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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
John 4



Other Authors
Verses 1-42



John 4:1-42

1When therefore the Lord [Jesus][FN1] knew how [that] the Pharisees had heard that 2 Jesus made [makes] and baptized [baptizes] more disciples than John (Though 3 Jesus himself baptized not [did not baptize], but his disciples), He left Judea, and departed again[FN2] into Galilee 4 And he must needs go through Samaria 5 Then cometh he [He cometh, therefore] to a city of Samaria, which is [omit which is] called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground [or piece of land] that Jacob gave to his 6 son Joseph. Now [And] Jacob’s well [fountain][FN3] was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus [simply sat down] on the well: [.] and [omit and] it was about[FN4] the sixth hour.

7There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.[FN5] 8(For his disciples were [had] gone away unto the city to buy meat9[food]). Then[FN6] saith the woman of Samaria [The Samaritan woman[FN7] saith] unto him, How is it that thou being a Jew, askest drink of me, which [who] am a woman of Samaria [a Samaritan woman]? for the [omit the] Jews have no dealings with the [omit the] Samaritans.[FN8] 10Jesus 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 wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water 11 The woman saith unto him, Sirach, thou, hast nothing to draw with,[FN9] and the well is deep: from whence 12 then hast thou that [the] living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which [who] gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children [sons], and his cattle? 13Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever [Every one that] drinketh [πᾶς δ πίνων] of this water shall [will] thirst again: 14But whosoever drinketh [whosoever shall drink, δς δ’ ἅν πίῃ][FN10] of the water that I shall give him shall [will] never thirst; but the water that I shall give him[FN11] shall be [become, γενήσεται] in him a well [fountain] of water springing up into everlasting life 15 The woman saith unto him, Sirach, give me this water, that I thirst not [may 16 not thirst], neither [nor] come [all the way, διέρχωμαι] hither [ἐνθάδε] to draw. Jesus17[He][FN12] saith unto her, Go, call thy husband,[FN13] and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband [οὐχ ἕχω ἅνδρα]. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband [A husband I have not, or, Husband I have none, ἅνδρα οὐχ ἕχω]: 18For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly [in this thou hast spoken truly, or, truth, τοῦτο ὰληθὲς εἵρηκας]. 19The woman saith unto him, Sirach, I perceive that thou art a prophet 20 Our fathers worshipped in [or, on] this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me,[FN14] the [an] hour cometh [is coming], when ye shall neither in [or, on] this mountain, nor yet [omit yet] at [in] Jerusalem, worship the Father 22 Ye worship ye know not what [that which ye know not]: we know what we worship [we worship that which we know]; for [the] salvation[FN15] is [or, comes] of [from] the Jews 23 But the [an] hour cometh [is coming], and now Isaiah, when the true worshippers shall [will] worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him [for also (καὶ γάρ) such worshippers the Father seeketh], 24God is a Spirit [is spirit]:[FN16] and they that worship him must worship him [omit him] in spirit and in truth 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which26[who] is called Christ:[FN17] when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

27And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the [a] woman:[FN18] yet no man [no one] said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?

28The woman then left her water-pot, and went her way [went away] into the city, and saith to the men, 29Come, see a Prayer of Manasseh, which [who] told me all things that ever[FN19] 30I did: is not [omit not][FN20] this the Christ? Then [omit Then][FN21] they went out of the city, and came unto [to] him.

31In the mean while his disciples prayed [asked] him, saying, Master [Rabbi], eat 32 But he said unto them, I have meat [food] to eat that ye know not of 33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him aught [any thing] to eat? 34Jesus saith unto them, My meat [food] is to do[FN22] the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work 35 Say not ye [Do ye not say], There are yet four months [it is yet a four-month[FN23]], and then cometh [the] harvest? behold [Lo!] I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already 36 to harvest [white for harvest already]. And [omit And][FN24] he that reapeth [the reaper] receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that 37 soweth and he that reapeth [the sower and the reaper] may rejoice together. And [For, γάρ] herein [in this spiritual field] is that saying [fully] true, One soweth, and 38 another reapeth. I [have] sent you to reap that whereon ye [have] bestowed no labour: other men [others have] laboured, and ye are [have] entered into their labours.

39And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on [in] him for the saying [because of the word, διὰ τὸν λόγον] of the woman, which [who] testified, He told me 40 all that ever I did. So when [When, therefore] the Samaritans were come [came] unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them [to abide with them]: and he abode there two days 41 And many more believed because of his own [omit own] word [ὁιὰ τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ]; 42And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not [No longer do we believe] because of thy saying [story, διὰ τὴν σὴν λαλίαν]: for we have heard him [omit him] ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ [omit the Christ],[FN25] the Saviour of the world.


[In this section our Saviour, sitting on Jacob’s well in weariness of body, yet with ever fresh sympathy for Prayer of Manasseh, discourses on the water of eternal life with an ignorant, degraded, semi-heathenish, yet quick-witted, sprightly and susceptible woman, a sort of “Samaritan Magdalene,”[FN26] and teaches her the sublime truths of the true worship of God which broke down the partition wall between Jews and Gentiles. He saw, by super-natural intuition, the dark spots in her character, but also the deeper aspirations of her soul which had not been extinguished by a life of shame; and when she began to repent and believe, He unveiled to her the future of His kingdom, as He had not done to an orthodox Jew. This scene is in striking contrast with the one related in the third chapter, where He instructed a Jew of the highest respectability in Jerusalem on the mystery of regeneration and the divine counsel of redemption. Christianity touches the extremes of society: humbling the lofty, raising the lowly, saving both. Christ’s intercourse with women, “the last at the cross and the earliest at the tomb,” was marked by freedom from Jewish and Oriental contempt of the weaker sex (comp. John 4:27), by elevation above earthly passion, and a marvellous union of purity and frankness, dignity and tenderness. He approached them as a friend and brother, and yet as their Lord and Saviour, while they were irresistibly drawn towards Him with mingled feelings of affection and adoration. He dealt with them as one who condemned even an impure look ( Matthew 5:28), and yet He permitted the sinful woman to wash His feet with tears of repentance ( Luke 7:37 ff.). He partook of the hospitality of practical, busy Martha, while gently reminding her of the better part which her contemplative sister Mary had chosen in reverently listening to His instruction ( Luke 10:38 ff.), and comforted them both at the death of their brother ( John 11); He lent a sympathizing ear to the sorrows of travail and the joy of deliverance ( John 16:21); He remembered His mother in the last agony on the cross ( John 19:26-27); and He appeared first in His resurrection glory to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils.[FN27]

[The Samaritans, whether we regard them (with Gesenius and the majority of modern scholars) as the descendants of the remnants of the ten tribes and the heathen colonists introduced by the Assyrians, or (with Hengstenberg, Robinson, and the older writers) as pure heathen in descent, who afterwards adopted certain features of the Jewish religion, such as circumcision, the worship of Jehovah and the hopes of the Messiah (comp. note on John 4:4), were, at all events, in their religion, a mongrel people, at one time more Jewish, at another more heathenish, according to circumstances and policy, much given to deceit and lying, and more cordially hated by the Jews than the pure Gentiles. Christ broke the spell of this long nourished national prejudice. It is true, He forbade the disciples, in their early missionary labors, to go to the Samaritans ( Matthew 10:5-6), and this seems to be inconsistent with His own conduct as related in this chapter. But the prohibition was only temporary and well founded in the divine law of order and progress. The Apostles were first sent to the house of Israel; they must lay the foundation of Christianity in that soil which had been providentially prepared for centuries, before it could be successfully planted among Gentiles. At the same time Christ Himself, though in the days of His flesh “sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” incidentally and by prophetic anticipation, as it were, made an exception, not only in this case, but also in the case of the Syro-Phenician woman ( Matthew 15:21 ff.), and the heathen centurion of Capernaum ( Matthew 8:5 ff.); and, in the parable of the good Samaritan ( Luke 10:30 ff.), He rebuked the pride and prejudice of the Jews with regard to that people. His favorable reception among them is confirmed by the report of Luke 17:11 ff, that of the ten lepers whom He healed on a journey through Samaria, only one returned thanks, and he a Samaritan, putting to shame the remaining nine, who were Jews.

[The discourse here told has all the artless simplicity, freshness, vivacity and truthfulness of historical reality. No one could have invented it. The portrait of the woman is remarkably life-like—every word and act is characteristic. The whole scenery remains to this day almost unchanged; Jacob’s well, though partly in ruins; round about the waving harvests of a fertile and beautiful valley, with abundance of water; the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim; a heap of stones on the spot where the Samaritan temple stood; the flat roofs of the neighboring town, visible through olive trees; veiled women in oriental costume coming for water, bearing a stone pitcher on the head or the shoulder; the weary traveller thirsting for a refreshing drink; the old bigotry and hatred of race and religion still burning beneath the ashes. How often has this chapter been read since by Christian pilgrims on the very spot where the Saviour rested, with the irresistible impression that every ward is true and adapted to the time and place, yet applicable to all times and places. Jacob’s well is no more used, but the living spring of water which the Saviour first opened there to a poor, sinful, yet penitent woman, is as deep and fresh as ever, and will quench the thirst of souls to the end of time.

[On this visit of our Saviour, the seed was sown which, a few years afterwards, as He prophetically foresaw ( John 4:35), grew up into a plentiful harvest and resulted in the conversion of the Samaritans, as related Acts 8:5 ff, and this in turn prepared the way for the conversion of the Gentiles. From Samaria hailed Simon Magus with the first doctrinal corruptions of Christianity by the admixture of heathen notions, but also Justin Martyr, the fearless apologist, who was a native of that very Sychar or Flavia Neapolis, where Christ met the Samaritan woman. But of far greater consequence than the result related in the Acts, is the example here set by Christ for missionary operations, and the doctrines laid down for all ages.—P. S.]

See the Literature in Heubner, p269 et al.; Niedhofer: Jesus und die Samariterin (Homiletic Discourses), Augsburg, 1821. [Archbishop Trench: Christ and the Samaritan Woman, in his Studies in the Gospels, pp83–137. Dr. J. R. Macduff: Noontide at Sychar; or the Story of Jacob’s Well. A N. Test. chapter in Providence and grace. N. York, 1869 (pp263).—P. S.]

John 4:1. When therefore the Lord [Jesus] knew.—The Lord, for the first time in this Gospel.[FN28] Ἔγνω or γνούς no doubt has in John, after what he has previously said of Christ’s immediate knowledge of men’s hearts, a special signification when it relates to human thoughts and purposes connected with Christ.[FN29] Οὗν primarily looks back to the preceding account, of the growing labors of Jesus; but it also points to the insight of Jesus into the spirit of the Pharisees, which was well understood, as natural means of knowledge are not excluded.

The Pharisees had heard.—Their hearing carries with it the idea of their having sought information, and keeping a jealous watch. Hence Jesus, it is true, avoids a premature hindrance to his labors, or, as Meyer says, a danger.[FN30] Yet this one motive, which John states, does not exclude another: that the Baptist was about this time cast into prison, after having labored last in Galilee, and that in answer to the special occasion thus arising for a confirming of hearts in that region, Christ appeared in the place of John in Galilee. Besides, enough for the present had been done for Judea. A third motive probably was, that Jesus had now determined for a while entirely to cease baptizing.

That Jesus made more disciples.—Literally: “makes and baptizes.” The verbal quoting of what they had heard, expressed by the present tense, indicates a very definite or a very well known report. More disciples than John.—Jesus gave the Pharisaic spirit more to fear: His freer address; more public appearance in Jerusalem; His stronger influence; the purification of the temple: His higher authority; miracles; Himself accredited as the Messiah by John.

John 4:2. Though Jesus himself.—Evidently a parenthesis, otherwise it would belong to what the Pharisees had heard.[FN31] The Evangelist does not correct the report (Meyer), for it was true; he only states the fact more precisely. The observation no doubt means not that it so happened, but that it was a rule, that Jesus Himself baptized not. Why? (1) Because the work of teaching was more important ( 1 Corinthians 1:17, De Wette [Alford]); (2) because He would have had to baptize into Himself (Tertullian); (3) Bengel: “Baptizare actio ministerialis est … Christus baptizat Spiritu sancto.” [So Godet, Trench. Godet: “Il était le Seigneur, et il se réservait le baptéme de l’ Esprit.”—P. S.] Nonnus follows this: the Lord baptizes not with water. Tertullian’s explanation, too, has warrant. As Christ is the object of baptism, the centre of the new kingdom, He would obscure the idea of baptism, if He should not have the transition from the old system to the new, so far as the baptism was concerned, administered by others.[FN32]

John 4:3. He left Judea.—At the same time giving up baptizing. Why? Because the imprisonment of the Baptist in the midst of the Jewish people had brought a ban of uncleanness again upon the whole congregation of Israel (see my Leben Jesu, II:2, p515). This settled it, that a new baptism could proceed only from the baptism of blood, which at the same time would give it a deeper significance (as the final ideal consecration of death).

Departed again into Galille—As after He was baptized.

John 4:4. Through Samaria.—Samaria lay between Judea and Galilee, and through this province, therefore, the usual route of pilgrimage also passed (Joseph. Antiq. XX:6, 1).[FN33] The custom of scrupulous Jews, to make a circuit through Peræa, could have no force with Jesus; though afterwards the Samaritans themselves once occasioned His following it. But He then also had probably already come near the boundary of Samaria (see Maier, Commentar., p328), Luke 9:52. Samaria, שׂמְרוֹן; Chald. שָׁמְרָיִן, Ezra 4:10; Ezra 4:17, primarily the name of a city. The city lay in the kingdom of the ten tribes in middle Palestine, on a mountain (Robinson [Germ. ed.] III. p365); built by Omri about922 B. C, and made the seat of the kingdom of Israel ( 1 Kings 16:24, and elsewhere); a chief seat of the worship of Baal during the time of the apostasy, 1 Kings 16:31; as the capital of Ephraim, the counterpart of Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 16:46, and elsewhere). Shalmanezer conquered the city and filled it with colonists, 2 Kings 17:5 sqq. John Hyrcanus destroyed it, but it was soon rebuilt. Herod the Great, to whom Cæsar Augustus gave the city, beautified it, strengthened it, planted a colony of veterans in it, and named it Sebaste [Augusta, in honor of Augustus, Joseph. Antiq. XV:8, 5]. The growth of Sichem [Neapolis] in the vicinity threw back the city to a hamlet, which still exists as Sebustieh, in ruins. From the city of Samaria (Σαμάρεια) the region of Middle Palestine gradually took its name, Σαμαρεῖτις ( 1 Maccabees 10:30); it is a separate province in the time of the Syrian kings (also Σαμαρίς. Σαμάρεια in Josephus). The description which Josephus gives of the country, see in Winer under the word. Samaria appears more friendly than Judea, rich in vegetation and forest-clad hills. In the same article are the accounts of modern tourists respecting the city of Samaria.

By the Samaritans, שֹׁמְרוֹנִים, Σαμαρεῖται, Σαμαρεις, history understands the later post-exilian inhabitants of the country, the Χουθαῖοι (Joseph. Antiq. IX:14, 3, etc.). According to the prevailing view, a mixed population grew up from the heathen colonists of Shalmanezer (and Esarhaddon, Ezra 4:2) from Assyrian provinces ( 2 Kings 17:24), Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hameth, and Sepharvaim, and from the remnants of the Israelites. In the land of Israel they adopted the Israelite religion ( 2 Kings 17:25; Ezra 6:21; Nehemiah 10:28), and soon went so far as to call themselves the genuine offspring of Israel, or of the house of Joseph (Joseph. Antiq. XI:8, 6). And now they would still be called Israelites, but not Jews. But as they presumed in pride to boast an Israelite descent, so too they often permitted themselves through policy utterly to deny this extraction, and give themselves out for Persians (Joseph. Antiq. XI:9, 4) or Sidonians [Ibid. XI:8, 6].

After Hottinger and others, Hengstenberg in particular [Beiträge I:117; II:3 sqq] has wholly denied to the Samaritans any genealogical connection with the Jews. The document, 2 Kings 17, mentions nothing, it is true, of remaining Israelites, and the Samaritans have often boasted that they were of heathen origin. This last fact, however, can signify nothing; for they likewise boasted, generally, that they were pure Jews (and the ἀλλογενής, Luke 17:18, evidently proves nothing). But it is said in 2 Kings 17:24, that the colonists were placed in the cities; so that the colonization was limited. Besides, the deportations of this kind in history, as Winer observes, are never radical. The Samaritans were also early distinguished from the heathen ( 1 Maccabees 3:10). Under Hezekiah ( 2 Chronicles 30:6; 2 Chronicles 30:10) and under Josiah ( 2 Chronicles 34:9) there were remnants of Israel in Ephraim and Manasseh. And Christ, as well as the Apostles after Him, considered the Samaritans a middle people between Jews and heathen, Acts 1:8; Acts 8:5. A predominance of heathen blood is assumed by many.

As might be expected of such a mixed people, adopting Judaism in an outward way, (1) they were not consistent in their national and religious spirit; they professed now to be Jews, now to be Gentiles, as their interest might require. Under Antiochus Epiphanes their temple was dedicated to Jupiter Hellenius. Heresy in the Christian church, which is mainly a mixture of Christianity with heathenism, takes its rise in the Christianity of Samaria.[FN34] (2) They attained no living development of their religious ideas; so that in their canon (the Pentateuch), their Messianic expectation, and their use of the law, they stopped where they began; whence they in many respects resembled the Sadducees (though the Sadducees had their abridged and stunted Judaism for having gone backwards with a negative criticism, the Samaritans for having gotten fast in the letter, and not gone forwards). (3) For this very reason, however, their Messianic hope remained more simple and pure. (4) After having been refused a share in the Revelation -building of the temple in Jerusalem [ Ezra 4:1 sqq.] they fully reciprocated (first of all by hindering the building of the temple, Ezra 4:4, .and the subsequent strengthening of the city, Nehemiah 4:1) the fanatical hatred of the Jews, who looked upon them as heretics, not as heathen [see Sir. L27]; and they built a temple of their own on Gerizim. According to Josephus, Antiq. XI:8, 4, this took place in the time of Alexander the Great. Prayer of Manasseh, brother of the Jewish high-priest Jaddus, had a heathen lady for his wife. The Jewish rulers demanded his circumcision; whereupon Sanballat induced him to renounce his membership in the Jewish religion, and built the temple on Gerizim, of which Manasseh became high-priest. According to Nehemiah 13:28, a son of the high-priest Joiada, not named, had married a daughter of Sanballat, and was excommunicated for it. We may suppose that the two accounts relate to the same case, and that the chronology of Josephus is here at fault, the case having occurred under Darius Nothus (see Winer, Samaritaner). On the further fortunes of the Samaritans, see Winer, l. c. (comp. Com. on Matthew 10:5, p185; Leben Jesu II:2, p539).

