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Ver. 1. “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John
Ver. 2. (Though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples,)
Ver. 3. He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee.”
The οὖ?ν in ver. 1 forms the connection with the preceding narrative, the central fact of which was, that Jesus had, during His stay in the land of Judea, a greater concourse than John: cf. ver. 26.
The hearing of the Pharisees is only adapted to be a motive to the action of Jesus, when we connect with it their inclination to dangerous, and even life-threatening persecutions. To such an inclination we are led also by the parallel passage, John 7:1, Καὶ? περιεπάτει ὁ? Ἰ?ησοῦ?ς μετὰ? ταῦ τα ἐ?ν τῇ? Γαλιλαίᾳ?· οὐ? γὰ?ρ ἤ?θελεν ἐ?ν τῇ? Ἰ?ουδαίᾳ? περιπατεῖ?ν , ὅ?τι ἐ?ζήτουν αὐ τὸ?ν οἱ? Ἰ?ουδαῖ οι ἀ?ποκτεῖ ναι . When Jesus, as soon as He is aware that it had come to the ears of the Pharisees that He made and baptized more disciples than John, straightway attributes this disposition to them, we cannot doubt that John had already become a sacrifice to their persecution; for if they had not in this way made known their disposition, the conclusion of Jesus would have lacked a sure basis.
When it is said that Jesus, being threatened by the Pharisees, had left Judea and removed to Galilee, it is understood, that in Galilee the Pharisees had less influence than in Judea. This is explained by the greater proximity to the capital here
Jesus kept indeed at a considerable distance from it, at the extreme southern corner of the country—but still more from the circumstance, that the Roman government, content with the payment of the taxes, allowed freer play to the efforts of the Pharisees; while Herod, on the other hand, had inherited opposition to Pharisaism as a family tradition, and, as a native prince, was better acquainted with its practices. The motive for the persecution of the Baptist by Herod was a purely personal one; for he had left him free until he had reproved his sin, and he had probably rejoiced over his struggle against Pharisaism. On the other hand, the pharisaic opposition to the Baptist was one of principle: it was based on the circumstance, that he made and baptized disciples; and towards Jesus, who made and baptized more disciples, their hatred must have been all the more violent. That which is here intimated by John, obtains greater definiteness directly that it is regarded as the supplement of Matthew 4:12 ( Mark 1:14), Ἀ?κούσας δὲ? ὅ?τι Ἰ?ωάννης παρεδόθη ἀ?νεχώρησεν εἰ?ς τὴ?ν Γαλιλαίαν . The παρεδόθη requires one to deliver up, and one to whom the delivery is made. The latter can only be Herod; and who is the παραδιδούς , can scarcely be doubtful even from Matthew. He is to be sought in Judea; for Jesus removes from Judea when He receives the account of the delivering up of the Baptist, evidently because the delivering power threatens Him also with danger. We learn that the Pharisees especially had reason to be embittered against the Baptist from Matthew 3:7, where he salutes them as γεννήματα ἐ?χιδνῶ?ν , and where the Sadducees occupy only a subordinate and parenthetical position. That which we conclude from Matthew is distinctly stated by John.
That παραδιδόναι alone may mean to cast into prison, is not proved. The usage generally, and especially of Matthew, in whose Gospel παραδ . always means to deliver, give up, is opposed to this rendering; and it is also decisive against it, that on this rendering, a motive is wanting for the resolution of Jesus. That John was cast into prison by Herod, could not furnish a motive to Jesus to betake Himself out of Judea into Galilee, into the territory of Herod. And it is not merely a removal on the part of Jesus, but an escaping, a fleeing from danger. With this meaning ἀ?ναχωρεῖ?ν always occurs. Cf. Matthew 2:12; Matthew 2:14; Matthew 2:22, which latter passage is especially explanatory: ἀ?νεχώρησεν εἰ?ς τὴ?ν Γαλιλαίαν , of an escaping to Galilee on account of danger threatening in Judea. The escaping of Jesus to Galilee is comprehensible only if John was there delivered up to Herod.
But we have in Matthew also another distinct intimation that the Pharisees were accessory to the death of the Baptist, as, according to Mark 3:6, the Pharisees were connected with the Herodians in opposition to Jesus. In Matthew 17:12, the Lord says with respect to the Baptist, after He had previously been speaking of the scribes, οὐ?κ ἐ?πέγνωσαν αὐ τὸ?ν ἀ?λλὰ? ἐ?ποίησαν ἐ?ν αὐ τῷ? ὅ?σα ἠ?θέλησαν· οὕ τως καὶ? ὁ? υἱ?ὸ?ς τοῦ? ἀ?νθρώπου μέλλει πάσχειν ὑ?πʼ? αὐ τῶ?ν . Here it is evident that the Pharisees and scribes had had the primas partes in the catastrophe of John, so that the whole might be attributed to them.
Judea was then the principal seat of God’s people, Galilee occupying only a subordinate position; and Jesus went to Judea soon after His entrance on His ministry, and remained there a number of months, until persecution compelled Him to retire.
Jesus, by thus going out of the way of His enemies, taught by His example, as afterwards by His words, Matthew 10:23, that it is in some circumstances allowed, and is indeed a duty, to avoid persecution. Quesnel says, “There is a time to avoid the enemies of the truth, and a time to allow the truth to triumph over its enemies. It requires great grace not to err in this, and to do nothing untimely.
It is not merely allowed to flee danger on occasion, but this is often God’s order for the furtherance of His glory, and therefore commanded.
An humble withdrawal is often more difficult than a proud and glorious resistance.
It is to follow God, when we do not expose ourselves to suffering, if the time be not yet come. The result of the life of a pastor will plainly show, whether he retires from fear, or from fidelity to his office.” The notice in ver. 2, that Jesus did not Himself baptize, but only by means of His disciples, is not to indicate a misunderstanding of the Pharisees—for whom the distinction was a merely formal one, and without importance—but to guard the reader against a misapprehension; q.d., I attribute the baptism simply to Jesus, although, etc. We are not to suppose that a false report had reached the Pharisees; for in John 3:22, the Evangelist himself attributes the baptism simply to Jesus; but what was a matter of indifference to the Pharisees, is not without interest in another relation. Jesus did not baptize individuals, in order that the truth may not be obscured, that He it is who baptizes all, even to the present day. Augustine says, “Ergo Jesus adhuc baptizat. Securus homo accedat ad inferiorem magistrum: habet enim superiorem magistrum.”
Ver. 4. “And He must needs go through Samaria.”
It is of importance to note, that the conversation with the Samaritan woman occurred on a journey; as also the conversation with the representative of heathenism, the Canaanitish woman, Matthew 15:21 sq., was occasioned by the circumstance that Jesus had for another object gone to her home,—ἀ?νεχώρησεν εἰ?ς τὰ? μέρη Τύρου καὶ? Σιδῶ νος . Jesus could not properly make missionary journeys into the Samaritan or heathen territory. That which He prescribes to His disciples applied also to Himself: Εἰ?ς ὁ?δὸ?ν ἐ?θνῶ?ν μὴ? ἀ?πέλθητε καὶ? εἰ?ς πόλιν Σαμαριτῶ?ν μὴ? εἰ σέλθητε· πορεύεσθε δὲ? μᾶ λλον πρὸ?ς τὰ? πρόβατα τὰ? ἀ?πολωλότα οἴ κου Ἰ?σραήλ . Matthew 10:5. The opportunities, however, which were afforded Him on such occasions. He not only could, but must, make use of, in order to give to the Apostles and to the Church generally, not only by His teaching, but also by His deeds, a rule of conduct, and a pattern for their subsequent action. The beginnings of the whole subsequent development of the Church were necessarily made during the earthly life of Christ, in order to prevent the thought, that the work had afterwards received another direction than that originally intended. The conversation with the Samaritan woman, with the following context, is chiefly typical of that of which we have an account in the eighth chapter of Acts, which fact is of paramount importance in judging of the occurrence; or, if we mistake its prophetic, typical character, we may well doubt whether much resulted from it, since it appears that the tender germs, unfostered and uncared for, must soon have perished. The didactic element, not the immediate effect, is the main thing, as here, so also in the Old Testament, with regard to the mission of Jonah to Nineveh. Cf. Christology 1, S. 467 f. [Transl. i. p. 406 sq.] It was there remarked with respect to this occurrence, “The ministry of Christ in Samaria bears the same relation to the later mission among this people, that the single instances of Christ’s raising the dead do to the general resurrection. The Lord did not afterwards foster the germs which had come forth among the Samaritans; He in the meantime left them altogether to their fate. That prelude was quite sufficient for the object which He had then in view; and nothing further could be done without violating the rights of the covenant-people, to which, in the conversation as recorded by John, the Lord as expressly pays attention as He does in Matthew 10.”
It must not be overlooked, that the occasion for the conversation with the Samaritan, as for the communication with the Canaanitish woman, was afforded by the fact that Jesus was compelled to go out of the reach of the Jewish opposition, since, viewed from this point also, the occurrence had a typical character. The obstinacy of the Jews causes the passing over of the Church to the heathen. Paul and Barnabas say to the Jews, in Acts 13:46, Ὑ?μῖ?ν ἦ?ν ἀ?ναγκαῖ ον πρῶ τον λαληθῆ ναι τὸ?ν λόγον τοῦ? θεοῦ?· ἐ?πειδὴ? ἀ?πωθεῖ σθε αὐ τὸ?ν καὶ? οὐ?κ ἀ?ξίους κρίνετε ἑ?αυτοὺ?ς τῆ?ς αἰ ωνίου ζωῆ?ς , ἰ?δοὺ? στρεφόμεθα εἰ?ς τὰ? ἔ?θνη . This course was already indicated in the prophecies of the Old Covenant. When the Servant of God says, in Isaiah 49:4, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent My strength for nought, and in vain; yet surely My judgment is with the Lord, and My reward with My God;” the Lord says to Him in ver. 6, “I will give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth:” in compensation for the stubbornness of the Jews, He gives Him the world for His inheritance. That the Lord Himself had this declaration in mind, to which, perhaps, the κεκοπιακὼ?ς in ver. 6 already refers (LXX. κενῶ?ς ἐ?κοπίασα ), is probable from the allusion to it in ver. 22, ἡ? σωτηρία ἐ?κ τῶ?ν Ἰ?ουδαίων ἐ?στί ; but especially from the designation of Christ as the σωτὴ?ρ τοῦ? κόσμου in ver. 42, which the Samaritans derive from the instruction of Christ, and which undoubtedly refers to this passage.
Ver. 5. “Then cometh He to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.”
