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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
John 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

John 4:1. The first verse gives the cause of His leaving Judaea, to wit, a threatened or possible collision with the Pharisees, who resented His baptising.— ὡς οὖν ἔγνω ἰωάννης. οὖν continues the narrative with logical sequence, connecting what follows with what goes before; here it connects what is now related with the popularity of Jesus’ baptism, John 3:22; John 3:26.— κύριος, so unusual in this Gospel that some editors read ἰησοῦς, for which there is scant authority. But where the evangelist is not reporting contemporary speech but speaking for his own person κύριος is natural.— ἔγνω rightly rendered in the modern Greek translation by ἔμαθεν; the knowledge that comes by information is meant.— ὅτι ἤκουσαν, that the Pharisees had heard, the aorist here, as frequently elsewhere, representing the English pluperfect. What they had heard is given in direct narration under an introductory ὅτι, and hence not the pronoun but ἰησοῦς appears as subject: “Jesus is making and baptising more disciples than John”.— μαθητὰς ποιεῖ (cf. μαθητεύσατε βαπτίζοντες, Matthew 28:19), “disciples” being here used in the wider sense and not involving permanent separation from their employments. The Pharisees had resented John’s baptising, much more that of Jesus, because more popular.


Verses 1-4

John 4:1-4 account for His being in Samaria; 5–26 relate His conversation with a Samaritan woman; 27–38 His consequent conversation with His own disciples; 39–42 the impression He made upon the Samaritans. The circumstances which brought our Lord into Samaria seem to be related as much for the sake of maintaining the continuity of the history and of exhibiting the motives which guided His movements as for the sake of introducing the incident at Sychar.


Verse 2

John 4:2. Here John inserts a clause corrective of one impression which this statement would make: καίτοιγεαὐτοῦ. καίτοιγε is slightly stronger than “although,” rather “although indeed”. Hoogeveen (De Particulis, p. 322) renders “quanquam re vera”; see also Paley, Greek Particles, pp. 67–8. τοι is the old form of τῷ, “hereby,” “truly,” “in fact”. The clause is inserted to remind us, as Bengel says, that “baptizare actio ministralis (cf. Paul’s refusal to baptise). Johannes minister suâ manu baptizavit, discipuli ejus, ut videtur, neminem; at Christus baptizat spiritu sancto.” So too Nonnus, who says that the king did not baptise with water. “By leaving the baptism of water to the apostles, He rendered the rite independent of His personal presence, and so provided for the maintenance of it in His Church after His departure,” Godet.


Verse 3

John 4:3. On this coming to the ears of Jesus ἀφῆκε τὴν ἰουδαίαν, He forsook or abandoned Judaea. The verb is used of neglecting or dismissing from thought, hence of forgiving sin; but there is here no ethical sense in the word, and it may be translated “left”.— καὶ ἀπῆλθε πάλιν, “again” in reference to the visit to Galilee already narrated, John 1:44, John 2:1. Jesus feared a collision with the Pharisees at this early stage, because it could only mar His work. He refuses to be hurried, and remains master of the situation throughout. He therefore retired to Galilee, where He thought He would be hidden. Cf. John 4:44.


Verse 4

John 4:4. ἔδεισαμαρείας. The ἔδει is explained by the position of Samaria interposed between Judaea and Galilee. Only the very sensitive Jews went round by Peraea. The Galileans were accustomed to go through Samaria on their way to the feasts at Jerusalem (Josephus, Antiq., xx. 6, 1). Samaria took its name from the city Samaria or Shomron, built by Omri as the capital of the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 16:24). After being destroyed by Hyrcanus, the city was rebuilt by Herod and called Sebaste in honour of Augustus. The territory of Samaria in the time of Christ was included in the tetrarchy of Archelaus and was under the procurator Pontius Pilate. Herod Antipas’ domain marched with it north and east.


Verse 5

John 4:5. ἔρχεται οὖντῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ. “So He comes to a city of Samaria called Sychar.” λεγομένην, cf. John 11:16, John 11:54, John 19:13, etc. In the Itinerary of Jerusalem (A.D. 333) Sychar is identified with ‘Askar, west of Salim and near Shechem, the modern Nablûs. The strength of the case for ‘Askar, according to Prof. G. A. Smith (Hist. Geog., p. 371), is this: “That in the fourth century two authorities independently describe a Sychar distinct from Shechem; that in the twelfth century at least three travellers, and in the thirteenth at least one, do the same, the latter also quoting a corrupt but still possible variation of the name; that in the fourteenth the Samaritan Chronicle mentions another form of the name; and that modern travellers find a third possible variation of it not only applied to a village suiting the site described by the authorities in the fourth century, but important enough to cover all the plain about the village”. The difficulty regarding the initial Ayin in the name ‘Askar is also removed by Prof. Smith. See further Conder’s Tent-work, i. 71. Sychar is described as πλησίοναὐτοῦ, near the “parcel of ground” (particella, little part; the Vulgate has “praedium,” estate) which Jacob gave to Joseph his son; according to Genesis 48:22, where Jacob says, “I have given thee one portion (Shechem) above thy brethren”; cf. Genesis 33:19. Shechem in Hebrew means “the shoulder,” and some have fancied that the shoulder being the priest’s portion, the word came to denote any allotment. Gesenius, however, is of opinion that the word was transferred to a portion of land, on account of the shape resembling the back across the shoulders.