John 4:5. To a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar [lit. drunken].—Near to the city, into its vicinity: εἰς πόλιν. Συχάρ = Shechem or Sichem (שְׁכֶם), Genesis 33:18, etc.; Συχέμ Sept, Acts 7:16; also Σίκιμα; after the time of Christ, Neapolis [Joseph. De bello Jud. IV:8, 1]; now Nabulus (Robinson, III. p336; Schubert, III. p136).[FN35]

Its general identity with Sichem is established by the particular statement that Jacob’s well was near. But the name Sychar for Sichem is not otherwise known, apart from the statement in Wieseler, that in the Talmud occurs the name of a place עין סוכר, well of the grave, literally of the purchased, that Isaiah, of the purchased burial-ground. Hug also (Einleitung II. p218) supposes the name comes from Suchar, and denotes the place of burial where the bones of Joseph [ Joshua 24:32] and, according to the tradition common in the times of Jesus, of the twelve patriarchs of the children of Israel, were deposited, Acts 7:15-16. It is the prevailing presumption that Συχάρ is a popular Jewish nick-name, a contemptuous travesty of Sichem; with allusion, according to Reland, to Isaiah 28:1; Isaiah 28:7 : Samaria the crown of pride of the drunkards in Ephraim, therefore the city of drunkards [שִׁכּוֹר, drunkard]; according to Lightfoot, alluding to שֶׁקֶר, heathenism as falsehood [ Habakkuk 2:18], therefore the city of deceit.[FN36] According to Hug and others, Sychar is to be distinguished from Sichem itself somewhat as a suburb, and then means the city of the sepulchre. This view is favored by the fact that both Schubert and Robinson put the ancient Sichem nearer Jacob’s well, than the present town lies, and that at the time of Eusebius, Sychar and Sichem were distinguished as two places. Consequently the views of Reland and Lightfoot may well be dismissed as ingenious scholastic conjectures (especially since the first view would make the city of Samaria, not Sichem, a Sychar, and since the allusion to Habakkuk is quite too subtile), though it might be some relief to suppose, with Meyer, that John uses the name Sychar only as the vulgar name. Yet then we might have to admit ignorance in reference to the true name; which we could hardly do; still less admit that John made nick-names. The hypothesis of an interchange of the liquidæ (Tholuck) is also inconclusive. We abide, therefore, by the hypothesis that Sychar is distinguished as the city of the sepulchre from Sichem[FN37] On the situation of Nablus between Gerizim and Ebal, see Schubert, Robinson, and others (comp. Leben Jesu II:2, p525).

Near to the parcel of ground that Jacob, etc.—The basis of the tradition is Genesis 33:19. Jacob buys of the children of Hamor a field in Shechem on which to settle. The passage, Genesis 48:22, is to be regarded as a prophecy; he would give Joseph a portion above his brethren, which he (in his posterity) would win (not had won; see Knobel on the passage) from the hand of the Amorites with his sword and bow. Finally, in Joshua 24:32 it is said that the bones of Joseph were buried at Shechem in the parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor, and the sons of Joseph received them (with the field) for an inheritance. The somewhat inaccurate version of the Sept. is of no importance at all to the estimate of the perfectly correct account (against Meyer).

John 4:6. Jacob’s Well.[FN38]—The well which Jacob, according to the Israelitish tradition, dug; which by this tradition was made highly sacred. It is thirty-five minutes from the present Nablus, sunk in rock to the depth of a hundred and five feet [now only about seventy-five feet.—P. S.], with a diameter of nine. Maundrell found fifteen feet of water in it; Robinson and others found it dry.[FN39] Probably it was not the well nearest the city. The woman, however, might have had occasion to avoid the conversation of other women at other wells; perhaps for the same reason she chose the unusual hour of noon (other possible reasons, from Robinson, in Leben Jesu, II:2, p526).

Sat thus [ἐκαθέζετο οὕ τως, a graphic touch].—Simply sat. Probably indicating the absence of all constraint and reserve.[FN40] About the sixth hour.—According to the Jewish reckoning, noon. Meyer: “Never to be forgotten by John.”

[The hour is probably also mentioned to bring more vividly to our mind the weariness of our Saviour at the heat of the midday sun, the burden and toil He suffered for us at the very moment He opened a fountain of refreshment to this poor thirsty woman and to us all. On the dates of John, see note on John 1:39, p92 f. There are additional reasons for assuming that he reckoned hero in the Jewish manner from sunrise to sunset. Otherwise he would have noted whether it was six in the morning (as Rettig assumes), or six in the evening (as Ebrard and Wordsworth hold). The former is too early to account for the fatigue of the Lord, the latter leaves no time for what follows, as the night sets in with little or no intervening twilight in Eastern countries. The conversation must have lasted at least half an hour, then the woman goes away to the city, tells her experience to the men, and they come to the well of Jacob; and yet after all this it must have been still daylight, to account for the words of Jesus: “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields” ( John 4:35). Considering the oriental contempt for woman and the prejudice even of the disciples ( John 4:27), a conversation with a woman late in the evening would have been even more unseemly than at noon-day. The fact that the woman was alone sufficiently explains that she came so early to draw water, instead of the evening as usual. The time of the year—it was at the end of December—permitted travelling till towards noon. Porter, in his excellent Handbook for Travellers in Syria and Palestine, ii. p341, takes the same view. “Christ probably came up the plain of Mukhna, and about noon reached the well.” So also Macduff, p36.—P. S.]

John 4:7. A woman of Samaria.—That Isaiah, of the country. The city of Sebaste was two hours [six miles] distant.[FN41] Tholuck remarks that the characteristic traits of this very highly individualized woman are indifference to higher interests and roguish frivolity.[FN42] But these are hardly individual traits; and these traits form hardly the whole outline of a deeply fallen character, who shows, however, a considerable versatility of mind and great energy, besides a deeper susceptibility under the veil of a bright, resolute nature. A sort of Samaritan Magdalene. With good reason Tholuck insists on the individuality of the woman against Strauss and Weisse. The striking invalidation of Baur’s fiction respecting the design of this supposed fiction is likewise worthy of notice.

Give me to drink.—Points: (1) The truth, of Christ’s thirst; (2) the freedom of His intercourse,—with a Samaritan, and a woman; (3) the higher purpose of His words; (4) the mastery of the great Fisher of souls [ Luke 5:10], in having the earthly given to Him in order to give the heavenly.[FN43]

John 4:8. For his disciples.—Immediate occasion: The disciples had gone to the city. Probably they also carried a vessel for drawing water (ἄντλημα, John 4:11) with them[FN44] To buy food.—Meyer: “The later [Rabbinical] tradition[FN45] would not have allowed this. But at that time the separation may not have been so rigid, especially for Galileans, whose route of pilgrimage passed through Samaria. Besides, Jesus was above the divisions of the people, Luke 9:52.”

John 4:9. How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest, etc.—She recognizes Him in particular by His Jewish dialect and pronunciation [perhaps also from His Jewish physiognomy and the dress of a Rabbi]. Tholuck: The Samaritan tongue is between the Hebrew and the Aramaic. As Jesus Himself spoke Aramaic, this is not quite clear, and probably a medium between Western and Eastern Aramaic is meant.[FN46] More than one thing might surprise her: not only that a Jew spoke with her, and asked drink from her pitcher, but also that this distinguished Jew condescended to ask of her. In truth we might well suppose that she was moved with a feeling of her unworthiness in the dignified presence: He unconsciously defies Himself on my pitcher; at least she hints at the difference between the man and the always less regarded woman. Though the national enmity could hot wholly prevent her asking water in her turn (Tholuck), yet the breach was wide enough to make her feel the request of Jesus to be a great and free condescension. Then the expression of this feeling may easily have been accompanied or disguised by a certain humor giving vent to her national spirit, as she now, with her pitcher, seems to have the better of the stranger. The addition: The Jews have no dealings, etc., is commonly taken as an explanatory note of the Evangelist. But in that case we should expect: The Jews and the Samaritans have no dealings with one another. The disdain being here ascribed to the Jew alone, the words no doubt, belong to the woman’s reply.

[The question of the woman illustrates the intensity and bitterness of sectarian bigotry and hatred as it then prevailed, and sets in stronger contrast the marvellous freedom of Christ from existing prejudices.[FN47] According to Dr. Robinson and others the ancient hatred is still kept up, and the remnant of Samaritans neither eat, nor drink, nor marry, nor associate with the Jews, but only trade with them. An experienced traveller says, apparently to the contrary: “Never yet, during many years’ residence in Syria, and many along day’s travel, have I been refused a draught of water by a single individual of any sect or race. The Bedawy in the desert has shared with me the last drop in his water-skin. Yet the only reply of the woman to the weary traveller was, ‘How is it that thou, being a Jew,’ ” etc. (Porter’s Handbook for Travellers in Syria and Palestine, P. II, p342.) But this courtesy to strangers is not inconsistent with Dr. Robinson’s statement, nor with our narrative, for the woman did not refuse a drink of water to Jesus, but only expressed her surprise at His asking her for it.—P. S]

John 4:10. If thou knewest the gift of God.—Tholuck: “This answer indicates that she, instead of hesitating, must have felt herself honored, and made haste.” More pertinently Meyer: “Unquestionably Jesus immediately perceived the susceptibility of the woman; hence His leaving His own want, and entering upon a conversation so striking as to arouse the whole interest of the sanguine woman.” She is surprised that Hebrews, the supposed haughty Jew, is the asker; the Lord brings out the opposite relation, that she is the needy one, He the possessor of the true fountain of satisfaction.

The gift of God: (1) The person of Jesus (Greek com, Erasmus). [Hengstenberg refers to John 3:16; “God gave His only begotten Song of Solomon,” and Isaiah 9:5 : “to us a Son is given,” as decisive proofs that Christ designated Himself “the gift of God.”] (2) The Holy Spirit [with reference to John 7:38-39] (Augustine, etc.) (3) Correctly: The singular grace of God in the golden opportunity of this moment (Grotius and others).[FN48] [(4) Eternal life. So Lampe and Godet; John 4:13-14; comp. Romans 6:23 where eternal life is styled “the gift of God” (χάρισμα, but here we have δῶρον); Revelation 22:17. (5) Living water. in anticipation of what immediately follows: “He would have given thee living water,” So Stier and Trench. Alford regards this as the primary view, but combines with it the first three, like Dr. Yeomans in the preceding footnote.—P. S.] And who it is.—Unfolding the thought of the gift of God. Thou (σύ) wouldest (already) have asked (not: wouldest ask him, Luther) of him.—Expressing the greatness of her need, the greatness of His gift, the urgency her request would have; doubtless also her susceptibility. [Mark the difference between λέγων σοι which Christ uses of Himself, after the woman had naturally asked: πῶς σὺ παῤ ἐμοῦ αἰτεῖς ( John 4:9), and σὺ ἄν ᾕτησας, which assigns at once to the woman a position of inferiority and dependence on Him, the possessor and giver of that living water. “There lies often,” says Trench, “in little details like this an implicit assertion of the unique dignity of His person, which it is very interesting and not unimportant to trace.”—P. S.]

He would have given thee living water.—מַיִם הַיִים [Sept. ὕδωρ ζῶν] well-water.[FN49] Expressing at once the greatness of the gift and the readiness of the giving, in a figure drawn from His own, request, but answering perfectly to her unsatisfied state of mind. The figures of Psalm 36:8; Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:13. The sense of the words, living water, explained in John 4:14. Various interpretations: (1) Baptism (Justin, Cyril [Cyprian, Ambrose]. But the water of Baptism is not water for drinking, which becomes a fountain in him who drinks it. (2) The evangelic doctrine. Grotius, similarly Meyer: The truth.[FN50] Shall a man then after that thirst no more? (3) Tarnow; Gratia justificans. Like most of the explanations, too dogmatically exclusive. (4) Institutio salutaris (Semler). (5) Lücke: Faith. (6) Olshausen: Life ( John 6:33). (7) The Holy Spirit, John 7:39 (Maldonatus, Bucer, [Webster and Wilkinson, Wordsworth] and others). The act of giving must no doubt be distinguished from the living water itself: The giving of the water is the gospel, the word of Christ; see John 4:26. The water itself, which quenches thirst, proves itself already operating when the woman sets her pitcher down, [ John 4:28]: it is evidently the inner-life as the operation of the life of Christ, conceived predominantly under the aspect of inward peace (no longer thirsting), developing into regeneration, life in the Holy Ghost (the water’s becoming a fountain) and perfection in blessedness (springing up into everlasting life). Tholuck: “The word of salvation the medium of a living power of the Spirit, John 7:38; John 11:26.” [Godet: Living water is the life eternal, which is Christ Himself living in the soul by the Holy Spirit. Donner l’eau vive, c’est pour lui se communiquer lui-même; car la vie est identifiée avec son principe.—P. S.]

John 4:11. Sirach, thou last nothing to draw with.—Sir. A title of respect usual even at that time among men, John 5:7; John 6:34, etc. Used in the ordinary sense.[FN51] The spiritual conception was rendered difficult by the lack of the prophets among the Samaritans, and the want of knowledge of the prophetic metaphors (Tholuck). On this presumption the reply is not exactly “saucy” (Tholuck), but no doubt clearly thought, firm, savoring of national pride, exulting again in easy humor. Thou hast nothing. Exactly: Thou hast not even a vessel to draw with.[FN52] She evidently distinguishes between the water itself standing in the well, and the spring at the bottom of it. Thou hast not even a bucket, i. e., thou canst not even reach down to the standing water. And the well is deep—That Isaiah, even with the bucket thou couldest not come to the living spring.[FN53]

John 4:12. Art thou greater.—Σύ emphatic. Μείζων cannot mean nobler, of higher rank, as Meyer thinks; for noble lords, as such, are not exactly masters in water-drawing or well-digging. The question proceeds from a feeling that Jesus assumed some extraordinary character, that He claimed a spiritual power; perhaps claimed to be a prophet, like Moses, who could make a fountain of water by miracle. Than our father Jacob.—Expressing the national jealousy towards the Jew. The Samaritans traced their descent from Joseph [Joseph. Antiq, viii14, 3; xi8, 6].

Who gave us the well.—This was a simple inference from the tradition that Jacob dug the well and left it to his posterity. The sense is: The patriarch himself knew not what better to give, and this sufficed for all the wants of his entire nomadic establishment. Meyer: “The woman treats the enigmatical word of Christ at first as Nicodemus does, John 3:4, but more thoughtfully [considering the false conception of Nicodemus], and at the same time more pertly and with feminine readiness of speech.” In her last word: θρέμματα, cattle, she finishes her carnal misapprehension of His spiritual words. [The mention of the cattle (which does not necessarily include the slaves, as sometimes on inscriptions (see Meyer, p192), completes at the same time the picture of the nomadic life of the patriarch. Stier is wrong therefore in regarding it as a falling off in the lofty language of the woman to descend from Jacob’s sacred person to his cattle. There is in the question of the woman a slight resentment at the seeming intentional disregard of the venerable traditions and memorials of her people by which they connected themselves with the patriarchal history. She had evidently a considerable degree of self-respect, national pride and interest in religious questions, and was a brave upholder of patriarchal succession.—P. S.]

John 4:13. Shall thirst again.—[As Christ Himself did, physically, on this occasion, and when He exclaimed on the cross διψῶ.—P. S.]—The excellence of that well Jesus suffers to pass.[FN54] But in His view of the spiritual water, that has the fundamental defect of every earthly satisfaction: the partaker thirsts again. So it was with all the woman’s enjoyment of life hitherto. [She had by successive draughts at the “broken cistern” of carnal lust only increased her thirst, and the sense of the utter vanity of all earthly pleasures]. Shall never thirst.—[Comp. John 6:35 : “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger; and he that balieveth in Me shall never thirst.” Revelation 7:16 : “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.” John 21:6 : “I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.” Old Test. passages: Isaiah 55:1; Isaiah 49:10.—P. S.] An opposite word: the sentence of Wisdom in [the apocryphal book of the son of] Sirach 24:21 : “Those who drink of me (the Wisdom) shall thirst again” (Οἱ πίνοντές με, ἕτι διψήσουσι). Meyer, not clearly: “This figure rests on another aspect of the drinking, as viewed in its particular moments, not in the continuity constituted by them.” Jesus Christ expresses the absolute satisfaction which is given in principle in the peace of the Christian life; Jesus Sirach describes the desire for further knowledge begotten by the first taste of wisdom. Not only is the object viewed on different sides; the object itself is in Sirach imperfectly conceived, with reference rather to quantity than quality. The Old Testament strives after life, the New strives in the life. What Sirach calls a thirsting again, Christ calls an everlasting springing up.[FN55]

Shall be in him a fountain of water.[FN56]—Not “after the negative operation the positive” (Meyer), for the quenching of the thirst is itself positive; but, after the elemental working of Christianity, coming point by point from without, as a means, its life as a principle continually reproducing and propagating itself as its own object. First water drunken, then water welling up: distinction of the catechumenate and the anointing of the Spirit. A fountain whose stream gushes into eternal life. The decisive word, spoken with the utmost confidence, stirring the soul of the hearer to its depths. The spiritual sense of the whole declaration of Christ appeared in every feature: (1) A water, after drinking which one thirsts no more; (2) a water drunken, which becomes a fountain; (3) a fountain which ever joyously flows (which can rarely be said of wells in the east); (4) a fountain which gushes into everlasting life. Here the spiritual sense was perfectly transparent. By the union of the divine Spirit with the human, the latter becomes an organ of the divine life, and therefore a self-supplying fountain of life. Calvin, in the interest of his doctrine, here emphasizes the thought that the life of the Spirit in the regenerate cannot dry up: Bengel, in the interest of his, that if a man thirst again, it lies not with the water, but with the man. [So also Alford.] Above this doctrinal antagonism stands the concrete unity of the life of faith sealed by the Spirit. Tholuck takes the thought that Christ assumes form in the believer; which does indeed describe the personal and objective side of spiritual life. He observes that some (Origen, Zwingle, and others) have been misled by the analogy of John 7:38 to think here also of a flowing for the quickening of others. The woman, at all events, does soon come to quickening others, though the fundamental thought here of course is satisfaction for one’s self.