According to ver. 8, Jesus did not enter the city itself; but here the environs are included under the same name. The case is similar in Genesis 13:12, according to which Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain of the Jordan,—i. e., in their region; for, from the following statement, that he pitched his tent toward Sodom, it is evident that he continued his nomadic life. That Jericho, in Matthew 20:29, comprises its environs, in which Jesus had rested, is shown by Luke 18:35. The Apostle characterizes the false nature of the Samaritans, by changing their city Sychem, by the alteration of a single letter, into a city of lies, שקר . It is but to speak superficially when one designates this as “unworthy trifling.” It is of the greatest effect when the truth is thus pointedly expressed. It is thus impressed indelibly on the mind and heart. Συχάρ is formed from Συχέμ , which, with Σίκιμα , occurs in the Alexandrine Version, and in Acts 7:16; and, in order to adhere as closely as possible to the common name of the city, it is not written Συχάρ , as also in σαβαχθανί , Matthew 27:46, χ is put for ק . We nowhere find any indication that the Jews made such a change in the name, Sychem; and this fact is not without significance. If “the common Jewish people” had already introduced such a witticism (Robinson, Reise 3, 1, S. 342 [Biblical Researches]), the Apostle would not have shown any sympathy with such vulgarity. The case itself requires him to have first made such a change in a sacred sense, to which numerous analogies may be adduced from the Old Testament. I have already referred, in my Contributions, Pt. 2, p. 26, to the change of Bethel into Bethaven by Hosea; of Baalzebul, the inhabitant of the heavenly dwelling, in 2 Kings 1:2, to Baalzebub, the fly-god; and of the name of the Mount of Olives in 2 Kings 23:13. But most strictly analogous is the name Achar, in 1 Chronicles 2:7; on which Bertheau remarks, “The Achan of the Book of Joshua has, by a slight alteration, become Achar, because it was an עוכר to Israel.” We find the suggestion of this change already in Joshua 7:23, where it is said, “Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day.” According to ver. 26, the valley received from the deed of Achan the name Achor, distress. It is a strictly analogous case, also, when Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 6:28, transforms שרים , the prince ( Isaiah 1:23), into סרים , apostate. Lücke objects, “If John had thus wished to inform us that he considered the whole nature of the Samaritans to be lying and deceit, why did he not intimate this by a single syllable to his readers? He must have done this the rather, since the subsequent representation betrays rather a favourable opinion of the Samaritans on the part of John.” But if John had directly explained the significance of the name Sychar, he would have ruined his design of giving an enigma on which the spiritual senses might be exercised. Such enigmas, without the solution added, we find also elsewhere in his Gospel; e. g., his designation of himself as the disciple ὃ?ν ἠ?γάπα ὁ? Ἰ?ησοῦ?ς , which is evidently an interpretation of his name, John
Jesus = Jehovah. In substance, we certainly have the solution of the enigma. The Samaritans, according to ver. 22, worship they know not what: here every essential knowledge of God, and interest in Him, is denied concerning them, in which all is said that can be said; and to this Συχάρ contains the commentary. By it their pretended descent from Jacob is declared to be a lie. But it might be maintained, with equal justice, that Matthew, on account of his narrative of the Canaanitish woman, entertained a “favourable opinion” of the heathen, as that John betrays “a favourable opinion of the Samaritans.” The real justification of the alteration of the name Sychem into Συχάρ , is contained moreover in Matthew 10:5-6. For when the Lord here forbids His Apostles to go to the Samaritans, as well as to the heathen, when He says, πορεύεσθε δὲ? μᾶ λλον πρὸ?ς τὰ? πρόβατα τὰ? ἀ?πολωλότα οἴ κου Ἰ?σραήλ ,—and when He classes them with the heathen, and together with these opposes them to the house of Israel,—in all this there is a most decided rejection of the pretensions of the Samaritans. John has done nothing more than to give this decision a pointed expression, in the same spirit in which Jeremiah changes the name Babylon into Sheshach, and the name of the Chaldaeans into Lebkamai, as the concentration of all that which he had prophesied of the future destiny of Babylon and the Chaldaeans.
Sychar is designated as near to the parcel of ground which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. This notice is not founded on a “false interpretation of biblical passages,” nor on “traditional improvement” of their contents; but it is taken simply from the Old Testament. It is said in Genesis 33:18-19, “And Jacob came safe to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan-aram, and pitched his tent before the city. And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, from the cliildren of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces of money (Kesitah).” Jacob remained at this place for a number of years, and Dinah here grew up from a child to a young woman. In Genesis 48:22, Jacob further says to Joseph, “Moreover, I have given to thee one portion [of land] above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.” “A portion of land” is here designated by שכם , in allusion to the name of the city, near which the field was situated. The LXX. has taken the delicate allusion too coarsely, and has directly translated Σίκιμα . לקחתי , which was better understood by John than by those expositors, who would lay to his charge a contradiction to the Old Testament, is the prophetical Prseterite. The future is as certain to the patriarch as the past. He speaks as the representative of the nation. In token of his love, Jacob rewards Joseph with the only piece of land in Canaan which at that time he could justly call his own. But since the Shechemites had appropriated the strip of land, the taking of it must necessarily go hand in hand with the giving. The last passage is Joshua 24:32, “And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem.”
Ver. 6. “Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with the journey, sat thus on the well: it was about the sixth hour.”
A well or spring of Jacob does not occur in the Old Testament; though we learn from it, that it was the custom of the patriarchs to dig wells,—this being narrated of Abraham in Genesis 21, and of Isaac in Genesis 26. Yet the existence of the well brings with it a certain probability that it was dug by Jacob. There can scarcely be a doubt, that the well still called Jacob’s is identical with the genuine “Jacob’s well,” which it is acknowledged to be by the Samaritans; Ritter 16, S. 648. “Its position,” says Ritter, S. 656, “with respect to the city, on the eastern side of which there is still a high road to Galilee, whither Jesus was going with His disciples, agrees so exactly, that all the circumstances are in favour of the identity of this ancient monument.” The digging of this well must have been attended with great labour and difficulty. Maundrell says, “It is hewn in a solid rock, and is about nine feet in diameter and a hundred and five feet deep, with fifteen feet of water.” Now, how did such a work come to be undertaken in a region which, compared with the rest of Palestine, has a particularly abundant supply of water (Robinson, Researches, p. 393), “in the immediate neighbourhood of so many natural fountains, and in a place which at the present day is irrigated by brooks of running water, which descend from the fountain higher up in the valley?” (Robinson.) To this question hardly any other answer can be given than this: that the well was dug by one who, separated from the inhabitants of the country, wished to have his own supply of water, and at the same time, by the digging of the well, to prove his right of possession, of which the well would be a monument.
The present Jacob’s well is half a league distant from the city; and the question arises, how the Samaritan woman came to fetch water from it, “when there were so many springs in the immediate environs, and when she must” have directly passed one of these springs midway.” It is only an evasion of the difficulty to suppose that the woman might not have dwelt in the city, but near to the well, or that the city may have been more widely extended; in opposition to which is not merely the fact, that there are no ruins between Naplous and Jacob’s well (Robinson, Biblical Researches), but, still more, the improbability that the Shechemites would have resigned to Jacob a piece of ground in the immediate vicinity of the city. The correct answer is afforded by the words of the woman herself. She is zealous for the honour of the well. It is a mark of piety that she is not afraid of the distance; in addition to which it may be remarked, that the very absence of any apparatus for drawing, shows that the well did not serve for common use. To her the water was sacred. Even at the present day, there is in Naplous, besides the Jacob’s well, a Jacob’s spring, to which “beneficial effects” are attributed, according to Barges, in a work to be quoted presently, S. 93. It was afterwards more convenient to transfer the sacred water into the city.
Jesus was “wearied with the journey.” P. Anton says, “He was to bear the whole burden of life, as life has now become. Thus it is also with this weariness. And this believers love to read, when they are wearied, that they may think of their Head.” It must be especially taken into view, that Jesus was compelled to the journey which produced this weariness by the stubbornness of the Jews, and that the sorrow of His soul at this, “ye would not,” was still more the cause of His fatigue than the mere bodily exertion. This weariness must have placed vividly before His mind the words of the servant of God in Isaiah 49:4, and have called forth a desire for the promised recompense, a thirst for the souls of the ἀ?λλογενεῖ?ς .
Jesus seated Himself thus on the well. “The rest of Jesus Christ,” remarks Quesnel, “is as mysterious and as abundant in goodness as His weariness. He awaits a soul wearied in the ways of sin, in order to give it a rest, which it seeks not and knows not.” Thus is equivalent to, in consequence of this weariness; or, weary as He was, in this state of fatigue. After a preceding participial sentence, οὕ τως serves to resume the same in the main sentence: Buttmann, S. 262. Other explanations of οὕ τως are too far-fetched and forced; and passages like Acts 27:17 are too evidently analogous for mu.ch importance to be laid on the objection of Fritzsche, that οὕ τως , when it resumes, always stands at the beginning. There is no logical reason for this; and the later position of οὕ τως here, where it might have been omitted, softens the emphasis.
It was surely not by chance that Jesus seated Himself directly on Jacob’s well. In a spiritual sense, He was Himself the well of Jacob; and that He had this in mind, is shown by ver. 10. It had therefore a symbolical significance that He took his seat there; and this is the more natural supposition, since the woman also was led thither by a religious motive. It is of not less significance, that in the Old Testament, Jehovah is represented as the well of Israel. Thus first in Deuteronomy 33:28, “And Israel dwelleth safely, only the well of Jacob.” The explanation, the well of Jacob is for Jacob, who is like a well, does not give an appropriate sense, for one cannot be declared to inhabit a well. God is also designated as the dwelling of Israel in the immediately preceding verse: “A Dwelling is the God of old, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Cf. Psalms 90:1; Psalms 5:4. Jehovah is also represented as the fountain of living waters for Israel in Jeremiah 17:13; and in Psalms 36:9 it is said, “With Thee is the fountain of life.” That which applies to Jehovah, applies also, according to the conception of Christ which is stamped with especial distinctness on the Gospel of John, to Christ, in whom the Jehovah of the Old Covenant appeared in the flesh; and thus the thought was more natural of Christ as the true well of Jacob. The woman was seeking, at the ordinary Jacob’s well, “living water,” in a higher sense than usual; and Christ, by seating Himself on this well, indicated that the true living water was to be found only in Him, as the true well of Jacob.—“And it was about the sixth hour,”—therefore about noon. According to Bengel, the reason is stated in these words why Jesus was wearied, and why the woman sought water, and the disciples food. But, according to the analogy of John 1:40, John 19:14, and the whole character of the Gospel, the statement of the hour indicates rather the deep significance of the following fact. John certainly, in making it, has much less in view the fact itself, than its prophetic character. On this occasion, Christ for the first time actually proved Himself to be the “Saviour of the world;” and that this is the kernel of the fact, is significantly indicated by the closing words of the narrative.
