ver. 2.0.14.04.24
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Adam Clarke Commentary

John 4

Introduction

Jesus, finding that the Pharisees took offense at his making many disciples, leaves Judea to pass into Galilee, John 4:1-3. And passing through Samaria comes to Sychar, and rests at Jacob‘s well, John 4:4-6. While his disciples were gone to the city to buy meat, a woman of Samaria comes to draw water, with whom our Lord discourses at large on the spiritual nature of his religion, the perfection of the Divine nature, and the purity of his worship, vv. 7-24. On his informing her that he was the Messiah, she leaves her pitcher, and goes to inform her townsmen, John 4:25-30. His discourse with his disciples in her absence, John 4:31-38. Many of the Samaritans believe on him, John 4:39-42; He stays two days with them, and goes into Galilee, John 4:43-45. He comes to Cana, and heals the son of a nobleman, in consequence of which he believes on him, with his whole family, John 4:46-54.


Verse 1

Jesus made and baptized, etc. - These seem to be quoted as the very words which were brought to the Pharisees; and, from our Lord‘s conduct after this information, we may take it for granted that they were so irritated that they were determined to seek an occasion to take away his life; in consequence of which, leaving Judea, he withdrew into Galilee.


Verse 2

Jesus himself baptized not - See John 3:22.


Verse 4

And he must needs go through Samaria - Or, It was necessary for him to pass through Samaria: for this plain reason, and no other, because it was the only proper road. Samaria lay northward of Judea, and between the great sea, Galilee, and Jordan; and there was therefore no going from Galilee to Jerusalem but through this province. See the note on Luke 17:11. From Jerusalem to Galilee through Samaria, according to Josephus, was three days‘ journey. See his own life.


Verse 5

A city - called Sychar - This city was anciently called Shechem. It seems to have been situated at the foot of Mount Gerizim, in the province of Samaria, on which the temple of the Samaritans was built. After the ruin of Samaria by Salmanezer, Sychar, or Shechem, became the capital of the Samaritans; and it continued so, according to Josephus, Ant. l. xi. c. 8, in the time of Alexander the Great. It was about ten miles from Shiloh, forty from Jerusalem, and fifty-two from Jericho. It probably got the name of Sychar, which signifies drunken, from the drunkenness of its inhabitants. With this crime the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 28:1, Isaiah 28:3, Isaiah 28:7, Isaiah 28:8) solemnly charges the Ephraimites, within whose limits the city stood. This place is remarkable in the Scriptures:

1.As being that where Abram first stopped on his coming from Haran to Canaan.

2.Where God first appeared to that patriarch, and promised to give the land to his seed.

3.The place where Abram first built an altar to the Lord, and called upon his name, Genesis 12:7.

The present name of this city is Neapolis, or Naplouse. See Calmet.

That Jacob gave to his son Joseph - Jacob had bought this field from the children of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for a hundred pieces of silver, or lambs, Genesis 33:19; and in it he built an altar, which he dedicated to El Elohey Yishrael, the strong God, the covenant God of Israel, Genesis 33:20. This, Jacob left as a private or overplus inheritance to Joseph and his children. See Genesis 48:21, Genesis 48:22, and Joshua 24:32.


Verse 6

Jacob‘s well was there - Of this well Mr. Maundrell gives the following account. “About one-third of an hour from Naplosa, the ancient Sychar and Sychem, stood Jacob‘s well. If it be inquired, whether this be the very place, seeing it may be suspected to stand too remote from Sychar for the women to come and draw water, we may answer - that, in all probability, the city extended farther in former times than it does now, as may be conjectured from some pieces of a very thick wall, the remains perhaps of the ancient Sychem, still to be seen not far from hence. Over it stood formerly a large church, erected by the Empress Irene; but of this the voracity of time, assisted by the hands of the Turks, has left nothing but a few foundations remaining. The well is covered at present with an old stone vault, into which you are let down by a very strait hole; and then, removing a broad flat stone, you discover the well itself. It is dug in a firm rock, is about three yards in diameter, and thirty-five in depth, five of which we found full of water. This confutes a story frequently told to travelers, ‹That it is dry all the year round, except on the anniversary of that day on which our blessed Savior sat upon it; but then bubbles up with abundance of water.‘ At this well the narrow valley of Sychem ends, opening itself into a wide field, which probably is part of the ground given by Jacob to his son Joseph. It is watered by a fresh stream, running between it and Sychem, which makes it exceedingly verdant and fruitful.” See Maundrell‘s Travels, 5th edit. p. 62.
Cutting pools, or making wells for public use, renders a man famous among the Hindoos. So this well had the name of Jacob, because he had digged it, and it was for public use.