In ἅλλεσθαι, applied to the fountain, are included (1) springing up from a hidden depth within; (2) incessant flow; (3) living, joyous, springing motion; (4) rhythmic life, continually increasing in a steady succession of living acts. That the fountain also, as a fountain, becomes more and more copious, is indicated by its streaming forth into eternal life. Comp. Sirach 24:31.

It is a question, how into everlasting life (εἱςζωὴναἰώνιον) is to be interpreted. (1) Up into the heavenly life, like a fountain (Origen, Grotius, and others).[FN57] Tholuck objects that this substitutes οὐρανόν. (2) Redounding to eternal life; affording it (the word being referred to πηγή not to ἁλλομένου, Luthardt). This loses the figure. According to John 3:36, one might indeed take the sense to be, that the spiritual life passes into eternal life; as in Sirach 24:31 : My brook became a river, my river a sea.” But there, as in Ezekiel 47, the subject is the immeasurable objective unfolding of the revelation of salvation, or wisdom; here a subjective unfolding of saved life. Though this is eternal life, yet, to be complete, it must pour itself into the objective eternity (Olshausen: The eternal rests not, till it comes to eternity).[FN58] In view of this, and in accordance with the figure, we understand by the words a flowing on of this well into the eternal life of perfect fellowship with God in the world to come. This eternal life is doubtless conceived in the figure as an ocean [into which all the rivers of life of individual believers empty at last]. The fountain leaps into eternal life (Meyer: ἅλλεσθαι εἰς, to leap into). The water drunk becomes a well, the well a fountain which incessantly flows into the ocean of eternal life.

As Jesus engages the stiffened Pharisaic spirit of Nicodemus by the free wind of the Spirit and its transforming power, so He enlists the restless, inconstant woman, whose thirst continually returned, by the offer of an endless satisfaction, which is at once an infinite tranquility and a perfect decision of effort, and soon passes into the enjoyment of the eternal life.

John 4:15. That I thirst not, neither come hither.—The sigh of a poor, weary woman, in whom neediness and the burden of toil seem to form a contradiction to spiritual claims, though the sigh is disguised by the air of good humor. The last words betray, to be sure, a misapprehension of the spiritual sense of the words of Jesus. But about her meaning there remains uncertainty.

(1) She means, in all earnest, a miraculous water, which might have the effect described by Jesus (Maier, Meyer). Not readily conceivable. Of such water no one would wish to drink.

(2) She asks the water, in order to get behind the mystery. Lampe: Tentare voluit audacula, quomodo præstita petitionis conditione, promissionem suam exsecutioni daturus esset. This is not ironical, as Tholuck thinks. At least it is only half so; according to Lücke’s interpretation: Her request is half sportive, half earnest.[FN59] Such water is inconceivable to her, but yet she wishes for what has become to her a dim appearance of a toilless life.

(3) Ironical talk. Lightfoot: Verba irrisorie prolata longe apertius concipias, quam supplicatorie. So also Tholuck.

(4) The presentiment of something higher which might do her good is awakened in her (Baumgarten-Crusius and my Leben Jesu, II. p529).[FN60] This is more probable, if we suppose that the woman had even journeyed to that sacred well in some sort of religious feeling under a troubled conscience, while there were other wells at least nearer the city of Sichem. Then, too, the third interpretation is accompanied with the view that Jesus breaks off, in order to take an entirely new method; and this involves the unintended, but hazardous presumption that the first method had failed. On the contrary, we suppose that the next word of the Lord was suggested by this request.

John 4:16. Call thy husband.—(1) The husband was to have part in the saving gift, and so she was to be brought indirectly to confession of sin (Chrysostom, etc.; Lücke). (2) Christ would in this way lead her indirectly to a consciousness of her guilt (Calov, Neander, Tholuck, Stier, Luthardt). (3) He intended to give her a sign of His prophetic knowledge in the lower sphere of life, to gain her confidence for disclosures from the higher (Cyril, Schweizer; similarly Meyer). (4) Conformity to custom and to the idea of the law. Hitherto Jesus had influenced her after the manner of a missionary, as man with man. In her last request, expressing spiritual susceptibility, the woman came to the position of a catechumen. But, as a proselyte, she must not act without the knowledge of her husband. Meyer objects: The husband was in truth a paramour. True, they were not legally united. But the highest, most delicate social law lies somewhat deeper; she had given that man the rights of husband. If there was still a moral spark in the immoral connection, Christ had an eye to detect it. Even Stier and Tholuck have not been able to appropriate this interpretation. But it is connected on the one hand with the moral principle, Matthew 3:15; on the other with the principles in Matthew 10:12; 1 Corinthians 7:15; 1 Corinthians 11:10, and with all those principles which distinguish the Evangelical church from the Roman Catholic in the manner of making proselytes.

[I must dissent from this interpretation as assuming a relation and a duty which did not exist. The words of Christ: Call thy husband, opened the wound at the tender spot where the cure was to begin, and were the first step in granting the woman’s request: Give me to drink. By a prophetic glance into her private life of shame, which, after five successive marriages, culminated in her present illegitimate relation, He at once effectually touched her conscience and challenged her faith in Him. Conviction of sin is the first indispensable condition of forgiveness, and is the beginning of conversion. She at once understood the intention, and her next word is a half confession of guilt, quickly followed by faith in the prophetic character of Christ.—P. S.]

John 4:17. I have no husband [Οὐκ ἕχω ἅνδρα].—She feels the effect of the sudden turn. She is living in a settled, to all appearance exclusive, but illegal relation; and this causes her to deny the correctness of the Lord’s address. This is the summit of her resistance,[FN61] and the master-hand of Christ must prove itself over her. Call thy husband! This might be a word of conjecture. She supposes this, and so ventures the denial, half true, and half false. Her denial is untrue in that she denies a fact of which she is perfectly aware; true, in that she places herself on the ground of the law, and judges by that. Then in this might be already couched a confession of sin, or even the vow: I renounce him, if I may thereby share thy instruction and thy promise. At all events, we may be sure of this: If she had hitherto answered pertly and ironically in a vulgar way, she would now have departed with her pitcher filled, under an ironical promise to call her husband. If, on the contrary, she had taken Jesus for a magician, from whom she might receive a magical water of life, she would have called her husband, and permitted him to be recognized as such. Thus her denial itself proves (1) that she is bound up by the word of Christ; (2) that she for an instant looks on her relation with new eyes; (3) that she deceives herself in attempting to deceive the Lord; (4) that the confession of her guilt is already almost upon her lips. By some expositors the woman is made far too jovial, saucy, spiritually obtuse, and even vulgar.

Thou hast well[FN62] said, husband I have not [ἅνδρα οὐκ ἕχω].—The emphasis is on husband, [Hence ἅνδρα here precedes, while, in the woman’s answer, it follows the verb,—P. S.] The saying is commended as proper. This is true of her saying in its strict sense, but it has an irony intended to drive out the reservatio mentalis, the untruth lurking behind the true saying; and this it does even by the emphatic placing of the word husband: Husband I have none.[FN63]

John 4:18. For five husbands thou hast had.—Some have concluded from the confession in John 4:29, that those former connections also had been illegitimate. [So Meyer.] Against this is the antithesis: Five husbands, and: Whom thou now hast, etc. Five marriages, therefore, had preceded, “of which at least some had been dissolved through the wantonness of the woman.” Tholuck. Whether the fault lay in sensual wantonness (licentiousness in the narrower sense), or in an antinomian looseness of spirit, does not appear. With Magdalene the latter seems to have been the case; and it is to be considered, that in Samaria, as well as on the sea of Galilee, Greek views of the marriage relation might already have had an effect. “According to the Talmud, the Samaritans did not acknowledge the laws of divorce; probably referring not to the laxer Hillelian view current among the Jews, but only the more strictly Biblical view of Shammai, following Deuteronomy 24:1. Yet even according to this, it was not only adultery that divorced, but any כָּעוּר, as the Talmud calls it: uncovering of the arms, laying off the veil, and the like.” Tholuck. Meyer supposes that she had not been faithful in one or more of her marriages, and was now a widow living with a paramour. But she might have been a divorced woman.[FN64]

The extraordinary disclosure of the Lord. Different explanations:

(1) The hypothesis that Jesus had learned the history of the woman from others (Paulus, von Ammon, etc.). Simply contrary to the text.

(2) The disciples added what they afterwards learned (Schweizer). The supposition of a forgery needs no refutation.

(3) The mythical hypothesis, with reference to the five heathen nations which came to Samaria ( 2 Kings 17:24 sqq.; Joseph. Antiq. XIX:14, John 3 : (πέντε ἕθνη—ἕκαστον ἵδιον θεὸν εἰς τὴν Σαμάρειαν κομίσαντες).[FN65]

(4) A providentially ordered representation of the life of the Samaritan people by this woman: the woman is Samaria; the five husbands are five gods, etc.; Hengstenberg, Beiträge [zur Einl. in’s A. T., 3vols, 1831–’39] II. p 23 sqq.[FN66]

To this Meyer objects that in this case the husbands must be six; and Heracleon actually read six. This is disposed of by a more attentive examination of Hengstenberg’s opinion. It may rather be observed that to the five nations, seven gods are reckoned, 2 Kings 17:30 sq. But the chief point is that an actual personal offence of the woman, as here described by the Lord, is the subject, and that the woman would assuredly have understood nothing of such a scholastic allusion of the Lord, if He had intended to make it; and of this there is not the slightest indication. At most, however, the woman would be only an accidental allegory of the history of her people, since the marriage law of the Samaritans was strict; and not at all an allegory in so far as Samaria had at the same time from five to seven gods, and these not merely instead of, but together with, Jehovah. [The woman had her five husbands in succession, and was not guilty of polygamy, consequently she could not represent the polytheism of the Samaritans.—P. S.]

(5) “Lange, Leben Jesu II:2, p531, strangely says, that the psychical effect of the five husbands upon the woman had forced out traces in her appearance which Jesus perceived.” So Meyer reports my view. This judgment might be expected from the author. Our reasons are still the same: 1. Every hair casts its shadow. Every marriage relation leaves its psychical mark; only in most cases our weak eyes do not see it2. There is a deep communicatio idiomatum in the life of the Lord. What He knew by His divine nature in a divine, immediate way, He at the same time knew in virtue of His human nature, in a human way through means. From the Christological point of view the old false scholastic alternative of merely divine or merely human is done away in reference to the life of Jesus.

[Dr. Lange here undoubtedly goes too far in the application of a true principle. It Isaiah, indeed, a fact that traits of character and habits, good and bad, especially pride, sensuality and intemperance, express themselves in the countenance and the eye, as the mirror of the soul.[FN67] But this is very different from the assumption that particular events and relations of the past life, such as the five marriages, leave each a distinct mark on the face which may be read, as the forester reads the age of the tree in the number of its rings. Such details of private history even Christ could not know, except from report, or by special Revelation, or by His mysterious union with the divinity. The last is the only proper view we can take of the case in hand. Not that Christ was strictly omniscient in the state of humiliation (He Himself disclaimed this, Mark 13:32); but wherever it was needed for His mission of saving sinners and the interests of His Kingdom, He could, by an act of His will and in virtue of His vital and essential union with the omniscient Father, unlock the chambers of the past, or penetrate, by immediate intuition, to the inmost secrets of the human heart, and read the history which is indelibly recorded on the pages of memory (comp. John 2:25).—P. S.]

John 4:19. Sirach, I perceive that thou art a prophet.— 1 Samuel 9:9. She justly infers this from the miracle of knowledge. [The Samaritans regarded the Messiah mainly as a prophet, see below.] We must note the gradual growth of her respect: (1) Σύ, Ἰουδαῖος ὥν, John 4:9; (2) Κύριε, John 4:11; (3) Κύριε, δός μοι.—At the same time a concession of her guilt, yet skilfully veiled.

John 4:20. Our fathers worshipped.—The Caricaturing estimate of this personage represents her as everywhere frivolously bantering up to this point without intelligence or misgiving, and now also as putting this question to get away under its cover (De Wette and others, Schweizer, Ebrard, Tholuck). Christ would hardly have gone so far to no purpose with such worthlessness.[FN68] It may be going too far, to find in this sentence an expression of strong personal religious interest, as if: She perceives in Christ the searcher of hearts, perceives her guilt, and wishes to go to the holy place of forgiveness (Zwingli, Luthardt [Besser], and others). According to Chrysostom, Neander and others, an interest in objective religion at least was awakened in her. The case is probably to be thus conceived: Having indirectly owned her guilt, she cannot treat of it much further with the stranger. The need of religious atonement comes home. But with it comes the question: Where is the right place of atonement? And this question takes its precedence probably not merely from an external, superficial spirit, but rather from the preponderance of a reflective turn. In other words, she turns, not hypocritically, in embarrassment or silliness, to religious controversy, but, under a spiritual bias over-ruling her simple womanly feeling, to reflection. Probably also she had, through the same disposition, lost caste in Samaria, like Magdalene in Galilee (a homeless nature in Sichem, as on the sea of Galilee). Furthermore, she might hasten with this question, (1) because the opportunity of asking a prophet concerning it might not occur again; (2) because she could not but wish to agree in reference to religion and the place of worship with the prophetic man who inspired her with reverence, and who was privy to her guilt.

On this mountain.—Pointing to Gerizim, which was near. On Gerizim comp5 Raumer, Palästina, p38; Winer, s. v.; and the books of travel.[FN69] But she does not say: We worship here, ye there; the antithesis is of another sort: Our fathers worshipped, and ye say. A decline of the Samaritan system of worship, and a sense of the weight of the Jewish protest in favor of Jerusalem, are expressed in the carefully chosen terms. At the same time, her having the religion of her fathers in any case contained an apology for her position.

Our fathers.—Down from the first Samaritans who were rejected by the Jews, and who, from being excommunicate, had become schismatic by setting up a temple on Gerizim.[FN70] Chrysostom, Kuinoel, and others, suppose she goes back in thought to Abraham and Jacob; but the antithetic ὑμεῖς contradicts this.[FN71] Even after the destruction of the temple by John Hyrcanus, the pinnacle of the temple continued to be the seat of the Samaritan worship (Joseph. Antiq. XVIII:4, 1), and is so to this day (Robinson, III. p319). “Latterly the Turks have interposed hindrances.” Tholuck.

It is very expressive, that the woman merely states the issue, without making a question, which place of worship is the true one. By making a question, she would have somewhat compromised her system, and at the same time disparaged the prophet’s place of worship. Whether she meant anything by saying: In Jerusalem is the place, instead of: On Mount Zion, remains uncertain. She seems, at all events, proud of her holy mountain, as well as of her holy well. It might seem to favor the Samaritans, that Moses had designated Gerizim as the mountain of the benedictions of the law ( Deuteronomy 11:29); in fact he seemed to appoint it distinctly as the seat of worship, according to Deuteronomy 27:4, where the Samaritan Pentateuch reads Gerizim instead of Ebal. On the other hand, Jerusalem had now a mighty representative in this prophet, who gave her, moreover, a strong impression of the dignity of the Jewish prophetic office.

John 4:21. Woman, believe me, an hour is coming.—[Believe Me, not us. A more familiar and condescending phrase for Verily, verily, I say unto thee. Nowhere else used by Christ.—P. S.] "Εοχεται ὥρα, a Johannean phrase, John 5:28, &c.—Ye shall worship the Father: pointing to a new, more inward mode of worship. [Ye, says Christ, not we, as an ordinary prophet would have done. He refers not only to the future conversion of the Samaritans (Meyer), but to all Christian ages. The Father indicates, as Grotius remarks, suavitatem novi fœderis; for the fatherhood of God is fully known and felt only in Christ, the only begotten Song of Solomon, and the only Mediator between God and man.—P. S.] To speak of the “stupidity” of the woman on which Jesus wasted a sublime utterance, is utterly without foundation. The sublime utterance teaches the distinction between external and internal worship in a concrete form. The expression evidently contains primarily, in a gentle hint, a preferring of Jerusalem. The progressive grades of worship are: (1) Samaria, (2) Jerusalem, (3) Christianity. It cannot therefore be exactly asserted that Jesus evades a decision: still less that He puts Jews and Samaritans alike under mistake (Baumgarten-Crusius). But the greater prominence is given to the issue which puts Samaria and Jerusalem on one side, and the worship of God in spirit and in truth on the other. This is evident from the advent of Christianity in particular to the Samaritans. The negation of Samaria and Jerusalem only denies that prayer was to continue at all restricted to the places named; that Isaiah, it declares the abolition of external, legal cultus, both Samaritan and Jewish.[FN72] At the same time it marks the woman’s question as one too little concerned with essential things.

John 4:22. Ye worship that which ye know not.—The question concerning the where of worship could be resolved only by the what, and this again by the how. The neuter instead of whom is significant. Just because God is not truly known to them, He is a rather than a ὅς, more impersonal than personal. Meyer supposes that the neuter denotes God in His essence and substance; Lücke, that it denotes τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, which does not suit the term προσκυνεῖν. De Wette: “O refers to the act of προσκυνεῖν; ye worship, and therein do what ye know not. Brückner objects to the correctness of the sentence, that the Samaritans were monotheists. But there are different monotheisms. Tittmann and others explain: Pro vestra ignorantia. Tholuck (after Lücke): “The true knowledge is that which is shaped by the history of redemption; and the Samaritans who were limited to the Pentateuch for their sacred books, knew Jehovah, that Isaiah, the historical God of Israel, but partially.” As a whole, in a living growth of knowledge, they almost knew Him not. This accounts also for the ὅτι.

We worship that which we know.—Designating the Jewish fellowship in its living unity, as represented in fact by Himself. [The ἡμεὶς in the mouth of Christ in relation to God, is without example, but is easily explained by the fact that here He speaks as a Jew, defending the Jewish worship as the true one against the Samaritan. Otherwise He always calls God His Father, and puts Himself, as the only begotten Song of Solomon, in a unique and exclusive relation to Him. In John 4:23-24 He drops the ἡμεῖς and speaks of the Christian worshippers in the third person.—P. S.]