Verse 6

John 4:6. ἦν δὲ ἐκεῖ πηγὴ τοῦ ἰακώβ. Both πηγή and φρέαρ are used in this context; the former meaning the spring or well of water, the latter the dug and built pit or well. In John 4:11 φρέαρ is necessarily used. Whether in this John 4:6 ἐπὶ τῇ πηγῇ is to be rendered “at,” keeping πηγῇ in its strict sense, or “on” as if for φρέατι is doubted; but the former is certainly the more natural rendering; cf. Aristoph., Frogs, 191, where ἐπί with accus. gives rise to misunderstanding of sitting “on” an oar instead of “at” it. Jacob’s well lies ten minutes south of the present village ‘Askar, and a good spring exists in ‘Askar. This has given rise to the difficulty: Why should a woman have come so far, passing good sources of water supply? Most probably the reason is that this well was Jacob’s, and special virtue was supposed to attach to it; or because in the heat of summer other wells and streams were dry. The real difficulty is: Why was there a well there at all, in the neighbourhood of streams? Possibly Jacob may have dug it that he might have no quarrelling with his neighbours about water-rights. As a stranger with a precarious tenure he might find this necessary. Travellers agree in accepting as Jacob’s well here mentioned the Ain-Jakub, or Bir-et-Jakub, some twenty minutes east of Nablûs.— οὖν ἰησοῦςἔκτη. It was “about,” ὡς (Theophylact calls attention to this as a mark of accuracy), the sixth hour, that is, midday (the Jews dined on Sabbath at the sixth hour, see Josephus, Vita) (see on c. i. 40); and they had probably been walking for several hours, and accordingly Jesus was tired, κεκοπιακὼς ( κόπος, excessive toil), fatigued (Wetstein quotes οὐ γὰρ ἐξ ὁδοιπορίας τὰς φλέβας κοπιᾷ ἀλλὰ τὰ νεῦρα), and was sitting thus, tired as He was ( οὕτως, in the condition in which He was, that is, tired as He was. Elsner thinks it only indicates consequence [nihil aliud quam consequentiam significat] and should be omitted in translating. So Kypke, who cites instructive instances, concludes: “solemne est Graecis, praecedente participio, voculam οὕτως pleonastice ponere”. But in all his instances οὕτως precedes the verb), at the well (cf. Josephus, Ant., John 4:1 : στρατοπεδευσαμένους ἐπὶ τινι πηγῇ). As to the hour, two circumstances con firm the opinion that it was midday First, that apparently there was no intention of halting here for the night, as there would have been had it been evening. And, second, while it is truly urged that evening is the common time for drawing water, it is obvious that only one woman had come at this time, and accordingly the probability is it was not evening. See also Josephus, Ant., ii. 11, 1, where he describes Moses sitting at the well at midday wearied with his journey, and the women coming to water their flocks.


Verse 7

John 4:7. ἔρχεταιὕδωρ, apparently this clause is prepared for by the preceding, “There comes a woman of Samaria,” that is, a Samaritan woman, not, of course, “from the city Samaria,” which is two hours distant from the well, ἀντλῆσαι ὕδωρ, infinitive and aorist, both classical; cf. Rebecca in Genesis 24:11, etc., having her ὑδρία on her shoulder or on her head, ἄγγος ἐπὶ τῇ κεφαλῇ ἔχουσα, Herod., John 4:12; and Ovid’s “Ponitur e summa fictilis urna coma”. [Elsner] ἄντλος is the hold of a ship where the bilge settles: ἀντλέω, to bale a ship; hence, to draw water. To her Jesus says, δός μοι πιεῖν, the usual formula; cf. δώσω πιεῖν, Pherecrates, Frag., 67, and Aristoph., Pax, 49.


Verse 8

John 4:8. οἱ γὰρ μαθηταὶἀγοράσωσι. This gives the reason for the request. Had the disciples been present they would have made the request: an indication of the relations already subsisting between the disciples and the Lord. Probably the five first called were still with Him. That the disciples had gone to buy in Sychar, shows either that the law allowed trading with Samaritans, or that Jesus and His disciples ignored the law. But the woman is surprised at the request of Jesus.


Verse 9

John 4:9. πῶς σὺ ἰουδαῖος ὢν. How did she know He was a Jew? Probably there were slight differences in dress, feature and accent. Edersheim says “the fringes on the Tallith of the Samaritans are blue, while those worn by the Jews are white”. He also exposes the mistake of some commentators regarding the words uttered by Jesus: “Teni li lishtoth”. The reason of the woman’s surprise is given by the Evangelist in the words οὐ γὰρ συγχρῶνται ἰουδαίοι σαμαρείταις. “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” συγχρᾶσθαι literally signifies “to use together with,” so that the sense here might be that the woman was surprised that Jesus should use the same vessel she used; rather it has the secondary meaning “to have intercourse” or “dealings with”; similarly to the Latin utor, see Hor., Ep., i. xii. 22, “utere Pompeio Grospho,” and xvii. 13, “regibus uti,” to make a friend of, or “be on terms of intimacy with”. The classical phrase is οἶσιν οὐκ ἐπιστροφαί, Eurip., Helena, 440. The later tradition said: “Samaritanis panem comedere aut vinum bibere prohibitum est”. Of course the hostile feeling ran back to the days of Nehemiah. And see Sirach 50:25-26. “With two nations is my soul vexed, and the third is no nation: they that sit upon Mount Seir and the Philistines, and that foolish people that dwelleth in Sichem.” For the origin of the Samaritans see 2 Kings 17, and cf. Farrar’s Life of Christ in loc. Tristram, Land of Israel, 134.


