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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament

John 4

Verses 1-2


More disciples than John. The jealous friends of John (John 3:26) may have told the Pharisees about this. (Actually, Jesus himself did not baptize anyone.) Had Jesus done so, those personally baptized by him might have mistakenly claimed some foolish honor (which is Paul’s thought, 1 Corinthians 1:14-15), The disciples did the actual work of baptizing, but Jesus DID IT BY PROXY through them. He still does!

Verse 3


And went back to Galilee. It was not time yet for open confrontation, and the Pharisees were getting jealous. John the Baptist had been arrested.

Verse 4


He had to go through Samaria. The hostility between Jews and Samaritans made the Jews usually take a roundabout route across the Jordan, through Perea, to avoid Samaria. But that took about seven days travel time, while the direct route took only three days.

Verse 5


A town in Samaria named Sychar. Samaria was the area of Palestine where the tribe of Ephraim and half the tribe of Manasseh [the other half was across the Jordan] had lived. When the Ten Tribes were taken to Babylon, the king of Assyria sent foreigners in to occupy the land, and they intermarried with those Jews who were left there. When the Two Tribes came back from Babylon, they would not associate with the Samaritans, rejecting them as “half-breeds.” The Samaritans used only the first five books of the Bible, and had their own forms of worship and their own temple on Mount Gerizim. Sychar is the “Schechem” of the Old Testament. It is forty miles north of Jerusalem, between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:30-35). Sychar means “town of the grave,” the grave of Joseph being only about one hundred yards away. Not far from the field. See Genesis 33:18-20; Genesis 48:22; Joshua 24:32.

Verse 6


Jacob’s well was there. It was some nine feet across, 105 feet deep, and had 15 feet of water in it, when Maundrell visited it in 1697. Sat down by the well. There was a raised stone edging around the well, with an arch over the top. Jesus sat on this stone edging, in the shade of the arch. The sun is very hot at noon.

Verses 7-8


A Samaritan woman came. She had walked out from the city to get water. Women were the water-carriers of the East (Genesis 24:13-14; Exodus 2:16), and water was important in this dry land (compare Matthew 10:42). Give me a drink of water. A rope and a bucket were necessary to reach down to the water in the well.

Verse 9


How can you ask me for a drink? She is surprised! She can see he is a Jew, and the Jews and Samaritans are hostile to each other. (Jews will not use the same dishes that Samaritans use.) This is the literal translation. The Expositor’s Greek Testament says: Sugchrasthai literally signifies “to use together with,” so that the sense here might be that the woman was surprised that Jesus should use the same vessel [bucket] she used.”

Verse 10


If you only knew what God gives. The great gift of God is Christ himself! He would give you living water. We see that: (1) Christ asks a favor to give a blessing. (2) The well and the water are symbolic of the thirst of the spirit and the water of life.

Verse 11


Where would you get living water? She is thinking in material terms. He has no way of getting water from this deep well.

Verse 12


You don’t claim to be greater than Jacob, do you? The Samaritans thought of Jacob as their great ancestor. The fact that she says this shows she is beginning to understand this is no ordinary man. She can see Jesus is a Jew, and he is talking with her, a woman!

Verse 13


Will get thirsty again. She would know this to be true. Nothing material satisfies very long.

Verse 14


Will never be thirsty again. He speaks as the Son of God. He has the authority to give this living water. Will become in him a spring. If you have your own spring, you don’t need someone else’s well! Jesus uses these same words in John 7:37-39 where the Scripture clearly identifies this as the Holy Spirit. Compare notes on Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Verse 15


Give me this water! Is she still thinking in material terms? Yet she must have some understanding of what Jesus offers.

Verse 16


Go call your husband. Jesus is answering her request. But she must become aware of her sinfulness to understand her real need. This question makes her review her past.

Verse 17


I don’t have a husband. She lives with a man, but has no husband.

Verse 18


You have told me the truth. Jesus shows her something of who he is, by telling her what she already knows. Under the tolerant laws of divorce, she had been married five times, and had not bothered to marry the sixth man.

Verse 19


I see you are a prophet, sir. She had felt all along that this was no ordinary man who spoke to her. He has demonstrated supernormal knowledge.

Verse 20


But you Jews say that Jerusalem is the place. She does this partly to turn attention from herself, and partly to solve the “live question” of where to worship God. The Samaritans had their own temple on Mount Gerizim, and she worshiped there because her ancestors had done so. Many now worship God in conflicting “traditional ways,” because that’s the way their ancestors did it.

Verse 21


The time will come. Jesus announces an important truth: the place where you worship means nothing! As Jesus said this, God’s presence was in the temple at Jerusalem. But all that would change! See Acts 17:24; Ephesians 2:22.

Verse 22


We Jews know whom we worship. The Samaritans used only the first five books of the Bible, and rejected the prophets who would have taught them the truth. So, they worshiped in ignorance. The Jews used the entire Old Testament, and they worshiped in the truth of God. But God’s final revelation had come – Jesus Christ the Son of God!

