned by Josephus. For whereas Nehemiah says that the apostate priest whom he chased away was son-in-law of Sanballat, the Persian satrap in Samaria, Josephus makes Sanballat contemporary with Alexander, and represents the establishment of the Samaritan temple as originating with his approval. Josephus further ('Ant.,' 13:09, 1) says that the temple was destroyed by Hyrcanus, about
, and adds that it had stood two hundred years. The temple was destroyed, but "the mountain of blessing" remained for the Samaritans as a place of prayer ('Ant.,' 18:04. 1; 'Bell. Jud.,' 1:02, 6). This was conserved, on the ground that Abraham and Jacob had here built altars (
, however, Mount Ebal in mentioned as the place where an altar had been first built to Jehovah. In the Samaritan Pentateuch the word "Gerizim" had in this place been substituted for "Ebal;" and so it came to pass that Gerizim had been a place of prayer throughout the long interval When Jesus was at Jacob's well, he could see the ruins of the edifice where sacrifice and praises were being offered. Indeed, these have continued to the present day. The oldest shrine in the world for local worship still holds its own, hard by the very spot where the most complete overthrow of the principle of sacred places fell in divinest words from the lips of the Holy One. Our fathers
worshipped in this mountain
- Gerizim, where the ruins of the temple still abide -
and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men must worship.
Jerusalem is not mentioned in their sacred books - Jerusalem, whose unity of sanctuary was recognized at length as the
where the Lord would put his Name, and where alone the sacrifices could possess their historic and symbolic validity. Whensoever the Pentateuch may have been finally edited, all critics will allow that, at the time of the Lord, and in the Samaritan Version of the Pentateuch, the idea of such unity of sanctuary was a fixed principle. The Samaritans claimed Gerizim, and the Jews Moriah, as the place where Abraham offered his typical
, and both regarded the worship celebrated in their favourite shrine - the daily offering, the annual feasts (the Passover especially) - as giving worthiness to all the prayers and praises which they might be induced to offer in all places where they might sojourn. The woman does not submit to our Lord that he may settle this great question for her, but she makes it clear enough that she would like to know his verdict. The worship was the sacrificial worship where sin such as hers could alone be cleansed, and where her conscience could be set free for calm and continuous communion with God.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
spiritual nature of God and his worship.
Jesus saith unto her,
- a unique expression of Jesus, answering to the
, of many other passages, where the acknowledgment of his Divine commission had been virtually ceded; this expression is peculiarly suitable to the occasion -
that an hour is coming.
add, as in ver. 23, "and now is." The Divine order which links the events of God's providence together, has not made it possible as yet in its fulness, as it will do when the revelation is complete, but the hour is drawing near,
when neither in this
nor in Jerusalem, will ye worship the Father
. Christ did not say that either Samaritans or Jews were exclusively right in their preference for one local shrine or place of sacrificial worship; but he declared the sublime truth that the worship of the Father would soon prove itself to be independent of both alike and of all the limitations of place and ceremony. Every place would be as sacred and as hallowed as these notable shrines, when the full character and real nature of the object of worship became fully known.
was a name for God not unknown to Jew or Gentile; but so overlaid, suspected, defamed, forgotten, that the emphasis which Jesus laid upon it came with the force of a new revelation of God's relation to man. Man is born in the image of God, and partakes of the nature and essence of the Supreme Being, and it is in God's true nature and veritable relations with men that he will be eventually adored. When Christ speaks of "my Father" he refers to the specialty of revelation of the fatherhood in his own incarnation. The Father was only partially known in and by all the dispensations of nature and grace, but he was especially revealed in the whole of the prolonged series of facts and symbols and prophetic teachings which constituted the religion of Israel; and Christ will not allow this great revelation of the Father to pass unaccredited or to be ignored by one whom he essays to teach.
Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
Ye worship that which
(not "him whom")
ye know not
. "That which" points to the essence and inner character of the object of their worship. They gave him a name, but they were comparatively ignorant of, and confessedly hostile as a people to, the revelation that the Father had made. They fell back on a past of rigid orthodoxy but of limited range. They rejected every portion of the Old Testament with the exception of the Pentateuch,
the entire historical treatment of the primeval faith; even that very essence of it which involved the progressive and expanding conception of the character of God - the perpetuity and continuous renovation of relations, the prophetic insight into providence, the sublime liturgy of a ceaseless worship, the prediction of a Messianic glory which, in the fulness of the times, should complete and complement all that preceded. They were, by their prejudices and hostility, kept ignorant of and unacquainted with the Name that was above every name. In contradistinction from this, we Jews, to whom as a nation you rightly conclude I belong, and as a representative of whom I speak -
We worship that which we know.
Christ in this place, more distinctly perhaps than in any portion of the four Gospels, places himself as a worshipper side by side with his hearers. Here, moreover, he identifies himself with the Jews - becomes their interpreter and mouthpiece and representative. When a question arises, which of the two has the larger amount of truth, Jew or Gentile, Jew or Samaritan, he pronounced in stringent terms in favour of the Jew. The revelation advancing beyond the narrow limitations of Samaritan nationality as to place, and time, and historic fact, with its pregnant ritual, has revealed the Father to us Jews, in
respect and because the salvation
of which Moses partly dreamed, but which has been the burden of every prophecy and psalm - the "salvation" which gives meaning to all our knowledge,
, not "belonging to," but "proceeding from,"
John 7:22, 52
The Jews have been the school where the highest lessons have been taught, the richest experiences felt, the noblest lives lived, the types and shadows of good things to come most conspicuous. We cannot avoid reading between the lines the sublime enthusiasm which Paul gathered from this class of teaching ("To whom pertaineth the adoption,...and covenant,...whose are the fathers, and to whom were committed the oracles of God,... and from whom as concerning the flesh Christ came"). The utterance is profoundly significant, as it is a powerful repudiation of the theory which makes the author of this Fourth Gospel a Gentile of the second century, with a Gnostic antipathy to Judaism and Jews. The contradiction to this theory indubitably involved in this verse has led to the wildest conjectures - even the suggestion of a Jewish gloss on some ancient manuscripts of the Gospel has been one desperate device to save the theory.
Taut pis pour les fairs.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
But the hour cometh, and now is
- already the day has dawned, the new conception is breaking like "awful rose of dawn" upon the minds of some -
- those who answer to the idea of worshippers, those who actually draw near to the Father in living fellowship and affectionate appreciation of his eternal Name -
shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
An old misreading of this text, accepted by some Fathers, and based upon the idea expressed in
, has found expression in the Sinaitic Codex, "in the spirit of the truth." But "spirit" here does not refer to the Holy Spirit, but to the spirit of man - that part of man's constitution through which he most especially bears the image of God, and with which the Divine Spirit deals, and in which he dwells (
). The worship in spirit is worship contrasted with all mere carnal concomitants, all mere shadows of the good things to come, all mere ritual, all specialties of place, or time, or sacrament, or order. It need not be in despite of a genuine reverence for days, or seasons, or postures, or washings, but in absolute independence of them, and they, without this, will be actually valueless.