Verse 10

John 4:10. ἀπεκρίθηὕδωρ ζῶν. “If thou knewest;” the pathos of the situation strikes Jesus. The woman stands on the brink of the greatest possibilities, but is utterly unconscious of them. Two things she did not know: (1) τὴν δωρεὰν τοῦ θεοῦ, the free gift of God. This is explained in the last words of the verse to be “living water”; but in its first occurrence it is indefinite: “If thou knewest the freeness of God’s giving, and that to each of His children He has a purpose of good”. But in God’s direction the woman cherished no hope. (2) She did not know τίς ἐστιν λέγων σοι, δός μοι πιεῖν. So long as she thought Him an ordinary Jew she could expect nothing from Him. Had she known that Jesus was the bearer of God’s free gift to men, she would have asked of Him. σὺ ἀν ᾔτησας αὐτόν, σὺ is emphatic. You would have anticipated my request by a request on your own behalf. And instead of creating difficulties I would have given thee living water.— ὕδωρ ζῶν, by which the woman understood that He meant spring water. What He did mean appears immediately. John 4:11. λέγει αὐτῷτὸ ζῶν; She addresses Him with κύριε, perhaps fancying from His saying, “If you had known who it is that says to you,” that He was some great person in disguise. But her answer breathes incredulity: οὔτε ἄντλημα ἔχεις. She began her sentence meaning to say, “You neither have a bucket, nor is the well shallow enough for you to reach the water without one,” but she alters its construction and puts the second statement in a positive form. The depth of the well is variously given. Conder found it 75 feet.— πόθεν … She is mystified, μὴ σὺ μείζωνθρέμματα αὐτοῦ. Jesus had spoken as if independently of the well He could procure living water: but even Jacob (claimed by the Samaritans as their father, and whose bones lay in their midst), great as he was, used this well.— θρέμματα. “What is nourished.” Kypke adduces several instances in which it is used of “domestics”. Plato, Laws, 953 E, uses it of “nurslings of the Nile,” the Egyptians. But Wetstein adduces many instances of its use in the sense of “cattle”. Theophylact thinks this points to the abundant supply of water.


Verse 13-14

John 4:13-14. Jesus in reply, though He does not quite break through the veil of figure, leads her on to think of a more satisfying gift than even Jacob had given in this well.— πᾶς πίνωνζωὴν αἰώνιον. He contrasts the water of the well with the water He can give; and the two characteristic qualities of His living water are suggested by this contrast. The water of Jacob’s well had two defects: it quenched thirst only for a time, and it lay outside the town a weary distance, and subject to various accidents. Christ offers water which will quench thirst lastingly, and which will be “in” the person drinking, ἐν αὐτῷ πηγὴ ὕδατος ἁλλομένου εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον. For this figure put to another though similar use, see Marcus Aurelius, vii. 59, and viii. 51, with Gataker’s notes. The living water lastingly quenches human cravings and is within the man, inseparable from him, and always energetically and afresh shooting up.


Verse 15

John 4:15. The woman, with her mind still running on actual water, says κύριεἀντλεῖν. She is attracted by the two qualities of the water, and asks it (1) ἵνα μὴ διψῶ, (2) μηδὲ ἔρχωμαι ἐνθάδε ἀντλεῖν.


Verse 16

John 4:16. To this request Jesus replies “ γπαγε, φώνησονἐνθάδε. His purpose in this has been much debated. Calvin thinks He meant to rebuke her scurrility in mockingly asking for the water. This does not show Calvin’s usual penetration. Westcott says that in the woman’s request “she confessed by implication that even the greatest gift was not complete unless it was shared by those to whom she was bound. If they thirsted, though she might not thirst, her toilsome labour must be continued still.” Jesus, reading this thought, bids her bring the man for whom she draws water. The gift is for him also. But this meaning is too obscure. Meyer thinks the request was not seriously intended: but this detracts from the simplicity of Christ. The natural interpretation is that in response to her request Jesus gives her now the first draught of the living water by causing her to face her guilty life and bring it to Him. He cannot give the water before thirst for it is awakened. The sure method of awaking the thirst is to make her acknowledge herself a sinful woman (cf. Alford).


Verse 17

John 4:17. The woman shrinks from exposure and replies οὐκ ἔχω ἄνδρα, “I have no husband”. A literal truth, but scarcely honest in intention. Jesus at once veils her deceit, καλῶς εἶπας, etc., and disposes of her equivocation by emphasising the ἄνδρα. Thou hast well said, I have no husband.— πέντε γὰρεἴρηκας. “He whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in this [so far] you said what is true.” In Malachi’s time facility for divorce was producing disastrous consequences, and probably many women, not only in Samaria but among the poorer Jews, had a similar history to relate. The stringency with which our Lord speaks on this subject suggests that matters were fast approaching the condition in which they now are in Mohammedan countries. Lane tells us that “there are certainly not many persons in Cairo who have not divorced one wife if they have been long married,” and that there are many who have in the course of ten years married twenty or thirty or more wives (cf. Lecky’s European Morals for the state of matters in the Roman world). Jerome, Ep. ad Ageruch, 123, mentions a Roman woman who had had twenty-two husbands. Serious attention need scarcely be given to the fancy of “the critical school” that the woman with her five husbands is intended as an allegorical representation of Samaria with the [seven] gods of the five nations who peopled the country. See 2 Kings 17:24-31. Consistently the man with whom the woman now lived would represent Jehovah. Holtzmann, shrinking from this, suggests Simon Magus. Heracleon discovered in the husband that was not a husband the woman’s guardian angel or Pleroma (Bigg’s Neoplatonism, 150).


Verse 19

John 4:19. The woman at once recognises this knowledge of her life as evidence of a supernatural endowment.— κύριε θεωρῶ ὅτι προφήτης εἶ σύ. Cf. John 4:29 and John 2:24. θεωρῶ is used in its post-classical sense. It is not unnatural that the woman finding herself in the presence of a prophet should seek His solution of the standing problem of Samaritan religion. His answer would shed further light on his prophetic endowment, and would also determine whether He had any light and hope to give to a Samaritan. Josephus (Antiq., xiii. 3, 4) narrates that a disputation on this point before Ptolemy Philometor resulted in the death according to contract of the two Samaritan advocates, they not being able to prove their position.