Sat thus - Chrysostom inquires what the particle thus, οὑτως , means here? and answers, that it simply signifies, he sat not upon a throne, seat, or cushion; but (as the circumstances of the case required) upon the ground. This is a sense which is given to the word in the ancient Greek writers. See Raphelius, Wetstein, and Pearce. It is probably a mere expletive, and is often so used by Josephus. See several examples in Rosenmuller.

The sixth hour - About twelve o‘clock: see the notes on John 1:31. The time is noted here:

1.To account for Christ‘s fatigue - he had already traveled several hours.

2.To account for his thirst-the sun had at this time waxed hot.

3.To account for the disciples going to buy food, John 4:8, because this was the ordinary time of dinner among the Jews. See the note referred to above. Dr. Macknight thinks the sixth hour to be the Roman six o‘clock in the afternoon. See note on John 1:29 (note).


Verse 7

There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water - That this was the employment of the females, we see in different parts of the Sacred Writings. See Genesis 24:11, etc.; Exodus 2:16, and the note at the end of that chapter. The Jews say that those who wished to get wives went to the wells where young women were accustomed to come and draw water; and it is supposed that women of ill fame frequented such places also. See several proofs in Schoettgen.


Verse 9

That thou, being a Jew - Probably the inhabitants of Judea distinguished themselves from those of Samaria by some peculiar mode of dress; and by this the Samaritan woman might have known Christ: but it is likely that our Lord spoke the Galilean dialect, by which we find, from Mark 14:70, a Jew of that district might easily be known.

The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans - Perhaps better, Jews have no communion with Samaritans. These words appear to be added by the evangelist himself, in explanation of the woman‘s question. The original word, συγχρωνται , has been variously translated and understood. It comes from συν , together, and χραομαι , I use, or borrow: hence it has been understood to mean, the Jews will be under no kind of obligation to the Samaritans - will borrow nothing from them - will not drink out of the same cup or well with them - will not sit down to meals with them, nor eat out of the same vessel - will have no religious connection, no commercial dealings with them. The word communion, I think, fully expresses the sense of the original; and, being as extensive in its meaning as our word dealings, is capable of as general an interpretation. The deadly hatred that subsisted between these two nations is known to all. The Jews cursed them, and believed them to be accursed. Their most merciful wish to the Samaritans was, that they might have no part in the resurrection; or, in other words, that they might be annihilated.


Verse 10

If thou knewest the gift of God - Δωρεαν signifies a free gift. A gift is any thing that is given, for which no equivalent has been or is to be returned: a free gift is that which has been given without asking or entreaty. Such a gift of kindness was Jesus Christ to the world, John 3:16; and through him comes the gift of the Spirit, which those who believe on his name were to receive. Christ was not an object of desire to the world - no man asked for him; and God, moved thereto by his own eternal mercy, freely gave him. Through this great gift comes the Holy Spirit, and all other gifts which are necessary to the salvation of a lost world.

Living water - By this expression, which was common to the inhabitants both of the east and of the west, is always meant spring water, in opposition to dead, stagnant water contained in ponds, pools, tanks, or cisterns; and what our Lord means by it is evidently the Holy Spirit, as may be seen, John 7:38, John 7:39.
As water quenches the thirst, refreshes and invigorates the body, purifies things defiled, and renders the earth fruitful, so it is an apt emblem of the gift of the Holy Ghost, which so satisfies the souls that receive it that they thirst no more for earthly good: it purifies also from all spiritual defilement, on which account it is emphatically styled the Holy Spirit; and it makes those who receive it fruitful in every good word and work.


Verse 11

Thou hast nothing to draw with - Ουτε αντλημα εχεις , Thou hast no bucket. Good water is not plentiful in the east; and travelers are often obliged to carry leathern bottles or buckets with them, and a line also, to let them down into the deep wells, in order to draw up water. If the well was in our Lord‘s time, as it was found by Mr. Maundrell, thirty-five yards deep, it would require a considerable line to reach it; and with such it is not likely that even the disciples of our Lord were provided. The woman might well say, The well is deep, and thou hast nothing to draw with; whence then hast thou that living water?


Verse 12

Our father Jacob - The ancient Samaritans were undoubtedly the descendants of Jacob; for they were the ten tribes that revolted in the reign of Rehoboam: but those in our Lord‘s time were not genuine Israelites, but a corrupted race, sprung from a mixture of different nations, sent thither by Salmanezer, king of the Assyrians. See 2 Kings 17:24.


Verse 14

Springing up into everlasting life - On this account he can never thirst: - for how can he lack water who has in himself a living, eternal spring? By this water our Lord means also his doctrine, explaining and promising the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, which proceed from Jesus Christ their fountain, dwelling in a believing heart. There is no eternal life without the Spirit; no Spirit without Christ; and no Christ to give the Spirit, without dwelling in the heart: this his whole doctrine proclaims.


Verse 15

Give me this water - She did not as yet comprehend our Lord‘s meaning; but her curiosity was much excited, and this was the design of our Lord, that he might have her mind properly prepared to receive the great truths which he was about to announce.