For salvation is from the Jews.—[ἐστίν, the present, not ἕσται, for salvation was already at hand in the person of the Saviour.—P. S.] Σωτηρία: (1) Chrysostom, et al.: All benefits of salvation; (2) Erasmus: The prophetic knowledge of salvation; (3) The true Jews worship the God of continuous revelation. The proof of this lies in the fact that salvation breaks forth out of Judaism (Leben Jesu, II. p533). Similarly Tholuck, Meyer. In ἐκ τῶν (see Romans 9:4 ff) are intimated (1) the personal issuing of salvation out of Judaism, (2) its inward connection with Judaism, (3) its distinction from it. The expression is an evidence that John names the Jews not in a hostile sense alone.

[By this declaration Christ sets the seal of His authority on the Jewish religion as a divine revelation to prepare mankind for His coming, and sets aside all other religions as false, or at best as groping in the dark after “the unknown God.” This preparation by law, types, and prophecy, running back in unbroken succession to Abraham, and even to the very gates of paradise lost ( Genesis 3:14), forms one of the most convincing evidences of Christianity, as the final and perfect religion of mankind—P. S.]

John 4:23. When the true worshippers.—The hour now is. Christ was the centre of these worshippers, and about Him was gathering the discipleship of the true worship. The hour Isaiah, and the hour cometh. The true: the inward, whose prayer is truly prayer. The true worshippers are not so called for being beforehand worshippers in spirit and in truth (excepting Christ), but they are such as become so under the Christian revelation. [Οἱ ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταί are distinguished not only from hypocrites, but also from all worshippers before Christ, whose worship was necessarily imperfect.—P. S.]

In spirit and in truth.[FN73]—[The preposition ἐν signifies the element and the sphere in which worship moves.] This is the space-less place of prayer, in distinction from [and yet at the same time including both] Gerizim and Jerusalem. [Also πνεῦμα in opposition to flesh (σάρξ), ἀλήθεια in opposition to falsehood (ψεῦδος), both in opposition to mere forms and symbols (σκιά and τύποι).—P. S.] In spirit, as opposed to external, stiffened, and even carnally fanatical modes of worship; in the life of the spirit, the life of the human spirit moved by the Spirit of God ( Romans 8:14; Romans 8:16; Romans 8:26).[FN74] The distinction itself shows that πνεῦμα here cannot denote the Holy Ghost (Luthardt, after the ancients); yet neither can it denote the human spirit as such by itself. This is doubtless in especial opposition to some fanatical, carnal devotion of the Samaritans. In truth.—Neither subjective truth of the Prayer of Manasseh, sincerity, of itself (which is involved earlier in ἁληθινοί);[FN75] nor objective truth as such (which would mean in unity with God, or in the doctrine of God); but the opposite of a merely symbolical, formal, ritualistic worship; in real, actual religious life, i.e., in a true interaction between the personal worshipper and the personal God, in a religious vitality of the worshipper worthy of the living God. This probably in especial opposition to the Jewish symbolical system of prayer. Athanasius, et al.: Πνεῦμα is the Holy Ghost; ἀλήθεια, the Son of God.[FN76] Augustine, et al., with reference to the place: In spiritu, in distinction from space: Foras eramus, intromissi sumus; in templo vis orare, in te ora.[FN77] Lücke, et al.: That which is akin to God in spirit, the sphere of true prayer. Calvin, et al. with reference to the mode: The actio spiritualis itself; Bucer, et al.: The posture of mind corresponding to the Spirit of God. We must not overlook the close connection of “spirit and truth” as in an ideal unity. It implies that one cannot exist without the other. The rendering with the article—in the Spirit, etc. [in Luther’s5]—is substantially not incorrect, yet it does not let the connection of the two things stand out strongly enough.

For such [τοιούτους, emphatically placed first] worshippers the Father also [καὶ γάρ, nam et pater (Vulg.), denn auch] seeketh.—On the part of the Father Himself this living prayer is sought, as on its own part it seeks the Father. Such He desires and requires; such He would have, and must have.—Interpretations: 1. The Father also, besides the Son [Besser]. 2. Also seeketh (referring the καί to ζητεῖ, which makes the antithesis not clear). 3. The Father also seeketh what these worshippers do (Meyer). More accurately: He seeketh for Himself such worshippers, as these worshippers seek for themselves such a God.

John 4:24. God is spirit.—Emphasis on πνεῦμα.[FN78] The mode of prayer must correspond to the object of prayer. Hence it is now become the law of life for all worshippers, that they must worship God in spirit and in truth. Every other sort of praying is thereby done away, as well as, or in proportion as, the provisional system of religion. The mode of prayer is to be conformed to the mode of religion. God as the living Spirit, and as pure Spirit, is present to His worshippers, and He rejects an outward prayer or a false prayer from a carnal mind, as well as a symbolical prayer from a trammeled mind. God’s being spirit was neither a thing already known, now emphasized (Hofmann, Meyer), nor a thing entirely new to the Old Testament (Köstlin, etc.). The Old Testament speaks of the Spirit of God, and intimates also the spirituality of God ( Exodus 20:4; Numbers 16:22; 1 Kings 8; Isaiah 31:3), the New speaks of God as spirit; being in this matter also the finished revelation. Common prayers, liturgies, are not hereby forbidden; they may be regarded as the embodiment of the Christian spirit of prayer (Stier); but here is established the condition that this body be living, under perfect discipline, spiritual.

[“God is spirit”; “God is light” ( 1 John 1:5); and “God is love” ( 1 John 4:5), all from the pen of John, are the briefest and profoundest definitions, or divine oracles rather, concerning the nature of God, which can be found anywhere. The first refers mainly to His metaphysical, the second to His intellectual, the third to His moral essence; but, of course, the line cannot be so distinctly drawn. Light refers to purity and holiness as well as to truth. Although no metaphysician can exhaust these words, yet even the ignorant Samaritan woman could understand them sufficiently for all practical purposes, viz. that God, being a spiritual being, is not confined to Gerizim or Jerusalem or any other place, but is omnipresent, and can be worshipped everywhere. Trench applies to this passage the well-known saying, that the Scripture has depths for an elephant to swim in, and shallows for a lamb to wade,—a saying which seems to date from Gregory the Great (Preface to his Com. on Job: “Divinus sermo…est fluvius planus et altus, in quo et agnus ambulet el elephas natet”). Spirituality of Christian worship does, of course, not exclude forms, which are indispensable, as man consists of body as well as soul, but puts them in a subordinate position, as vehicles and aids of devotion, while formalism makes them substitutes for, or hindrances of, the inner service of the heart.—P. S.]

John 4:25. I know that Messiah cometh.—Here, too, comes a decidedly incorrect estimate of the woman in Tholuck: “The woman is not inclined to enter into so high matters, and therefore answers like Felix, Acts 24:25.” Similarly, De Wette, Lücke, [Scott, Barnes]. Would Christ have revealed Himself as the Messiah to such a woman? Meyer better: “The woman is apprehended by the answer of Jesus, but does not as yet apprehend it, and appeals to the Messiah.” Evidently the words of the wonderful Unknown quicken in her the Samaritan expectation, of the Messiah. Even a presentiment that this might be the Messiah, may readily be imagined (Luthardt); and then her answer would have to be construed as a feeler for the true solution; perhaps as Lampe explains her words: “Give me this water.” At all events, she now felt the old system to be shaken, and with a longing for the inner life, the longing for the Messiah awoke (see Leben Jesu, II:2534).[FN79]

A. Maier (p344): “If the Messianic hope of the Samaritans, who acknowledged only the Pentateuch, based itself on Deuteronomy 18:15, they must have expected in the Messiah chiefly a divine teacher, who like Moses, should make known to them the divine will, and lead them into hidden truths.” The Samaritans expected the Messiah of old, and they expect Him to this day. “The latest on this subject is in the work of Barge’s; Les Samaritains de Naplouse, 1855. They call Him הַשָׁהֵב, or הַתָּהֶב, which Gesenius, Anecdota Samarit., p65, etc., [and Ewald] would interpret conversor, Hengstenberg [and Meyer], with greater probability, restitutor,[FN80] which the Samaritan priest in Barge’s confirms.” Tholuck. For other interpretations see the note in Tholuck, p150. The woman may have well known the Jewish term, and have chosen it instead of the Samaritan. According to V. Ammon, and others, the term [the explanation: Who is called Christ] is the Evangelist’s;[FN81] which is very questionable, since he generally prefers to record the original expressions.

John 4:26. I am he [̓Εγώ εἰμι, ego sum, viz., the Messiah].—The subject of ἐγώ εἰμι is to be supplied from the text. Thus He now voluntarily presents Himself to this sinful woman openly as the Messiah, as in the old covenant the angel appeared first to Hagar as angel of the Lord ( Genesis 16:7), and as the risen Jesus appeared first to Magdalene. Among the Jews Jesus long avoided the name of Messiah,[FN82] because its meaning was distorted by Chiliastic notions; the Samaritan idea of the Messiah was stunted, but not as yet encumbered with Chiliastic inferences, and therefore could here be introduced. [The Jews looked upon the Messiah as the King of Israel, and expected from Him first of all political changes (comp. John 6:15): while the Samaritans, deriving their Messianic expectations chiefly from Deuteronomy 18:15-19, regarded Him simply as a prophet or teacher, and were less liable to abuse this revelation for disturbing political purposes.—P. S.]

John 4:27. Marvelled that he talked with a woman.—Not with this woman as such (Kuinoel), but with a woman, on the low level assigned her by the rabbinic views. Two considerations met here: 1. The Oriental custom which imposed rigid restriction on intercourse with the female sex: Pirke Aboth i5. “Docuerunt Sapientes, ne multiplices colloquium cum muliere. Cum uxore dixerunt, quanto minus cum uxore alterius.” (Lightfoot, Schöttgen.) 2. Rabbinical scholastic prejudice. “According to Jewish Rabbinical ideas the female sex was incapable of religious instruction.” (Tholuck. It should doubtless be: Rabbinical instruction.)[FN83] Yet no man said.—Expressing reverence, and the acknowledgment that He might well establish a new and higher custom. An enlargement of their horizon. Comp. Luke 10:38. Tίζητεῖς is hardly: What desirest Thou? (Meyer without connecting it with μετ’ αὐτῆς.) Plainly the ζητεῖν, in distinction from λαλεῖν, is to discuss in rabbinical style; the latter meaning merely to talk (chat). Μέντοι in the New Testament is almost peculiar to John.

John 4:28. The woman then left her water-pot.—“Now for the first time the force of the argument from His prophecy comes powerfully upon the woman, perhaps under the additional influence of an awakened conscience.” Tholuck. Why: Now for the first time? and why: perhaps? “She forgets her work, as the Redeemer had forgotten His need.” Luthardt: “Nicodemus went away silent and burdened; this woman hastens away in joyful certainty, with a burning heart, to be the herald of His name.” And she calls now not her husband, but the whole city. [Meyer: “What a power of the decided awakening of a new life in this woman!” She has been justly regarded as a fit illustration of the proper work of the church, viz., to be a witness of Christ, and thus to lead men to Him as the Saviour of the world.—P. S.]

John 4:29. Who told me all things that ever I have done.—Under the sense of her guilt she thinks He has told her everything she had done, that is everything wrong. The testimony of an awakened conscience.[FN84] Unquestionably what Jesus said to her contained the sum of her particular transgressions. Besides this she had no doubt perceived by His look and tone, that He saw through her whole life. It may indicate still her legal spirit, that she speaks in the plural of her sins; yet she may also intend by this to magnify the wonderful vision of the prophet. The ὅσα, instead of , is full of emphasis.

Is this the Christ?—On the negative, doubtful element in the μήτι, comp. Meyer and Tholuck against Lücke (is He really the Messiah?) De Wette, however, suggests the analogous μήτι in Matthew 12:23, which calls for an affirmative answer. Considering the boldness of the announcement, especially in presence of the authorities, the interrogative form is perfectly intelligible in the mouth of this poor outcast, and yet so shrewd and dexterous woman.[FN85] The more, that she passes over Christ’s announcement of Himself, in order perhaps to take to herself somewhat of the honor of a glorious discovery. A sinful ambition may well still cleave to her confession of guilt which was more public than it was perfectly open. That she herself believes, or is inclined to believe, is evident from her extraordinary agitation, which impels her beyond all the bounds of reserve, bashfulness, and despised condition. Compare the woman who was a great sinner, and ventured into the house of the Pharisee, Luke 7:37.

John 4:31-33. In the meanwhile.—The woman was gone, the Samaritans had not yet come. The mistake of the disciples: “Quid mirum, si mulier non intelligebat aquam? ecce discipuli nondum intelligunt escam.” August. [Tract. xvi31.—P.S.].

John 4:34. My food is.—A very intelligible figure. Not merely satisfaction, but nourishment and quickening. An opposite judgment of the disciples, c1. A parallel, Matthew 4 Ἳνα adds to the nature of the food (ὅτι) its suitableness to its purpose. The aorist τελειώσω denotes the act which completes the ποιεῖν.

John 4:35. There are yet four months.—Τετράμηνος, sc. χρόνος. Harvest began in April [in the middle of Nisan], about, Easter, and lasted till Pentecost. Four months run back to December. Seed-time itself fell in the beginning of November (the month Marcheshvan). The fields, therefore, were probably green; and the more piquant was the expression: The fields are white for the harvest. The figure follows the analogy of the food. The Lord, as represented by John, is perfectly consistent in His use of the earthly as the symbol of the heavenly. Probably the Samaritans were already coming through the green fields, and they were the fields white for harvest. The disciples saw the green seed-field, He saw the white harvest-field, and to this He wished to open their spiritual eye. Many have taken the four months proverbially: “From seeding to harvest there are four months” (so also in the Talmud); and in this view the passage would lose its chronological value,[FN86] and only denote in general some time before harvest (Lightfoot, Grotius, Lücke, etc.). Against this Meyer: The proverb does not elsewhere occur [nor is the seed-time mentioned]. After all there seems to be something proverbial about the expression. Yet it is suitable only at seed-time. It may then be an expression as well of joyful hope (only four months yet), as of waiting patience (yet four whole months). Lücke rightly chooses the latter sense. In the natural world we must wait yet four months; in the spiritual, it is already the time of harvest.

Yet this again may be understood in different ways1. In the natural world four months intervene between seeding and harvest; here a harvest follows immediately upon the sowing. John 4:38 goes against this2. In the natural world it is now seeding time; in the spiritual the harvest time is opening. Chemnitz, Baur (Stier, Luthardt, Tholuck), and others find in the harvest not only the harvest of the Samaritans ( Acts 8), but also the harvest of the Gentiles.[FN87] But then where would be the previous sowing? Primarily the talk is only of a field now white for the harvest, though betokening, to be sure, all future harvest fields.

John 4:36. And he that reapeth, etc.—The connection with the preceding is this: The field is white for harvest. Be reapers. Reaping in the spiritual field is full of promise. Tholuck: Christ thought of the conversion of far-off Gentiles. Then came the sad thought, that He Himself would not live to see it in this world; which relieved itself with the joyful thought that their joy would also be His. So De Wette, Meyer. In that case Christ would have mixed two figures; one representing Himself as already harvesting, another representing Him as sower. But harvest is the subject here, and the disciples are supposed to be reapers with Him. The sowing, therefore, must be sought at some previous time (Chrysostom: The prophets were the sowers). Even in Samaria spiritual seed had been sown by Moses and the Pentateuch, by Jewish teachers, last perhaps by John the Baptist (see John 3:23, p141 f.). As little can we accept the exposition of Meyer, Tholuck, and others, which makes the καί after μισθόν λαμβάνειν only expletive: that Isaiah, he gathereth fruit unto eternal life. This again is simply contrary to the figure, which represents an employed reaper. Hunnius and Calov: The μισθός is the gracious reward, the gradus gloriæ; the καρπός is the converts. But since the wages of the reaper are represented as given in this world, over against the gathering of fruit unto eternal life, the primary idea is the immediate spiritual blessings and joys of the harvesters, the joy of spiritual harvest, the communion of the converts themselves. A different and further joy is that of carrying the fruit into heaven, to gladden there the sower who passed thither long before, and to have with Him a common and simultaneous (ὁμοῦ) rejoicing; a thing not possible in the kingdom of nature, but belonging to the kingdom of grace. The ζωὴ αἰώνιος is here again represented objectively, as above; there under the figure of the ocean ( John 4:14), here under the figure of a garner (Lücke).

John 4:37. Herein is that saying fully true [ἀληθινός, not ἀληθής].—The fundamental thought is the wonderfully great distance between seeding and harvest, in contrast with the wonderful fact that reaper and sower rejoice together in heaven. This, however, they can do only in heaven; in this world they are far, often very far, apart. Here, therefore, is the proverb fully true; here it reaches its proper truth; whereas in earthly life the sower is generally the reaper, and the proverb simply exaggerates into a general rule the exceptional fatality of the sower not living to see the harvest time, or at least not himself receiving and enjoying his harvest. [The words of Joshua spoken to the tribes of Israel at Shechem: “I have given you a land for which ye did not labor (οὐκ ἐκοπιάσατε), and cities which ye built not,” etc. Joshua 24:13, form a striking parallel to this saying of our Lord uttered on the same spot, and perhaps with reference to it.—P. S.] Tholuck, after De Wette, incorrectly: Ἄληθινός may here mean only ἀληθής.[FN88] Then the proverb in its ordinary sense would be declared false. It has, however, some truth; but it does not sustain its truth throughout; as earthly things are not ἀληθινά, but only symbols of the infinite, though they all have their ἀληθές. And since in the spiritual sphere sowing and reaping seem often almost to coincide, we must not overlook the actual reference to the present case. Yet the ἐν γάρ τούτῳ does not mean in this instance, but in this matter. Then, too, the proverb must here be a universal law. The crop in the kingdom of God ripens slowly.[FN89] The full harvest is the end of the world. The earliest seed was the word of God in paradise, or the earliest sowers were the earliest patriarchs. The kingdom of God is the mightiest realm of nature and history; and Christ is the root of nature in His slow growth towards His appearance in the middle, and again at the end of time. (On the proverb: Wetstein.)