And in truth
as dealing with reality, the adequate and veracious expression of genuine desires and veritable emotions;
For indeed also the Father seeketh such to be his worshippers.
Luthardt and Meyer differ as to the emphasis. Meyer insists that the
lays stress on the word which immediately follows, and he refers to
1 Corinthians 14:8
as not contradicting the rule. He would render, "For the Father also on his part seeketh," etc. Luthardt says that the new thought is to be found in
, and therefore upon this the emphasis is laid. Westcott, by many passages, such as
, etc., urges that
"alleges a reason which is assumed to be conclusive from the nature of the case." The whole sentence is therefore covered by the expression, "For the Father also on his part seeketh those as worshippers of him who worship him in spirit and in truth." A slight contrast is felt between the regimen of
with accusative, here again introduced, following upon that with dative in the first clause. Moulton would render the first clause, "offer worship to the Father," and the second by "worship him." The Father is now seeking, by the ministry of his Son, by the gift of his Spirit, for those who approach him with deeply felt need and true affection, in spirit, not in ceremony, in truth, not in hypocritical or heartless profession. This is another indication of the high truth taught in the prologue (
John 1:4, 9
, see notes) that there are vast differences among men, even anterior to their reception of the perfect revelation of the Father's heart in Christ Jesus. "The life is the light of men." There are those who "do the truth" and are "of the truth," who "worship God in spirit and in truth." The whole gospel dispensation is a search for these.
a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship
in spirit and in truth.
- A still more explicit and comprehensive reason is given for the previous assertion, based on the essential nature of God himself in the fulness of his eternal Being.
God is Spirit
Πνεῦμα ὁ Θεός
Θεὸς η΅ν ὁ Λόγος
, - the article indicates the subject, and the predicate is here generic, and not an indefinite; therefore we do not render it, "God is a Spirit"). The most comprehensive and far-reaching metaphor or method by which Jesus endeavoured to portray the fundamental essence of the Divine Being is "Spirit," not body, not
, but that deep inner verity presented in self-conscious ego; the
of which mind may be predicated, and all its states and faculties. The Father
Spirit, the Son is Spirit, and Spirit is the unity of the Father and the Son. St. John has recorded elsewhere that "God is Light," and "God is Love." These three Divine utterances are the sublimest ever formed to express the metaphysical, intellectual, and moral essence of the Deity. They are unfathomably deep, and quite inexhaustible in their suggestions, and yet they are not too profound for even a little child or a poor Samaritaness to grasp for practical purposes. If God be Spirit,
then they who worship him,
by the nature of the case,
by the force of a Divine arrangement,
if they worship him at all,
in spirit and in truth.
The truth which our Lord uttered was not unknown in the Old Testament. From Genesis to Malachi, in the Psalms, in the historical books, in Judges, Samuel, and Kings, the Spirit and the spirituality of God are presupposed; but the Lord has generalized these teachings, cited them from darkness and neglect, combined them in one eternal oracle of Divine truth. The Galilaean Peasant has thus uttered the profoundest truth of ethic and religion - one which no sage in East or West had ever surpassed, and towards which the highest minds in all the ages of Christendom have been slowly making approach. Forms, postures, ceremonial, sacraments, liturgies, holy days, and places are not condemned, but they all are inefficacious if this prime condition be not present, and they can all be dispensed with if it be. Only the
of man can really touch or commune with the Spirit of spirits, and the history of the new dispensation is the history of a progress from forms to realities, from the sensuous to the spiritual, from the outward to the inward, from the earthly to the heavenly.
The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
Verses 25, 26.
The Christ as conceived by Samaria.
- We probably do not possess here the whole of the conversation. It is clear, however, that strange presentiments of something more precious than any sanctuary, or any ritual, dawned upon the Samaritan woman. "A prophet" might tell her and her people
men ought to worship. The Prophet she discovered answered a desire for the "where" by revealing the "how" they are to worship. But there are many other lessons they need, and she gives expression to an idea of the Messiah, and of his coming, which startles us by its boldness.
The woman saith unto him, I know
, I know as a matter of current opinion and with intuitive certainty)
that Messias cometh
which is called Christ
). [This parenthetical clause by the evangelist is the explanatory translation into Greek of the Aramaic word. This must be so, unless we could be certain, with Hug, Diodati, and Roberts, that Jesus and the woman were speaking Greek to each other.] The woman turns from a theme which she has partially understood. How should a woman have been able at a moment to discharge and dispense with the traditions of a life, and the prejudices hoary with age? We know that the Samaritans anticipated One who should be a "converter," or "restorer" (Gesenius, 'Anecdota Samaritana,' p. 65, translates the Samaritan word
(so Ewald); Hengstenberg, Tholuck, Meyer, by
), and cherished a hope of his appearance, upon the faith of the great promise (
) that One would arise who would make known to them the Divine will. It is remarkable, but not unreasonable, that she should have adopted the Hebrew word in common use among all the Jewish people. In ver. 29 it is given in Greek without any reference to the original speech. Samaritans and Jews alike anticipated a
an Anointed One, a Plenipotentiary, a Guide. The more spiritual apprehension which follows becomes some explanation of the fact that our blessed Lord should have admitted to
what he afterwards, in Galilee, kept reticently in reserve. The Galilaeans would have come, on his slightest encouragement, and against his will have made him a king. This would have forced on him a position and dignity which, from their standpoint, would have wrecked his spiritual mission and frustrated his design. This woman, here and later on, made it obvious that her notion of the "Restitutor" or "Messiah" was One who,
when he is come, will declare to us all things;
in ver. 29 One who can read the secrets of the heart, and knows her and others altogether; while from ver. 42 we learn that she and her friends were anticipating there and then "the Saviour of the world." Luthardt here points back to
as part of the origin of the Samaritan idea.
Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am
Jesus saith unto her, I that am talking with thee am he.
Jesus does utter to the Samaritan woman the truth about himself which he withholds from the sensuous Galilaeans and the carping scribes. Throughout she is susceptible, inquiring, anxious for her own sake to know. The idea she entertained about Messiah would put no obstacle in the way of our Lord's admission, whereas the opposite idea, the passionate longing for a political revolution, led him to silence others, and even among his disciples to reserve the sublime fact as their sacred secret (cf.