Verse 16

Call thy husband - Our Lord appears to have spoken these words for two purposes:

1.To make the woman consider her own state.

2.To show her that he knew her heart, and the secret actions of her life; and was therefore well qualified to teach her heavenly truths.


Verse 18

Thou hast had five husbands - It is not clear that this woman was a prostitute: she might have been legally married to those five, and might have been divorced through some misbehavior of her own, not amounting to adultery; for the adulteress was to be put to death, both by the Jewish and Samaritan law, not divorced: or she might have been cast off through some caprice of her husband; for, in the time of our Lord, divorces were very common among the Jews, so that a man put away his wife for any fault. See the note on Matthew 5:31. Some are so very fond of exaggerating that nothing can pass through their hands without an increase: hence Heracleon says she had six husbands, and Jerome modestly gives her twenty-two! Viginti duos habuisti maritos, et ille a quo sepelieris non est tuus. “Thou hast had twenty-two husbands and he by whom thou shalt be buried is not thine.” Epist. xi.

He whom thou now hast is not thy husband - Νυν ὁν εχεις, ουκ εϚι σου ανηρ . Bishop Pearce would translate this clause in the following manner: There is no husband whom thou now hast - or, less literally, Thou hast no husband now: probably the meaning is, Thou art contracted to another, but not yet brought home: therefore he is not yet thy husband. See Rosenmuller. Bishop Pearce contends that our Lord did not speak these words to her by way of reproof:

1.Because it is not likely that a woman so far advanced in years as to have had five husbands should have now been found living in adultery with a sixth person.

2.Because it is not likely that our Lord would not, in some part of his discourse, have reproved her for her fornication, especially if guilty of it under such gross circumstances.
3.Nor is it likely that a woman of so bad a life should have had so much influence with the people of her city that they should, on her testimony, John 4:39-42, believe Jesus to be the Messiah.
4.Nor is it at all likely that when a discovery of her guilt was made to her, by one whom she acknowledged to be a prophet, John 4:19, the first thing which came into her thoughts should be the important question in religion, about the place appointed by God for his worship, so warmly contested between the Jews and Samaritans.

5.Nor is it at all probable that a person of such a bad life, without any mentioned sign of repentance, should have been the first (perhaps the only private person) to whom Jesus is recorded as declaring himself to be the Christ, as he does to her, John 4:26.


Verse 19

I perceive that thou art a prophet - And therefore thought him well qualified to decide the grand question in dispute between the Jews and the Samaritans: but she did not perceive him to be the Messiah.


Verse 20

Worshipped in this mountain - Probably pointing to Mount Gerizim, at the foot of which Sychar was situated. The patriarchs had worshipped here-Jacob builded an altar on this mountain, and worshiped the true God: see Genesis 22:2; Genesis 33:20. Thus she could say, Our fathers worshipped in this mountain. On this mountain Sanballat had built them a temple, about 332 years before our Lord‘s incarnation. See Joseph. Antiq. xi. c. viii. s. 4, and 2 Maccabees 6:2.
Many heathens considered particular places as having a peculiar sanctity or fitness, for the worship of their deities, beyond others. Such places abound in Hindostan; and in them they think men ought to worship.
In the Hebrew Pentateuch, Deuteronomy 27:4, etc., where the Israelites are commanded to build an altar on mount Ebal, and offer sacrifices, etc., the Samaritan Pentateuch has Gerizim instead of Ebal; and Dr. Kennicott strongly contends, Dissert. vol. ii. p. 20, etc., that Gerizim is the genuine reading: but our blessed Lord, by the following answer, shows that the place was a matter of little importance, as the Divine worship was no longer to be confined to either: John 4:21. See the note on Deuteronomy 27:4.


Verse 21

The hour cometh, etc. - The time was now at hand in which the spiritual worship of God was about to be established in the earth, and all the Jewish rites and ceremonies entirely abolished.

Worship the Father - This epithet shows the mild, benignant, and tender nature of the Gospel dispensation. Men are called to worship their heavenly Father, and to consider themselves as his children. In reference to this, our Lord‘s prayer begins, Our Father, who art in heaven, etc. See John 4:23.


Verse 22

Ye worship ye know not what - The Samaritans believed in the same God with the Jews; but, as they rejected all the prophetical writings, they had but an imperfect knowledge of the Deity: besides, as they incorporated the worship of idols with his worship, they might be justly said to worship him whom they did not properly know. See the account of their motley worship, 2 Kings 17:26-34. But after Sanballat had built the temple on Mount Gerizim, the idolatrous worship of the Cutheans and Sepharvites, etc., was entirely laid aside; the same religious service being performed in the Samaritan temple which was performed in that at Jerusalem.

We know what we worship - We Jews acknowledge all the attributes of his nature, and offer to him only the sacrifices prescribed in the law.