Verse 20

John 4:20. οἱ πατέρεςδεῖ προσκυνεῖν. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, Gerizim, at whose base we are standing, etc. On Gerizim were proclaimed the blessings recorded Deuteronomy 28. Sanballat erected on it a rival temple (but see the Bible Dict. and Josephus) which was rased by John Hyrcanus, B.C. 129. A broad flat surface of rock on the top of Gerizim is still held sacred by the few Samaritans who now represent the old race and customs. Especially consult G. A. Smith’s Hist. Geog., p. 334, who shows that Shechem is the natural centre of Palestine, and adds: “It was by this natural capital of the Holy Land, from which the outgoings to the world are so many and so open, that the religion of Israel rose once for all above every geographical limit, and the charter of a universal worship was given”. ἐν ἱεροσολύμοις may either mean that the place of worship, the temple, is in Jerusalem, or that Jerusalem is itself the place—more probably the latter.


Verse 21

John 4:21. γύναι, πίστευσόν μοιτῷ πατρί. One of the greatest announcements ever made by our Lord; and made to one sinful woman, cf. John 20:16.— ἔρχεται ὥρα a time is coming; in John 4:23 καὶ νῦν ἐστίν is added. A great religious revolution has arrived. Localism in worship is abolished, οὔτε ἐν τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ, etc., “neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem,” exclusively or preferentially, “shall ye worship the Father”. What determines this “hour”? The manifestation of God in Christ, and the principle announced in John 4:24 and implied in τῷ πατρί; for God being absolutely “the Father” all men in all places must have access to Him, and being of a like nature to man’s He can only receive a spiritual worship. Cf. Acts 17:29.


Verse 22

John 4:22. ὑμεῖς προσκυνεῖτε οὐκ οἴδατε. The distinction between Jewish and Samaritan worship lies not in the difference of place, but of the object of worship. The neuter refers abstractly to the object of worship. “You do not know the object of your worship;” suggested by the τῷ πατρί of the preceding clause. Cf. Acts 17:23. ἡμεῖς προσκυνοῦμεν οἴδαμεν. The Jews worshipped a God who had made Himself known to them in their history by His gracious and saving dealings with them. That it is this knowledge which is meant appears in the following clause: ὅτι σωτηρία ἐκ τῶν ἰουδαίων ἐστίν, that is to say, God has manifested Himself as Saviour to the Jews, and through them to all. “A powerful repudiation of the theory which makes the author of this Gospel a Gentile of the second century with a Gnostic antipathy to Judaism and Jews,” Reynolds.


Verse 23

John 4:23. There is this great distinction between Jew and Samaritan, ἀλλʼ ἔρχεται ὥρακαὶ ἀληθείᾳ, but notwithstanding that it is to the Jews God has especially revealed Himself as Saviour, the hour has now come when the ideal worshippers, whether Jew or Samaritan, shall worship the one universal Father in spirit, not in either Gerizim or Jerusalem, and in truth, not in the symbols of Samaritan or Jewish worship, ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ. Two defects of all previous worship are aimed at; all that was local and all that was symbolic is to be left behind. Worship is to be (1) ἐν πνεύματι [on ἐν here, see Winer, 528], in the heart, not in this place or that. The essential thing is, not that the right place be approached, but that the right spirit enter into worship. And (2) it is to be ἐν ἀληθείᾳ, in correspondence with reality, both as regards the object and the manner of worship. The Samaritans had not known the object of their worship: the Jews had employed symbolism in worship. Both these defects were now to be removed. καὶ γὰρ πατὴραὐτόν. καὶ γάρ is not merely equivalent to γάρ, but must be rendered, “For of a truth”. The characteristics of the ideal worshippers have been declared; and now, in confirmation, Jesus adds, “For of a truth the Father seeks such for His worshippers”.


Verse 24

John 4:24. The reason of all this is found in the determining statement πνεῦμα θεός, God is Spirit. Cf. God is Light; God is Love. The predication involves much; that God is personal, and much else. But primarily it here indicates that God is not corporeal, and therefore needs no temple. Rarely is the fundamental fact of God’s spirituality carried to all its conclusions. Cf. James 1:27; Romans 12:1.


Verse 25

John 4:25. This great statement rather overwhelms and bewilders the woman. ἰλιγγίασε πρὸς τὸ τῶν ῥηθέντων ὕψος, Euthymius, after Chrysostom. Somewhat helplessly she appeals to the final authority, οἶδα ὅτι ΄εσσίαςπάντα. The Samaritan expectation of a Messiah was based on their knowledge of Deuteronomy 18, and other allusions in the Pentateuch, and on their familiarity with Jewish ideas. He was known as Hashab or Hathab, the Converter, or as El Muhdy, the Guide. For the sources of information, see Westcott’s Introd. to Gospels, chap. ii., note 2. “It appears from Josephus (Ant., xviii. 4, 1) that in the later years of the procuratorship of Pilate, there was an actual rising of the Samaritans, who assembled on Mount Gerizim, under the influence of these Messianic expectations. Who can say that they may not have been originally set in motion by the event recorded in the Fourth Gospel?” Sanday. It was His prophetic endowment which this woman especially believed in, “He will tell us all”; and for Him she was willing to wait.


Verse 26

John 4:26. The woman’s despairing bewilderment is at once dissipated by the announcement ἐγώ εἰμι, λαλῶν σοι. “I that speak to thee am He.” This declaration He was free to make among a people with whom He could not be used for political ends. “I think, too, there will be felt to be something not only very beautiful, but very characteristic of our Lord, in His declaring Himself with greater plainness of speech than He had Himself hitherto done even to the Twelve, to this dark-minded and sin-stained woman, whose spiritual nature was just awakening to life under His presence and His words” (Stanton, Jewish and Christian Messiah, p. 275).