John 4:38. I sent you to reap.—Ἀπέστειλα (comp. John 17:18.) Hardly merely “in the sense of the prophetic future” (De Wette, Tholuck). They are not yet apostles by a distinct appointment; still they were already disciples to whom an apostolic commission is prospectively affixed. Hence thus: I have chosen you for apostles, or, to keep the figure, for laborers, to send you into the harvest-field. Ye are destined pre-eminently to reap a spiritual harvest which has been long preparing (so also Meyer). According to Meyer the ἅλλοι and αὐτῶν refer simply to Jesus, in the plural of category.”[FN90] But Jesus here evidently sets Himself above the distinction of sowers and reapers as the Lord of the harvest (Olshausen, with reference to Matthew 23:34). The older expositors [also Grotius, Bengel, Luthardt, Ewald] include at least the prophets [and John the Baptist] with Him. Bucer: even the heathen philosophers and their elements of truth. [Tholuck: All the preparatory organs of the economy of salvation.] The seed here in view, however, is not the seed of general culture and intelligence, but the seed of theocratic faith.

Others have labored. The painful labors and toils of the prophets. Their sowing was a sowing in tears. It should shame and encourage the disciples, that they so suddenly come into the great harvest of the history of the world, for which the grandest seeds-men have for centuries labored. This does not exclude either the relative harvest which exists at every stage of the kingdom of God, or again the great sowing in the work of the apostles; yet the sight of a present harvest predominates, as in Matthew 9:38; especially here, that the disciples might feel reverence before the hidden work of God in the despised Samaritans, and believe in their susceptibility to conversion, as they were just now approaching. They could no more take offence it the labors of Jesus with the Samaritans, than at His helping the Canaanitish woman; here as there His leading of their spirit corresponds to His outward act.

John 4:39. And many of that city believed.—These first believers, who were gathered by the word of the woman, are distinguished from the much greater company afterwards won by the word of Jesus ( John 4:41). These believers are now come to Him (see John 4:30). [Olshausen: “If the Redeemer had been like any other Prayer of Manasseh, His λόγος could have had no more weight than that of any other, and in support of His own cause, it would have been still less effective. But as the sun proves its existence and reality merely by the light and the animating warmth which it imparts: so Christ, as the Sun of the spiritual world, in all ages past, and to this day, has had but one witness for Himself, viz., His own operation upon souls. By this one means He so entirely takes possession of every unprejudiced mind, that through the reception of His higher vital energies, it becomes to them experimentally certain that the salvation of the world rests in Him. Hence conceptions of the truth and doctrinal knowledge are not principles in the life of faith, but effects resulting from the reception of the spiritual element.”—P. S.]

John 4:40. The evangelist makes record that Jesus tarried two days teaching in the Samaritan city. [Orthodox Jews besought the Lord to depart from their coasts ( Matthew 8:34), took up stones against Him, and plotted for His overthrow ( Matthew 8:34; Luke 4:29; Luke 13:31-32, etc.). Heretical Samaritans besought Him to tarry with them. The first became last, and the last first.—P. S.]

John 4:41. And many more believed, etc.—From the great result, analogous to that in Judea, we infer a great work of Jesus, which however was, at least for the most part, a labor in word. [In these two days of incidental labor Jesus made more converts among the half-heathenish, yet less bigoted and prejudiced Samaritans, without working miracles, than in the preceding eight months of official work in word and signs among the Jews in Jerusalem. The harvest in Samaria was only an episode in the life of our Lord, and yet how rich in immediate results and future promise! His servants also often accomplish most in times and places where they least expect it. Not seldom the meaning of many years or a whole life is condensed into a few days or hours. No labor for the Lord, however, is in vain; if it bear not the proper fruit in this world, it will do so at the final harvest of history.—P. S.]

John 4:42. And said unto the woman.—Under the direct impression which Jesus made upon them, the indirect testimony of the woman certainly became to them a λαλιά; not as contemptuous, but as now appearing insignificant.[FN91] Meyer justly notices that John himself, as an impartial narrator, says of her word: τὸν λόγον. We must here take into account also the serenity of happy feeling, to understand that the expression has no malice, more than that of the governor of the feast: “Thou hast kept the good wine until now.” (Comp. the remarkable expression in John 8:43.)

We have heard him ourselves.—Found out by our hearing, so that we now know. [This is a higher order of faith connected with knowledge and personal experience (“come and see,” John 1:39; John 1:46), while formerly it rested only on external authority. Difference of the Roman Catholic and the higher Evangelical Protestant conception of faith. Grotius: “Notarunt veteres in hac Samaritidi ecclesiæ esse figuram, quæ nos adducit ad verbum divinum; nos verbo, maxime propter ipsius majestatem et sanctitatem, credimus.”—P. S.]

That this is the Saviour of the world [Only here and 1 John 4:14],—Tholuck doubtfully (after a doubtful expression of Lücke): “Whether the idea contained in σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου is lent to the people by the evangelist, is a question.” But this puts in question the whole point of the great narrative. Meyer better: “A confession sufficiently intelligible as the fruit of the two days’ instruction of Jesus, the more since the Samaritan Messianic faith was more accessible to a universality of salvation [see Gesenius, De Samarit. Theol., p 41 sqq.] than the Jewish with its concrete and rigorous particularism.” As Samaritans they had peculiar reason to express themselves thus: Yea verily, He is not only a Messiah for the Jews, but also for us and the Gentiles; in Him the divided world again becomes one.[FN92]

The work of Jesus in Samaria laid the foundation for the subsequent conversion of that people under the Apostles, Acts 8.


1. Respecting the pretended contradiction between this history and Matthew 10:5 (Strauss, Bruno Bauer, and in part Weisse), it should be remarked that the case in Matthew is that of a special mission of the disciples in a particular direction towards Jerusalem, not of the general itinerancy of the Lord. And when He Himself gave out, in reference to His earthly office, that He was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel [ Matthew 15:24], He referred to the divine law of His work, and did not exclude the Samaritans from an incidental share of His labors. It was consonant with the historical position of the Samaritans, with their susceptibility, with the directions of the Lord Himself ( Acts 1:8), and with the subsequent spread of Christianity from Judea over Samaria and the Gentile world, that He already appeared for once among them; as, on the other hand, it was in conformity with the economy of His work, that this visit was only incidental, and not for a protracted ministry. Thus were the disciples exercised beforehand in the true order of preaching the gospel. Acts 8:5 is supposed to have occasioned the mythical invention of the story before us; whereas that great conversion rather points to a historical preparation. Meyer justly calls attention to the perfect naturalness of the several features of the story, which could not have proceeded from a poetizing spirit. It may be added, that the several stumbling-blocks which have been found in it, such as the misapprehensions of the woman, are simply so many misapprehensions of criticism and exegesis. The remarkable directness of the representation also, in respect to season, locality, the individuality of the woman, rabbinical custom, etc., must be noted. With Baur this history dissolves into a type: “The woman of Samaria, representing susceptible heathendom, readily opening itself to faith, and offering a wide field of harvest, the counterpart of Nicodemus, who is the type of unsusceptible Judaism.” Neither rhyme nor reason, and a further proof of the legend like fantasticism of a criticism past its crisis, in its last stage of consumption.

2. On the history of the hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans comp. Robinson, III, p339 sqq.; Leben Jesu, II, 2, p539.

3. On Hengstenberg’s reference of the five husbands, etc., to the five gods of old Samaria, see Leben Jesu, II, 2, p540. [Comp. my annotations on John 4:18. Hengstenberg’s allegorical interpretation is at least more sensible than that of Augustine (Tract, xv. c19), who understands the five former husbands of the five senses, and explains the words, Call thy husband, to mean, Apply thy reason, by which thou must be governed, rather than by the bodily senses (adhibe intellectum, per quem docearis, quo regaris)! In another place he finds in the five husbands the five books of Moses, and in the sixth husband the Lord Himself, as if He said: Thou hast served the five books of Moses as five husbands; but now he whom thou hast, i.e., whom thou hearest, is not thy husband: for thou dost not yet believe in him!—P. S.]

3 b. John 4:7. “Give me to drink.” So God introduces Himself to us for our salvation: He asks of us a service. He does this from the beginning, and puts our whole earthly life to us as a serving of Him. Our daily labor is at least required of us as a patient submission to His condemnation: “In the sweat of thy face,” etc. And in His covenant of grace, as with Israel, it is consecrated to be primarily a devout serving of Him with tithes and first-fruits. Our ministry to one another is also a giving Christ meat, or drink, or otherwise ministering to Him. Our constitutional unbelief, the enmity of the carnal mind against God, like the natural enmity of Samaritans to Jews, makes us skeptical that He should have any such dealing with us. But if we only know the gift of this wonderful reciprocity established between us and God in Christ,—if we have a heart for it—it opens the deepest fountains of devotion and prayer in our souls. It gives us a wonderful introduction to God! In other words, this sort of presentation of Himself to us lays the foundation of substantial religion in ourselves, and thus also opens the way for the richest gifts of everlasting life from God.—E. D. Y.]

4. As Jesus appears in chap 1 higher than John the Baptist, in chapter 2 higher than the temple, in chap 3 higher than the rulers of the people, so here He appears greater than the sacred well of Jacob and its founder, as afterwards greater than the porches of Bethesda, the manna, the temple-light, the pool of Siloam, etc. And the superiority is at the same time antithetic: Christ is everything in truth (the ἀληθινός), in realized essence, which before Him was presented only in type. Thus Christ is here the real antitype of the typical patriarchal well-diggers, in particular the patriarch Jacob; hence His spiritual life is the real living water of a sacred well. To this main symbol of this chapter are attached the other symbols of the food, the harvest field, the Lord of the seed-field and harvest-field, the sowers, the reapers. In reference to each, see the exegesis.

5. As Christ makes light the symbol in manifold respects of His nature and life, so with the well, and water. Here He is evidently a giver of peace within one’s self, as in chap7. He is a giver of the Spirit communicating itself to others, while in chap5. He appears as the true well of healing. Thus the fountain of life is the fountain of peace, of healing, of the Spirit.

6. Jesus and women. Jesus was never married, because He was the Son of God as well as the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, and because He represents sinless and universal humanity. Hence no fallen creature and no single daughter of Eve even without sin, if there were such, but only the whole church of the redeemed is fit to be His bride. Nevertheless He had much intercourse with women, and this, as well as His dealing with children, forms an interesting chapter in His life and an evidence of Christianity, especially if we contrast it with the radically different position which woman holds at the source of other religions and licentious mythologies. The subject has not yet received the attention it deserves. In addition to my introductory remarks (p150), I shall give the views of Guizot,[FN93] partly in opposition to Renan, the only writer of note, who, to his own discredit, has dared to cast a reflection on this relation so pure and Christlike. “The women,” says Guizot, “seem irresistibly attracted toward Him, with hearts moved, imaginations struck by His manner of life, His precepts, His miracles, His language. He inspires them with feelings of tender respect and confiding admiration. The Canaanitish woman comes and addresses to Him a timid prayer for the healing of her daughter. The woman of Samaria listens to Him with eagerness, though she does not know Him: Mary seats herself at His feet, absorbed in reflections suggested by His words; and Martha proffers to Him the frank complaint that her sister assists her not, but leaves her unaided in the performance of her domestic duties. The sinner draws near to Him in tears, pouring upon His feet a rare perfume, and wiping them with her hair. The adulteress, hurried into His presence by those who wished to stone her, in accordance with the precepts of the Mosaic law, remains motionless in His presence, even after her accusers have withdrawn, waiting in silence what He is about to say. Jesus receives the homage, and listens to the prayers of all these women with the gentle gravity and impartial sympathy of a being superior and strange to earthly passion. Pure and inflexible interpreter of the Divine law, He knows and understands man’s nature, and judges it with that equitable severity which nothing escapes, the excuse as little as the fault. Faith, sincerity, humanity, sorrow, repentance, touch Him without biasing the charity and the justice of His conclusions; and He expresses blame or announces pardon with the same calm serenity of authority, certain that His eye has read the depths of the heart to which His words will penetrate. In His relation with the women who approach Him, there Isaiah, in short, not the slightest trace of man; nowhere does the Godhead manifest itself more winningly and with greater purity. And when there is no longer any question of these particular relations and conversations, when Jesus has no longer before Him women suppliants and sinners, who are invoking His power or imploring His clemency: when it is with the position and the destiny of women in general that He is occupying Himself, He affirms and defends their claims and their dignity with a sympathy at once penetrating and severe. He knows that the happiness of mankind, as well as the moral position of women, depends essentially upon the married state; He makes of the sanctity of marriage a fundamental law of Christian religion, and society; He pursues adultery even into the recesses of the human heart, the human thought; He forbids divorce; He says of men, ‘Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female? For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.’…. Signal and striking testimony to the progressive action, of God upon the human race! Jesus Christ restores to the divine law of marriage the purity and the authority that Moses had not enjoined to the Hebrews ‘because of the hardness of their hearts.’ ”—P. S.]


The retreat of Jesus from Judea to Galilee through Samaria, the first turning-point in His official life: 1. Motives (the Pharisees began to watch Him with hostile eye: the Baptist is imprisoned). 2. Character: Free consciousness (He retreats in free discretion, without fear; in holy discretion, hence: “the Lord knew”). 3. Rich results (beneficent sojourn in Samaria, beneficent results in Galilee). 4. Significancy (He ceases to baptize, tarries in Samaria on His return).—Symbolical import of baptismal water and drinking water in Christianity. (In John 3. Jesus baptized with water: in John 4he passes to offer a living water to be drunk.)—The resting of the Lord on Jacob’s well, a living emblem of the old patriarchal days and the new evangelistic time in one.—Christ in His human weakness and divine exaltation, (1) weary, and yet the rest of a weary soul; (2) thirsty, and yet a fountain; (3) hungry, and yet enjoying heavenly food, the Lord of the harvest-field; (4) left alone, yet in spirit surrounded with approaching nations.—Christ a Saviour even from the religious perversities of fanaticism.—Fanaticism in its inhumanity and its immoral conduct.—The woman of Samaria, or a Samaritan Magdalene.—The condescending pity of Jesus in the conversion of the woman of Samaria.—How the grace and love of Christ can break through all conventional restrictions, for being the new law of the Spirit: the restrictions (1) of the ancient religious separation, (2) of the ancient national separation, (3) of the old social custom (as to the separation of the sexes), (4) of the old contempt for the fallen.—How many prejudices that one little word of Jesus: Give me to drink, abolishes: 1. The prejudice of the ancients against the female sex; 2. The prejudice of statute against the fallen; 3. The prejudice of nationality; 4. The prejudice of religion.—The wisdom and gentleness of the Lord in winning souls: 1. The opening of the conversation (Give me to drink; a token of common life). 2. The progress of the conversation (a. objective salvation in a sensible emblem: b. subjective need of salvation). 3. The goal: Manifestation of Christ to a sinful, penitent heart.—The stages of the religious instruction of the Samaritan woman: 1. The missionary stage; 2. The catechetical stage; 3. The church stage (see the exegesis).—How Christ sent back as an evangelist into her city a woman who came out of it a notorious sinner.—The day of grace (If thou knewest.)—The life of the Lord, living water (spring-water) in distinction from the stale water of this world’s life: 1. The latter provokes thirst, the former quenches thirst2. The one becomes foul, the other takes away foulness3. The one stands, in a marsh, the other gushes and flows4. The one sinks away, evaporates, the other becomes an eternal fountain.—Christ the life, as fountain of life.—The fountain of life, as a fountain of peace.—Jacob’s well, the pool of Bethesda, the fountain of Siloam, emblems of the salvation in Christ.—The water of life, which Christ bestows: 1. A draught which becomes a fountain; 2. A fountain which becomes a stream; 3. A stream which runs into the ocean of eternal life, without losing itself therein. The crystal spring of truth (that may be likened to spring water) in contrast with the turbid water of vanity and sin (which may be likened to salt water and puddles and ponds).—The miraculous virtue of self-reproduction in the water and the bread which Christ bestows.—The thirst of life, and the satisfaction of it in Christ.— Sirach, give me this water, or the unsatisfied longing of the poor, sinful heart: (1) Astray, deceived, debauched in sin; (2) led aright, purified, brought to itself by the awakening of repentance; (3) satisfied, transformed into blessed life by grace.—Call thy husband. Christ not only the knower of hearts, but also the knower of lives.—Christ aims at the conscience, to subdue the sinner.—The gradual awakening: 1. Awakening of reflection; 2. Awakening of conscience; 3. Awakening of faith.—The divine visitation in the hour when the dark human heart feels itself exposed and seen through by a heavenly eye.—The decision of Christ respecting the religious controversy between the Samaritans and the Jews, in its permanent typical import.—“Salvation comes from the Jews.”—But while they quarrel on over the old issue, a new and higher point of unity is present.—The future of religion: Worship of God in spirit and in truth.—The Messiah’s revelation of Himself for the woman of Samaria (compared with the self-presentation of the angel of the Lord to Hagar, of the risen Jesus to Magdalene).—The school which the disciples of Jesus went through in Samaria in reference (1) to the Samaritan woman, (2) to the Samaritans.—The marvelling of the disciples of Jesus at His talking with a woman, in conflict with their reverence.—The whole life discipline of the Christian an alternation of the spirit of captious and of reverential wonder.—The food of Jesus.—Heavenly remembering and reminding an earthly forgetting: 1. Christ forgets His earthly meat; 2. The woman forgets the earthen pitcher.—The difference between the Master and the disciples in their way of seeing: 1. The disciples still look upon the green growing fields (according to the earthly appearance); 2. The Master looks upon the white harvest fields (according to the spiritual reality).—The Samaritans on their way to Jesus, a sign of harvest;—a mission token.—The messengers of Christ not only sowers, but also reapers.—The miraculous relation between sowing and harvest in the kingdom of God: 1. The two infinitely far apart; 2. The two coincident.—The sowers and the reapers of the Lord: 1. How they for the most part do not know each other in this world2. How they rejoice with one another in the next.—The symbolism of the field (of the sown field and of the harvest field).—The double grounds of faith which the Samaritan had: 1. The account of the woman; 2. Acquaintance with Christ Himself.—The two days of the sojourn of Jesus in Samaria.—The dark side and the bright side of the Samaritan life: 1. Greater danger of the adulteration of Christianity with heathenism, than among the Jews; 2. Greater freedom from Jewish prejudice, and hence greater access for the word of faith.—The testimony of the Samaritans: This is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world: 1. A fruit, ripened (a) under the sense of contempt from the Jews, (b) under the sense of free grace on the part of the Lord; 2. A bud which fully unfolded in subsequent faith and under the preaching of the Apostles.