Salvation is of the Jews - Εκ των Ιουδαιων εστιν , Salvation is from the Jews. Salvation seems here to mean the Savior, the Messiah, as it does Luke 2:30; Acts 4:12: and so the woman appears to have understood it, John 4:25. The Messiah was to spring from the Jews - from them, the preaching of the Gospel, and the knowledge of the truth, were to go to all the nations of the world. It was to the Jews that the promises were made; and it was in their prophetic Scriptures, which the Samaritans rejected, that Jesus Christ was proclaimed and described. See Isaiah 11:3.


Verse 23

The true worshippers shall worship - in spirit - The worship of the Samaritans was a defective worship - they did not receive the prophetical writings: that of the Jews was a carnal worship, dealing only in the letter, and referring to the spirit and design, which were at a distance, by types and ceremonies. The Gospel of Christ showed the meaning of all these carnal ordinances, and the legal sacrifices, which had all their consummation in his offering of himself: thus a spiritual dispensation took the place of the carnal one which prefigured it. The preaching of the Gospel discovered the true nature of God, of salvation, of the human soul, of earthly and of heavenly things; and, because of this, it is put in opposition to the defective Samaritan worship.


Verse 24

God is a Spirit - This is one of the first, the greatest, the most sublime, and necessary truths in the compass of nature! There is a God, the cause of all things - the fountain of all perfection - without parts or dimensions, for he is Eternal - filling the heavens and the earth - pervading, governing, and upholding all things: for he is an infinite Spirit! This God can be pleased only with that which resembles himself: therefore he must hate sin and sinfulness; and can delight in those only who are made partakers of his own Divine nature. As all creatures were made by him, so all owe him obedience and reverence; but, to be acceptable to this infinite Spirit, the worship must be of a spiritual nature - must spring from the heart, through the influence of the Holy Ghost: and it must be in Truth, not only in sincerity, but performed according to that Divine revelation which he has given men of himself. A man worships God in spirit, when, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, he brings all his affections, appetites, and desires to the throne of God; and he worships him in truth, when every purpose and passion of his heart, and when every act of his religious worship, is guided and regulated by the word of God. “The enlightened part of mankind,” says Abu‘l Fazel, “knows that true righteousness is an upright heart; and believe that God can only be worshipped in holiness of Spirit.” Ayeen Akbery, vol. iii. p. 254.
“Of all worshippers,” says Creeshna, “I respect him as the most devout, who hath faith in me, and who serveth me with a soul possessed of my spirit.” Geeta, p. 68.


Verse 25

I know that Messias cometh - Instead of οιδα I know, several excellent MSS. and versions read, οιδαμεν , we know; as if she had said that all the Samaritans expected the advent of the Messiah. Though they did not receive the prophetic writings, yet the tradition of the advent of the Messiah, which was common among the Jews, and founded on promises contained even in the books of Moses, was generally received among the Samaritans also.

Which is called Christ - This appears to be the evangelist‘s explanation of the Hebrew word, according to his custom; John 1:38, John 1:41, John 1:42; John 9:7, etc.; for we cannot suppose that the woman understood Greek, so as to translate the Hebrew word to our word; or that she should suppose that a person who was a Jew, John 4:9, and a prophet, John 4:19, could stand in need of this interpretation.

He will tell us all things - Relative to the nature of God, the nature of his worship, and the proper place to adore him in. In a word, he will settle the great national question between Gerizim and Ebal; and we shall then know certainly where we ought to worship.


Verse 26

Jesus saith unto her, I - am he - Our Lord never spoke in such direct terms concerning himself to his own countrymen; nor even to his own disciples, till a little before his death. The reason given by Bishop Pearce is the following: The woman being alone when Jesus said it, and being a Samaritan, he had no reason to apprehend that the Samaritans, if they knew his claim, would disturb his ministry before the time of his suffering came; which seems to have been the reason why he concealed it so long from his own countrymen.


Verse 27

Came his disciples - From the town, whither they went to buy food, John 4:8.

Marveled that he talked with the woman - Because it was contrary to the custom of the eastern countries; and there are many canons, among the rabbins, against it. To the present time, if a man meet even his own wife in the street, he does not speak to her; and this is done to keep up the appearance of a chastity and temperance of which the eastern world knows nothing. They might wonder how a Samaritan, in whom they could expect no spirituality, could listen to the conversation of their Master, who never spake but about heavenly things.

Yet no man said, etc. - They were awed by his majesty, and knew that he must have sufficient reasons to induce him to act a part to which he was not at all accustomed. A great man has said, “Converse sparingly, if at all, with women; and never alone.” Every minister of the Gospel will do well to attend to this advice.


Verse 28

Left her waterpot - She was so penetrated with the great truths which Jesus had announced that she forgot her errand to the well, and returned to the city without the water for which she came out!