). The truth communicated to this woman was of supreme importance and of universal interest. Our Lord admitted his Messiahship, but of the deeper truths of his incarnation, of the nature of the birth from above, of the Divine life and love, of the means of redemption, and the principles of judgment, he says nothing. Nicodemus learns of both "earthly and heavenly things;" the Samaritaness receives some practical principles. Yet the two conversations are complementary to each other, and throw upon each other reciprocally floods of light. Moreover, there is the same parabolic speech in both; the same habit of mind. It is the same Teacher who uses "the wind" and "the water of the well" to illustrate great spiritual ideas.
And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?
Revelation and misunderstanding involved in the conduct of the disciples.
The next paragraph records the effects of this conversation upon the disciples, upon the woman herself, and upon her friends.
Hereupon his disciples came;
those of them who had gone to Sychar, bringing their provisions and their
and they marvelled
that he was talking with a woman
. Such a proceeding was contrary to the etiquette of a rabbi, who contended that "a man should not salute a woman in a public place, not even his own wife" (cf. Lightfoot, Edersheim, Wettstein). One of the daily thanksgivings was, "Blessed art thou, O Lord... who hast not made me a woman" (Westcott).
(adds the eyewitness, one intimately acquainted with the innermost sentiments of the disciples)
no one said, What seekest thou? Why talkest
thou with her?
They looked on with awe and reverence as well as wonder. They wondered whether he lacked aught which they could not supply. They marvelled (or, if we take the R.T.,
they kept marvelling
the unwonted scene, that One so great as their Rabbi and Master should condescend to teach or converse with a woman at all; but they held their peace, with the conviction that what he did must be gracious, holy, and wise. One of the miracles of the Lord's ministry was to break down the wretched rabbinical prejudice against the spiritual capacities of woman, and the Oriental folly which supposed that she contaminated their sanctity. He lifted woman to her true position by the side of man. Women were his most faithful disciples. They ministered unto him of their substance. They shared his miraculous healing, feeding, and teaching. They anointed his feet, they wept over his agony, they followed him to the cross, they were early at the sepulchre. They greeted him as the risen Lord. They received the baptism of the Spirit. In Christ there is neither male nor female. Both are one in him.
The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
Verses 28, 29.
The woman then
in consequence of the arrival of the disciples)
left her water pot
); left it to itself, forgot the object of her visit to the well, so engrossed was she with the new teaching, so amazed with his revelations; or perhaps, with womanly tact, left it that the disciples might, if they would, make use of it for their Master. Most commentators suggest that she left it, intending by the very act to come back again shortly for water. But this is scarcely the idea conveyed by
. Archdeacon Watkius truly says that this notice "is a mark of the presence of him who has related the incidents."
And she went her way to the city
- probably beyond her home (see note, ver. 7), constituting herself at once the messenger and missionary of the new Teacher and Prophet, who had declared himself to be the Messiah -
and saith to the men
whom she found in the marketplace or highway,
Come, see a man who told me all things that
This exaggeration of the self-revelation was due to the deep conviction of her mind that the Prophet had read her whole life - its weakness and its follies, and it may have been its sins and crimes, not unknown, alas! to others as well. Chrysostom says, "She might have said, 'Come and see One that prophesieth;' but when the soul is aflame with holy fire it looks then to nothing earthly, neither to glory nor to shame, but belongs to one thing alone, the flame which occupieth it." There is a touch of
, of loquacity, of impetuous womanhood, about this, that thrills with life. She was not afraid, in the first gush of her new-found joy, to brave the unflattering scorn of the men to whom such a confession was made; and then, in most natural and appropriate fashion, added,
not however the Christ, is he?
The question, by its form, suggests a negative answer; "but," Westcott says, "hope bursts through it (cf.
)." She knows that he
the Christ, but she wishes the townspeople to guess it - to come to a like conclusion with herself.
Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.
city, and were coming on their way towards him.
The vividness of the picture is remarkable, and is made more so by observing the tense of
. The men were already crossing the green fields that lay between Sychar and Jacob's well. This remarkable touch explains the conversation that immediately follows. We have the twofold scene depicted: on the one side, the disciples eager for their meal, and absorbed for the moment with thoughts of "terrene provender," unconscious of the vast yearnings of their Lord, and his passion for the regeneration and saving of men; and on the other side, the immediate effect, produced neither by signs nor wonders, but by his word only, on a few susceptible souls, who appeared to him living representatives and firstfruits of a redeemed humanity.
In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.
In the mean while
understood) - while the men of Sychar were coming across the green corn-fields in excited and eager longing for the bread of life and the water of life eternal -
his disciples besought him;
were entreating him
- the verb
is used for question and interrogation, and is generally used of one who feels on terms of equality with the person addressed on the matter in hand (cf.
John 16:19, 23
, for its distinctness from
saying, Rabbi, eat
. Have we not gone to Sychar to find provisions for thee? Do not despise our effort.
But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
But he saith to them, I have food to eat that ye know not;
of which you are ignorant, but which you may come to know by and by.
are both used. The first denotes, strictly speaking, the act of eating; and the second the material for food; but they are, in Greek literature, generally used almost interchangeably. There were Divine desires and sacred satisfactions which discriminated the Lord's consciousness from that of his disciples. Thoma refers to the mighty fasts of the great lawgiver and prophet as the literary antecedent of this significant event; but this superiority to food is true of every great soul. The men of the spirit are consumed with desires which dwarf the desires of the flesh, and they forget to eat their bread. Nor can we forget that the synoptic narrative places the forty dave' fast in this very epoch of Christ's life, chronologically speaking. (See note at end of this chapter.)
Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him
Therefore the disciples
(almost as obtuse as was Nicodemus, or the Samaritaness, or as the Jews generally were, in penetrating the hidden meaning of the Lord's words) unintentionally illustrate the parabolic method, the tissue of symbolic and metaphoric phrase which Jesus adopted throughout his ministry; they did not venture to question him further, but said one to another,
Hath any one brought him aught to eat?
Did that Samaritan woman or any other? They could not, or did not, rise to the spiritual or unseen, nor for the moment did they get beyond the pressing needs of the flesh. Still, in the form of their question they leave room for doubt, whether he had not been able to satisfy the craving of the flesh, to make stones into bread, or water into wine.
suggests a negative answer.)
Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
Jesus said to them, My food -
that which satisfies my strongest desire, and quenches all other desire -
is that I may
the will of him that sent me
on my mission to this people and to this world. "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God," was the motto and burden of his life. "Not my will, but thine," was the sacrificial cry which redeemed the world. To teach man to do the will of the Father is the motive which sustained him, and the prayer he put upon human lips was, "Thy will be done." Meyer here rightly says that
is not equal to
. Some expression is given by it as to the
and purpose of the mysterious life of which we have these sacred illustrations. The doing of the will of God is a perpetual and sublime activity, a continuing, ceaseless purpose; while the completion of the work will be one consummating act, towards which all the daily doing of the will is a preparation, and of which, in some sense, every day we discern a prelibation and forthshadowing. In
, "having completed the work thou," etc. This passage points on to that (cf. also
John 5:30, 6
:38; 7:18; 8:50; 9:4; 12:49, 50; 14:31, etc.).