Ver. 7. “There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith unto her, Give Me to drink.”
The words, ἐ?κ τῆ?ς Σαμαρείας , are not without significance; as likewise the designation of the woman, in ver. 9, as ἡ? γυνὴ? ἡ? Σαμαρῖ τις . The woman was from Shechem, as is evident from what follows; but she is not regarded here as a Shechemite, but as a Samaritan, as the representative of her whole nation. The words, “Give, Me to drink,” are to be taken, primarily, as understood by the woman. But that behind this another spiritual sense was hidden, is evident from the fact, that in the further course of the conversation the satisfaction of the bodily need, which certainly existed, is entirely disregarded. That which Jesus says of meat in ver. 34, applies also to drink; for His peculiar drink. His dearest refreshment, was the salvation of souls. This drink the woman, as the type of her nation, is to furnish Him by entering into the plan of salvation; and the living water which He properly desires, He will first Himself give, and then drink it from the well which He has formed. The passages of the Old Testament are analogous in which the services due to the Lord are represented by the symbol of nourishment offered to Him, as in the case of the shew-bread and the meat-offering. Cf. my work on the Lord’s day, S. 52 sq. In the New Testament, Matthew 21:18-19: “Now in the morning, as He returned into the city, He hungered. And when He saw a fig-tree in the way, He came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it. Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig-tree withered away.” The hunger is here, primarily, bodily hunger; but this feeling passes over immediately into that of spiritual hunger. And this is exactly the case with respect to the thirst here; for the bodily necessity serves in both cases only as the preliminary stage of the spiritual. John 21:5 also is analogous. When Jesus there says to His disciples, “Children, have ye any meat?” His desire is for the spiritual meat which they are to afford Him, and the spiritual refreshment which they are to prepare for Him, by their walking in the Spirit. Cf. my Commentary on the Apocalypse, ii. 2, S. 183. The spiritual under-current in the double sense of the words was already perceived by Augustine: “Ille, qui bibere quaerebat, fidem ipsius mulieris sitiebat.” Quesnel says, “It is the divine thirst for the salvation of souls which chiefly oppresses Him, and which He causes to be served by the bodily thirst.” The Berleburger Bibel says, “Thou knewest well, O Love, that this woman would come to draw water; on which account Thou didst seat Thyself there, in order to have the pleasure of giving it to her.
But what should she give Thee, O Love, to drink? Alas! says this wearied, adorable Saviour, I have sought destitute souls among the Jews, the people to whom I paid such high regard, but found scarcely any. Therefore I desired, O woman, that thou mightest be of the number, and mightest give Me to drink.” This connection of the request, “Give Me to drink,” with the fruitless ministry among the Jews, is especially to be regarded.
The statement of our text points to John as an eyewitness. The Berleb. Bibel says, “There cometh a woman, a lost sheep. John speaks as though he still saw her.”
We have here the first of the seven words of Jesus to the woman of Samaria. The number seven is certainly no more accidental than the ten commandments, the seven beatitudes, the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, the seven parables in Matthew 13, and the seven last words of Jesus on the cross. It shows that all is here numbered and weighed,—nothing opposed to the object of Jesus is introduced in the course of the conversation, the thread of which He retains in His own hand.
Ver. 8. “For His disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.”
According to the current hypothesis, these words are to explain how Jesus came to make the request of the woman, “Give Me to drink.” But the disciples, had they been present, would scarcely have been able to draw water from a well more than a hundred feet deep, for which, according to ver. 11, there was no apparatus. It is certainly a very improbable supposition, that such an apparatus was part of their equipment for the journey, and that they had taken it into the city with them! The key to the γὰ?ρ is contained rather in the words, “the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans,” in the verse immediately following; and that the disciples were gone into the city accounts for the fact, that Jesus entered into conversation with the woman. To this we are led by their surprise on their return, ver. 27; which shows that their presence would have had a disturbing influence, and would have intimidated the woman. Jesus is careful to bring the conversation to a conclusion before they have returned. The Lord had probably sent them away purposely (as Abraham, in Genesis 22:5, dismisses his servants, and Jacob, in Genesis 29:7, seeks to remove the herdsmen to a distance); which conclusion is favoured by the circumstance, that the business which they transacted in the city might have easily been done by one or two. “O Love,” says the Berleb. Bibel, “Thou desirest to have no witnesses to the loving conference which Thou boldest with this woman, in order to persuade her to give herself up entirely to Thee.” It seems, however, that the statement, “His disciples were gone away unto the city,” is to be understood with one exception; viz., that John, whose presence was not disturbing, because he clung so entirely to Jesus, was present at the conference. That this is not expressly mentioned, is explained by the fact, that John everywhere in the Gospel seeks to hide himself; but, indirectly, the presence of John is attested by the exact and vivid account which he is able to give of the circumstances. If John was present, it is at once explained why, in Acts 8:14, it is John, together with Peter, the chief of the Apostles, who is deputed to the Samaritans.
Ver. 9. “Then saith the woman of Samaria unto Him, How is it that Thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”
We must not suppose the woman to speak ironically, in order to dismiss the request, as Lücke remarks: “The woman of Samaria seems to wish to refuse, in an irritating manner, the service of drawing the water.” Jesus, who knew what was in man, would not have entered into further conversation with her, if she had not had a heart open and susceptible to the truth. She expresses her wonder that a Jew should request a service of love from her; and a background to such wonder is formed, without doubt, by the presentiment that one is here standing before her who is exalted above the common type of the Jews.
She does not say, I cannot give Thee to drink because we are at enmity with the Jews, but she seeks only to know how it is that He requests such a service of her proceeding correctly on the assumption, that the request presupposes an acknowledgment of fellowship, no less than compliance with it.
The Apostle also, whose remark it is, “for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans,” attributes the cause of the hostile relation to the Jews. It is friendly intercourse which is spoken of; for ver. 8 shows that the intercourse of trade is not excluded. This relation continues even to the present day; for Robinson says, the Samaritans do not eat, drink, marry, or have any intercourse with the Jews, except in matters of trade.
Ver. 10. “Jesus answered and said unto her. If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee. Give Me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.”
The woman is wondering that Jesus, although a Jew, requests her to give Him to drink, and she here receives still more reason for wonder, when Jesus offers her to drink. It must have been evident to her, that here there was something which could not be measured by the rule of the common relation between Jews and Samaritans. In the definition of the “gift of God,” the expositors have generally resigned themselves to mere guess-work; but that no other than Christ Himself can be understood, is shown first by the Old Testament passage, Isaiah 9:6, “Unto us a Son is given,” LXX. υἱ?ὸ?ς καὶ? ἐ?δόθη ἡ?μῖ?ν . The existence of such a passage would be beforehand probable, because otherwise we should be in suspense as to the expression of Christ; and we are led especially to Isaiah 9:6 by the circumstance, that our Lord has already referred to this passage in John 3:16, in the words, ὸ?ν υἱ?ὸ?ν τὸ?ν μονογενῆ? ἔ?δωκεν . A second ground is afforded in what follows: “and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink;” in which the Lord explains Himself more definitely. It is the person of Christ which is here spoken of, and therefore Christ must Himself be the gift of God. Calvin, with perfect correctness, remarks, “Posterius est quasi interpretatio prions. Hoc enim singulare Dei erat beneficium, praesentem Christum habere, qui vitam aeternam secum ferebat. Sensus clarior erit, si vice copulae particulam exegeticam supponas. Si scires donum Dei, nempe quisnam sit qui tecum loquitur.” It is, moreover, to be, observed, that it is not a special gift of God to the woman that is spoken of, as if “the benefit “were meant, of “God’s bringing her into connection with Him,” but it is a general benefit, of which the woman may become a partaker. On what account Christ merits to be designated as the gift of God to the human race, is evident from what follows, according to which He is the bestower of the highest of all gifts, the living water, by which alone the thirsty and fainting soul may be refreshed.—”Living water” [Eng. Vers. “running water”] stands for spring-water in Leviticus 14:5. In the spiritual sense, it designates life, a powerful, blessed existence, untroubled by obstructions. Life occurs in the same relation as living water here, in the parallel passages: John 1:4, ἐ?ν αὐ τῷ? ζωὴ? ἦ?ν ; John 5:40, οὐ? θέλετε ἐ?λθεῖ?ν πρός με ἵ?να ζωὴ?ν ἔ?χητε ; John 20:31. An explanation is given directly in Revelation 7:17: “The Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters,” ζωῆ?ς πηγὰ?ς ὑ?δάτων . The living water in our text is as it were explained here by life-water, water which consists in life. The same is denoted also in Revelation 22:1, “And he showed me, a pure river of water of life;” and in John 21:6, the water is life according to the express explanation of the writer. In Ezekiel 47, the effect of the water which proceeds from the temple in Zion, and flows through the desert into the Dead Sea, is described as life. The idea of life is also interchangeable with that of salvation: cf. Isaiah 12:3, where the wells of salvation are spoken of, which are to be opened in the time of the Messiah: cf. Psalms 87:7. In Isaiah 49:3, “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring,” the blessing corresponds to the water, and is equivalent to life and salvation; and the Spirit is mentioned as being the chief form in which the blessing is bestowed, the ground of all life and salvation for the people of God. In John 7:38 also, the living water does not itself denote the Holy Spirit, ver. 39, but the Holy Spirit is considered only as being the chief power by which the salvation or blessedness is effected.
When Christ ascribes to Himself the full power of imparting living water, He claims for Himself that which belongs to no mortal, but to the Divine prerogative; for Jehovah alone is represented in Jeremiah 17:13 as the fountain of living waters for Israel. If we take this dignity of Christ into view, the depth of His condescension will the more sink into our hearts.—“This,” says Calvin, “is a wonderful instance of His goodness. For what was there in this wretched woman, that from a harlot she should suddenly become a disciple of the Son of God?”
Ver. 11. “The woman saith unto Him, Sir, Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast Thou that living water? 12. Art Thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?”
The mode of address by κύριε is here new, and shows that a foreboding suspicion is rising in the mind of the woman, as to the high dignity of the person who is standing before her. The Berleb. Bibel: “This mode of address, Lord, shows that He had obtained a certain supremacy over her.” On the other hand, however, the woman is not yet able to enter into the meaning of Christ’s words, but she thinks, What can He mean by living water? This well is not accessible to Him. In this she has the advantage. In order to be able to give a better water. He must be greater than the patriarch Jacob. And how could this be possible? And yet there was in the manner of Jesus an imposing dignity, which did not allow her to give way to the thought of an empty assumption on His part; and in her perplexity, she asks Jesus Himself for enlightenment.