Verse 27

John 4:27. But just at this critical juncture, ἐπὶ τούτῳ, “on this,” came His disciples καὶ ἐθαύμασαν. The imperfect better suits the sense; “they were wondering”: the cause of wonder being ὅτι μετὰ γυναικὸς ἐλάλει, “that He was speaking with a woman”; this being forbidden to Rabbis. “Samuel dicit: non salutant feminam omnino.” “The wise have said, Each time that the man prolongs converse with the woman [that is, his own wife] he causes evil to himself, and desists from words of Thorah and in the end inherits Gehinnom” (Taylor, Pirke Aboth, p. 29; see also Schoettgen in loc.). But although the disciples wondered οὐδεὶς μέντοι εἶπε, “no one, however, said” τί ζητεῖς, “what are you seeking?” nor even the more general question τί λαλεῖς μετʼ αὐτῆς, “why are you talking with her?” Their silence was due to reverence. They had already learned that He had reasons for His actions which might not lie on the surface.


Verse 28

John 4:28. ἀφῆκεν οὖν γυνὴ. “The woman accordingly,” that is, because of the interruption, “left her pitcher,” forgetting the object of her coming, in the greater discovery she had made; and also unconsciously showing that she meant to return.— καὶ ἀπῆλθεν χριστός; and went to the city and says to the men, easily accessible because lounging in groups at the hottest hour of the day, “Come, see a man who told me all I ever did”. The woman’s absorption in the thought of the prophet’s endowment causes her to forget the shame of the declaration which had convinced her. She does not positively affirm that He is the Christ, but says μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν χριστός; This is what grammarians call the “tentative” use of μήτι. The A.V(49) “Is not this the Christ?” is not so correct as R.V(50) “Can this be the Christ?” The Syriac has “Is not this perhaps the Christ?” The Vulgate has “Numquid ipse est Christus?” In some passages of the N.T. (Matthew 7:16, Acts 10:47) μήτι is used in questions which expect a more decided and exclusive negative than the simple μή, “certainly not,” “not at all”. But here and in Matthew 12:23 mere doubt expresses itself, doubt with rather a leaning to an affirmative answer (cf. Hoogeveen, Doctrina Partic., under μήτι; and Pape’s Lexicon, where it is rendered “ob etwa”). The Greek commentators unite in lauding the skill with which the woman excites the curiosity of the men and leads without seeming to lead. [Euthymius says: τὸ δὲ μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν χριστός; ἀντὶ τοῦ, μήποτε οὗτός ἐστιν; ὑποκρίνεται γὰρ, οἷον ἐπιδιστάζειν, ὥστε παρʼ αὐτῶν γενέσθαι τὴν κρίσιν.]


Verse 30

John 4:30. ἐξῆλθον οὖνπρὸς αὐτόν. The men, moved by the woman’s question, left the city and were coming to Jesus.


Verse 31

John 4:31. But meanwhile ἐν τῷ μεταξύ, between the woman’s leaving the well and the men’s return to it, the disciples, having brought the purchased food, and observing that notwithstanding His previous fatigue Jesus does not share with them, say ῥαββὶ φάγε. But in His conversation with the woman His fatigue and hunger had disappeared, and He replies (John 4:32) ἐγὼ βρῶσινοὐκ οἴδατε. John does not distinguish between βρῶσις and βρῶμα, eating and the thing eaten, cf. John 4:34; Paul uses both words in their proper sense, 1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 6:13. Weiss and others, strangely enough, maintain that βρῶσις has here its proper meaning “an eating”. The pronouns are emphatic: I am refreshed by nourishment hidden from you. The proof of which they at once gave by asking one another ΄ήτις ἤνεγκεν αὐτῷ φαγεῖν; “Surely no one can have brought Him anything to eat?” Winer, p. 642, adds “especially here in Samaria”. Perhaps evidence that Jesus had such an appearance as would not forbid any one offering Him food. But we must keep in view the easier manners of Oriental life.


Verse 34

John 4:34. Jesus answers their question though not put to Him: ἐμὸν βρῶματὸ ἔργον. Westcott thinks the telic use of ἵνα can be discerned here; “the exact form of the expression emphasises the end and not the process, not the doing and finishing, but that I may do and finish”. Lücke acknowledges that it is not always easy to distinguish between the construction of αὕτη or τοῦτο with ἵνα and with ὅτι, but that here it is possible to discriminate; and translates “Meine Speise besteht in dem Bestreben,” etc. It is much better to take it as the Greek commentators and Holtzmann and Weiss take it, as equivalent to τὸ ποιῆσαι. See especially 3 John 1:4. [“Sometimes, beyond doubt, ἵνα is used where the final element in the sense is very much weakened—sometimes where it is hard to deny that it has altogether vanished.” Simcox, Grammar, 177.] The idea that mental or spiritual excitement acts as a physical stimulant is common. Cf. Plato’s λόγων ἑστίασις, Tim., 27 B Thucydides, i. 70, represents the Corinthian ambassadors as saying of the Athenians μήτε ἑορτὴν ἄλλο τι ἡγεῖσθαι τὸ τὰ δέοντα πρᾶξαι. See also Soph., Electra, 363, and the quotations in Wetstein; also Browning’s Fra Lippo Lippi, “to find its [the world’s] meaning is my meat and drink”. Jesus does not say that His meat is to bring living water to parched souls, but “to do the will of Him that sent me, and to accomplish His work”. First, because throughout it is His aim to make Himself a transparency through which the Father may be seen; and second, because the will of God is the ultimate stability by fellowship with which all human charity and active compassion are continually renewed.