Say not ye, There are yet four months, and
cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
Say not ye
- has not your talk with one another been, as you have passed through the springing corn,
There are yet four months, and
cometh the harvest?
This cannot be a proverbial expression for the time which elapses between sowing and harvest, as some (Lucke and Tholuck) have supposed, because, firstly, there is no mention of sowing at all; and secondly, because
months was the customary period between seed time and ingathering; and also because the "say not ye?" would then be inappropriate. I cannot doubt that it was a chronological hint that the time at which Jesus spake was four months from either the barley or wheat harvest. These harvests generally occurred between the middle of March and the middle of April. The time must, therefore, have been either the middle of November or of December. Tristram (Westcott) says the (wheat?) harvest began about the middle of April and lasted till the end of May. This would bring the time forward another month. This makes our Lord to have spent some eight months since the Passover, either in Jerusalem or in the Judaean land, on his earliest mission, which as yet had brought no obvious results. Men had come to his baptism, but had not appreciated or accepted his claims. The faith already awakened had been of the evanescent character, based on "signs," outward not inward, a "milk faith," to which he did not entrust himself (ch, 2:240.
Behold, I say to you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; they are whitening
. Our Lord now uses another metaphor - he bids the disciples glance across these rich cornfields, to observe the obvious effect already produced by the sowing of good seed in Samaritan soil. The people are flocking towards him. The harvest of souls is ripening, and it is great. You must wait four months before this springing corn will need the sickle. But I say unto you, The time is come. The kingdom is come. The reaper must prepare for instant service. Again, we have a note of personal identity between the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel and the Author of the parables of the sower and the harvest. The very rapidity with which he passes from the symbolism of
to the symbolism
, and then to that of
seed time and harvest
, reminds us of One who "without a parable spake not." The words so far have universal application in every age. The harvest has always been ripening. The word
is used in this place only for the aspect of ripening corn. It has elsewhere the meaning of glittering, translucent whiteness, and perhaps it is used here for "dead ripe." The golden grain in late summer becomes white, and this intensifies the force of the image. It seems to say, "These fields will be sacrificed, these fruits will be wasted, these souls will be lost, unless they are reaped and brought into the heavenly garner."
And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
- Then partially dropping, or rather explaining, his metaphorical language, he added,
Already he that reapeth receiveth wages;
receiveth from the great Owner of all souls the reward of fellowship with his purpose, and the recompense of entering into the supreme joy of the Lord of the harvest. The disciples might at once enter upon their harvesting. The work was itself "payment," but it has a distinct aim beyond mere
- be who reaps in this harvest of souls
is gathering in fruit unto eternal life.
The water that Jesus gives, the refreshment of soul be is able to supply, becomes a well, a fountain, a river, an ocean of life, an eternity of blessedness; and now this fruit of souls, this harvest of saved men, is a Divine, eternal treasure, which the reaper houses in the garner of God. The final clause is introduced by
, which certainly suggests here the "contemplated result" rather than the end of this ingathering. The "end" would be greater and nobler than what is here mentioned; the result is
that even the sower and also the reaper may rejoice together.
Westcott here says that Christ does not speak of himself as "the Sower," but as "the Lord of the harvest." If it be so, the sowers of whom be thinks are all the preparatory processes, all the prophetic men, all the testifiers to the Light whose testimony was crowned in John, all the way by which Judaea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth have been prepared for the kingdom of the Spirit; and they will all rejoice together with yourselves who now begin your harvest joy. If so, the vista opens first into the long future of Christian enterprise, to be consummated at last in the heavenly world, where parted hands may meet again, and these who have never met before shall "clasp inseparable hands in joy and bliss in overmeasure forever!" All this may be proleptically contained in the words, but the special force of them would be severed from the circumstances which manifestly gave birth to them. These seem to me to be, primarily, Christ's own ministry of sowing on that very day. The reaping of the harvest may begin at once, and so the Sower (the Son of God) and reapers who gather fruit unto life eternal may and will rejoice together.
And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.
- in this harvest field, already whitening before your eyes -
is the word veritably realized
- it finds an ideal illustration of its meaning -
One is the sower, and another is the reaper.
It belongs to all common experience in such things; the first stone is laid by one, the topstone by another. The toil and tears of the sower with the precious seed are often the reason why another returns with joy, bringing his sheaves with him. It is an
universal law. Children inherit the toil of their fathers. We all stand where the shoulders of the mighty dead have lifted us. Still, though one be the sower and another is the reaper in this Samaritan field, yet, since "already" the reaper is busy with the sickle, the sower and reapers may rejoice together. The law will be established on a grander scale by and by, when the great Sower, who is the Lord of the harvest, shall send forth all his reapers to their great enterprise, and he and they will rejoice together.
I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.
- If this be the meaning, then, in the following verse, the whole conception of their relation to the past and dependence upon it is singled out for additional comment.
I have sent you, and am now sending you, to reap that whereon ye have not toiled to weariness
. The idea of sowing (
) is now expanded to (
to all the laborious preparation of the soil for the seed, clearing of the forest, and ploughing on the rocky places, the cultivation of the jungle and fen. Much has been done by those who have gone before you.
Others have toiled
thus; their footmarks are red with blood, their tears have watered the earth,
and ye have entered
and are now entering
into their toil.
There is no limitation here to the cycles of work and suffering, of disappointment and apparent failure which have preceded you. The "others" is surely not a pleonasm for himself, he does verily associate with himself all his forerunners. This
is far more than the mere sowing of seed or diffusion of truth, and they who have during many centuries contributed of their life to the creation of the state of mind which makes these people susceptible to the truth, have prepared the way of the disciples. In a fit place, and in the fulness of the times, he came. The disciples of Jesus, moreover, have always had a greater or less degree of pioneer work to do. The efforts of the missionary Church may be represented at all times as toiling as well as sowing. Each generation of labourers in the great field of love to man enters upon work and toil which its precursors have originated. The Tubingen critics here, true to their theory of the origin of the Fourth Gospel in the second century, suppose that, by the "others," Jesus is supposed to
Philip the evangelist, and, by the "reapers," Peter and John, who entered into his labours, in
. Hilgenfeld thinks by the "others" was meant Paul, and by the "reapers" the twelve apostles, who sought to enter upon his work and appropriate its fruit. Thoma has followed vigorously along the same lines, and supposes that the Pauline thought
1 Corinthians 3:6-8
, and the story of the conversion of the Samaritans and of the heathen world to the Church, are here forthshadowed by the fourth evangelist.