When she calls Jacob the father of the Samaritans, she shows herself to be truly an inhabitant of Sychar, the city of falsehood. The rejection of this assertion is contained indirectly, as in Matthew 10:5-6 (Bengel: “sic sibi persuaserant Samaritani: falso, Matthew 10:5 sq.”), so here in ver. 22; for of real descendants of Jacob there could not be denied all essential knowledge of God, the sphere of which was extended as widely as the posterity of Jacob. The reasons which favour the heathen origin of the Samaritans, are laid down in my Contributions (Beitr. 2, S. 3 sq.). It is shown by Ezra 4:9-10, that at the time of their return from exile the Samaritans had not reached the pretension of a descent from Jacob; and that they afterwards averred the truth when this seemed more to their interest than a falsehood, is proved by the quotations in the Beitr. S. 6 sq. The physiognomy also of the present Samaritans condemns the assertion of their Israelitish descent. “Wilson says (in Ritter, S. 651), “Most of them have a strong family likeness; their features, especially, were entirely different from the Jewish, and they had much rounder forms.” But, nevertheless, “the family of the priest wished to trace their descent to the tribe of Levi, and all the rest to Ephraim and Manasseh.” Robinson likewise remarks, “The physiognomy of those we saw was not Jewish.” The detailed statement in the Contributions has been opposed by Kalkar (in Pelt’s Mitarbeiten iii. 3, S. 24 sq.), and Keil in his commentary on 2 Kings 17:24, who have anew asserted the opinion, that the remnant of the Israelites who remained in the country were amalgamated with the heathen colonists. The only proof, of any plausibility, which they bring in support of this opinion, is the following. According to 2 Chronicles 34:9, there was still in the cities, at the time of Josiah, a remnant of the Ten Tribes; and such is implied also by the expedition of Josiah into the former land of Israel, for the destruction of the monuments of the earlier idolatry, in 2 Chronicles 34:6, cf. 2 Kings 23:15-20. There were therefore, it is thus concluded, remnants of Israelites, who could mingle with the Samaritans, and who must have mingled with, and have been lost among them, since we find no trace of them afterwards. But this is a weak argument. Samaria is only a small part of the former territory of the Ten Tribes. That in the other parts there were still to be found remnants of the former Israelitish population, would have been sufficiently established a priori, even if it had not been historically attested; but, so far as we are able to follow these remnants, they have no connection whatever with the Samaritans. According to 2 Chronicles 34:9, they paid the temple-tribute at Jerusalem. According to 2 Chronicles 35:18, there came to Josiah’s Passover, besides Judah, whatever still remained of Israel. When Josiah, favoured by very peculiar circumstances (cf. Thenius, on 2 Kings 23:19-20), undertakes an expedition into the former land of Israel, in order in those parts of it not settled by the Samaritans to destroy the monuments of former idolatry in the ruins of the former cities (Bertheau on 2 Chronicles 34:6), we are led to the conclusion, that the kings of Judah regarded themselves as the legitimate heirs of the fallen Israelitish kingdom, and hence certainly made efforts to draw to themselves the remnants of the Israelitish population. Where these remnants afterwards were, whether they stayed unobserved in the country, and were afterwards amalgamated with those who returned from the Babylonish exile, or whether they migrated to Judah, it cannot be ours to prove. From the tenacity of the Israelites in the assertion of their national character, so abundantly proved by history, we are not justified in assuming on such slight grounds an amalgamation of the remnants of the Ten Tribes with the Samaritans. Experience shows that there is a great aversion to so complete a surrender of nationality, even among those descendants of Jacob to whom very little indeed remains of the real substance of national life. With the overthrow of the kingdom of the Ten Tribes was thrown down the wall of separation between them and Judah, so that they were again open to all the influences which came from thence; and thus it is the less probable that they would throw themselves into the arms of the Samaritans, in whom they would perceive only intruders.
The θρέμματα comprise at the same time the servants, who must have accompanied the herds. In Genesis 12:16, the men-servants and maid-servants are enclosed on either hand by the herds, on which it was their duty to attend.
Ver. 13. “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
Ver. 14. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
All earthly happiness resembles water, which can only afford a transitory satisfaction. In the words, “shall never thirst,” the thirst designates the condition of wholly unsatisfied desire, of absolute godlessness; since in believers there is always a background, however deeply hidden, of satisfaction (“nunquam prorsus aridi;” Calvin). How necessary such a limitation is, is shown by the circumstance, that Jesus Himself, in John 19:29, exclaims διψῶ? ; and that, as an exemplar of His followers, He trod the darkest paths of suffering. The words, “shall never thirst,” receive the most glorious fulfilment in the kingdom of glory, as, with respect to the condition of the elect in the future existence, the heavenly blessedness, it is said in Revelation 7:16, οὐ? πεινάσουσιν ἔ?τι οὐ δὲ? διψήσουσιν ἔ?τι , and in Revelation 21:6, with respect to the time when God makes all things new, ἐ?γὼ? τῷ? διψῶ ντι δώσω ἐ?κ τῆ?ς πηγῆ?ς τοῦ? ὕ?δατος τῆ?ς ζωῆ?ς δωρεάν . But God does not give His people any mere “letters of credit for happiness;” for even in the troubled period of this life He is ever in Christ, “the well of life” for His people. And there is never a time when they wish they had not been born, or when they are tempted to put an end to their existence. The Old Testament passage is Isaiah 55:1, where, with respect to the Messianic salvation, it is said, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters;” a passage to which the Lord also refers in John 7:37, Ἐ?άν τις διψᾷ? ἐ?ρχέσθω πρός με καὶ? πινέτω , and where the words πρός με are added from ver. 3; also in Matthew 11:28; Matthew 5:6; cf. Christology 2, S. 379 [Translation, ii. p. 342]. The Old Testament passage, Isaiah 49:10 (cf. Isaiah 48:21), is also to be regarded: “They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor sun smite them; for He that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall He guide them;” to which the Lord also refers in John 6:35: ὁ? ἐ?ρχόμενος πρὸ?ς ἐ?μὲ? οὐ? μὴ? πεινάσῃ? , καὶ? ὁ? πιστεύων εἰ?ς ἐ?μὲ? οὐ? μὴ? διψήσει πώποτε .
The water becomes a fountain: the gift of salvation, which comes primarily from without and from above, becomes immanent in the heart, and is as though it had an independent origin therein. In Song of Solomon 4:12, the bride, the Church of God in the Messianic period, is already, in designation of the fulness of salvation and blessing which not merely flows towards it, but dwells within it, called “a spring shut up, a fountain sealed;” and in ver. 15, “a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.”
The water of the well springs up into” everlasting life. It is represented as a well-spring, which, in distinction from the common springs, which rise only a few feet above the earth, reaches from the present to the future existence. In Revelation 22:1, the stream of the water of life proceeds “from the throne of God and of the Lamb:” here, whence it comes is designated; in our text, whither it goes,—the latter being grounded in the former. The water which comes from above must mount upwards again; as Burgensis has already remarked, “The Holy Spirit, as the author and the source of this water, dwells in heaven; hence it is no wonder if the water which He pours out upon the hearts of men springs up from earth towards heaven, yea, even to God, into everlasting life.”
Ver. 15. “The woman saith unto Him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”
She does not know what the water is which Jesus offers her; but thus much she perceives, that it must be something very good, and that the desire for its possession will be satisfied. She is perfectly sincere in all this, and we lose the key to the position which Christ takes towards her, if we discover in her answer “a certain jesting ironical naivété. The woman brings the water which Jesus offers her the more into connection with the water of Jacob’s well, because this also, in her opinion, had not a purely natural signification, but was better and of more saving efficacy than the common water.
Ver. 16. “Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.”
Since Jesus, as is shown by what follows, penetrated into the relations of the woman, this direction can have this object only, to call forth the answer, foreseen by Christ, οὐ?κ ἔ?χω ἄ?νδρα ; and with this answer is connected the declaration of Christ, in which He made known His superhuman nature, and at the same time awakened the conscience of the woman, as the condition of the impartation of the living water. The word ἄ?νδρα must be considered as emphatic. The husband —this was the sore point of the woman, and her counterpart, the people of the Samaritans. P. Anton remarks, “The emotion was here aimed at which the Mystics very finely call momentum compunctionis; when the right aculei enter, when the right nail is driven into the conscience, this is compunctio.
It was great wisdom in Christ also, that He pricks, as it were, only a single sore in particular, so that pain is caused at the same time in all the others.” The Berleburger Bibel says, “He places His finger on the wound, but with so much goodness and gentleness, that it seems as if He feared to give it pain. O what goodness to win sinners!”
Ver. 17. “The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her. Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
Ver. 18. For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.” Even the great number of husbands indicates that there lies hidden in the words, πέντε ἄ?νδρας ἔ?σχες , a charge against the woman, that even then her state was a sinful one. Add to this the εἶ πέν μοι πάντα ὅ?σα ἐ?ποίησα of the woman in ver. 29, which can scarcely be referred only to her connection with the sixth man. It leads to the conclusion that the former marriages were dissolved by her own fault; for that it was a fivefold marriage-relation, is shown by the opposition to the present connection. The words καλῶ?ς εἶ πας and ἀ?ληθὲ?ς εἴ ρηκας refer to the objective truth of what is said by the woman, and disregard the circumstance, that she “hides her shame under the ambiguity of the phrase ἄ?νδρα ἔ?σχειν .” In that all the relations of life of a woman personally unknown to Him were clearly discovered to Christ, He thus proved Himself to be He, who even during His life on earth was in heaven, John 3:13.
By a divine arrangement, the relations of her nation were portrayed in the inferior relations of this woman, and precisely on this account she was chosen by “Christ as its representative. She had had five husbands; and he whom she now had was not her husband, not having deigned to connect himself with her in marriage. So with the nation. It had previously been in fivefold spiritual marriage with its idols, and this marriage had been dissolved as frivolously as it had been concluded. The people sued for marriage with Jehovah; but this was denied them, because they did not belong to Israel. The declaration, “Thou hast had five husbands,” is in remarkable accordance with 2 Kings 17:24; according to which passage the king of Assyria brought colonists from exactly five nations, from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria; and of these five nations each had its peculiar divinity, or, according to the ancient language of the East, its husband, ver. 31. Josephus says, in his Antiquities, ix. 14, § 3, οἰ? δὲ? μετοικισθέντες εἰ?ς τὴ?ν Σαμάρειαν Χουθαῖ οι . . . . ἕ?καστοι κατὰ? ἔ?θνος ἴ?διον θεὸ?ν εἰ?ς τὴ?ν Σαμάρειαν κομίσαντες—πέντε δʼ? ἦ?σαν—καὶ? τούτους , καθὼ?ς ἦ?ν πάτριον αὐ τοῖ?ς , σεβόμενοι . The coincidence of the relations of the woman with those of the nation is truly too remarkable to be passed by as merely accidental. With the words, “and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband,” is to be compared ver. 22, where legitimacy is denied to the connection of the Samaritans with their present God. So as to Συχὰ?ρ in ver. 5, if the whole religious condition of the Samaritans is a lie, this must refer first and principally to the fundamental relation of the people to Jehovah. We have already proved that the Samaritan woman appears even in what precedes as a representative of the nation, and that the occurrence has a prophetic character; and therefore we may all the more expect to see in her circumstances a picture of those of the nation. That Jesus sat on the well in order to point to Himself as the true well of Jacob; that His first word, δός μοι πεῖ?ν , has a spiritual meaning; and that He offers the woman “living water” in the spiritual sense, we have already seen. With a terminology so symbolical throughout, the symbolical rendering of our passage, which does not prejudice the historical truth, but has it for its basis, is not opposed, but favoured, by the presumptive evidence. That the expounders of the New Testament have often a great dread of such renderings, is explained by the fact, that they have learnt so little in the school of the Old Testament, and on this account cannot free themselves from their “Occidentalism.” Of attempts to introduce again the antiquated allegorical explanation, we need not speak. Explanation of an allegory is widely different from allegorical explanation.