Verse 35

John 4:35. οὐχ ὑμεῖς λέγετε, etc. These words may either mean “Are you not saying?” or “Do you not say?” that is, they may either refer to an expression just used by the disciples, or to a common proverb. If the former, then the disciples had probably been speaking of the dearness of the provisions they had bought, and congratulating themselves that harvest would lower them. Or sitting by the well and looking round, some of them may have casually remarked that they were four months from harvest. In this case the time of year would be determined. Harvest beginning in April, it would now be December. But the phrase οὐχ ὑμεῖς λέγετε is not the natural introduction to a reference to some present remark of the disciples; whereas it is the natural introduction to the citation of a proverb (Matthew 16:2). That it is a proverb is also favoured by the metrical form ἔτι τετράμηνόν ἐστι καὶ θερισμὸς ἔρχεται. No trace of such a proverb has been found, but that some such saying should be current was inevitable, the waiting of the husbandman being typical of so much of human life. (Wetstein quotes from Ovid (Heroid., xvii. 263), “adhuc tua messis in herba est,” and many other parallels.) If this was a proverbial expression to give encouragement to the sower, we cannot infer from its use here that the time was December. Our Lord quotes it for the sake of the contrast between the ordinary relation of harvest to seed-time, and that which they can recognise by lifting their eyes.— ἐπάρατε τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑμῶν.… Your harvest is already here. What the disciples see when they lift their eyes from their food is the crowd of Samaritans ripe for the kingdom and now approaching them. In Samaria a long time might have been expected to elapse between sowing and reaping; but no!— λευκαί εἰσι … the fields are already ripe for cutting. [ λευκαί Wetstein illustrates from Ovid, “maturis albescit messis aristis”.]


Verse 36

John 4:36. καὶ θερίζων … W. H(51) close John 4:35 with θερισμόν and begin 36 ἤδη θερίζων. Already, and not after four months waiting, the harvester has his reward and gathers fruit to life eternal. The reaper has not to wait, but even now and in one and the same action finds his reward (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:17) and gathers the great product of this world which nourishes not merely through one winter till next year’s crop is gathered but to life eternal.— ἵνα σπείρων ὁμοῦ χαίρῃ καὶ θερίζων, “that sower and reaper may rejoice at one and the same time”. Here among the Samaritans this extraordinary spectacle was seen, Jesus the Sower and the disciples the reapers working almost simultaneously. So quickly had the crop sprung that the reapers trod on the heels of the Sower.


Verse 37

John 4:37. ἐν γὰρ τούτῳ. For in this, i.e., in the circumstances explained in the following verse, namely, that I have sent you to reap what others sowed, is the saying verified, “one soweth and another Lapeth”.— λόγος, “the saying”; cf. 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:1, etc.— ἀληθινός without the article is the predicate and scarcely expresses that the saying receives in the present circumstances its ideal fulfilment, rather that the saying is shown to be genuine; the saying is ἄλλος ἐστὶν σπείρων καὶ ἄλλος θερίζων, various forms of which are given by Wetstein; as, ἄλλοι μὲν σπείρουσιν, ἄλλοι δʼ αὖ ἀμήσονται, “sic vos non vobis”; cf. Job 31:8; Micah 6:15; Deuteronomy 6:11. [“It was objected to Pompey that he came upon the victories of Lucullus and gathered those laurels which were due to the fortune and valour of another,” Plutarch.]


Verse 38

John 4:38. The exemplification in our Lord’s mind is given in John 4:38, where the pronouns ἐγώ and ὑμᾶς are emphatic. “I sent you to reap.” When? Holtzmann thinks the past tenses can only be explained as spoken by the glorified Lord looking back on His call of the twelve as Apostles. That is, the words were not spoken as John relates. But may not the reference be to the baptising of many by the disciples in the preceding months? This would be quite a natural and obvious reference. The work in Judaea which justifies the preterites was now alluded to, because now again the same division of labour is apparent. The Samaritans come not because of anything the disciples had said while making purchases in the town, but because of their Master’s talk with the woman.


Verse 39

John 4:39. Out of Sychar many of the Samaritans believed on Him. This faith was the result of the woman’s testimony, διὰ τὸν λόγον τῆς γυναικὸς μαρτυροῦσης̇; her testimony being, εἶπέ μοι πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησα.


Verses 39-42

John 4:39-42 briefly sum up the results of the Lord’s visit.


Verse 40

John 4:40. Their faith showed itself in an invitation to Him to remain with them; in compliance with which invitation, impressive as coming from Samaritans, He remained two days.


Verse 41

John 4:41. The result was that πολλῷ πλείους, a far larger number than had believed owing to the woman’s report now believed διὰ τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ, on account of what they heard from Jesus Himself. This is a faith approved by John, because based not on miracles but on the word of Christ.— οὐκέτικαὶ οἴδαμεν. No longer do we believe on account of your talk [ λαλιάν, not λόγον], for we ourselves have heard and know. This could only be said by those who went out first from the city, not by those many more who afterwards believed. They felt that their faith was now firmer and stronger, more worthy to be called faith. This mature belief expressed itself in the confession οὗτός ἐστιν ἀληθῶς σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου χριστός. The title “Saviour of the World” was of course prompted by the teaching of Jesus Himself during His two days’ residence. To suppose, with several interpreters, that it is put into the mouth of the Samaritans by the evangelist is to suppose that during these two days Jesus did not disclose to them that He was the Saviour of the World. [“It probably belongs not to the Samaritans but to the evangelist. At the same time it is possible that such an epithet might be employed by them merely as synonymous with ‘Messiah’ ”—Sanday.]