And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
The harvest of the Lord's sowing, and the Saviour of the
- This harvest is described in vers. 39-42. As this sublime discourse was proceeding, the impression produced by the word of the woman was becoming deeper. The breath of God was moving them mightily. They were prepared by a thousand untraceable influences for faith in the great Deliverer and Teacher.
Many of the Samaritans from that city,
in the first instance,
been summarily convinced of the presence among them of the long looked-for Prophet, and
believed on him by reason of the word
of the woman, who testified, He told me all things that I
. Not merely is this one saying referred to, but the whole report of the words of Jesus of which that saying was the crowning or most startling expression. They are the first specimens of men who believe by the testimony of those who know. "Blessed are they who have not seen, but yet believe."
So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.
- They were already convinced; but they did more - they came to him.
So when the Samaritans came to him; they continued asking him
- they persistently prayed
that he would abide with them.
How unlike the treatment of Jews and Gadarenes, of scribes and Pharisees! There were some who besought him to depart from them, others who stoned him, Herodians and Pharisees who plotted to destroy him. But these hated Samaritans yearned for more of his fellowship, more of his words and searching glance, more of the Word of life. So called heresy and heterodoxy may sometimes show itself more susceptible to the mind and Spirit of Christ than a bigoted and self-satisfied orthodoxy. The Lord responded to the request, and
he abode there
Why should a biographer of the second century have limited this visit to "two days," when it is obvious that he passes over months in silence? It would have been as easy to
"two months" as to say "two days," and, to ordinary human judgment, more natural. These "two days" left an ineffaceable memory on the heart of one at least of these disciples, and the mention of it has upon the face of it the mark of historicity.
And many more believed because of his own word;
Verses 41, 42.
And very many more believed,
during that visit,
by reason of his word
- Christ's own word. We know not what the word was, but the specimens which John has recorded make us certain that torrents of living water flowed from his lips. He was moving in the full power of the Spirit. He was unveiling the nature of that "salvation" which was, as he said, "from the Jews;" but a salvation which affected and was adapted to the whole world.
said to the woman
(the play of aorist and imperfect tenses throughout this passage is very noteworthy),
No longer do we believe by reason of thy speaking
. The word
does not generally connote so serious a meaning as
. The first word is used for "utterance" pure and simple (
), and for the inarticulate voices of lower creatures as well, while
never have the latter meaning; but still
is used in classical Greek for "discourse," and in
is used by Christ of his own "utterance." Meyer says the term is purposely chosen from the standpoint of the
, while in ver. 39
is used of the same
by St. John as narrator. The above are the only times the term is found in the New Testament.
For we have ourselves heard, and we know
- fully, by personal intuition (we might have expected
this is indeed the Saviour of the world.
This sublime description only occurs in one other place in the New Testament (viz.
1 John 4:14
), and here it falls from the lips of a Samaritan. There is no improbability that it should have expressed the thought of Samaritans, for they entertained wider and less nationalized views than did the Jews. Baur's notion, that the author wished to contrast heathen or Gentile susceptibility with Jewish narrowness and reserve, is out of keeping with the facts. A genuine heathen would have been as easy to
as a susceptible Samaritan. "The Saviour of the world" is one of the noblest and most accurate terms in all the Bible to denote the work of Christ. It is the outcome of a discourse and of teaching which led men to the idea of spiritual and sincere worship of the Father, which searched for moral conditions rather than orthodox ritual, which demanded purity of life more than outward observance, and treated doing the will and work of the Father as more indispensable than necessary food. We need not be surprised (
.) to find the outcome of this sojourn of the Divine Lord among the misunderstood and hated Samaritans. The effort of the Tubingen school to find in this narrative an idealization of the synoptic tradition of Christ's special beneficence towards the Samaritans is very unfortunate, because, in
, the "twelve" were forbidden to enter into cities of the Samaritans, and advised to occupy all their energies in evangelizing the cities of Israel. The record of
. affords very slender basis for a corresponding enlargement. The narrative before us shows that, in answer to the receptivity of the Samaritans, the Lord made the richest and fullest and most explicit and immediate revelation of himself. The extension of the kingdom of grace to Samaritans, and their incorporation into the body of Christ, was arrested by the need of the visit of the apostles, by the magic and hypocrisy of Simon; of which there is not here the slightest trace.
And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard
ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee.
The commencement of the Galilaean ministry.
We read the details of the Galilaean ministry in the synoptists, who describe our Lord's public entrance, in the power of the Spirit, into Galilee (
). They are silent with reference to these earliest witnesses to his method and varied specimens of his work. Just as in the Revelation of St. John we have a proem, and a series of visions which rehearse the entire development of the kingdom and glory of the Lamb of God until the day of his triumph, his wrath, and his great glory; so in these earlier chapters of the Fourth Gospel we have an anticipation of the entire ministry of Messiah. Specimens and illustrations are given of his creative might, of his purifying energy, of his forecast of the cross, of his demand for inward and radical renewal of his promise and gift of life. We can read in these events his principles of judgment and his revelation of the Father, his mission to mankind as a whole, and his victory and drawing of souls to himself. We see, moreover, his relation to the theocracy and to the outlying world, to the learned rabbi and to the woman that was a sinner.. We see the Lord in his glory and in his humiliation. A very brief hint is given in the following verses of the character of his Galilaean ministry, Wherein mighty works and words alternate, and the first storm of direct opposition to him begins to make its appearance, upon which, while much light is cast by the narrative of ch. 5, we have no indistinct trace in the synoptic narrative.
Now after the two days
the two days of our Lord's sojourn in Sychar (ver. 40) -
Here the author takes up the narrative of ver. 3. The delay in Samaria was parenthetical to the chief end of his journey, which was to leave Judaea and commence his ministry in Galilee. He now enters it a second time from Judaea.
For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country, When therefore he came into Galilee, the Galilaeans willingly received him, having seen all things whatsoever he did in Jerusalem, at the feast: for they themselves also went to the feast.
These words bristle with difficulties, and hardly two commentators entirely agree in their interpretation of them. Christ's visit to Galilee is here accounted for by the principle embodied in the proverb, or
a part at least
of the proverb, which he used (according to the synoptic narrative) with reference to his visit to and reception in Nazareth, about this some period in his career. Apart from that reference, the most simple explanation of the quotation would be that our Lord regarded Jerusalem and Judge, as in one sense, and a very deep one, "his country," not simply his birthplace, and which he felt at twelve years of age was to contain his Father's house and kingdom and work; and of which he afterwards said, "O Jerusalem, that killest the prophets,... how oft would I... but ye would not!" The Fourth Gospel records our Lord's various Judaean ministries with such striking incidents and impressive discourse, that his claim upon the loyalty of the metropolis was repeatedly urged and as repeatedly rejected. True that in vers. 1-3 we are told that our Lord left Judaea because the Pharisees, the influential religious party, were in a hostile sense comparing his ministry with that of the Baptist. This may only be another way in which the comparative unfruitfulness of his early ministry in Judaea is stated. "The prophet hath no honour in his own country." If this was the meaning of Christ's recurrence to the proverb, then we can understand the
of ver. 45, as well as the
of ver. 44, The Galilaeans who had been up to Jerusalem, and been favourably impressed - perhaps more so than any Judaeans, having formed the bulk of those who received baptism at his hands - received him graciously on his entrance into Galilee. The whole passage thus would hang together; a subsequent and similar and more acute experience where he was best known by face, in Nazareth, drew from him an expanded form of the proverb, in sad and melancholy iteration, "A prophet is not without honour save in his own country,
and amongst his kindred, and in his own house"
). [In Luke's enlarged account of the visit to Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30), possibly an event which is perfectly distinct from the visit to his "own country" cited by Matthew and Mark, the proverb appears in its shorter form.] This interpretation is that preferred by Origen, Maldonatus, Wieseler, Baur, etc., formerly by Ebrard and Lucke, and now by Westcott, Moulton, and Plummer. In my opinion it is the most satisfactory and least encumbered interpretation. It does not seem satisfactory to Meyer and others, who urge that
can only mean what it obviously does in the synoptic narrative, viz. Galilee as represented by Nazareth. Meyer also interprets the
as introducing a reason, not only for our Lord's present return to Galilee, but for his
earlier departure from Galilee to Judaea
; and Meyer supposes that he must have uttered the words
On this supposition, the Galilaeans in the first instance must have failed to appreciate his prophetic claims. Christ had gone to Jerusalem and Judaea, and there acquired the fame of a prophet, and subsequently these Galilaeans were ready to recognize it second hand, on the occasion of his return. Godet adds to this the joyful emotion that was felt when the plan of Jesus had been successful as far as the Galilaeans were concerned. Moreover, he gives a pluperfect sense to
, "he had testified." Against this we observe that our Lord must have soon found that, in a narrower and closer sense, his nearest friends and neighbours had learned nothing by their journey to the feast; and that the author of the Fourth Gospel must have been ignorant of the kind of reception so soon accorded to our Lord at Nazareth. Bruckner and Luthardt suppose by the
that Jesus either sought the struggle with his unbelieving compatriots or the solitude induced by the absence of sympathy. There is not the faintest trace of this in the narrative. Then, again, Cyril, Calvin, Bengel, Olshausen, Hengstenberg, suppose that by
is meant his own
, Nazareth, which is here contrasted with Galilee in general, including Capernaum, which became the missionary centre of his early ministry. These commentators suppose that, when we are told "he went to Galilee," it means (as we see from ver. 46) he went to Cana, "for he testified," etc.; and therefore that in this forty-fourth verse comes the tragic scene described in
. Lange has supplemented this theory by another that removes part of the difficulty, viz. that by
Galilee, including Nazareth, and by the Galilee of ver. 44 was meant
Galilee and the neighbourhood of the lake, including Capernaum, to which we find that, after his cruel treatment at Nazareth, he retired. So Geikie. Now, there are difficulties in either of these views, which give great awkwardness to the expression, "So he came to Cana again," in ver. 46. Tholuck, De Wette, Lucke, in various ways, urge that the
of ver. 44 may mean
namely, that is to say
, etc., pointing onwards to the kindly reception which the Galilaeans gave him being due to the
which they beheld, and not to the words of life which he had spoken. Every view seems to us far-fetched and inconsistent, with the exception of the first interpretation. The only objection that is at all urgent, arises from the fact that, in the synoptic narrative, Nazareth is spoken of as his country. But if this were so, we do but see in the reception accorded to him in Nazareth a further illustration of the very same spirit which was shown to him in the metropolis. In both places "he came to his own, and his own received him not." There is nothing improbable, if so, that in both places Jesus should have appealed to the homely proverb. On the second occasion he added to it, "his kindred and his home," as well as "his country."
For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.
Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast.
So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.
came therefore again unto Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine.
of this verse is best explained by the simple supposition that Cana lay in his way. In Cana of Galilee, not Judaea, he had manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him. He came, then, to Galilee, to Cana, and for a while tarried there, long enough for the
to have heard of his healing power and prophetic gifts. There have been numerous attempts to identify this narrative of the nobleman's son with the healing of the centurion's servant as recorded in
. Recently Weiss and Thoma have laid emphasis upon this identification. Strauss, Baur, and all the opponents of John's Gospel, are eager to press this subjective handling of the synoptic tradition. But, as Edersheim has observed, they are here in hopeless contradiction with their own theory; for we find that the Hebrew Gospel here confers the loftiest encomium upon a Gentile, and the Hellenic Fourth Gospel makes the hero of this scene to be a Jew. True, in both cases a man of higher rank than that of fishermen and taxgatherers approaches our Lord with a request on behalf of another. But it should be observed that in the one case we have a Roman centurion, a heathen man, coming with great faith, one who, though "not in Israel," recognizes the imperial claims of Jesus; in the present narrative we have an Herodian officer, some person of Jewish blood attendant on the tetrarch's court, who displays a weak faith, reproved though rewarded by the Master. The one asks for a dying slave afflicted with paralysis; the other for a dying son suffering from deadly fever. Jesus meets the centurion as he crones down from the mountain, after the delivery of the great sermon; the Lord, when he receives the request of the nobleman, was a resident in. Cana. Both cures are said to take place at Capernaum by the utterance of a word, but the centurion disclaims the right to a visit, and asks for a word only. The nobleman entreats that the Lord would travel from Cana to Capernaum to heal his son. Thus the two narratives, with certain resemblances, are still strongly contrasted. The
is one in the service of a king. The title of a king was given to Herod in later times (
), and characterized other references to him.
certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.
when he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, went unto him.
This statement implies that Jesus had been in Capernaum before, and left there the impression of his power to heal and save. The rumour of transactions of this kind wrought at Capernaum had been carried from Capernaum to Nazareth (see
.), and now the return of Jesus from Judaea was soon known in the cities along the shore of the lake.
And he besought him
, indicating to some extent a kind of conscious right to seek the favour)
, in John, often gives the purport of a prayer or a command)
he would come down
(from the highlands of Galilee to the borders of the lake, sunk as it is in a deep depression) to Capernaum,
and heal his son: for he was on the point of death
; compare and contrast
Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.
Then said Jesus to him
- as representing the whole class whose faith rested upon, and was nourished, by, the outward sign, with a certain amount of reproof if not of irony in the strength of his phrase -
Except ye see
(there is no special emphasis laid on the
, as distinct from the mere report or testimony of such things)
signs and wonders, ye will by no means believe.
This is the only occasion in John's Gospel where these two terms are conjoined. They are frequently brought together in Acts (
Acts 2:22, 43
, etc.), and used in conjunction in
2 Corinthians 12:12
. John ordinarily uses (
) "works" to denote those objective tangible facts which were "signs" (
) of the Lord's higher nature and claims. Here
, a word meaning "portents," remarkable, inexplicable events out of the common order, accompanies "signs," to complete the notion. The craving for "signs and wonders" did absorb the higher life of Judaism. "The Jews require a sign" (
1 Corinthians 1:22
), and minds that are yet in the Jewish stage of partial discipline, for spiritual revelation, still do the same. There is still in many of us the weak faith which needs the stimulating diet of the "sign" before there is any full recognition of the Divine fulness of blessing. Christ does not condemn, though he mourns over, this spiritual babyhood; and while he says (
) that belief for the works' sake may lead up to true faith, yet the language addressed to Thomas, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed," reveals his deepest thought of their comparative worth. The demand for "signs and wonders" in Galilee contrasts with the ready reception which the Samaritans had given to his
Many of the difficulties of these narratives arise from the obvious fact that they are so closely compressed. Weiss has a hard task to make what he calls this "harsh answer" tally with Matthew's account of the reception of the centurion, and of the "great faith" which in his case preceded the miracle. A single sentence in the urgent request of the nobleman, implying that at Capernaum they needed the same kind of proof that had been given at Jerusalem of the Lord's prophetic claims, would account for all the emphasis laid upon the inperfect faith of the Galilaeans. He who "knew what was in man" knew in what way to rouse in this suppliant an adequate recognition of the Divine in himself.
The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.
The nobleman saith unto him, Lord, come down before my little boy
(my only son)
, "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief;" and, again, the words of the woman of Syro-Phoenicia, who will not be put off, "Even the dogs eat of the crumbs,"
, etc.). This touching stroke shows how love triumphs over the desire for signs and wonders, and already helps to create the faith in the grace and power of the Divine Helper.
Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.
Jesus saith to him, Go on thy way; thy son liveth.
The use of the diminutive
the previous verse is not sustained by Codex A, which reads
. Jesus adopts in his gracious response the more dignified word which had been already on the lips of the father. He did not "need the passionate appeal" (Moulton). The
of the miracle is impossible. The will of Jesus was in absolute coincidence with the Divine will, and he knew, by the inward conformity of his own will with the Father's will, that what he willed the Father willed, and that at the very moment the crisis of the fever had passed and the change was wrought. On this occasion he did not say, "I will come and heal him," but, "Go; thy son liveth;" he is no longer, as thou thoughtest, on the point of death. The man was fain to believe the word of Jesus, and for a while at least, to believe by that alone.
The man believed the word which Jesus spake to him, and went on his way
And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told
, saying, Thy son liveth.
Now as he was going down
to Capernaum (if we take any of the more recent determinations of the site of Cana (see
John 2:1, 2
), this means that he had traversed a distance of between twenty and twenty-five miles, so that there is no reason to treat with ridicule or regard as inexplicable the time taken for the return journey, or that a night should have been spent in the transit from Cana),
that his boy lived
. The oblique form is certainly far more reasonable, less mechanical, and more likely to have been altered into the direct form by an incautious copyist from the previous verse, than to have constituted the original text. Note that Jesus used the most dignified title, "son" (
); the father employs the tender diminutive (
); while the servants use the domestic term (
Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.
- The father is full of joy at the blessed intelligence, but naturally seeks at once to link the event with the word and will of Jesus.
He therefore inquired from them the hour in which he began to amend
). (This peculiar phrase is suitable on the lips of a man of rank; literally, "he did bravely, exceedingly well;" and
is occasionally used in contradistinction with
in a similar sense. Epictetus, 'Diss.,' 3:10-13.)
They say to him, therefore, Yesterday during the seventh hour the fever left him.
The advocates of John's adoption of the Roman computation of time suppose that this was
, and, therefore, that a night had intervened on the return journey (so Westcott, Edersheim, and Moulton). This is not necessary, because, even on the Jewish computation, from sunrise to sunset, though the seventh hour must then mean between noon and one p.m., it could not have happened that much before midnight he should have broken into the streets of Capernaum. At that hour the noon
be spoken of as "yesterday." This, however, is not imperative; for, if the distance between Capernaum and Cana was from twenty to twenty-five miles, and if the nobleman had travelled to Cana on the day that he presented his request, it is clear that a night's halt might easily have been required. Baur and Hilgenfeld make the note of time an attempt on the part of the writer to exaggerate the marvel, as if the distance through which the will of Christ asserted itself could augment the wonder, or that the real supernatural could be measured by milestones. And Thoma thinks so poorly of the originality of the Johannist, that he imagines him to have worked into his narrative some of the small details of the Cornelius and Peter interviews in
So the father knew that
at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.
The father then knew
(came to know, by putting the facts together)
son began to amend in the same hour in which Jesus said to him, Try son liveth.
The word was mighty, none other than that very voice of the Lord "which healeth all our diseases," and "redeemeth our lives from destruction." No mere coincidence, no common accident.
And himself believed and his whole household;
believed in the Divine claims of Jesus. This is the earliest mention of "household faith" (cf.
Acts 16:15, 34
). In this case a whole picture rises before our eye. The mother, the sisters, the servants, the entire family, had shared in the anxiety, had sympathized in the journey to Cana, and now accepted the exalted claims of Jesus. Faith is graciously contagious. The nearness of the unseen world often reveals the features of the God-Man. The suggestion has frequently been hazarded that this
was Chuza, the house steward of Herod, whose wife, Joanna, ministered to Jesus (
and Luke 24:10).
again the second miracle
Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.
This is again a second sign which Jesus did, when he had come out of Judaea into Galilee.
The point is that each return from Judaea to Galilee had been charged with special emphasis by the occurrence of a "sign." We are told (
) of slams wrought in Jerusalem, and, consequently, it could not be meant to be the second sign wrought by him. The
refers to the
the repetition of his entrance on work in Galilee. The first sign was the transformation of the water; the second, under similar conditions, was the healing a dying child by his word (so Godet, Lunge, and Westcott). This passage of St. John's Gospel which we have now reviewed is a distinct period of our Lord's life and ministry, concerning which the synoptists were silent; and it is marvellously complete in itself. It is an epitome of the whole life of the blessed Lord, and presents an outline and specimen of his method and his work. The disciple unnamed seems always at the side of the Lord. A mighty spell had fallen on him; and he was beginning already to discern in him the characteristics which ultimately directed him to compose the prologue. The penetration of the hidden secrets of all hearts - first his own, then those of Cephas and Nathanael, and the motives of Mary, and the spirit of Nicodemus, the intentions of the Pharisees, the secret life of the Samaritaness, and the inchoate and imperfect faith of the nobleman. Jesus is presented to us in marvellously different, yet mutually complementary, relations.