Ver. 19. “The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet.
Ver. 20. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
We are not to attribute to these words the object of changing the unpleasant personal turn of the conversation. The fact that Christ engages Himself so far with her, and ver. 29, where she confesses her sins with entire frankness, are decisive against this view. We are also not to assume that she here introduces a religious point, which was without significance in respect of that which was primarily in question, viz., her relation to Christ; as Calvin supposes, that since she had perceived Christ to be a prophet, she wished to be instructed by Him in general with reference to the true worship of God. The word of Christ has touched the woman too deeply, for her to follow the mere impulse of a general “religious curiosity;” and the question which she here broaches, has far rather a direct reference to her relation to Christ. She has recognised that Jesus is a prophet; but before she engages further with Him, she must obtain a clear view of that point which forms the wall of separation between Jews and Samaritans. If her fathers were right in maintaining that the true worship of all is restricted to Mount Gerizim, she must hesitate before entering into further conversation with a Jew, and therefore this obstacle must first be removed out of the way. The question is not of a mere isolated difference of opinion, but of a dogma, which excluded the Samaritans, whose representative the woman is here also, from the well of Jacob, from the life in God, and from access to Christ.
On this mountain. She refers to Gerizim, which was in view. The temple which had stood there for some centuries (Beiträge 2, S. 2 sq.) was destroyed by John Hyrcanus, and not rebuilt; but the sanctity of the place remained, and it was esteemed by the Samaritans as the centre of their religion. Even at the present day it is one of the five articles of faith of the Samaritans, that Gerizim is the Kiblah (Ritter, S. 650).
Ver. 21. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour Cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.”
Jesus intimates that the point of dispute between the Jews and Samaritans, on which the woman laid such weight, will in the future lose all significance. That which is so near its end, need not now hinder her from following the impulse of her heart, need not now stand as a dividing wall between her and Him who will give her living water. The words, believe Me, are connected with those of the woman, Thou art a prophet, and summon her to follow out this confession. The prophet is as such נאמן , 1 Samuel 3:20, πιστός , Sir_48:22 , where Isaiah is called πιστὸ?ς ἐ?ν ὁ?ράσει αὐ τοῦ? , and 1Ma_14:41 . With the words, the hour cometh, compare Isaiah 66:18, “It shall come (the time or hour) to gather all (heathen) nations and tongues: and they shall come, and see My glory:” with the hour to gather the heathen coincides the abolishing of the distinction of localities. In προσκυνήσετε both the Jews and the heathen are addressed. It is decisive against the assumption, that προσκυνήσετε applies only to the Samaritans, “who by their future conversion were to be released from their service at Gerizim, but not to be brought to the service in Jerusalem,” that on this view the thought would be a natural one, that the local obligation of worship would still continue for the Jews, while, according to the corresponding declaration in ver. 23, it was to cease altogether in the future. And, according to this view, the answer would not be a complete one; for the woman had not asked merely, where the Samaritans were to worship. God was to be Father to the Samaritans only in the future, when the hour was come; for in the present. He did not stand in the relation of fatherhood towards them. This is shown by the immediately following verse, where all essential knowledge of God, and all relation to Him, is denied to the Samaritans. Among the Jews, the relation of fatherhood had been already entered into in the Old Testament dispensation, yet among them also it attained its perfection only under the New Covenant. A deeper vital connection with God was established first by the Spirit of Christ. Yet we need not doubt that the name of Father was already current among the Samaritans; for it is to be considered, not merely that even the heathen said to their idols, “Thou art my father,” Jeremiah 2:27, but it is much more important that in the Books of Moses the name of sons of God is ascribed to the descendants of Jacob, Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; so that the use of the name of Father among the Samaritans was an immediate result of their usurpation of the title of the posterity of Jacob.
The Old Testament basis for this declaration, as for that in Matthew 8:11, is Malachi 1:11: “For from the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same. My name shall be great among the heathen; and in every place incense shall be offered unto My name, and a pure offering: for My name shall be great among the heathen, saith Jehovah Sabaoth.” The words, in every place, form a contrast to the temple, mentioned in the previous verse. The prophet predicts that the appointment in Deuteronomy 12:5-6—“Unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to place His name there, this His habitation shall ye seek, and thither come: and thither ye shall bring your burnt-offerings, and your meat-offerings,” etc.—will lose its force in the future, on the advent of Christ. Michaelis: “In omni loco, in Assyria et Ægypto, Jes. 19:18 sq., sicut olim in uno loco.” In the passage of Isaiah here cited it is said, [ Isaiah 19:19,] “In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt,”—the altar here, and the sacrifices in ver. 21, belong to each other, so that we cannot suppose that the altar has merely a symbolical meaning, as being a reference to the altar in Jerusalem. Coincident with these declarations of Isaiah and Malachi is the prediction of the abolition of the Old Testament form of worship in Jeremiah 3:16, Daniel 9:27. This form involves the exclusiveness of the place of worship, so that this exclusiveness must cease so soon as the form of worship is abolished.
In direct contradiction to the declaration of the Lord here and in ver. 23, by which every distinction of locality is abolished under the New Covenant, are the theories at present in vogue, of the future restoration of Jerusalem to be the centre of the Church of God, and its central sanctuary. The extent of our declaration from this point of view was already fully recognised by Bengel: “Samaritae non compulsi sunt Hierosolyma, Acts 8:14. Et quid postea opus fuit Cruciatis? quid opus est peregrinationibus? Locorum hie discrimen plane tollitur, cui intenti fuerant veteres, Numbers 23:27. Si discrimen manet, ubivis potius, quam Hierosolymis adorandum esse, haec verba innuunt.”
Ver. 22. “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews.”
As regards the present, our Lord continues, the Jews are right, and not the Samaritans.
The object of worship is designated generally, but God alone is meant,—cf. Matthew 4:10 γέγραπται γάρ , Κύριον τὸ?ν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις καὶ? αὐ τῷ? μόνῳ? λατρεύσεις—q.d., we worship a God whom we know. The Samaritans knew not God, because He had not made Himself known unto them; for every real knowledge of God has for its foundation, that God has revealed Himself, and has by His deeds made Himself a name. Because the Samaritans had not this revelation of God in their midst, they were in want of all essential knowledge of God; notwithstanding their “monotheism, free from anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms,” they were not less than the heathen ἄ?θεοι ἐ?ν τῷ? κόσμῳ? . Their eclectic position towards the word of God, in adopting only the Pentateuch and rejecting all the other books of the canon, and, “consequently, being without the Divine revelation contained in the later books, especially also the firm and living development of hope in the Messiah,” was only a consequence and result of their fundamental deficiency, in that they worshipped a God who had not made Himself known in their midst, and had never taken a form amongst them, and who had never filled out the void of their sanctuary and of their hearts by the fulness of His presence. By this fundamental deficiency is explained also the fickleness of the Samaritans, their inability to suffer for their religion, and their inclination to all that savoured of innovation. “They did not tell the truth merely unconsciously, when they declared in their letter to Antiochus Epiphanes, in remarkable accordance with the declaration of our Lord, that their fathers founded ἀ?ναώνυμον ἐ?ν τῷ? Γαριζεὶ?ν ὄ?ρει ἱ?ερόν . The feeling was stirring within them, that the God about whom they troubled themselves so much, notwithstanding all their boasting of His nearness, was a God afar off, and not Θεὸ?ς ἐ?ναργής , ἐ?πιφανής , and that He had merely a traditional name, not one which had grown in a living manner out of the reality” (Beiträge 2, S. 21). Among the Jews, there was also much ignorance of God; but among them this was the fault of the individual. At all periods, even those of deepest degradation, there was among them a nucleus, a chosen few, who, on the ground of the Divine revelation, possessed an essential knowledge of God; while, on the other hand, among the Samaritans, the ignorance of God was one of first principles, radical and universal.
But why did not the true God make Himself known to the Samaritans? why were they condemned to worship they knew not what? The answer is: Because they did not seek access to the true God in the manner prescribed by Him. During the continuance of the Old Covenant, the kingdom of God was bound to the sanctuary in Jerusalem, and to fellowship with the Israelitish nation. Instead of causing themselves as individuals to be received by circumcision into the Church of God, they desired to be an independent division of the people of God, with equal rights to the Jews, and, as such, to take part in the erection of the temple at Jerusalem. When this pretension was rejected, they threw themselves in the face of the Divine appointment by the erection of their own sanctuary. By such practices they shut themselves out from God and His revelation.
The reproach, “Ye worship ye know not what,” now applies to the Jews not less than it then did to the Samaritans; for, since their rejection of Christ, God no longer knows them, and consequently they no longer know God. There is no Divine revelation in their midst, from which might be developed a true knowledge of God.
In this proposition is given at the same time the answer to the woman’s questions in ver. 20. If the Jews alone were in possession of true Divine knowledge, the place of their Divine worship must also be the correct one; and if the Samaritans, with respect to the knowledge of God, were groping altogether in darkness, they could not be right with respect to the place of His worship. The woman had inquired, primarily, only concerning the place; but in substance the question applied to the entire relation of the religion of the Samaritans to that of the Jews. On this account, Jesus refers in His answer to the whole, by which the part is governed.—“For salvation is of the Jews.” It is the Messianic salvation which is spoken of, and not the “Messianic idea,” which some commentators, in their embarrassment, have put in its place. The proof that not the Samaritans but only the Jews know God, is furnished by the fact that salvation proceeds from the Jews, by which the seal of confirmation is affixed to the Jewish religion; and it is shown that only among them does God rule, and that, therefore, only among them there is the true knowledge of God. If it is established that the Messianic salvation does not proceed from Jews and Samaritans together—to which the Lord has already referred in the ἡ?μεῖ?ς , by which He, the bearer of this salvation, places Himself, together with the Jews, on the one hand, but the Samaritans on the other; cf. the words, ὁ? Χριστὸ?ς τὸ? κατὰ? σάρκα , Romans 9:5—it is established at the same time, also, that the Samaritans are excluded from the kingdom of God, within which alone He is known. For the kingdom of God and salvation are inseparable.