Starke: Envy (with reference to the Pharisees).—(Cramer): Christians should take care of themselves, Matthew 10:23.—(Majus): The dignity and virtue of the sacraments depends not on persons who administer them.—Christ seeks the salvation of all men by all means and at all times.—There is no land entirely void of monuments of grace even from its antiquity.—Christ, as true Prayer of Manasseh, became weary.—If the Lord became weary for the good of His creatures, we should be incited to the patient endurance of the toilsomeness of our calling.—Man must also have his rest.—Canstein: Direct the necessary rest to the glory of God.—A picture of the grace which anticipates us and fondly persuades us.—Quesnel: Jesus voluntarily humbles Himself so far as to have need of His creatures, that we may not be ashamed to accept their help.—Thirst for the salvation of men was greater in Christ than bodily thirst for water.—Christianity consists not in secluding oneself and locking the room and sitting with the prayer book behind the stove; else the Lord would not have talked with the Samaritan woman. Majus: National hatred pernicious and sinful.—Canstein: We should not withhold the general duties of humanity on account of difference in religion.—The same: An inordinate estimate of our ancestry may sometimes be a hinderance to salvation.—Osiander: No earthly refreshing and delights can satisfy the heart.—Thirst a great need;—those who once drink from this fountain of life furnish themselves against all thirst for the world.—He who is to be converted, must be brought to a knowledge of his sin.—Canstein: Christ and His Spirit must disclose to a man his secret shame if they are to help him.—Bibl. Wirt.: Jesus looks especially upon one’s conduct of his married life.—Piscator: In matters of religion and faith no one should appeal to fathers or ancestry, unless their doctrine be first proved from the word of God.—Prayer and worship depend not on time, place, posture, bending of knees or folding of hands, but upon spirit and truth.—Worship in spirit and in truth by no means supersedes outward worship.—Canstein: The way of serving God must agree with the attributes of God.—Majus: If between contending parties there still is agreement or harmony in some points, one must not despise him, but endeavor as opportunity offers to turn it to edification.—Osiander: The true knowledge of Christ fills a man with heavenly joy.—Hedinger: Grace, when it is vitally kindled in the soul, gives joy and alacrity.—The same: Doing the will of God should be to us above eating and drinking and every necessity.—Quesnel: A great consolation for those in the church of God who labor much and see no fruit, that they are here assured that they shall lose nothing of their reward.—Hedinger: He who continues to depend on Prayer of Manasseh, attains not to divine certainty.—Christ a universal Saviour of the whole world, 1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:11; Titus 2:13.

Gossner: Where the true Christ comes, He first uncovers disgrace and shame, and then takes them away.—Braune: This is the fixed order in the kingdom of God, which is above all time: that it reaches over centuries, and every generation reaps what the preceding sowed, and in turn must sow what the succeeding may reap.

Gerlach:—Every sensuous form of worship, even that ordained by God Himself, is a symbolical worship, and therefore reaches its truth only in the spiritual,—without which it would be a false worship.—“Wouldst thou have a high, a holy place? consecrate thyself inwardly a temple of God; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are, 1 Corinthians 3:17. Wouldst thou pray in a temple, pray in thyself; but become first thyself a temple of God, for He hears him who calls to Him out of His temple.” (Augustine.)

Heubner: Jesus teaches us prudence, silent withdrawal; it is more illustrious than bold daring, challenge, resistance, and foolhardiness.—A blessing often still rests on old places.—The inward progress in the leading of souls.—“There cometh a woman.” How the steps of man are guided!—Request, an approach to the heart.—The gospel seems at first only to ask of the unconverted, but under this apparent asking the offer of the highest grace is covered.—The first apprehension of the soul by divine grace takes place so secretly and imperceptibly that the souls themselves do not at all suspect it.—Religious hatred the bitterest hatred among nations.—Jesus does not stop upon invidious partizan disputes.—He who begins to know Jesus, asks of Him, calls upon Him.—“The well is deep.” How deep then is the well of Jesus from which the flock of God is refreshed!—The natural man resists the demand of radical renewal with the pretence that godly ancestors have surely been saved by their mode.—“Greater than our father Jacob?” This was her standard. How imperfect in comparison with Jesus.—God compels man to reflect, to come to the knowledge of Himself.—Through Christianity the whole earth is to become a temple of God. The heavenly Jerusalem has no temple (Rev. John 20, 21).—Yet Christ does not teach syncretism, He compromises nothing of the truth.—The future in the germ already lies in the present.

John 4:24. Jerome well applies this passage to pilgrimage.

John 4:30. One coal kindles the others.—Eternal life equalizes all. In it all faithful laborers enjoy in common the fruit of the labor of all.—There is a faith at first hand and a faith at second hand. The latter must lead to the former, because the latter is not enough.—(From Schleiermacher: Why Christ did not baptize and why Paul acted in like manner, 1 Corinthians 1:14; both, on the contrary, preached, whereas among us the authority to preach comes before the authority to administer the sacraments, Vol. Ι., p237).—It is certainly false for a man to say, he must not speak of such (spiritual) things in social life, because they would be too high and deep. For the earthly and the spiritual are not so separate.—In those hot and dry countries where water was scarce, thirst became a tormenting sensation, such as we cannot share.—Soon the time will come when ye shall not use some this word, I some that word, to express a given Christian truth, but when men shall express themselves on the same subject in a manner in which controversy disappears.

[E. D. Yeomans:—The Saviour, wearied with ages of pilgrimage among us and of forbearance towards our heartless service of Him, sits on the well—at the sources of earthly life, which we frequent and throng, to draw,—a well of really holy memory, consecrated by the draughts of the patriarch’s faith,—and asks of us a drink, Himself the gift of God to us! If we but saw things Song of Solomon, what glad labors, what cheerful sufferings, what effectual prayers, what glorious hope, would make up our life!]

[Schaff:—Several idyllic scenes of Scripture, such as the meeting of Abraham’s servant with Rebecca ( Genesis 14), Jacob’s first interview with Rachel ( Genesis 29), Moses’ meeting with Zipporah in Midian ( Exodus 2), took place in the neighborhood of wells; but the most interesting and important event is that attached to Jacob’s well.—“Few can see the literal wells of Palestine, all can visit the better fountain of salvation, all can gather around the true Shepherd, lie down on the green pasture of His love, and drink of the still waters” (Macduff).—Christ’s divine-human dealing with women, as a friend and Saviour, securing both their affection and adoration—an evidence of Christianity.—Christ offering the same gospel to an ignorant, semi-heathenish woman, as to a learned, orthodox Pharisee ( John 3).—Christ’s discourse with the Samaritan woman a proof of His condescending love. (Calvin: Mirum bonitatis ejus exemplum! Quid enim, fuit in misera hac femina, ut ex scorto Filii Dei repente discipula fieret?)—Christ’s discourse with the Samaritan woman, in its effect, breaking down national and religious hatred and bigotry, and elevating woman to higher dignity.—Jewish and Samaritan bigotry continued in the sectarian quarrels of Christendom, contrary to the spirit of Christ. Catholics “have no dealings” with Protestants, nor Episcopalians with Presbyterians, Lutherans with Calvinists, Baptists with Pedobaptists, high churchmen with low churchmen, etc.—The weariness and thirst of Christ turned into an unfailing fountain of refreshment for a poor woman and for all thirsty souls.—A touching allusion to Christ’s weariness in the Dies iræ:

“Quærens me sedisti lassus,[FN94]

Redemisti crucem passus:

Tantus labor non sit cassus.”

Weary sat’st Thou seeking me,

Died’st, redeeming, on the tree,

Let such toil not fruitless be.

Christ’s weariness, hunger and thirst—a proof of His true humanity, including our infirmities—“When we are carried easily, let us think on the weariness of our Master” (Henry).—The thirst of Christ’s soul for the salvation of man.—‘Christ weary in His work, but not of His work.’—Christ always more ready to give than we are to ask.—Christ, the great Fisher of Prayer of Manasseh, as eager to catch a single soul, as a vast multitude.—The priceless value of a single soul in the view of Christ.—Christ the model of a practical teacher in commencing a most spiritual discourse in a most natural way, and rising from physical wants to the wants of the soul.—How to spiritualize and Christianize the events and occasions of every-day life.

John 4:16-19. There is an avenue to every human heart.—Kindness often more effective than severity.—Reproof is most profitable when least provoking.—“Those who would win souls should make the best of them and work upon their good-nature; for if they make the worst of them, they certainly exasperate their ill-nature” (Henry).—”Amongst all sins the sin of uncleanness lies heaviest upon the conscience; for no sin is so directly opposite to holiness; no sin quenches the Holy Spirit like this” (Burkitt).—Christ keeps a record of our sins.—Conviction of sin the first step to conversion.

John 4:20. The right and wrong appeal to the fathers and to tradition.

John 4:21-24. The spirituality of worship distinct: 1. from formalism and ritualism; 2. from intellectualism; 3. from fanatic spiritualism.—True and false spirituality.—“O for a mountain to pray on, thou criest, high and inaccessible, that I may be nearer to God, and God may hear me better, for He dwelleth on high. Yes, God dwelleth on high, but He hath respect to the humble.… Wouldest thou pray in the temple? pray in thyself; but first do thou become the temple of God” (St. Augustine).—The right use and abuse of forms in worship.

John 4:28-30. The Samaritan woman a specimen of unpretending and effectual lay-preaching. (Origen, who himself preached before his ordination to the priesthood, calls her “the apostle of the Samaritans.”)

John 4:41-42. Two kinds of faith; faith resting on external authority or tradition (the woman’s λαλιά), and faith resting on personal experience (αὐτοὶ ἀκηκόαμεν καὶ οἴδαμεν).—The Samaritan woman a picture of the church in leading men to Christ that they may see and know for themselves.]


FN#1 - John 4:1.—[ὁ Ἰησοῦς is supported by א. D. A. Vulg. Syr, Tischend. (ed. VIII.); the text. rec. κύριου by A. B. C. al, Treg, Alf, Westc. and Hort.—P. S.]

FN#2 - John 4:3.—The πάλιν is doubtful, being wanting in Codd. A.E. F, etc, many minuscules, and many versions among them. [Sustained by א. B2 C. D. etc, Tischend, Alt.—P. S.]

FN#3 - John 4:6.—[John uses, alternately, with good reason, πηγή ( John 4:6; John 4:14) and φρέαρ (11, 12); the Vulgate retains the distinction, rendering the former by fans, the latter by puteus. Augustine says: omnis puteus fons, non omnis fons puteus. Only such a spring as is not on the surface, but deep and low down, is called a well (comp. John 4:11 : “the well is deep”). The Arabs make a similar distinction between ’ain or fountain, which bubbles and gushes up at its source, and beer (bîr) or well, which is constructed by a shaft sunk deep into the earth, either built of stone or excavated in the solid rock. The A. V. obliterates the distinction. “Fountain” is a better rendering of πηγή, at least in connection with “springing,” John 4:14.—P. S.]

FN#4 - Text. rec. ὠσεί with E. Chrys. Cyr.—P. S.]

FN#5 - John 4:7.—On the writing error πῖν, comp. Meyer. [Text. rec.: πιεῖν, Tischend, Alf.: πεῖν, which is best supported. It is the infin. a. r. of πίνω. Both forms are used, but the dissylabic πιεῖν is more correct. See the quotation from Herodian in the 8 th ed. of Tischend.—P. S.]

FN#6 - John 4:9.—[οῦ̓ν is omitted by Tischend. (VIII.) and Alford.—P. S.]

FN#7 - John 4:9.—[ἡ γυνὴ Σαμαρεῖτις. In John 4:7 it is γυνὴ ἐκ τῆς Σαμαρείας. The country is meant, not the city of Samaria (Sebaste). which was two hours distant.—P. S.]

FN#8 - John 4:9.—[The explanatory words: οὐ γὰρ συγχρῶνται Ἱουδαῖοι Σαμαρείτας, are omitted by Tischend. in his 8 th ed, but retained by Lachm, Treg. Alf. Westcott and Hort include them in brackets. Meyer, Trench and most commentators take the words as an insertion of the Evangelist, but Lange ascribes them to the woman.—P. S.]

FN#9 - John 4:11.—[Κύριε, οὔτε ἄντλημα ἔχεις. The ἄντλημα, haustrum (hauritorium in Augustine), bucket, in most of the early E. V, is not the same with the ὐδρία or water-pot which the woman leaves behind in her zeal to communicate the good news to the people in town ( John 4:28), but, another vessel, with a rope or stick to draw up the water from the well. Trench, quoting from Malan, says, it is “the situla [?] generally made of skin, with three cross sticks tied round the mouth to keep it open. It is let down by a rope of goat’s hair, and may be seen lying on the curb stones of almost every well in the Holy Land.”—P. S.]

FN#10 - John 4:14.—[“The πίνων sets forth the recurrence, the interrupted seasons, of the drinking of earthly water;—the δ’ ἄν πιῃ—the once having tasted, and ever continuing in the increasing power, and living forth-flowing, of that life-long draught.” Alford.—P. S.]

FN#11 - John 4:14.—Lachmann has put the words: οὐ μὴ διψήσει εὶς τὸν αἰῶνα, ἀλλὰ τὸ ὕδωρ, δώσω αὐτῶ in brackets, because they are wanting in Cod. C, in Origen, and in several minuscules. These words, however, are sufficiently attested. Probably the omission has arisen through a confounding of the second αὐτῷ with the first. It should be further noted that there is a wavering between διψήση and διψήσει. Most of the authorities (A. D. L.) are for [Wordsworth prefers the lect. rec. διψήση (shall not thirst) as intimating that the believer shall be preserved from thirst by divine power. But διψίσεη (will not thirst) is supported by א. A. B. D. L. M, etc, and adopted by Tischendorf, Alford, etc.—P. S.]

FN#12 - John 4:16.—Ὁ Ἰησοῦς is wanting in B. C.* etc.

FN#13 - Ibid.—The order σου τὸν ἄνδρα in Cod. B, minuscules, and Origen, adopted by Tischendorf, has the advantage of stronger emphasis. [Lect. rec. τὸν ἄδρα σου.—P. S.]

FN#14 - John 4:21.—[In the best authorities γύναι follows after the verb: Believe me, woman.—P. S.]

FN#15 - John 4:22.—[ἡ σωτηρία the promised salvation, the only salvation.—P. S.]

FN#16 - John 4:24.—[Πνεῦμα, which in the original stands emphatically first, is here not the Holy Spirit as a distinct Person, but the spiritual, immaterial nature of God which is common to all persons of the Holy Trinity. Hence spirit should not be capitalized, as in the A. V. Nor should the indefinite article be retained. The meaning is: God is pure spirit, spirit in the highest, absolute sense, nothing but spirit. Comp. God is light, 1 John 1:5; God is love, 1 John 4:8.—P. S.]

FN#17 - John 4:25.—[the words λεγόμενος χριστόςare probably the words of the woman, not a parenthetical explanation of the Evangelist. Comp. John 4:29.—P.S.]

FN#18 - John 4:27.—[The insertion of the definite article by the A. V. shifts the astonishment from the sex to this particular woman, of whom the disciples knew nothing. See Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

FN#19 - is rather better sustained א. B. C.* Syr. Orig, and adopted by Tischend. ed. viii. Alford reads ὅσα.—P. S.]

FN#20 - John 4:29.—μήτι (and μή), as interrogative particle, presupposes a negative answer, or least leaves the matter in doubt, like the German: doch wohl nicht, comp. Matthew 7:9-10; Luke 6:39. The woman is afraid to trust her own great discovery, and therefore modestly asks in this doubting style.—P. S.]

FN#21 - John 4:30—The οῦ̓ν of the Recepta is too feebly attested.

FN#22 - John 4:34—The reading ἵνα ποιῶ (Tischend.) is better supported than ποιήσω (Lachm.), which has come from the succeeding τελειώσω.

FN#23 - The latter is the reading of the oldest uncial MSS. including א. B, and adopted by Tischend. and Alf.—P. S.].

FN#24 - Tischendorf and others connect ἤδη with John 4:36.—P. S.]

FN#25 - John 4:42.—The addition of Χριστός in the Recepta [after: “the Saviour of the world;” the Engl. Vers. like Luther’s reverses the order.—E. D. Y.], supported by A. D, is made uncertain by B. C. [Cod. Sin.—E. D Y.], Orgien, Irenæus, and minuscules.

FN#26 - So Dr. Lange calls her.]

FN#27 - Comp. Guizot’s remarks on this subject, quoted below, Doctr. and Ethic. No6.—P. S.]

FN#28 - But the reading is doubtful, see Text. Notes. The term κύριος, as equivalent to Jehovah or Adonai in the O. T, is not near as often applied to Christ in the Gospels (comp. John 6:23; John 6:34; John 11:2; John 20:28, etc.) as in the Epistles, because in its full sense it presupposes the elevation of Christ to glory. In the mouth of the Samaritan woman, John 4:11, and others not acquainted with the true character of Christ, it is simply a title of courtesy.—P. S.]

FN#29 - Meyer denies the supernatural character of ἔγνω here.—P. S.]

FN#30 - Against the artificial interpretation of this occurrence by Hofmann. Schriftbeweis, I. p168. see Meyer, p186, note (5th ed.). Withdrawal from danger, no less than firm courage in the face of martyrdom, is under circumstances a duty to God and the church, expressly enjoined by Christ, Matthew 10:23, and sanctioned by His example. Flight from cowardice is always contemptible, flight from fidelity to duty is compatible with unflinching courage. An humble retreat may at times imply more self-denial than proud and ambitions resistance.—P. S.]

FN#31 - Hence the use of Jesus instead of He.—P. S.]

FN#32 - Clement of Alex. and other fathers, in their over estimate of water baptism. assumed, without any warrant from the text, that Jesus baptized at least Peter, who then baptized Andrew, etc. To the three reasons mentioned above for Christ’s not administering baptism, Lightfoot adds a fourth, viz, Because He would prevent all quarrels and jealousies which might have arisen if some had been baptized by Christ Himself and others only by His disciples. But the one sufficient reason is no doubt because water baptism is a ministerial act of secondary importance and that Christ reserved to Himself instead the baptism with the Holy Ghost.—P. S.]

FN#33 - Hence ἔδει, which expresses a geographical necessity, if the shortest route was to be chosen. This necessity become a providential opportunity for doing good.—P. S.]

FN#34 - Simon Magus: See my Geschichte des apostol. Zeitalters, I. p 301 ff; and the treatise: Die Samariter und ihre Steltung in der Weltgeschichte von J. Grimm (priest), Munich, 1854.]

FN#35 - The old Hebrew Shechem, or Sichem, or Sychar, the Græco-Roman colony Flavia Neapolis (founded probably after the destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Vespasianus), and the modern Arabic Nabulus, or Nablus (i. e, Neapolis), are substantially identical as to location, though probably a little apart from each other (see below) and must be sought in the narrow, fertile and beautiful valley between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim, which is much admired by modern travellers, as the Eden of Palestine. Dr. Robinson, who is by no means enthusiastic in his descriptions, says of Shechem: “It came upon us suddenly like a scene of enchantment. We saw nothing like it in all Palestine.” The place figures very conspicuously in sacred history. At Sichem Abraham built his first altar in Canaan; there Jacob pitched his tent, buried the idols of his household, built the well and bought the tomb of Joseph; there Dinah was defiled by Shechem, the son of Hamor, prince of the country; there Joseph was sold by his brethren and found the last resting-place for his bones. After the conquest of Canaan under Joshua, Shechem was made a city of refuge and a centre of union to the tribes; under the judges it was the capital of the abortive kingdom of Abimelech; subsequently the capital of the kingdom of the ten tribes till Samaria deprived it of that honor; it continued during the exile and long afterwards the ecclesiastical metropolis of Samaria, the only temple of the Samaritan worship being close by on Mount Gerizim. The present city of Nabulus has according to Dr. Robinson, about8,000 inhabitants, all Mohammedans, except about500 Jews and as many Greek Christians, with a bishop, who, however, resides in a convent at Jerusalem. Dr. Rosen (in the Zeitschrift der M. D. Gesellschaft for1860, pp622–639, as quoted by the writer of the art. Shechem in Smith’s Dictionary), estimates the population of Nabulus at about5,000, among whom are500 Greek Christians, 15) Samaritans, and a few Jews, the Mohammedans making up the bulk of inhabitants.—P. S.]

FN#36 - Or Lietown, Lugstadt. So also Hengstenberg (I:244), Wordsworth, Trench: “St. John, by this turn of the word, which has brought it into closest connection with the Hebrew for a lie, declares at what rate he esteemed the Samaritan worship, declares by anticipation at what rate it was esteemed by his Lord.”—P. S.]

FN#37 - Dr. Thomson, The Land and the Book, and others, likewise distinguish them for the reason that at Sichem (Nablus) there are de icious fountains of water which the Samaritan woman would hardly have left to draw from a well that is nearly two miles off. Bovet, of Neuchatel (Voyage en Terre Sainte, p363, as quoted by Godet) thinks he has discovered some ruins of Sichem in the midst of olive plantations between the present Nablus and the well of Jacob. “Le nom meme de Naplouse,” adds Godet, “indique un nouvel emplacement; autrement la nouveile ville eut conservé le nom de Sichem. Cette circonstance explique pent etre comment la femme Samaritaine venait chercher le l’eau au puits de Jacob.” This conjecture may be correct, but the narrative does not require it. The woman may have labored or dwelt near the well of Jacob, or put a special value on its sacred waters to induce her to go to special trouble. Porter, who identifies the two places, but assumes that the ancient Shechem was a much larger city than the present Nablous, says (Handbook for Travellers in Syria and Palestine, Part II, p342): “The mere fact of the well having been Jacob’s would have brought numbers to it had the distance been twice as great. And even independent of its history, some little superiority in the quality of the water, such as we might expect in a deep well, would have attracted the Orientals, who are, and have always been, epicures in this element. There is a well called Ezekiel -Zenabîyeh, a mile or more outside St. Thomas’ Gate, Damascus, to which numbers of the inhabitants send for their daily supply, though they have fountains and wells in their own houses far more abundant than ever existed in the city of Shechem.”—P.S.]

FN#38 - The same is now called by the natives Bir-Jakoub. Renan, Vie de Jé Susanna, p233.—P. S.]

FN#39 - It should be remembered, however, that Dr. Robinson visited the well in the middle of June. He remarks that “it was said usually to contain living water, and not merely to be filled by the rains.” Jews, Samaritans, Christians and Muhammedans all agree in this tradition respecting both Jacob’s well and Joseph’s tomb. Adjacent to the well are the ruins of an ancient church forming mounds of rubbish, among which Robinson discovered three granite columns. When last measured, the well was only about seventy-five feet deep. A portion of the vault has fallen in and completely covered up the mouth so that nothing can be seen but a shallow pit half filled with stones and rubbish. See Porter’s Handbook for Travellers in Syria and Palestine, II. p341.

My friend, the Rev. W. W. Atterbury, who visited Jacob’s well, April7, 1866, kindly permits me to extract the following observations from his Journal, which confirm Dr. Robinson’s account as to the present condition of the well:

“At the entrance of the Nablus valley we stopped to visit Jacob’s Well. In the middle of a ploughed field, a low stone wall enclosed a ruined vault, through the broken arch of which we let ourselves down to its floor, where, almost entirely closed with fragments of stone, was the well. We could judge something of its depth by the fall of a stone, and thus ascertained that there is now no water in it. It is said to be70 ft. deep, and is hewn out of the solid rock. Sitting on the fallen stones that covered the mouth of the well, I read the 4 th chap. of John. A few rods N. W. is a small Moslem tomb, of stone, said to cover the grave of Joseph. The way up the vale to Nablus was charming. Gerizim and Ebal, bare of trees, and but scantily carpeted with vegetation, except near their bases, were at-first so near each other that ordinary voices might shout audibly from one side to the other. The valley widened as we advanced. A recess occurs on each side, opposite the one to the other, like the transepts of a vast Cathedral in which it is easy to suppose respective divisions of the tribes were stationed when, the priest standing in the midst, the people responded to the blessings and the curses.”—P. S.]

FN#40 - So Chrysostom and the Greek commentators: ἀπλῶς ὡς ἔτυχε, just as it happened, i. e, on the ground or the stones surrounding the well; Grotius: ut locus se obtulerat; Bengel: sine pompa (to which he adds: admirabilis popularitas vitæ Jesu); Meyer: so ohne weiteres, i. e, “without ceremony and preparation; Wordsworth: as any one among men. But Erasmus, Beza, Winer, Stier, Hengstenberg, Webster and Wilkinson and Alford, refer οὕτως to κεκοπιακώς, i. e., sic nempe quia fatigatus, fatigued as He was, as a weary man would, or accordingly. We might say (with Godet) that the word was inspired by the contrast to the unexpected task before Him. But Fritzsche and Meyer object that in this case οὕτως should precede ἐκάθεζετο, as in Acts 20:11; Acts 27:17; to which may be added Hebrews 6:15.—P. S.]

FN#41 - The Roman martyrology knows the name of the woman (Photina) and of her children, Augustine: “Venit mulier ad puteum, et fontem quem non speravit, invenit.” Trench: “To that same well she oftentimes may have come already, day by day, perhaps, during many a weary year of the past. And now she came once more, little guessing how different was to be the issue of this day’s coming from that of all the days which had gone before … that in the midst of that and all the other weary toil, outward and inward, of this earthly life, she should have within herself a fountain of joy, springing up unto life eternal, should draw water with joy from unfailing wells of salvation.”—P. S.]

FN#42 - Dr. Lange very properly objects to this low estimate of the Samaritan woman who, with all her vices, had some higher traits of character. Hengstenberg justly remarks (I:254) that Jesus would hardly have entered into a conversation with her, if He had not discovered in her an open susceptibility to the truth.—P. S.]

FN#43 - The physical thirst introduced the deeper spiritual thirst. While appearing as the receiver of natural water, He was the giver of supernatural water and thirsted to communicate this to the woman. Somewhat differently Augustine: Ille qui bibere quærebat, fidem ipsius mulieris sitiebat. Trench observes in this request of Jesus, and the discourse to which it was the prelude, a threefold testimony against the narrow-heartedness of His age and people—against that of the Jew who hated the Samaritan, of the Rabbi who would have scorned such familiar intercourse with a woman ( John 4:27), of the Pharisee who would have shrunk from this near contact with a sinner ( Luke 7:39).—P. S.]

FN#44 - This is the usual interpretation, but the Saviour may have isolated Himself from His disciples in the spiritual interest of the woman in order to win the easier her repentance and confession of sin. (Cornelius a Lap. and Trench), Hengstenberg (I:253) plausibly assumes that John remained with the Lord and heard the conversation which he so accurately and vividly records. He was afterwards with Peter delegated to Samaria, Acts 8:14. But he may have learned the conversation from Jesus or from the woman after her conversion.—P. S.]

FN#45 - Rasche ad Sota, p. John 515: “Hominis Samaritani panem comedere aut vinum ejus bibere prohibitum (nefas) est.” Tanchuma fol, 43, John 1 : “Dicunt, qui edit frustum Samaritan, est ut edens carnem porci, et non proselytus fit Samaritanus in Israele, nec est ipsis pars in resurrectione mortuorum.”]

FN#46 - Stier (Reden Jesu) thinks that the woman recognized the Jew rather by his dress (after the manner of the Rabbis), than by His softer dialect. If the Samaritans, like the Ephraimites of old ( Judges 12:6) were still distinguished by lack of the full sibilant (sh) in their pronunciation, the words which Jesus probably used הַשְׁקִינִי נָא or תְּנִי לִי לִשְׁתּוֹת (teni lishethoth, Samaritan: teni lisethoth), were enough to indicate the nationality. In any case we may infer from the words of the woman that our Lord had nothing in His personal appearance, dress or manner to distinguish Him from other Jews, and to attract the superficial observer. Yet the spotless beauty and peace of His soul must have shone through His eye and the expression of His face. He had not the physiognomy of a sinner.—P. S.]

FN#47 - Ecclus. c25, John 26: “There be two manner of nations which my heart abhorreth, and the third is no nation: they that sit upon the mountain of Samaria, and they that dwell among the Philistines, and that foolish people that dwell in Sichem.”—P. S.]

FN#48 - Neither of these interpretations alone seems sufficient for this very full expression. The third is certainly the leading one, but it includes the others. The third itself, as here given, is too vague. The “singular grace of God in the opportunity of this moment” Isaiah, in particular, that God, so far from being beyond the reach of our requests, appears as a fellow-man asking a service from us. His taking such a place, to be kindly served of us for our joy and salvation is itself a gracious gift of God. In Jesus alone could this wonderful relation between God and man be established and offered; He alone is God-Man; “the gift of God” therefore includes the person of Jesus. And it includes a gift of life still in reserve for those who, knowing Christ, ask of Him; and this gift of God, waiting for our asking, is in substance the Holy Ghost. J. J. Owen: “The connection refers it evidently to the gift of living water, which was emphatically the gift of God bestowed through the agency of His Spirit.” But a still more careful weighing of the context shows that it rather refers this “gift of God” to a gift which God had already given, than to one which He had yet to give; rather to the actual gift of His condescension, than to the offered gift of living water or the Holy Ghost.—E. D. Y.]

FN#49 - As distinct from cistern water, or water of reservoirs, or stagnant water, comp. Genesis 26:11); Leviticus 14:5; Song of Solomon 4:5; Jeremiah 2:13; the vivi fontes of the Romans. Then used metaphorically for spiritual blessings, truth, Wisdom of Solomon, even tile Holy Spirit. On this double meaning rests the turn of the discourse from the earthly to the heavenly, and the point of comparison is the refreshing power and the satisfaction of thirst. Here the ὕδωρ ζῶν means, in the highest spiritual sense, fresh, springing, life-giving, self-renewing water from Him who is αὐτοζωή, life itself, and imparts life to all His followers ( John 1:4; John 5:40; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:1; Revelation 22:17] in fulfilment of the prophecy, Ezekiel 47:9 : “Everything shall live whither the river Cometh” (that issues from under the threshold of the house of God).—P. S.]

FN#50 - Meyer (5th ed.) agrees substantially with Calvin, who sees here tota renov itiomis gratit, and refers the living water to both grace and truth with reference to John 1:14.—P. S.]

FN#51 - Yet κύριε is an advance on σὺ Ἰουδαῖος John 4:8, and indicates a dawning sense of the dignity of the stranger. We infer this, however, more from the connection that from the word itself, for this is also used by Rebekah in addressing the servant of Abraham, Genesis 24:18, and by Mary Magdalene in speaking to Jesus whom she mistook for the gardener, John 20:15. Euthymius: κύριον αὐτὸν προσηγόρευσε, νομισασα μέγαν εῖ̓ναι τινα—P. S.]

FN#52 - Ἄντλημα is not to be confounded with ὐδρία, John 4:28. Comp. the Text. Notes.—P. S.]

FN#53 - Or rather: Neither (οὔτε) hast thou a vessel to draw with, and (καί, instead of οὔτε, nor) the well is too deep (over a hundred feet) to get at it without such a vessel. There is a change of construction here, οὔτε—καί, instead of οὔτε—οὔτε (comp. the Latin neque—et), as John John 4:10, and often in the classics. Comp. Winer, p460 (7th ed.), and Jelf, § 775.—P. S.]

FN#54 - A dispute about the comparative greatness of Jacob could have led to no result, and is therefore wisely avoided, but the question, μὴ σύ μείζων εῖ̓, is virtually answered by what follows. If Jesus is the Messiah and the Giver of the water of eternal life, He Isaiah, of course, greater than Jacob, and all the patriarchs and prophets.—P. S.]

FN#55 - Bengel (with whom Alford agrees) reconciles the two passages thus: “Sane aqua illa, quantum in se Esther, perennem habet virtutem; et ubi sitis recurrit, hominis, non aquæ defectus est: at aquæ elementaris potio sitim subinde ad aliquot tantummodo horas sedare valet.” Olshausen sees in Sirach the negative expression of the same idea, i. e., who drinks of the (essential, divine) Wisdom of Solomon, is ever turned away from the temporal, and ever turned towards the eternal.” The apocryphal writer looks upon revelation as a growth, Christ as something completed. Hengstenberg: There is always deep contentment in the believer’s heart, though often concealed. (Calvin: nunquam prorsus aridi). Stier: Christ intensifies and reverses the more imperfect expression of the same truth in the O. T. Also the Christian must continue to drink of the water of life to the end. Drusius and Trench: He shall never thirst for any other water save this living water which Christ imparts.—P. S.]

FN#56 - Comp. Isaiah 12:3 (“with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation”); Isaiah 55:1; Song of Solomon 4:12 (“a spring shut up, a fountain sealed”); 15 (“a well of living waters and streams from Lebanon”); Revelation 22:1.—P. S.]

FN#57 - Grotius: Emphasis est in voce saliet. Solent enim aquæ salire ad altitudinem suæ originis. Trench: “These waters shall find their own level: they shall return to God whence they came. The water of life is borne upward by a supernatural impulse.”—P. S.]

FN#58 - Comp. the lines of Albert Knapp (in his beautiful poem on the Wurmlinger Capelle, near Tübingen):

Was ewig ist will Ew’ges haben,

Muss an dem Lebensstrom sich laben,

Der ungetrübt und unverhüllt

Vom Throne des Allmächt’gen quillt.”—P. S.]

FN#59 - So also Alford: “half in banter, half in earnest.”—P. S.]

FN#60 - The address κύριε and the next word of Christ imply seriousness expressed with a simple-hearted naivete. The woman who had thirsted so long and found no satisfaction in sensual gratification, was still confused, but blindly longing after the water of life. So also Godet and Trench.—P. S.]

FN#61 - Yet at the same time the beginning of her conversion. It proved her sincerity. She dare not call the man with whom she lived, her husband, and thus by implication admitted her guilt. Her subsequent conduct shows that she was moving in the right direction. See Dr. L.’s remarks further on.—P. S.]

FN#62 - καλῶς, correctly, to the point (richtig, zutreffend), as John 8:48; Matthew 15:7; Luke 20:39. In the next verse Christ says: τοῦτο ἀληθὲς εἴρηκας, she spoke the truth objectively (ἀληθές) in this one thing, but not truthfully (ἀληθῶς, subjectively), for she concealed her real guilt under the duplicity of ἄνδρα ἔχειν.—P. S.]

FN#63 - Meyer and Godet likewise find something of irony in the words of Jesus. There is no doubt that the partial assent to the answer of the woman implies a rebuke, but no dissimulation. He simply draws her out, with a firm and gentle hand, from the hiding-places of her shame to the open daylight. While admitting the literal truth, He detects the hidden falsehood, yet so kindly and mildly as to conceal the censure under an approval. There are, however, clear instances of the use of irony and sarcasm in the Bible, e.g., in the epistles of Paul, and in Elijah’s remark about the priests of Baal, 1 Kings 18:27.—P. S.]

FN#64 - The five were lawful husbands, and are distinguished from the sixth, who was not. Whether she had forsaken her former husbands, or been forsaken by them, or lost them by death, there was certainly more or less guilt and shame in such unseemly haste and inordinate desire, as there was in her present intimacy with a paramour.—P. S.]

FN#65 - The view of Strauss in the first ed. of his Leben Jesu (1835), Vol. I. p519, retained in the second, but abandoned in the third and fourth ed. (see ed 4 th, I. p541). He represents the story as an unconscious mytho-poetic fiction. Keim (Geschichte Jesu von Nazara, 1867, Vol. I, p116, footnote3) changes the mythical interpretation into a symbolical, in the sense of a conscious invention of the Evangelist. This is still worse, but more consistent.—P. S.]

FN#66 - Repeated in his Commentary on John (1861) I:262 ff. Hengstenberg, of course, differs from Strauss and Keim in that he considers the narrative strictly historical as well as allegorical. The coincidence with the fact recorded 2 Kings17 and by Josephus, is certainly remarkable, and the double meaning of living water, and give me to drink, etc. may be adduced in favor of this allegory. But when we attempt to carry it through it breaks down. See below. Wordsworth, without mentioning Hengstenberg, has adopted the allegorical view; Lücke, Stier, Meyer and Trench reject it; Alford ignores it.—P. S.]