Doubt has been cast on the historicity of this narrative by Baur, who thinks the woman is a type of susceptible heathendom; and by Strauss, who thinks it was invented for the purpose of showing that Jesus personally taught not only in Galilee, Judaea, and Perea, but also in Samaria. “How natural the tendency to perfect the agency of Jesus, by representing Him to have sown the heavenly seed in Samaria, thus extending His Ministry through all parts of Palestine; to limit the glory of the apostles and other teachers to that of being the mere reapers of the harvest in Samaria; and to put this distinction, on a suitable occasion, into the mouth of Jesus!” Holtzmann’s idea of this section of the Gospel is similar. The fictitious character of the narrative seems to be mainly based on its great significance for the life of Christ. As if the actual events of His life were not significant. Stress too is laid on the circumstance that among simple peoples all striking incidents, conversations, recognitions, take place at wells. In other words, wells are common meeting-places, therefore this meeting at a well cannot have taken place.


Verse 43

John 4:43. ΄ετὰ δὲ τὰς δύο ἡμέρας. “And after the two days,” see John 4:40.— ἐξῆλθεν ἐκεῖθεν, “He departed thence,” i.e., from Sychar.— εἰς τὴν γαλιλαίαν, “into Galilee,” carrying out the intention which had brought Him to Sychar, John 4:3.


Verses 43-54

John 4:43-54. Jesus passes into Galilee and there heals the son of a nobleman.


Verse 44

John 4:44. The reason for His proceeding to Galilee is given in John 4:44.— αὐτὸς γὰρ ἰησοῦς ἐμαρτύρησεν, “for Jesus Himself testified”. The evangelist would not have presumed to apply to Jesus the proverbial expression, προφήτηςοὐκ ἔχει, but Jesus Himself used it. The saying embodies a common observation. Montaigne complained that in his own country he had to purchase publishers: while elsewhere publishers purchased him. The difficulty lies in the present application of the saying. If Galilee was His “fatherland,” how can He use this proverb as a reason for His going there? To escape the difficulty Cyril, followed by Calvin, Grotius, and many more, says Nazareth was His πατρίς, and here [ ἀναγκαίαν ποιεῖται τὴν ἀπολογίαν τῆς παραδρομῆς] he assigns the reason for His passing by Nazareth. πατρίς can be used of a town as in Philo’s Leg. ad Caium, Agrippa says ἔστι δέ μοι ἱεροσόλυμα πατρίς (Kypke). See also Achilles Tat., 22; Luke 4:23. But the objection is that Lk. tells us He did go to Nazareth. Origen says Judaea was the πατρίς τῶν προφητῶν; and Lücke, Westcott, Reith, and others believe that Judaea is here meant; and that Jesus, by citing the proverb, gives the reason for His rejection in Jerusalem. But this is out of place, as He had long since left Jerusalem. Meyer thinks the meaning is that Jesus left Galilee in order to substantiate His Messianic claim in Jerusalem, and this having been accomplished, He returns with His credentials to His own country. This agrees with John 4:45, “having seen the miracles which He had done in Jerusalem”. Weiss interprets the words as meaning that Jesus leaves Samaria, where honour had come unbidden, in order to evoke faith and honour where as yet He had none: thus continuing the hard work of sowing and leaving to the disciples the glad harvesting. This is ingenious; but the obvious interpretation is that which finds in the statement (John 4:43-44) a resumption of the narrative of John 4:1-3, which had been interrupted by the account of the Lord’s experience in Samaria. That narrative had assigned as the reason for our Lord’s leaving Judaea and making for Galilee, His own over-popularity, which threatened a collision with the Pharisees. To avoid this He goes to Galilee, where, as He Himself said, there was little risk of His being too highly honoured.


Verse 45

John 4:45. Neither is οὖν of John 4:45 inconsistent with this interpretation. It merely continues the narration: “when, then, He came into Galilee”. The immediate result of His coming was not what He anticipated, and therefore ἐδέξαντο is thrust into the emphatic place, “a welcome was accorded to Him by the Galileans”. And this unexpected result is accounted for by the fact stated, πάντα ἑωρακότεςεἰς τὴν ἑορτήν; they had been at the Passover at Jerusalem, and had seen all He had done there. “They received Him … on account of His fame in Jerusalem, the metropolis, which set them the fashion in their estimate of men and things” (Alford). According to John’s usual method of distinguishing various kinds of faith, this note is inserted to warn the reader that the reception was after all not deeply grounded, and to prepare for the statement of John 4:48. [ ἦλθον, and even ἐποίησεν, may be rendered by pluperfects.]


Verse 46

John 4:46. ἦλθεν οὖν ἰησοῦς. May we conclude from the circumstance that no mention is made of the disciples until John 6:3, “that they had remained in Samaria, and had gone home”? πάλιν ἐλθεῖν means “to return”; here with a reference to John 2:1. The further definition of κανᾶ, ὅπου ἐποίησε τὸ ὕδωρ οἶνον, is to identify the place, to prepare for John 4:54, and to remind us He had friends there. Weiss and Holtzmann suppose the family of Jesus was now resident at Cana. That we have no reason to suppose. From the period of the ministry in Galilee now beginning, the Synoptists give many details: John gives but one. ἦν τις βασιλικὸς. Euthymius gives the meanings of βασιλικός thus: βασιλικὸς ἐλέγετο, ὡς ἐκ γένους βασιλικοῦ, ὡς ἀξίωμά τι κεκτημένος, ἀφʼ οὗπερ ἐκαλεῖτο βασιλικὸς, ὡς ὑπηρέτης βασιλικός. Kypke gives examples of its use by writers of the period to denote soldiers or servants of a king, or persons of royal blood, or of rank and dignity, and thinks it here means “vir nobilis, clarus, in dignitate quadam constitutus”. Lampe thinks it may imply that this man was both in the royal service and of royal blood. Lightfoot suggests that this may have been Chuza, Herod’s chamberlain. Most probably he was an officer of Herod’s court, civil or military. His prominent characteristic at this time is given in the words, οὗ υἱὸς ἠσθένει ἐν καφαρναούμ. The place is named because essential to the understanding of what follows.


Verse 47

John 4:47. Having heard ὅτι ἰησοῦς ἥκει, “that Jesus has come into Galilee,” he traces Him to Kana, and begs Him not simply to heal his son, but pointedly ἵνα καταβῇ, to go to Capernaum for the purpose. He considered the presence of Jesus to be necessary [“non putat verbo curare posse,” Melanchthon] (contrast the centurion of Matthew 8); and, being a person of standing, did not scruple to trouble Jesus. Jesus neither refuses nor grants the request at once, but utters the reflection: John 4:48. ἐὰν μὴ σημεῖαπιστεύσητε. Not as a prophet uttering truth, but as a miracle worker He is sought in His own country: Samaria had received Him without miracle, as a Prophet. To seek for a sign, says Melanchthon, “est velle certificari alio modo quam per verbum”. τέρατα here only in John, though frequent in Acts. Faith rooted in “marvels” Jesus put in an inferior place. But the father in his urgent anxiety can only repeat his request (John 4:49) κατάβηθι πρὶν ἀποθανεῖν τὸ παιδίον μου. “Duplex imbecillitas rogantis, quasi Dominus necesse haberet adesse, nec posset aeque resuscitare mortuum” (Bengel). But Jesus, unable to prolong his misery, says πορεύου· υἱός σου ζῇ. He did not go with him. His cures are independent of material media and even of His presence.


Verse 50

John 4:50. And now the man believed τῷ λόγῳ [or ὃν] εἶπεν αὐτῷ ἰησοῦς. His first immature faith has grown into something better. The evident sincerity of Jesus quickens a higher faith. On Christ’s word he departs home, believing he will find his son healed.


Verse 51

John 4:51. And while already on his way down [ ἤδη showing that he did not remain with Christ until from some other source he heard that his son was healed], his servants met him and gave him the reward of his faith.— παῖς σου ζῇ, an echo, as Weiss remarks, of the words of Jesus, John 4:50. The servants seeing the improvement in the boy and not ascribing it to miracle, set out to save their master from bringing Jesus to Capernaum.


Verse 52

John 4:52. ἐπύθετο οὗνκομψότερον ἔσχε. “Amoenum verbum, de convalescente, puero praesertim”—Bengel. Theophylact explains by ἐπὶ τὸ βέλτιον καὶ εὐρωστότερον μετῆλθεν παῖς: Euthymius by τὸ ῥᾳότερον, τὸ κουφότερον, as we speak of a sick person being “easier,” “lighter”. The best illustration is Raphel’s from Epictetus (Diss., 3, 10), who bids a patient not be too much uplifted if the physician says to him κομψῶς ἔχεις, you are doing well. The servants name the seventh hour, i.e., 1 p.m. of the previous day, as the time when the fever left him. [Accus. of time when, rare; Winer explains as if it meant the approximate time with a περί or ὡσεί understood; Acts 10:3; Revelation 3:3.] And this the father recognised as the time at which Jesus had said “Thy son liveth”. The distance between Cana and Capernaum is about twenty-five miles, so that it would appear as if the father had needlessly delayed on the road. But he may have had business for Herod or for himself on the road, or the beast he rode may have been unequal to the double journey. At any rate it seems illegitimate to say with Weiss that “yesterday” means before sundown; or to ascribe the father’s delay to the confidence he had in Jesus’ word. The discovery of the coincidence in point of time produces a higher degree of faith, ἐπίστευσεν αὐτὸς καὶ οἰκία αὐτοῦ ὅλη. The cure brings into prominence this distinctive peculiarity of a miracle that it consists of a marvel which is coincident with an express announcement of it.


Verse 54

John 4:54. τοῦτο πάλιντὴν γαλιλαίαν. πάλιν δεύτερον a common pleonasm, “again a second”; cf. John 21:16. In Matthew 26:42, πάλιν ἐκ δευτέρου; and Acts 10:15. By this note John connects this miracle with that at the wedding, John 2:1-10, of which he said (John 2:11) ταύτην ἐποίησε ἀρχὴν τῶν σημείων ἰησοῦς. It does not mean that this was the second miracle after this return to Galilee, although the words might bear that interpretation. Why this note? Bengel thinks that attention is called to the fact that John relates three miracles wrought in Galilee and three in Judaea. Alford supposes that John wishes to note that as the former miracle had called forth the faith of the disciples, so this elicited faith from a wider circle.

Not only Strauss, Baur, and Keim but also Weiss and Sanday suppose that this is the same healing as is recorded in Matthew 8:5-13. But the differences are too great. In the one it is a Gentile centurion whose servant is paralysed; in the other it is the son of a (probably Jewish) court official who is at the point of death from fever. In the one the centurion insists that Jesus shall not come under his roof; in the other the supplicant beseeches Him to do so. The half-faith of the father is blamed; the extraordinary faith of the centurion is lauded.

Chapters 5–11 depict the growth of the unbelief of the Jews. In this part of the Gospel three Judaean miracles and one in Galilee are related in full, and the impulse given by each to the hatred of the Jews is pointed out. These miracles are the healing of the impotent man (chap. 5), the miraculous feeding (chap. 6), the cure of the man born blind (chap. 9), and the raising of Lazarus (chap. 11). This section of the Gospel may be divided thus:—

1. Chaps. 5 and 6, Christ manifests Himself as the Life first in Judaea, then in Galilee, but is rejected in both places.

2. Chaps. 7 to John 10:21, He attends the Feast of Tabernacles and manifests Himself by word and deed but is threatened both by the mob and by the authorities.

3. Chaps. John 10:22 to John 11:57, Jesus withdraws from Jerusalem but returns to raise Lazarus, in consequence of which the authorities finally determine to slay Him.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on John 4:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/john-4.html. 1897-1910.

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