Verse 29

All things that ever I did - The Jews believed that one essential characteristic of the Messiah would be, that he should be able to tell the secrets of all hearts. This they believed was predicted, Isaiah 11:2, Isaiah 11:3.
When the famous impostor Barchochab, who rose up under the empire of Adrian, about a hundred years after the incarnation, professed himself to be the Messiah, after having been deceived by him for two years, they at last thought of putting his divinity to proof on this ground: they brought before him persons whom he did not know, some of whom were very vicious, and others of a different character; they desired him to point out who were the righteous, and who were the wicked; which when he could not do, they rose up and put him to death. La Bible de Martin.


Verse 30

They went out of the city - Such effect had the simple testimony of the woman on their minds.

And came unto him - Or, Were coming to him; for they did not reach him immediately; all that discourse between him and his disciples, mentioned John 4:31-39, inclusive, having taken place before the people of Sychar got to the well. See John 4:40.


Verse 31

Master, eat - They knew that he was greatly spent both with hunger and fatigue.


Verse 32

I have meat to eat that ye know not of - Our blessed Lord seizes every opportunity to raise the minds of his apostles to heavenly things, through the medium of earthly matters. Nor does he force these things into such service. Properly understood, earthly substances are the types, representatives, and shadows of heavenly things.


Verse 33

Hath any man brought him aught to eat? - Has he got food in any preternatural way? They could not help remembering the miraculous interventions of Divine providence in feeding Elijah by the ravens, at the brook Cherith, 1 Kings 17:4-6, and by the ministry of an angel, 1 Kings 19:5-8, and our Lord‘s preternatural repast in the wilderness, after his victory over Satan, Matthew 4:11.


Verse 34

My meat is to do the will of him that sent me - In these words, our blessed Lord teaches a lesson of zeal and earnestness to his apostles, and to all their successors in the Christian ministry. Let the salvation of souls lie nearer your heart than life itself. Let eating and drinking, labor and rest, reading, thinking, study, prayer, and all things, be directed to the accomplishment of this great work. Ministers of Jesus! imitate your Lord! Souls are perishing for lack of knowledge - God has given you the key of the kingdom, the knowledge of his word - O open unto them the gate of life! They are dropping by thousands into hell! O pluck the brands out of the burning!


Verse 35

There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? - In Palestine, the harvest did not begin till after the passover, which was fixed on the 14th of the month Nisan, which answers to our March, and sometimes extends into April. The barley harvest was the first; after that the wheat; and both were finished by Pentecost. For, in the feast of Pentecost, the first fruits of all the harvest were carried to the temple, and waved before the Lord. See Leviticus 23:11. The four months, of which our Lord speaks here, must be computed, according to M. Toynard, from Shebat, which was the eleventh month of the sacred year, and which commenced that year on the 13th of January: from that, till the beginning of the wheat harvest, which began about a month after the passover, there were exactly four months. The passover was that year on the 15th of Nisan, or March 28; and Pentecost took place on the 17th of May. We may therefore suppose that it was about the 13th of January, or beginning of the month Shebat, that John the Baptist was cast into prison, and that Christ retired into Galilee. The fixing of this epoch is of considerable importance. See Calmet‘s Com. on this place.
The following method of dividing the seasons among the Jews is thus stated in Bava Metsia, fol. 106. “Half Tisri, all Marheshvan, and half Cisleu, is זרע (zera). Seed-Time. Half Cisleu, whole Tebeth, and half Shebat, is חורף (choreph), Winter. Half Shebat, whole Adar, and half Nisan, is קור (kor), the Winter Solstice. Half Nisan, all Ijar, and half Sivan, is קציר (katsir), Harvest. Half Sivan, all Tammuz, and half Ab, is קייץ (kyits), Summer. Half Ab, all Elul, and half Tisri, is חום (chum), the great Heat.” The Jews sowed wheat and spelt in Tisri and Marheshvan; and barley in Shebat and Adar. Now let us reckon τετραμηνον , the four months, backwards, from the beginning of the barley harvest, or the middle of the month Nisan, and we shall go back to the middle of the month Cisleu, which will fall in with the beginning of our December, whence it will be easy to conjecture what feast that was, mentioned John 5:1, viz. the passover. See Lightfoot; and see the note on John 5:1.
After all that learned men have said on this passage, it does not appear that our Lord meant any thing by it more than an illustration of his present subject. Though there were ordinarily four months from seed-time to harvest, and that a man, after he had sowed his seed, must wait patiently till the regular and natural harvest came, yet it was not the case now: the seed of life which he had sown but a few hours ago had already brought forth much fruit; therefore he says, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, over which it is likely the Samaritans were then coming in troops, guided by the woman who had already received the light of the Gospel of peace.

The fields - are white already to harvest - Multitudes of Samaritans are coming to believe on me, and to be saved unto eternal life. Probably they had a kind of white raiment.