That salvation is of the Jews, is testified by Old Testament prophecy from Genesis 12 onwards, according to which all nations of the earth should be blessed in the seed of Abraham. Cf. Genesis 49:10, Isaiah 2 and Isaiah 49:6—where God says to His servant (the true Israel, according to Isaiah 49:3), “I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth” (the expression points especially to this passage)
Isaiah 60:1-3, Micah 4, and many other passages. “Salvation is of the Jews:”—this is now represented bodily before the eyes of the woman in Christ, after whose advent Samaritanism must be regarded as an anachronism, and was afterwards acknowledged to be so by the Samaritans, when they said, οἴ δαμεν ὅ?τι οὗ τός ἐ?στιν ἀ?ληθῶ?ς ὁ? σωτὴ?ρ τοῦ? κόσμου , ὁ? Χριστὸ?ς , by which they at the same time condemned their whole previous religious character.
In like manner we might now say to the Jews, Ye worship, etc. For salvation is of the Christians, from the Zion of the Christian Church, Romans 11:26. The faith of Abraham, of David, and of Isaiah is not planted among the heathen by the Jews—who everywhere show themselves to be a dead tree and castaway branches, and no longer bear in themselves the signature of the living God, but of the idol mammon—but by the Christians, in prelude to the completion of salvation, which is to proceed, not from the synagogue, fast falling into ruins, but from the Church.—“Thus,” remarks Lampe, “the woman needed to be led over from her darkness before the true light broke in upon her, and to be humbled on account of her unworthiness, before the Redeemer of the world was made known to her.” It is evident that here also she has a representative character, and that the people of the Samaritans are represented to us in her.
Ver. 23. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.”
Spirit forms the antithesis to all externalities—as, e.g., this and that locality, or the merely outward sacrifice—and truth is the inseparable accompaniment of spirit, since only worship in spirit is true worship, all else is a lie and pretence.
All that man has of spirit, he has only by receiving his breath from God, Genesis 2:7; and since, in consequence of the apostasy, he has sunk into carnality. Genesis 6:3, he can by the effusion of the Spirit alone be raised into the domain of spirit. So long as the Spirit is not poured out, man remains incapable of rising into the region of spirit; and being in his natural condition, must necessarily draw down religion into the region of externality, in which alone he is at home.
The worship of God in spirit and in truth is, on the one hand, still future, for Christ is not yet glorified, and therefore the Holy Spirit is not yet come; but, on the other hand, it belongs already to the present time, for the Word has already appeared in the flesh, and the New Covenant is germinating even under the Old Covenant.
That God is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, is taught most emphatically even in the Old Testament. When Moses repeatedly designates it as the sum of all religion, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,” he thus transposes religion into the sphere of spirit, refuses significance to everything external as such, and degrades it to an instrument, a mere form, which has no value, if not filled by the Spirit. When Isaiah, in chaps. 1 and 66, so emphatically rejects the merely outward sacrifice, and other religious acts, as, e.g., the mere prayer of the lips ( Isaiah 29:13), he has for his basis the proposition of our text. He desires spiritual virtues in opposition to merely external performances, which even on the threshold of revelation, in Genesis 4, are condemned by the rejection of the lifeless gift of Cain. Micah, in John 6:6-8, “opposes to merely external offerings, as alone pleasing to God, to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. It is the central thought of Psalms 50, that God, being a Spirit, cannot be served with external offerings as such: ver. 13, “Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” For the very reason that He is a Spirit, spiritual offerings can alone please Him, such as a heart full of gratitude and love: ver. 14, “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High.” But though the end was so clearly perceived and set forth under the Old Covenant, yet still its attainment was very difficult; for under the Old Covenant the Spirit of Christ had not yet come, and the Spirit of God was not able to overcome in the great mass the degrading power of the flesh. In order to this, it needed to become, by an increase of potency, the Spirit of Christ. It was, indeed, difficult for one to maintain himself in the region of the Spirit, and it was very natural to sink down into the region of externality, where the flesh feels more at home and in its element. Still, it is of significance, that in the Divine law itself importance was ascribed to certain externalities during the continuance of the Old Covenant,—not, indeed, as though they had in themselves an atoning and justifying efficacy, but yet as being absolutely obligatory; e.g., attendance at the sanctuary, and the offering of spiritual under the form of bodily sacrifices. By such a concession—which was made to the sensuous consciousness in order to bring it at least to the beginning of the worship of God in spirit and in truth—a false estimation of externals became very easy. We perceive this even in the lively polemics with which psalmists and prophets opposed this danger, e.g., David in Psalms 15, 24. To regard everything external as only a means to an end, and to estimate it from this point of view, was, under the Old Covenant, in the power only of the elect few; and that it is still difficult at the present day, is shown, e.g. by the dreams of a restoration of Jerusalem.
Ver. 24. “God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
The most direct Old Testament parallel to “God is Spirit,” is Isaiah 31:3, “The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit.” Here, to be God, and to be spirit (not a spirit, though the thought is not essentially altered by this translation), appear to be inseparably connected. Quesnel remarks: “A spirit and a heart which are consecrated to God by a living faith, a sincere worship and humiliation before His greatness, an absolute subjection to and dependence on His will, a lively gratitude for His goodness and His benefits, and a burning zeal for His honour: this is the sacrifice which is worthy (so far as a creature can be worthy) of this eternal and infinite Spirit, and this absolutely holy and immutable will, which is God Himself. Without this sacrifice of the spirit and the heart by love, the outward offering which should be its sign, the effect and copy of it, is an empty sign, a deceitful image, a Jewish sacrifice.”
It scarcely needs remark, that the present declaration of Christ is directed against the externals of worship, only in so far as these lay claim to an independent significance. If we should extend it farther, we should not promote, but destroy the worship of God in spirit and in truth; for man, as a corporeal as well as spiritual being, needs the external to lead him to the spiritual, and the spiritual life must be stunted if this support be withdrawn. Yet from the declaration of our text we derive the rule, that all accumulation of externals in worship, which so easily overmaster instead of stimulating the spirit, are to be avoided.
Ver. 25. The woman saith unto Him, I know that Messias Cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things.”
The woman feels that she cannot follow, and that she can gain an insight into the whole depth of the truth just announced only in connection with a comprehensive enlightenment of her religious consciousness, which she expects from the advent of the Messiah. She accordingly expresses her desire; and in consequence of this longing after Him, Jesus makes Himself known as the Messiah. In John 1:42 it is ὁ? Μεσσίας , but here Μεσσίας without the article, because the word had become a proper name, as also διάβολος and Σατανᾶ?ς stand sometimes without the article. The appellative character of the name would of course be less observed by a foreigner. It has been thought striking, that the Samaritan woman makes use of the specifically Jewish name, Messiah, which was taken from writings (Psalms 2 and Daniel 9) which were not included in the Samaritan canon. But from the entire relation of the Samaritan theology to the Jewish, viz., of absolute dependence (cf. Beiträge 2, S. 28 sq.), it can scarcely be presumed that the name so current at that time among the Jews, had not become so also among the Samaritans. It is also to be observed that the Jewish apostates, who formed a main channel by which much accrued to the Samaritans from the Jewish fulness, had their principal seat in Sychem. Cf. Josephus, Antiquities 11, 8, 6: Σαμαρεῖ ται μητρόπολιν τότε τὴ?ν Σίκιμα ἔ?χοντες , κειμένην πρὸ?ς τῷ? Γαριξεὶ?ν ὄ?ρει καὶ? κατῳ κημένην ὑ?πὸ? τῶ?ν ἀ?ποστατῶ?ν τοῦ? Ἰ?ουδαίων ἔ?θνους . And then it is to be observed, that the woman, in her need to cling to Christ, uses that name in preference, which, as she knew, was the current one among the Jews. Substantially, also, she does not go beyond the Pentateuch, for the coming of the Messiah is spoken of in Genesis 49:10; cf. remarks on John 1:9. The conception of the Messiah as a divinely enlightened Teacher points to Deuteronomy 18; the same passage on which the Samaritans at the present day found their belief in a Redeemer (cf. Barges, Les Samaritains de Naplouse, Paris 1855, p. 90), while they now refer the prophecy of Shiloh to Solomon (p. 91). The words ἀ?ναγγελεῖ? ἡ?μῖ?ν πάντα strikingly accord with Deuteronomy 18:18, “And He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him.” To the prediction of Moses, of a Prophet like unto him, also refers, in all probability, the Samaritan secret name for the Messiah, השהב or התהב . We are not, with Gesenius (Carmina Samarit. p. 75 sq.), to render this name by conversor; for this interpretation rests on the false assumption, that שוב in Hebrew often means to lead back. “We must rather render, with De Sacy (Notices et extraits, t. 12, p. 29, 209, Juyneboll. Chron. Samarit. p. 52), celui qui revient, the Returning One. The form תהב occurs also in the Samaritan as the participle of תוב (which in the Samaritan, Syriac, and Arabic always means to return), with the meaning of the returning, or specifically, the penitent. On the ground of the words, like unto me, the Samaritans regarded the Messiah as the returning Moses. On this view, they say that his name will begin with the letter M (Barges and elsewhere), and ascribe to him, who is to be but a man, an age of a hundred and twenty years (Jowett in Von Raumer, Pal. S. 145).
Ver. 26. “Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He.”
This is the seventh and last word of Jesus. P. Anton: “Since she herself thus spoke of it, it was now time that Christ should draw tight the knot.” Among the Jews, Jesus proceeded cautiously, repressing His Messianic dignity. Matthew 16:20; the reason for which, according to John 6:15, was the political character of the Jewish hope in the Messiah. This reason did not exist among the Samaritans; and if the transaction was a symbolical one, having a prophetic character, the confession of Jesus as the Messiah would necessarily occur in it. The necessary conclusion of the occurrence was the declaration, “We know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world;” and this confession must have been preceded by the declaration of Christ Himself concerning His Messianic dignity.
Ver. 27. “And upon this came His disciples, and marvelled that He talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest Thou? or, Why talkest Thou with her?”