Verse 23


Will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. A worship of “ritual and holy places” will not meet the demands of the Father. The “childhood age” is about to terminate, and the Gospel Age is beginning! Spiritual worship can be offered anywhere. But as “faith without actions is useless,” it is just as true that we express our worship through actions. [Material actions can have spiritual results. Remember the Cross. The messianic community expressed their worship through: singing; praying; preaching and Bible study; participating in the Lord’s Supper (the Holy Meal); and contributing money to the Lord’s work.] The Father wants. He must be worshiped with the heart, in spirit and in truth!

Verse 24


God is Spirit. Not “a” spirit, but Spirit! God is not material, therefore needs no temple constructed by human hands.

Verse 25


I know that the Messiah, called Christ, will come. Does she say this because she is overwhelmed by what he has said; or does she connect his supernormal ability with her understanding of the Messianic promise??? Perhaps both. The Samaritan’s hope of a Messiah was based on Moses’ prediction of “The Prophet” in Deuteronomy 18:18.

Verse 26


I am he. This is the first recorded declaration of Jesus being the Messiah. “I think there is something very beautiful and characteristic of our Lord in his declaring himself to be the Messiah, to this dark-minded and sin-stained woman, whose spiritual nature is just “coming alive” as he teaches her.”

Verse 27


Greatly surprised to find him talking with a woman. The Jews strongly disapproved talking to a woman in public. The teachers of the Law thought of it as disgrace. This explains part of the woman’s surprise in John 4:9.

Verse 28


Then the woman left her water Jar. This shows her sincerity! She has completely forgotten why she had come here!

Verses 29-30


Could he be the Messiah? This woman skillfully excites their interest! Her question is worded to show she thinks he is the Messiah.

Verses 31-32


I have food to eat that you know nothing about. “Man cannot live on bread alone.” After his baptism and being filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus went without food forty days during the Temptation. Hunger is forgotten, as he pours out the “water of life” to a thirsty woman.

Verse 33


Could someone have brought him food? They cannot think of the spiritual food, the bread of life. Long before, Isaiah had spoken about this food and said: “Come, buy, and eat! Come, buy without money and without payment, wine and milk” [Isaiah 55:1 b Zamenhof].

Verse 34


My food. [“Meat” in old English meant “any kind of solid food.”] Jesus says that obeying God and doing his work is “food” to him!

Verse 35


You have a saying. Harvest began about the middle of April in Palestine. This would be in December as he says this. But he quotes a “proverb.” The crops are now ripe! As they look up, they see the crowd of Samaritans coming, who are ripe for the Kingdom.

Verse 36


Is being paid. Jesus continues the symbolism of the proverb he has quoted. The one who reaps the harvest in the fields is paid for his work, and so will be those who harvest human beings for God (Matthew 4:19). Will be glad together. Both those who “plant” the Good News and those who “gather men and women” for eternal life can be happy in working for the Lord! Compare Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9.

Verse 37


One man plants, another man reaps. This is also a proverb. The spectacular results in a “Revival” are usually the results of someone who patiently planted God’s truth.

Verse 38


I have sent you. Jesus speaks of some point in the past. The disciples had baptized huge crowds John 4:1), so huge that John the Baptist’s disciples had said, “everyone is going to him” (John 3:26). They were harvesting where John had planted (compare note on John 3:22).

Verses 39-40


They begged him to stay with them. It was a strange thing for Samaritans to invite a Jew to stay with them; stranger still for a Jew to do it! This showed their faith, and, his mission was to point men to God.

Verse 41


Many more believed because of his message. They saw and heard for themselves this unique prophet.

Verse 42


He is really the Savior of the world. Here, many months before Peter’s declaration (Matthew 16:16), the Samaritans declare Jesus to be the Messiah-Savior of the world! [But it is very unlikely they knew him to be the Son of God as well.]

Verses 43-45

43–45. And went to Galilee. Completing the trip that had brought him to Sychar in the first place.

Verse 46


Whose son in Capernaum was sick. This man is a government official, and could have been Chuza, an officer in Herod’s court (Luke 8:3), as Johnson thinks.

Verse 47


And asked him to go to Capernaum. He believed Jesus could heal his son, but thought he had to be there in person to do it. This official: (1) had some degree of faith; (2) came looking for Jesus; (3) came in person rather than sending a servant; (4) did not think Jesus could heal from a distance.

Verse 48


Unless you see great and wonderful works. Samaria had welcomed Jesus as a prophet, without any miracles. The Jews did not welcome him as a prophet who spoke God’s truth, but as a miracle-worker.

Verse 49


Come with me before my child dies. The father can think of nothing else but the danger to his child’s life.

Verse 50


Go, your son will live! Jesus speaks as the Son of God. No hesitation; no doubt! And the confidence which Jesus radiates fills the heart of the father. The little spark of faith is turned into a flame!

Verses 52-53


It was one o’clock yesterday. The boy had been healed at the exact hour Jesus had spoken.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on John 4". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.