Verse 36

And he that reapeth receiveth wages - Or, And already the reaper receiveth wages. By making the word ηδη , already, the beginning of this verse, on the authority of some excellent MSS. and versions, a more consistent sense is obtained than from the common arrangement, where ηδη terminates the preceding verse.
Already the heavenly sower, Jesus Christ, becomes the reaper of the produce of the seed which he had so lately sown; and receives the wages which he desired, the high gratification of saving immortal souls; and gathers in his fruit unto eternal life. So the sower and the reaper, who are here one and the same person, rejoiced together, having seen the seed time and the harvest take place on the same day. The sower had not time to leave the field which he had sown, till it was full time to gather in the harvest!


Verse 37

Herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth - Or, One is the sower, and another is the reaper. In what respects you, of this business, this proverb is true - One is the sower, etc., for I have sent you to reap, to preach my Gospel, and gain converts, where ye have not labored - have not sown the first seeds of eternal life. Others have labored - the patriarchs and prophets, and ye are entered into the fruits of their labors. They announced the Messiah who was to come, and the expectation of the people was excited, and they longed for his appearance; but they were gathered to their fathers before they could see the fruit of their labor. You are come to tell the people that the kingdom of God is among them, and that God has visited his people.
The proverb which our Lord mentions above was taken from what ordinarily happens in the course of the Divine providence, where one takes a great deal of pains to procure that of which another reaps the benefit. See instances of this proverb, Leviticus 26:16: Ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. Micah 6:15: Thou shalt sow, but thou shalt not reap; thou shalt tread the olives, but not anoint thee with the oil. See also Hosea 7:9. The Greeks had the same proverb: Αλλοι μεν σπερουσι, αλλοι δ αν αμησονται . So had the Latins: Aliis leporem excitasti. You have beat the bush, and another has found the hare. See the famous verses of Virgil beginning with, Sic vos non vobis, in which the fowls, the sheep, the bees, and the oxen, are elegantly brought in as illustrations of the propriety of the proverb.
Sic vos non vobis nidificatis aves.
Sic vos non vobis vellera fertis oves.
Sic vos non vobis mellificatis apes.
Sic vos non vobis fertis aratra boves.
So you, ye birds, of wondrous skill possest,
Not for yourselves construct the curious nest.
So you, ye sheep, who roam the verdant field,
Not for yourselves your snowy fleeces yield,
So you, ye bees, who every flower explore,
Not for yourselves amass the honied store.
So you, ye patient kine, inured to toil,
Not for yourselves subdue the stubborn soil!

Bishop Pearce gives this text a remarkable turn. The verse he translates thus: I sent you away, that ye might reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor; i.e. I did not send you to the city (John 4:8) for this purpose only, that ye might buy meat; but I sent you away chiefly with this intent, that there might be a harvest for you to reap upon your return; though you sowed no seed, and bestowed no labor for that purpose. While you were gone, I sowed spiritual seed in the heart of a Samaritan woman; and she is gone, and is about to return with many of her city, whom she has brought to believe, (John 4:39-42.) These, and the many more which will believe upon hearing my doctrine, (John 4:41), will all be a harvest arising out of the seed which I sowed in your absence, and on which, therefore, ye bestowed no labor. He farther adds, that the Greek θεριζειν , stands for του θεριζειν , and such expressions are often used to signify, not the end and design, but the event only. Pearce‘s Comment.


Verse 39

Many of the Samaritans - believed on him for the saying of the woman - This woman was the first apostle of Christ in Samaria! She went and told her fellow citizens that the Messiah was come; and gave for proof, that he had told her the most secret things she had ever done: see on John 4:29 (note). This word, which is twice repeated, in John 4:29 and here, strongly intimates that a more particular conversation had taken place, between our Lord and the Samaritan woman, than what is here related.


Verse 40

He abode there two days - We are not told that he wrought any miracles among them; this does not appear to have been necessary: they were a simple-hearted, teachable people, and they credited him on the evidence of his own eternal truth. Why are not miracles wrought now? Miracles were only for the establishment of the doctrines of Christianity, where they were first preached; we profess to believe these doctrines; therefore, to us, miracles would be useless. Where the doctrine is credited, no miracle is necessary: the Samaritans believed, and no miracle was wrought among them; for the simple reason, it was not necessary.


Verse 42

We have heard him ourselves - On seeing and hearing our Lord, the faith of those who had already believed on the woman‘s testimony was abundantly confirmed; and, besides those, may others believed who had not heard the woman speak.

This is indeed the Christ - The promised Messiah.

The Savior of the world - Not of the Jews only, but of the Samaritans, and of the whole Gentile world.