In Judea the disciples would not have marvelled that Jesus talked with a woman, but in Samaria, even if He talked with a man; and still more did they marvel at His conversing with a Samaritan woman. But we should remark the timid awe of the disciples in relation to Christ. “With which wonder,” remarks the Berleburger Bibel, “there was yet a holy reverence, so that they did not judge Him in this conduct, or put a false construction upon it.” Calvin draws from this behaviour of the disciples the instruction, “that we, when something in the works of God and of Christ does not please us, should not indulge in complaint and opposition, but should rather be modestly silent, until what is hidden from us be revealed from heaven.”
Ver. 28. “The woman then left her water-pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29. Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”
The μήτι , perhaps (Buttmann, S. 213), is probably not the expression of her own doubt, but of modesty, and of acknowledgment of her entirely subordinate position. She does not wish to anticipate the judgment of the men, and thus to evoke their contradiction.
Ver. 30. “Then they went out of the city, and came to Him.”
It is a contrast of prophetic significance, that the Jews by their plots drive Jesus out of their country, while, on the other hand, the Samaritans come out to Him and invite Him into their city. The willing audience which the woman’s message finds, presupposes that the Jewish expectation, founded on Daniel 9, of the directly impending advent of the Messiah, had passed over also to the Samaritans.
Ver. 31. “In the meanwhile His disciples prayed Him, saying, Master, eat.”
The preparation of the food which had been bought occupied some time, and it was not ready until the Samaritans were already near. This explains the answer of Christ. The disciples urged Him to eat first of all, before engaging with those who were now approaching,—a request, the impropriety of which is evident from the circumstance that the woman had, for the sake of Jesus, left her water-pot.
Ver. 32. “But He said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
Ver. 33. Therefore said the disciples one to another. Hath any man brought Him ought to eat?” They spoke only one to another, for to Jesus Himself they dared not, in their bashful reverence, address such a question.
Ver. 34. “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.” “A spiritual pastor,” says Quesnel, “needs to have nothing at heart but the work of God and the salvation of souls. This is his delight, his food and his life.”
Ver. 35. “Say not ye. There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you. Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” According to some, the words, “there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest,” are a proverbial expression, which has this meaning: four months are usually reckoned from the sowing of the seed to the harvest. But it is opposed to this, that there is no trace elsewhere of such a proverbial expression , that then we do not perceive why it should be attributed to the Apostles in particular; that then the time of sowing would have been mentioned; and that in Palestine there are between sowing and harvest not four, but six months, the sowing beginning about the middle of October (Jahn, Archaeology i. 153), and the harvest in the middle of April (i. 332). We have therefore more probably before us an expression which the disciples had then just used. Since there were yet four months to harvest, their journey must have occurred about the time when the seeds were just sprouting; and in view of this, the disciples had just before made such a remark, not as economists, but as theologians, in order to indicate how strongly it is enjoined on man to persevere and hope, and how very important it is for him to possess his soul in patience, and thus in the same sense in which James ( James 5:7) expresses himself: ἰ?δοὺ? ὁ? γεωργὸ?ς ἐ?κδέχεται τὸ?ν τίμιον καρπὸ?ν τῆ?ς γῆ?ς μακροθυμῶ?ν ἐ?πʼ? αὐ τῷ? ἕ?ως λάβῃ? πρόϊμον καὶ? ὄ?ψιμον . Now, in contrast to this slow ripening of the earthly fruits, Jesus here, according to some, speaks “of the quick succession of sowing and harvest in spiritual matters.” But Augustine has already designated the contrast more precisely: “Vos quatuor menses computatis usque ad messem, ego vobis aliam messem albam et paratam ostendo.” It is the whiteness of the fields to harvest which is here alone spoken of; for, according to what follows, the harvest itself was to be gathered by the Apostles not until after the ascension of Christ. The antithesis is then to be thus rendered: In spiritual things further progress has been made than in natural; for while in the latter the seed is just springing, in the spiritual it is already white unto harvest.
With the words, “Lift up your eyes, and look,” compare Isaiah 49:18, “Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee;” and likewise Isaiah 60:4. The coincidence is the less to be regarded as a chance one, since in the Old Testament passage it is also the increase of the kingdom of God which is spoken of. The words render it probable that Jesus pointed to the approaching Samaritans. As Lücke correctly remarks, “Without something present which the disciples could perceive, the requisition to lift up their eyes would be scarcely conceivable.” But we must not stop with the Samaritans, but rather behold in their appearance the symptom of a general state of the world. Then also the declaration of our Lord, in Matthew 9:37-38, is more closely connected. Matthew 9:36-38 are also of general contents.
The declaration of our Lord here, is to show, primarily, that it is now time not to eat, but to do the work of the Father. But with this is connected the design, which is more prominent in what follows, to fill the disciples with courage and joy in their mission, which was entered on with such favourable prospects.
It is evident from this passage, that the visit of Jesus to Samaria occurred about the middle of December. The regular commencement of the harvest was the second day of the Passover, or the sixteenth day after the first new moon in April. From this time four months are to be reckoned backwards. Since Jesus went to Jerusalem to the Passover. His stay in Judea had been about eight months.
Ver. 36. “And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal; that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.”
It is true, Christ continues, that the fields are already white to harvest, but yet the harvest itself is not immediately at hand. To gather it in is not Mine, but your work,—a work rich in blessing for you, and in joy at the same time for Me, for whom the words of the Psalmist will then be fulfilled: Psalms 126:5, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” The distinction between the sower and reaper here intimates that the harvest will not begin until after Christ’s death; and it is in harmony with this, that the Lord was satisfied with this single visit, that He never made another to continue the work thus begun, and that He expressly forbade His Apostles to journey in the country of the Samaritans with the object of preaching the Gospel there,—facts which show that here it was the design only to give a prefiguration or prelude of that which should take place after Christ’s exaltation.
The fruit which is gathered into eternal life is the reward of faithful labour, which is presented in eternal life. Cf. ὁ? μισθὸ?ς ὑ?μῶ?ν πολὺ?ς ἐ?ν τοῖ?ς οὐ ρανοῖ?ς , Matthew 5:12. The καρπὸ?ς here is the μισθὸ?ς in the immediately preceding context, and the eternal life appears to be the place where the fruit, the reward, is hidden. Matthew 3:12; Matthew 6:26. Quesnel remarks: “The happiness of a worker is often closely connected with that of others; in working for them, he works for himself.” It is a part of the reward specially appointed for the Apostles, that they shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Ver. 37. “And herein is the true saying. One soweth, and another reapeth.”
Jesus had previously distinguished between the sower and the reaper, and here this distinction is proved, or represented more clearly and sharply. According to the parallel passage, 2 Peter 2:22, ἀ?ληθινὸ?ς is the adjective to λόγος , and the words, “herein is,” are equivalent to, herein is verified, or, here applies. The saying (the sense of which is thus correctly expressed by Calvin, “Multos saepe alieni laboris fructum percipere”) is designated as true with respect to the present relations, in which it attains to its higher verity. The consideration that they reaped what Christ had sown, was to render the Apostles truly grateful, and very zealous in their harvest-work.
Ver. 38. “I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: others laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.”
On ἀ?πέστειλα Lampe remarks: “Your mission began with your calling, although it did not receive its completion until afterwards.” By “others” is meant Jesus alone; but He here represents a whole class, in exact analogy with Psalms 54:4, “The Lord is with them that uphold my soul;” on which it is remarked in my Commentary [Translation, ii. 220], “The Psalmist makes two parties, the opponents and the helpers, and is full of triumphing confidence as he sees the Lord upon the side of the latter. That the Psalmist must have had other helpers besides the Lord, we must not conclude from the plural. The plurality is an ideal circumstance; the plural denotes the class, the party, which in reality might have been embodied in an individual.” Psalms 118:7, “The Lord taketh my part with them that help me,” is also quite analogous. With κεκοπιάκασι , cf. κεκοπιακὼ?ς ἐ?κ τῆ?ς ὁ?δοιπορίας , John 4:6. This was only the emblem of the distress and suffering which Jesus had to endure until the completion of His ministry. How bitter this suffering was, is evident from the fact, that what the disciples had to do and to suffer until their martyr-death appears so light in comparison, that it is not worthy of being spoken of.
Ver. 39. “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman, who testified. He told me all that ever I did. 40. So when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them: and He abode there two days. 41. And many more believed because of His own word; 42. And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world (the Christ).”
The Messiah is represented as the Saviour of the world in that one of the few Messianic passages in the Pentateuch, to which the Samaritans were restricted, Genesis 49:10, according to which the nations shall adhere to the Shiloh, the peaceful, the peace-bringer. The proof that this passage was interpreted of the Messiah by the Samaritans, is adduced in the Christology, Th. i. S. 75, 6 [Translation, i. p. 6&]. Jesus must have presented Himself to the Samaritans as the Saviour of the WORLD,” since He entirely rejected their pretensions to have a part in the covenant, and to belong to the natural Israel, and placed them in the same category as the heathen, ver. 22. If salvation was of the Jews only, they could partake of it only in so far as it was destined for the whole world. The expression, σωτὴ?ρ τοῦ? κόσμου , is found nowhere else in the New Testament, except only in 1 John 4:14, where it is natural to suppose that John used it in allusion to our text. The Berleb. Bibel remarks, “Because they call Him thus, they must have learned the misery of the world.” ὁ? Χριστός is wanting in important authorities.
Chap. John 4:43-54
The Second Manifestation of the Glory of Christ in Galilee
Ver. 43. “Now, after two days He departed thence, and went into Galilee. 44. For Jesus Himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. 45. Then, when He was come into Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast.”—Καὶ? ἀ?πῆ λθεν is wanting in some important critical authorities, but the omission is probably to be explained from an attempt at abbreviation. The words καὶ? ἀ?πῆ λθεν take up ver. 3, and show that Jesus continued the journey which He is there said to have entered upon, but which was interrupted by His stay in Samaria. This word ἀ?πῆ λθεν occurs more frequently in John than in any other New Testament author, and is also used with predilection in the Apocalypse. There was less occasion to add it than to omit it. The circumstantial mode of designating the acts of Jesus, corresponds to the high significance which John ascribes to His person, as, for the same reason, Matthew ( Matthew 5:2) adds, ἀ?νοίξας τὸ? στόμα αὐ τοῦ? .