Gathering susceptible spirits to himself, and judging men by the reception they were giving or not giving to his word;
Nathanael, Nicodemus, the Jews, the Samaritans, the Galilaeans.
Accepting or revealing the mightiest and most enduring names - "The Son of God," "the Lamb of God," the Baptizer with the Holy Ghost, "the King of Israel," the Opener of the kingdom of heaven, the Creator of all things, the Head of the theocracy, the Rebuilder of the temple of his body, the Teacher of the teacher of Israel, the "Son of man," the Saviour, the Giver of eternal life, the Light, the Bridegroom of the true bride, the Object of the eternal Father's love, the Revealer of the Father in his most essential features and most perfect will, the "Prophet that should come into the world," the "Saviour of the world," the "Christ of God."
We see him, in the majesty of his omnipotence, hiding himself, as the Almighty always does, behind and in his works; we see him hallowing and heightening the joys of nuptial love, and again purifying the house of God from all contaminating adjuncts; we see him in his exalted mood consumed by holy zeal, and also weary and thirsty by the well, asking for water from an alien, and making to her the most astonishing revelations, hushing the pride, as they have secured the reverence, of all after ages by their spirituality and refinement.
We have specimens of every kind of reception and non-reception accorded to his teaching. Some at once perceive his extraordinary claims, and pour forth their homage; others are silent, and pass out of sight forever. Some are cold and reserved, critical and puzzled; others glow and gush with instantaneous conviction. We see in these chapters the shadow of the cross, and gleams also of the crown of Jesus.
We have, moreover, remarkable forthshadowing of the immense human personality which is sustained, not only by what follows in this Gospel, but by what was well known and widely circulated when this Gospel was written,
the impression which he spontaneously gave of reserves of power and truth. A necessity seems imposed upon him of speaking in parabolic, enigmatic language. He continually rises from the commonest incident and material to the Divinest truth; utilizing for his purpose the fig tree, the wine cup, the temple courts and sanctuary, the roaring wind, the flowing water, the rising corn, and the coming harvest. One remarkable aspect of this preliminary ministry is the light it throws upon the profoundly difficult passage in the synoptics, descriptive of the temptation of Jesus - a subject on which this evangelist says nothing. Later on, indeed, he tells us that Jesus said, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me;" and, "Now is the crisis of this world: now is the prince of this world cast out. And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to me" (
). In these chapters the evangelist records certain events which correspond in a remarkable way with the threefold temptation of the devil, which we know to have preceded the public ministry in Galilee. Thus,
over against the devil's temptation to make stones into bread for his own sustenance, and as proof of his sonship to himself, we find that Mary his mother said to him, at the marriage feast, "They have no wine." His reply was, "Not in the way which you propose will I make myself known to the world." "Mine hour [for that] is not yet come." He did, however, in a manner baffling to all but his disciples, turn water into wine for the behoof of poverty and the hallowing of earthly joy, and the manifestation, not so much of the glory of his power as of the fulness and sweetness of his love. Compare with this his asking for
from the well for his own refreshment as a weary, thirsting man, and also the spirit of his reply to his disciples, "I have meat to eat which ye know not off;" "My meat is to do the will of him who sent me."
Over against the devil's temptation to descend in splendid supernatural effect from the pinnacle of the temple upon the astonished multitude, trusting in the mean while to the hands of angels to hold him up, we have John's account of his sudden appearance in the temple, when, consumed by holy zeal for its purity, instead of loud acclaim, he encountered the first muttering of the storm which culminated on Calvary, and made it evident that he only looked to victory over their prejudices by eventually building up that temple of his body which they, by their obtuseness, were beginning to destroy.
Over against the temptation to win the powers of the world and the glory of them by a sinful compromise,
by admitting the legitimacy of the power of the devil in human polity, John tells us that Jesus, by uncompromising fidelity to his great mission as spiritual Healer, waved off the half-homage of the ruler of the Jews and master of the schools, and pointedly declared his need of personal, individual regeneration. Then we read that he quietly began his humble career of persuasion, that he grappled with and discarded the presumptuous claim of nationality, and announced the nature of spiritual worship. Not by the pomp of national homage won by truckling to the power of evil, but by the conversion of the simple hearts of Samaritans through their personal conviction that he was indeed the
(not the Caesar) of the world, he would win the world. Such obvious comparisons are not fortuitous. These events set forth, on a magnificent scale of converse and action, the deep lessons of the temptation, and show, as. the synoptists tell us, that he was filled with the Holy Ghost (see Introduction). Yet, notwithstanding all this, it were a great mistake to suppose that he had exhausted his resources or his teaching; he has simply uttered the alphabet of the whole gospel which he is about to disclose. The teaching of the valedictory discourse is prodigiously in advance of this introduction to his ministry. The truths absolutely revealed are the need of a complete purification of man and temple, the imperative necessity of heavenly birth, of spiritual worship, of implicit faith in the Father's love, and of patient waiting for God. We have two incidents of the Lord's ministry in Galilee, but also impressive hints of the adaptation of his gospel to that world of strangers and outcasts that he has come to seek and save. Our great difficulty is in the silence which the Fourth Gospel preserves concerning the continuous ministry of our Lord in Galilee after this preparation for it. In
we learn that the Jews' Passover was at hand, and we find ourselves in the midst of a group of facts in which some chronological hints may be gained. The multiplication of the loaves, the walking upon the sea, are events which are recorded by the synoptists, and which appear there to have followed the execution of John the Baptist, and the conclusion of the trial mission of the twelve disciples. We must, therefore, conclude that, between the Passover of
, one year must have, at least, elapsed. (It is true that Browne, in his 'Ordo Saeculorum,' has endeavoured to obliterate this reference to the Passover as a gloss, but without any authority from codices, or versions, or other diplomatic evidence.) This period, moreover, includes a vast amount of incident in the synoptic narrative; all that,
, which is recorded in Mark between
and John 6:56. Now, it is obvious that, after a period of general response to his claims, our Lord encountered (according to the synoptists) an organized opposition from the Pharisees (see
Mark 2, 3
, and parallels, and especially from
to John 3:6), in particular a bitter and deadly persecution on the ground of his heterodoxy of word and conduct with reference to the rabbinic interpretation of the sabbatic law. There are also other indications of a rising storm of indignation, even in Galilee, to modify the popular enthusiasm. Concerning this John says nothing, but he does record the origin of the storm in the metropolis in his account of a journey to Jerusalem taken in the course of this period. It was his obvious purpose to detail the history of the conflict with the hierarchical party at Jerusalem. The metropolis was the great focus of the antagonism to Christ, and John describes those scenes which appeared in Jerusalem to have stimulated the assault, and thereby, elicited the self-revelation of Jesus.
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