Verse 43

Went into Galilee - Bishop Pearce thinks that some words have been lost from the end of this verse, which may be supplied thus: Went into Galilee, but not to Nazareth; for Jesus himself had declared, etc. In Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4, and Luke 4:24, which are the only texts where Jesus is said to have declared this, he always spake of Nazareth only, and not of Galilee in general, a country where he lived for the most part, and wrought the greatest number of his miracles, and made the most converts.


Verse 44

Jesus himself testified - He bore testimony to the general truth of the following proverb. See on Matthew 13:57 (note).


Verse 45

The Galileans received him - They received him as the promised Messiah, because of the miracles which they had seen him perform at Jerusalem, at the Passover. See John 2:23.


Verse 46

Where he made the water wine - See the notes on John 2:1, etc. Cana was on the road from Nazareth to Capernaum and the Sea of Tiberias.

A certain nobleman - An officer of the king‘s court: for this is the meaning of the original word, βασιλικος , which the Vulgate translates regulus, a little king. This officer belonged to Herod Antipas, who was then tetrarch of Galilee. Jerome calls him Palatinus, and says he was an officer of the king‘s palace. Others think it was Chuza, mentioned Luke 8:3; and others think it was Manaen, spoken of Acts 13:1. One of these opinions may be true, but all solid proof is wanting. This officer, whoever he was, appears to have had his ordinary abode at Capernaum, and hearing that Christ was at Cana, he came express from Capernaum thither, to entreat him to heal his child.


Verse 48

Except ye see signs and wonders, etc. - Our Lord does not tell this man that he had no faith, but that he had not enough. If he had had none, he would not have come from Capernaum to Cana, to beg him to heal his son. If he had had enough, he would have been contented with recommending his son to our Lord, without entreating him to go to Capernaum to heal him; which intimates that he did not believe our Lord could do it at a distance. But the words are not addressed to the nobleman alone, but to all the Galilean Jews in general; for our Lord uses the plural number, which he never does when addressing an individual. These people differed widely from the people of Sychar: they had neither a love of the truth, nor simplicity of heart; and would not believe any thing from heaven, unless forced on their minds by the most striking miracles. They were favored with the ministry of John Baptist; but, as that was not accompanied with miracles, it was not generally credited. They require the miracles of Christ, in order that they may credit the advent of the Messiah. There are many like these Galileans still in the world: they deny that God can have any influence among men; and as to the operations of the Holy Spirit, they, in the genuine Galilean spirit, boldly assert that they will not credit any man who professes to be made a partaker of them, unless he work a miracle in proof of his pretensions! These persons should know that the grace of working miracles was very different from that by which a man is saved; and that the former might exist, even in the most astonishing measure, where the latter did not. See 1 Corinthians 13:2.


Verse 49

Sir, come down, etc. - He did not think our Lord could cure him without being present, and seems here to feel himself hurt, because our Lord did not come at his first entreaty. It is difficult for a proud man, or a man in office, to humble himself, or to treat even God Almighty with proper respect. The spirit of this man seems not much unlike to that of Naaman the Syrian, 2 Kings 5:11.


Verse 50

Go thy way; thy son liveth - Had our Lord gone with him, as he wished, his unbelief could not have been fully removed; as he would have still thought that our Lord‘s power could not reach from Cana to Capernaum: in order to destroy his unbelief at once, and bring him into the fullness of the faith of his supreme power, he cures him, being apparently absent, by that energy through which he fills both the heavens and the earth. Here it may be observed, our blessed Lord did what this man requested him to do, but not in the way in which he wished it to be done. God will save all to the uttermost who call upon him, but not in the way in which they may desire. Eternal life is the free gift of God, and he has a right to give it as he pleases; and he always gives his gifts in that way in which his glory is best promoted, and our eternal interest secured.

The man believed the word - And yet it appears that he had suspended his faith upon a certain condition: “If I find on my return that my son is healed, I will believe that Jesus is the Messiah.”


Verse 52

Then inquired he of them the hour - The servants, overjoyed to find their master‘s son so suddenly restored, set off to meet him, that they might impart to him tidings which they knew would be so very agreeable; and he, intent on having his faith settled, began immediately to inquire what time it was when the fever left him, to see whether his cure was the effect of some natural cause, or whether it was done by the power of Christ.

Yesterday at the seventh hour - At the time we would call one o‘clock. Dr. Macknight thinks the Roman hour is intended; i.e. seven o‘clock in the evening; and this he thinks is the reason why our Lord did not accompany the nobleman: for, as Cana was a day‘s journey from Capernaum, had our Lord gone at that hour he must have traveled in the night, from which it might have been inferred that he could not cure the child without being personally present. Harmony, vol. i. p. 52.


Verse 53

So the father knew - He had the fullest proof that his son‘s cure was supernatural, and that it was wrought by the Lord Jesus.