Galilee, in ver. 43, is the rest of Galilee in distinction from Nazareth, and in opposition to it, as, in an entirely corresponding manner, John, in John 3:22, designates Judea as the land of Judea in opposition to Jerusalem. The Apostle could not certainly have so written if he had intended to give an absolutely independent account of the life of Jesus, instead of paralipomena to the three first Gospels, and especially to that of his fellow-Apostle Matthew. In what difficulties we become entangled if we do not acknowledge this fixed fact, is clearly evident from the helpless embarrassment into which most modern interpreters have fallen with reference to this passage. Nazareth, according to John also, is the home of Jesus, John 1:47, John 19:19, and therefore the place to which He had gone first on His return to Galilee. But after Matthew, in Matthew 4:13, had recorded καὶ? καταλιπὼ?ν τὴ?ν Ναζαρὰ? ἐ?λθὼ?ν κατῴ κησεν εἰ?ς Καφαρναοὺ?μ , John could, without danger of being misunderstood, use Galilee of the rest of Galilee, and πατρίς of Christ’s home,—the latter the rather, since Matthew 13:57, cf. Mark 6:4, Luke 4:24, served as a commentary to the words, ὅ?τι προφήτης ἐ?ν τῇ? ἰ?δίᾳ? πατρίδι τιμὴ?ν οὐ?κ ἔ?χει , and showed that πατρίς here stands of Nazareth, the adopted city of Christ, and not of His native country.
Even the circumstance that John speaks so generally of Galilee, without more precisely designating any place where Jesus established Himself, and also without mentioning any such in the following context—for the stay at Cana is manifestly only a transient one—is equivalent to a reference to his predecessor. Capernaum had been mentioned in Matthew 4:13 as the place where Jesus resided, with which John harmonizes, in stating that Jesus had already, on His journey to the first Passover, stayed several days at Capernaum, the residence of several of His disciples, John 2:12, and that in Capernaum dwelt the royal (servant), whose son Jesus had healed immediately on His first arrival in Galilee. It is quite natural to suppose that this person, who believed with his whole house, ver. 53, made every effort to induce Jesus to take up His abode there.
If we have first gained a firm basis from comparison with the first Evangelists, the sense thus obtained is confirmed by a more particular consideration of the narrative of John; where even the declaration of Jesus in itself requires the reference to His adopted city, and not His native country. It is probable that He points back to an Old Testament fact—for the canon of the Old Testament is the peculiar province of the prophets, prophecy being extinct in the post-canonical period,—and no other can be thought of than this, that Jeremiah, on his visit to his native city Anathoth, received the direction, “Prophesy not in” the name of the Lord, that thou die not by our hand,” Jeremiah 11:21. On the basis of this passage Jesus formed the expression Himself; for there is no ground for supposing that it was a proverb current among the Jews. Further, if by πατρίς we understand native country, the sentence is not true, either in general—all the prophets before the exile prophesied in their native land, and did not pass beyond its boundaries—or in its application to Christ. In this we should necessarily understand the native country to be Galilee. But it was precisely here, where the Pharisees could not act freely, that Christ found most entrance, as is shown directly by ver. 45. The rulers of the people say to Nicodemus in John 7:52, when he takes the part of Christ, “Art thou also of Galilee?”
According to Matthew 13:57, Jesus spoke the words, Οὐ?κ ἔ?στιν προφήτης ἄ?τιμος εἰ? μὴ? ἐ?ν τῇ? πατρίδι καὶ? ἐ?ν τῇ? οἰ κίᾳ? αὐ τοῦ? , when He was ill received on His visit to Nazareth; but this visit belongs to a much later period. An entire series of events lie, between the return of Jesus to Galilee, John 4:12, and this visit. In Luke 4:23, the Nazarenes say to Jesus: ὅ?σα ἠ?κούσαμεν γενόμενα εἰ?ς τὴ?ν Καφαρναοὺ?μ ποίησον καὶ? ὧ?δε ἐ?ν τῇ? πατρίδι σου . Jesus had therefore already performed a number of miracles in Galilee. Here, on the other hand, the Galileans receive Jesus on the ground of that which He had done in Jerusalem; and according to ver. 54, the healing of the son of the royal servant was the second miracle only which had been performed in Galilee. That which Jesus had already declared here, in order to give a reason for His resolution not to take up His abode in Galilee, He repeated when the declaration received an actual confirmation on a visit which He made to Nazareth, for the very reason that it might come to the light, and that He might not, from a preconceived opinion, withhold from His home the blessing which was primarily due to it. It was certainly not without an object that Jesus did not put it to the proof immediately, but only at a time when His fame was already extended far and wide in Galilee, Luke 4:14. Salvation was to be offered to His native town under the most favourable circumstances.
Lampe is of opinion, that it is not here said when Jesus made this declaration; for the Evangelist might properly have stated the ground of the resolution of Jesus in words which He spoke on another occasion, even on His later visit to Nazareth. This is of course possible; but yet it is natural that Jesus should thus directly justify Himself to His disciples, on account of His resolution not to take up His abode in Nazareth, and that He should repeat this declaration when it had been confirmed by the result.
We perceive the reason why Jesus had no honour in His own city in Matthew 13:54-58. They had in view the inferior circumstances from which He had sprung, and were unable to rise to the recognition of a greatness which must be derived so absolutely from heaven, and which in their view lacked all earthly foundation.
Ver. 46. “So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where He made the water wine.” These latter words contain the reason why Jesus turned first of all to Cana. It was the place in Galilee where, in consequence of the previous manifestation of His glory. He had already a point of support. That He went thither first, pointed to the fact, that a similar manifestation was to be expected from Him in the future,—a reference which was understood by the royal servant.—“And there was a certain royal [servant], whose son was sick at Capernaum.” Josephus, in his Jewish War, B. 7, ch. 5, § 2, calls the servant of the Parthian king sent to Titus, royal; and so likewise in his Antiquities, B. 15, ch. 8, 9, 4, he styles the servants of King Herod, whom he had shortly before called ὑ?πηρέτας . The sons of Herod were only tetrarchs; but that in common life they were frequently honoured with the royal title, is evident from Matthew 14:9, Mark 6:14. The name of this royal person, who according to ver. 53 believed, with all his house, is by some derived from Luke 8:3, where, among the women who followed Jesus and ministered unto Him of their substance, is mentioned Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herods steward. We should be referred more decidedly to this passage, if there did not occur in Acts 13:1, among the prophets and teachers in Antioch, one Μαναήν Ἡ?ρῴ δου τοῦ? τετραάρχου σύντροφος . The royal servant had without doubt heard, besides the miracle in Cana, of all that Jesus had done in Jerusalem, ver. 45. Probably sick persons had already been healed there by Jesus.
The difference of the royal servant here, and the centurion in Matthew 8 and Luke 7, is quite evident. There is an accordance only in the most general feature, that the request for a sick dependent is granted, and that this sick person is in Capernaum—according to Matthew the customary residence of Christ, and therefore the principal scene of His miracles, Luke 4:23. All else is different: the place where Jesus is addressed is there Capernaum, but here Cana; the time is here the first commencement of Jesus Messianic ministry in Galilee, there, after Jesus had already laboured for some time in Galilee; the relation of the sick person for whom the request is made—there a servant, here a son; the religion—the centurion is a heathen, the royal servant, as is especially shown by ver. 48, a Jew; and the degree of faith—in the centurion it is a rare energy of faith, while on the other hand the royal servant is censured on account of the weakness of his faith.
Ver. 47. “When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judea into Galilee, he went unto Him, and besought Him that He would come down and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.
Ver. 48. Then said Jesus unto him. Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.”
The added τέρατα gives a more exact definition of the signs, and shows that it is miraculous signs that are meant. Signs and wonders were altogether necessary, and the appearance of Jesus cannot be thought of without them. Jesus Himself points the doubting Baptist to them in Matthew 11:4-5. He says, in ch. John 10:37 of our Gospel, “If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not;” and in John 15:24, “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did they had not had sin.” Among the Samaritans also, Jesus had proved His divinity in this manner. The argument which the woman brings forward for His Messianic dignity is this, “He told me all things that ever I did.” In this case, however, the signs and wonders were already before Him, and thus it brought a reproach on the royal servant, that he had not been led to faith by them, but that his heart still remained cold; for it was the signs and wonders which occasioned his coming to Jesus, especially the miracle performed at Cana. But although Christ blames the royal servant, as He does Thomas in John 20:29, yet there is in the background the granting of the request; and the answer is essentially different from that to the Pharisees who desired a sign of Him, πειράζοντες , Matthew 16:1.
Ver. 49. “The royal [servant] saith unto Him, Sir, come down ere my child die.
Ver. 50. Jesus saith unto him. Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.”
To live occurs repeatedly in the Old Testament of recovery from severe disease, because this is, as it were, the beginning of death: Isaiah 38:1; 2 Kings 1:2. Quesnel: “Remark the double miracle, which Jesus here performs by a single word: one on the distant body of the son, the other on the present heart of the father, who is himself healed of his unbelief, since he believed in the healing, which he did not see.
The efficacy of the word of Jesus even in His absence, taught His disciples that His return to heaven need not injure their confidence in His aid.”
Ver. 51. “And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying. Thy child liveth.
Ver. 52. Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him. Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” The servants say yesterday, according to the Jewish division of the day, according to which the day ends at sunset, and the healing had taken place about one o’clock in the afternoon. Since the distance between Capernaum and Cana, the present Kefr Kenna, is about twenty-five miles, the royal servant could conveniently be in Capernaum on the evening of the same day according to our reckoning.
Ver. 53. “So the father knew that it was at the same hour (the fever left him) in the which Jesus had said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.” His former faith had reference to a single point, the healing of his son; but now he becomes a partaker of the general, saving, Christian faith.
Ver. 54. “This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when He was come out of Judea into Galilee.” The word πάλιν , which is not absolutely necessary here, is a special favourite with John:—it occurs between forty and fifty times in his Gospel, while in the Gospel of Luke it is found only twice. In the Epistles of John it occurs only once, and in the Apocalypse only twice, which circumstance is characteristic in respect of the historical style. The words ἐ?λθὼ?ν , etc., can refer to the second miracle only; for at the first Jesus came not from Judea, but from Peraea. We are therefore to understand, with the preceding statement, the words in this scene, or in Galilee; for that it cannot be the second miracle of all which is spoken of, is shown by ver. 45. The conclusion of the second group points back to the conclusion of the first, John 2:11. Bengel calls attention to the fact, that John gives a particular account of three miracles in Galilee—the two at Cana, and the feeding of the five thousand in ch. 6; and likewise of three in Judea—the healing of the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, ch. 5, of the blind man in ch. 9, and the raising of Lazarus. He likewise records three appearances of the risen Lord, with an express designation of the last as the third, John 21:14; as, indeed, we are instructed by our text to mark the number. As John demonstrably elsewhere ascribes significance to numbers, we need not regard this as a mere chance.—
Schweiger remarks: “What becomes of Jesus, or where He stays, no one can tell from this narrative
John does not usually relate so inconsiderately.” From this it is seen that John refers to former accounts, from which what is wanting here must be taken. The representation becomes an enigma if we do not recognise this. And then also it does not seem strange that the disciples are so much in the background, not being mentioned again till John 6:3. That Jesus was accompanied by them at this time, we are sufficiently informed in the first Gospels.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 4". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany