The Woman at the Well
John 4:3-18 ESV
A Story of Love Series
While I do not have a degree in anthropology I consider myself to be an amateur student of anthropology. I love studying about other cultures, especially biblical cultures.
The Samaritan woman who gave water to Jesus at the well in John 4 is a perfect example of how the culture at the time plays a significant part in the story of love between Jesus and the woman.
The story begins in John 4:3-9 when Jesus “left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)”
We have discussed the difficulties the Jews and Samaritans faced because of their culture and their history. This meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman gives us an example of how much God/Jesus loves everyone.
When Jesus met the woman at the well that day, He was crossing the great divide between two cultures and two people who have a very different history.
To review the start of the cultural divide between the Jews and the Samaritans we need to understand their history.
The exile of 10 tribes of the Hebrew people began in the Northern Kingdom of Israel around 740 B.C.E. when war broke out and they were captured by the Assyrians. Many were carried off to live in Assyria. The tribes who left Israel never returned. Those who remained in Israel intermarried. They came to be known as Samaritans and eventually were considered to be half-breeds.
I recently read this assessment of their history that may help us understand, “It is not the person from the radically different culture on the other side of the world that is hardest to love, but the nearby neighbor whose skin color, language, rituals, values, ancestry, history, and customs are different from one’s own. Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans” (https://bible.org/illustration/hatred-between-jews-and-samaritans).
The Southern Kingdom of Israel consisted of the 2 tribes of Judah and Benjamin and they were defeated by the Babylonians around 597 to 600 B.C.E. They were allowed to eventually return home to Israel. Jesus was Hebrew, born of the tribe of Judah. Both Mary and her husband Joseph came from the line of Judah.
While today we might have difficulty understanding the division between the Hebrew people and the Samaritans, it was very real and pronounced at the time of Jesus.
Jesus knew that when he stopped by the well that day He would meet the Samaritan women.
To answer the Samaritan woman’s question regarding how a Jewish man could ask a Samaritan woman for a drink, we learn in John 4:10-15, “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Notice even though the woman wasn’t sure what it meant, she knew she wanted the living water.
Jesus told the woman at the well about eternal life using water as an example. Jesus is talking big picture about satisfying her thirst for life through all eternity, but the woman thinks he is talking about giving her a drink of water that will satisfy her physical need for water.
We need to realize their discussion was a deeply personal issue for the woman and Jesus to discuss. He was Hebrew. She was Samaritan. They didn’t know each other prior to their meeting at the well. But, it’s possible that not only is the woman nervous about speaking with a Hebrew man, she is concerned about a deeper issue.
We know from John 4:6 Jesus stopped at the well at noon (that’s the sixth hour).
She’s afraid that He will figure out why she doesn’t like coming to the well to draw water when the other women in town come to the well.
Jesus knew the other women came to get water very early in the morning. He also knew why this woman came at noon. He knew she was avoiding the other women because she knew they might talk about her. What was the Samaritan woman hiding?
At that point Jesus turned the conversation to her present situation.
In John 4:16-18 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
Jesus knew. Jesus who had already offered her eternal life knew she was hiding a secret. She was hoping to hide her most personal and painful secret from Jesus and from the other women who came to the well.
But, Jesus didn’t unearth her secret in order to bring her shame. Remember Jesus had already offered her life. Jesus accepted her completely. Jesus knew what she was hiding and he loved her. I mean, He deeply loved her.
He had compassion for her because He knew the whole truth (more on that in part two.)
That day, Jesus accepted all of her, even her secrets.
Today that’s how Jesus accepts us. Jesus knows our truth. Jesus knows what we are carrying and offers us eternal life, unreservedly. There are no strings attached. All the woman at the well had to do was receive what Jesus offered. Likewise all we have to do is accept the gift of eternal life.
NO strings attached.
Oh, and in the next post we’ll carry on with the meeting of Jesus and the woman at the well.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Receive
Open your hands and receive what God has for you today. If you’ve received eternal life, let God give you another blessing.
In God, Deborah
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