Himself believed, and his whole house - He and his whole family became true converts to the doctrine of the manifested Messiah. The whole family, impressed with the great kindness of God in sending health to the child, were the more easily led to believe in the Lord Jesus. The sickness of the child became the mean of salvation to all the household. They, no doubt, thought at first that God was dealing hardly with them, when threatening to remove the child; but now they see that in very faithfulness God had afflicted them. Let us learn never to murmur against God, or think that he does not act kindly towards us. His wisdom cannot permit him to err; his goodness will not suffer him to do any thing to his creatures but what may be subservient to their best interests. By providential occurrences, apparently the most adverse, he may be securing our eternal salvation.
There is an account in Beracoth, fol. 34, very similar to this of the evangelist, and very possibly stolen from this holy source. “When the son of Rab. Gamaliel fell sick, he sent two of his disciples to R. Chanina, that he would pray to God for him. When he had seen them, he went on the roof of his house and prayed for him. He then came down and said to them, His fever has departed from him. They said unto him, Art thou a prophet? He answered, I am neither a prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but when I can recite my prayers readily, I know I shall be heard. They then wrote down the hour; and, when they returned to R. Gamaliel, he said to them, Ye have fulfilled your ministry - in respect to my son, all is complete. In that hour the fever (חמה (chomah), ὁ πυρετος ) left him, and he desired water to drink.” Schoettgen very properly remarks, Ovum ovo non magis simile est, atque haec fabula narrationi evangelicae. “One egg is not more like to another, than this fable to the evangelical narration.”


Verse 54

This - second miracle - The first miracle which Christ performed was in this same city of Cana, just after his baptism; and this second took place after his arrival here from Jerusalem, whence, we have seen, he was driven by the persecution raised against him by the scribes and Pharisees. By construing the word παλιν , again, with ελθων , he came, that confusion which is evident in the common version is entirely removed.
Bishop Pearce says: “It seems probable to me that John, when he wrote this verse, either joined the word παλιν to ελθων , as he had done in John 4:46, or meant that it should be so joined in the construction.” John does not mention here the miracles which our Lord did at Capernaum on his first journey, John 2:11, nor those which he did at Jerusalem on the feast of the passover. See John 2:12; Luke 4:23.
There are several particulars in the preceding history of the Samaritan woman which confirm the doctrine of a particular providence, and show how God manages the most common occurrences in order to accomplish the designs of his mercy and love.

The Gospel must be preached to the Samaritans: this is God‘s purpose; and in this case, the wrath of man is caused to praise him.

1.Christ finds it necessary to quit Judea because of the persecution raised up against him by the scribes and Pharisees, John 4:1-3. How worthy of admiration is that Divine providence that presses every thing into the accomplishment of its own designs! The doctors of Jerusalem oblige the Savior to leave their city; and a simple woman persuades all the inhabitants of a Samaritan city to open their gates and their hearts, and entreat the Redeemer of the world to enter in.

2.Christ must pass through Samaria, John 4:4. He was so situated in Judea that he could not reach Galilee except through Samaria, without taking a large circuit, which the necessities of the present case could not admit. Thus, while he appears to fly only from the fury of his persecutors, he is in reality seeking the lost, and fully accomplishing the work he came into the world to perform.
3.Christ being weary finds it necessary to sit down to rest himself by Jacob‘s well, John 4:5, John 4:6, spent with fatigue and hunger. How energetic was this fatigue? how active was this rest! Nothing can happen to Christ in vain - nothing can turn him out of the way of his mercy - his great work he continues to carry on, without the smallest interruption, where we would have thought it must have been necessarily suspended.
4.The disciples are obliged to go to the city to buy victuals, John 4:8, and Jesus was left alone. Even this circumstance was not only favorable to the conversion of the Samaritan woman, but even essentially necessary, as, without it, she could not have had that opportunity of conversing freely with our Lord; nor would it have been proper for him to have made that discovery of himself, in their presence, which we find he did during their absence. See the note on John 4:26.
5.The Samaritan woman is induced at that very time to go and draw water. Even so small a circumstance as this becomes a necessary part in the economy of her salvation. There is not a circumstance in our life not an occurrence in our business, but God will make it subservient to our salvation, if we have a simple heart and a teachable spirit. The steps of a good man especially are ordered of the Lord; and, while he acknowledges his Maker in all his ways, he will direct all his steps. A proper consideration of this great truth will produce both confidence and humility.

6.But this blessed doctrine may be abused; for some may suppose that God always acts according to a fixed necessity, through which, whatsoever was, is, or will be, has had its existence, mode of being, operation, and direction, according to predetermined irrevocable laws. This system makes God himself the necessary agent of eternal fate, as it supposes him to be constantly employed in doing what eternal necessity obliges him to perform; and thus his infinite freedom is bounded or acted upon by uncontrollable necessity. Perdition is not farther from glory than necessitating decrees are from a particular and gracious providence, by which the means of salvation are placed within the reach of every human being.

sa40


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Bibliography Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 4:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/view.cgi?book=joh&chapter=004. 1832.

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