FN#67 - John Ruskin, the ablest English writer on æsthetics, in his work “The True, and the Beautiful in Nature, Art, Morals and Religion” (Am. Sel. p27) has some good remarks on the effects of sin and vice upon the human face and figure. He speaks “of the terrible stamp of various degradations; features seamed with sickness, dimmed by sensuality, convulsed by passion, pinched by poverty, shadowed by sorrow, branded with remorse; bodies consumed with sloth, broken by labor, tortured by disease, dishonored in foul uses; intellects without power, hearts without hope, minds earthly and devilish; our bones full of the sin of our youth, the heaven revealing our iniquity, the earth rising up against us, the roots dried up beneath, and the branches cut off above; well for us only if, after beholding this our natural face in a glass, we desire not straightway to forget what manner of men we be.”—P. S.]

FN#68 - Comp. the remarks of Hengstenberg and Godet in agreement with Lange.—P. S.]

FN#69 - Comp. also the very instructive article Samaria, by Petermann, in Herzog’s Real-Encyclopädie, Vol. XIII. pp359–391. According to Petermann, who derived much of his information from a Samaritan high-priest, the Samaritans now believe what they probably believed in the days of Christ, that the top of Mount Gerizim was the seat of paradise, that from its dust Adam was formed, that from this holy mountain the rains descend to fertilize the earth. They still point out on that mountain the spot where Adam built his first altar, where Seth did the same, where the ark rested after the flood—for they identify Gerizim with Mount Ararat—,where Noah erected an altar after the flood, where Abraham offered Isaac, and where Jacob slept and saw the ladder which reached to heaven. All these and other important events they locate on the highest plateau of Gerizim, where there is now nothing hut a forsaken mosque (l. c. p377).—P.S.]

FN#70 - So also Meyer, Alford: the ancestors of the schismatic Samaritans, the founders of the Samaritan worship, the builders of the temple on Gerizim.—P. S.]

FN#71 - Trench and Owen contend that a reference to the patriarchs, the common fathers of Jew and Samaritan, gives greater force to the woman’s question who had called Jacob our father ( John 4:11) and did her best to maintain her position against the Jewish strangers. But it should be remembered that she already recognized in Him a prophet.—P. S.]

FN#72 - Meyer infers from οὔτε ἐν ̔Ιεροσολύμοις, that the modern doctrine of a restoration of the glory of Jerusalem is a chiliastic dream.—P. S.]

FN#73 - Cod. Sin. reads: ἐν πνεύματι ἀληθείας, in the Spirit of truth, probably referring πνεῦμα to the Holy Ghost.—P. S.]

FN#74 - So also Godet: “L’espril designe ici cet élément le plus profond de l’ âme humaine, par lequel elle est capable de communiquer avec le monde divin. O’est le siége du recueillement, le sanctuarie où se célèbre le urai culte. Romans 1:9 : λατρεύω ἐν τῷ πνεύματι μου. Ephesians 6:18 : προσεύχεσθαι ἐν πνεύματι….Mais le πνεῦμα ἀνθρώπινον o’est qu’une simple virtualité. Il n’acquiert une énergie victorieuse, a l,égard des autres éléments de la vie humaine [σῶμα and ψυχή], qu’au contact de l’Esprit divin; et ce n’est que dans cette union qu’il réalise la vraie adoration, qui lui est attribute dans notre text et dans les passages cités. Ce premier trait caractérise l’intensité du culte nouveau.”—P. S.]

FN#75 - Comp. Psalm 144:18 Sept.: ἐγγὺς κύριος πᾶσιν τοῖν ἐπικαλουμένοις αὐτὸν ἐν ἀληθείᾳ.]

FN#76 - With reference to John 14:6, where Christ calls Himself “the Truth,” ἀλήθεια. Basil (De Spiritu Sancto, 26), and Ambrose (De Spiritu Sancto, iii11, 81), and Bengel likewise see here the whole mystery of the Trinity. Bengel: ‘Pater adoratur in Spiritu Sancto et in veritate per Jesum Christum. But in this case we should expect the article before πνεῦμα and ἀλήθεια.—P. S.]

FN#77 - He adds: “Sed prius esto templum Dei, quia ille in templo suo exandiet orantem.”—P. S.]

FN#78 - Hence placed first in Greek: πνεῦμα θεός, comp. John 1:1 : θεὸς ἦν λόγος. The absence of the article indicates the generic character, the essence of the spirit here spoken of, not the personality. The same is the case with θεός John 1:1. Hence the indefinite article of the E. V. (a Spirit) should be omitted. God is pure spirit, absolute spirit, in opposition to all materialistic and materializing conceptions. This clearly implies that the anthropomorphic expressions of the Bible must not be taken literally. Tertullian ascribed to God a body, corporeity, but perhaps he meant it in the sense of substance. Comp. an able article of Ackermann on πνεῦμα, νοῦς, und Geist, in the Theol. Studien und Kritiken for1839, pp873–944.—P. S.]

FN#79 - Trench also (p123) sees in these words of the woman a cry of helplessness connected with a timid presentiment, such as she hardly dares own, much less ventures to utter: “Thou perhaps art He whom we look for.”—P. S.]

FN#80 - Another Moses, Deuteronomy 18:15.]

FN#81 - So also Trench; comp. John 1:41; John 11:16; John 20:26; John 21:2.]

FN#82 - Comp. Matthew 8:4; Matthew 16:20; Matthew 17:9; John 9:31.]

FN#83 - The same contempt for woman we find among Christian monks, especially in the East, even such men as St. Anthony and Pachomius. Some church fathers are not free from it.—P. S.]

FN#84 - And the exaggeration of a lively womanly temper.—P. S.]

FN#85 - Meyer: The woman believes in the Messiahship of Jesus, but, carried away by the greatness of the discovery, she does not trust herself, and ventures only modestly and doubtingly to ask.—P. S.]

FN#86 - On the chronological value of the passage, which Alford denies, see Wieseler: Chronol. Synapse, p 214 ff, and Robinson: Harmony of the four Gaspels in Greek, p189. Christ must have tarried in Judea about eight months, from the preceding passover in April ( John 2:13; John 2:23) till December.—P. S.]

FN#87 - So also Meyer: Christ looked prophetically beyond the approaching Sycharites to the green fields of the whole humanity, for whose conversion He laid the foundation. Godet denies this general reference and confines the scene to an extemporized Samaritan harvest festival.—P. S.]

FN#88 - On the difference of ἀληθινός genuine, and ἀληθής, true, see my note on I, 9, p66. Meyer: “Die Fassung von ἀληθινός gleich ἀληθής 2 Peter 2:22 (De Wette, u. V.) ist ganz gegen die Johanneische Eigenthümlickkeit (auch xix35).” ἐστιν is here=applies, comp. συμβέβηκεν, 2 Peter 2:22.—P. S.]

FN#89 - “Habet Deus suas horas et moras.” “God’s mills grind slowly, but surely and finely.”—P. S.]

FN#90 - In correspondence with ὐμεῖς, as it was ἄλλος—ἄλλος in the proverb. So also Lücke. Stier, Alford and Trench, who find here an antithesis not between two different companies of laborers—the prophets and the Apostles—but between Christ Himself and His Apostles, the Master and His servants.—P. S.]

FN#91 - Calvin, Alford and others, take λαλιά here in the classical sense, garrulous talk, babbling, gossip (Geschwiltz Gerede); but in later Greek (Polybius, Josephus, Sept, Apocrypha) it has no such slighting usage, certainly not in John, who ascribes it to Christ, John 8:43. It is equivalent to λόγος, John 4:39, but properly chosen from the standpoint of the speaking Samaritans, while John as reporter uses as aptly τὸν λόγον. Comp, Meyer on John 8:43 (p356). Trench remarks (p135): “This speech of her fellow-townsmen to the woman has nothing rude or offensive about it, rather, indeed the contrary: We set our own seals to the truth of thy report.”—P. S.]

FN#92 - Comp here the remarks of Calvin and Trench, p136, to the same point. The historical character of the narrative is vindicated even in this circumstance that it puts the expression σωτὴρ τοῦ κόσμου, which nowhere else occurs in the Gospels, into the month, not of bigoted, particularistic Jews, but of Samaritans who had no exclusive claims and privileges and could accept salvation only on the same terms as the heathen. Trench thinks it likely that they may have found some ground for this belief in the prophecy of Shiloh, to whom “shall the gathering of the people be” ( Genesis 49:10), which the Samaritans of old referred to the Messiah, while the modern Samaritans refer it to Solomon.—P. S.]

FN#93 - In the first volume of his Meditations on the Essence of Christianity. I quote from the English translation N. Y, 1865, pp 323 ff.]

FN#94 - Vulgate. John 4:6 : “Jesus fatigatus ex itinere, sedebat sic supra fontem.”]

Verses 43-54


Residence Of Jesus In Galilee, And Believing Gailean In Particular. The Nobleman. The Miracle Of Distant Healing, As A Second Sign

John 4:43-54

( John 4:47-54. Gospel for 21 Sunday after Trinity.)

43Now after [the, τάς][FN95] two days he departed thence, and went [omit and went][FN96]into Galilee.[FN97] 44For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own 45 country. Then when [When therefore, ἅτε οὖν] he was come [he came, ἦλθε] into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all the things [omit the things] that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto [to] the feast.

46So Jesus [he][FN98] came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine.

And there was a certain nobleman [a royal person or officer, τις βασιλιχός,] whose son was sick [,] at Capernaum 47 When he heard [The same, having heard, ὸὖτος ὰχούσας] that Jesus was [had] 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 48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders,ye will not believe 49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sirach, come down ere my child die 50 Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken [spake, εἶπεν] unto him, and he [omit he] went his way 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him [brought 52 word],[FN99] saying, Thy son [his child, παῖς αὐτοῦ][FN100] liveth. Then [he] 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 53 So the father knew that it was at [in] the same hour, in the [omit the] which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and54[. And he] himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did [This again, a second sign, wrought Jesus, τοῦτο πάλιν δεύτερον σημεῖον ἐποίησεν ’Ιησ.], when he was [had] come out of Judea into Galilee.


[The miraculous healing of the nobleman’s son resembles the healing of the centurion’s servant, Matthew 8:5; Luke 7:1, but must not be confounded with it (see the points of difference in the note on John 4:46). It was the second miracle which Christ wrought in Galilee ( John 4:54); the first being the change of water into wine ( John 2). John relates a third miracle in Galilee, the feeding of the multitude, which is followed by a long discourse ( John 6), and three miracles in Judea, viz.: the healing of the cripple at the pool of Bethesda (5), the healing of the blind (9), and the raising of Lazarus (11). He also relates three appearances of the risen Saviour ( John 21:14). Bengel (on John 4:54) notes this threefold trinity with the remark: “Hæc nimirum Johannis methodus Esther, ut per ternarium incedat.”—P. S.]

John 4:43. And went.—The repetition: Ἐξῆλθεν ἐκεῖθεν, and καὶ ἀπῆλθεν, should be noted with reference to the next verse. See the Textual Notes (No2).

John 4:44. For Jesus himself testified.— Himself. Meyer: “Not only other people in reference to Him. For the matter itself, comp. Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24.” Tholuck better: “He had himself acknowledged the correctness of the popular proverb.” [The proverb itself is based upon common experience and needs no explanation. “Familiarity breeds contempt,” while “distance lends enchantment to the view.” The Germans have a similar proverb: “This is not far off” (Das ist nicht weit her), i. e., nothing uncommon. Many of the greatest men were despised or ignored in their native land or city, and made their renown or fortune in foreign lands. The only difficulty is in the logical connection as indicated by γάρ—P. S.] The question Isaiah, how is the for (γάρ) to be explained? or how can He go to Galilee because a prophet hath no honor in his own country? for we should expect either the reverse, or although (καίπερ) instead of for (γάρ).[FN101] Answer:

1. Πατρίς [patria] is not the native country (Vaterland), but the native city (Vaterstadt), even in antithesis to the country of Galilee (Chrysostom, who understands it of Capernaum, Cyril, Erasmus, Calvin, etc.). Against this: The antithesis is not demonstrated.

[Nearly all who understand πατρίς of the native town, refer it, not to Capernaum (with Chrysostom and Euthymius Zig.), which is altogether out of the question, but to Nazareth, where Christ was not born, indeed, but raised, and where He lived to the time of His public ministry. (So Cyril Alex, Calvin, Grotius, Bengel, Olshausen, Hengstenberg, Bäumlein, Trench, on Miracles, p99, Wordsworth) Nazareth in Galilee then is contrasted here with Galilee in general, as the city of Jerusalem is contrasted with the land of Judea, John 3:22. This view has a strong support in Luke 4:24 (comp. Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4), where Christ says in the synagogue of Nazareth: “No prophet is accepted in his own country ” (ἐν τῇ πατρίδι αὐτοῦ). This was soon shown by the action of the Nazaræans who “thrust Him out of the city and led Him to the brow of the hill, that they might cast Him down headlong” ( John 4:29); while in Capernaum the people “were astonished at His doctrine” ( John 4:32), and, as John relates, received Him well ( John 4:45). John may have supposed this event to be already known from the other Gospels. The only objection to this view Isaiah, that Galilee, John 4:43, would naturally include Nazareth. It would be necessary to explain the γάρ from John 4:46 : Christ went to Cana in Galilee (which lies north of Nazareth), without passing through His native place, for the reason mentioned. The choice lies between this interpretation and that of Dr. Lange (see below, No7), which comes nearest to it. All others are too far-fetched.—P. S.]

2. Πατρίς is Judea, since He was born in Bethlehem (Origen, Maldonatus, Schweizer, Ebrard [formerly], Baur). Against this: a. His acknowledged home was Nazareth, notwithstanding He was born in Bethlehem;[FN102] b. In Judea He had been well received by the people; c. The construction, that Judea was His country, as being the country of the prophets (Origen, Baur, Baumgarten-Crusius), would be unintelligible.

3. Judea is indeed meant to be understood as His πατρίς, but this just proves the unhistorical character of John’s Gospel (Schwegler, Bruno Bauer; Schweizer: The unhistorical character of the ensuing narrative, which is to be considered an interpolation).

4. For means namely, that is to say, and relates not to what precedes, but to what follows. The sentence is a preliminary explanation of the fact that the Galileans did indeed this time receive Jesus well, but only on account of the miracles they had seen at their visit to the last passover in Jerusalem [which set them the fashion in their estimate of men and things, while the Samaritans believed in Him for His word without signs]. (So Lücke 3ed.], De Wette, Tholuck.[FN103] Contrary to the spirit of the maxim, to the context (for a nobleman from Capernaum meets Him at the outset at Cana seeking help), and to the fact in general.

5. Christ went to Galilee just because He expected not to find acceptance there. (a) Brückner: To accept the conflict—which, however, was more threatening in Judea; (b) Hofmann, Luthardt [now also Ebrard]: Because He hoped [to avoid publicity and] to find rest and quiet in Galilee—in which, however, He would be disappointed. [Against both these views may be urged also that the text reports neither a conflict, nor a quiet retirement in Galilee, but a miracle of healing.—P. S.]

6. Meyer: “Πατρίς is not the native town, but the native country, viz, Galilee, as is proved by John 4:43; John 4:45, and as usual with the Greeks since Homer. The words contain the reason why Jesus did not hesitate to return to Galilee, but the reason lies in the antithetic relation implied in ἐν τῇ πατρίδι. For if, as Jesus Himself testified, a prophet is without honor in his own country, he must earn it in another. And this Jesus had done in Jerusalem. He now brought with Him the honor of a prophet from a distance. Hence too He found acceptance with the Galileans, because they had seen His miracles in Jerusalem ( John 2:23).”[FN104] Against this: a. Then the word must have stood at John 4:1. But there another motive stands for His having now left Judea. b. The remark must have been, that He came already full of honor, because He had none to expect in Galilee, c. It must not have been known that He was ill-received in His own πατρίς, in the narrower sense, on this very return.

7. Πατρίς is Lower Galilee, to which Nazareth belonged. We believe we have found the full solution in the fact that now took place, the removal of Jesus from Nazareth, where He had been thrust out, to Capernaum, on the presumption that Capernaum belonged to Galilee in the narrower sense, i.e., to Upper Galilee, to which Nazareth, in Lower Galilee, did not belong. This is supported (a) by the fact that the name Galilee in the narrower sense referred to Upper Galilee (see Forbiger, Handbuch der alten Geographie II, p689); (b) by the statement of Josephus, that Upper Galilee was separated from Lower Galilee by a line drawn from Tiberias to Zebulon [De bello Jud. ΙΙΙ. 3, 1), which throws Nazareth into Lower Galilee. If now we consider that John writes with the living, popular view of Palestine thoroughly in his mind; that he knew of an unknown Bethany, a ferry-village on the other side of the Jordan, of an otherwise unknown Salim, near Ænon, of an elsewhere unknown Syohar, probably a suburb of Sichem, of the pool of Bethesda with its porches, of Solomon’s Porch in the temple,—we may also conceive that John knows of a Galilee in the provincial sense, and that he can say without geographical reflection, Jesus went to Galilee, as the Swiss in Geneva says without reflection: I am going to Switzerland; the Pomeranian: I am going to Prussia. This is further favored by the expression in Luke 4:31 : He “came down from Nazareth to Capernaum, a city of Galilee;” against which it signifies nothing that Galilee sometimes occurs in John, especially in the mouth of another, in the wider sense. (See Leben Jesu, II:2, p542.)

John 4:45. The Galileans received him.—Received Him favorably. A general observation concerning His acceptance in Upper Galilee, particularly in Cana, Bethsaida, Capernaum, etc. They received Him; antithetic to an implied rejection. Having seen all the things that he did.—No ignoring of His earlier miracles in Cana and Capernaum. It was to the Galileans a new and higher attestation, that Jesus had made a great impression even in Jerusalem with His signs. It was their countryman who had purified the temple, and filled the holy city with wonder.

John 4:46. So Jesus came again.—What means this οὖν, so? The first time Jesus had gone on from Nazareth to Cana. And now He again went first to Nazareth. And if He wished to go thence to Galilee, we might expect He would proceed first to His friends in Cana. In Cana He seems to have tarried several days; at all events the βασιλικός comes hither for Him.

And there was a certain nobleman [royal officer, βασιλικός].—An officer of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch (whom the common people considered and called a king, Matthew 14:1; Matthew 14:9),[FN105] The title βασιλικός combines civil and military dignity; hence some have taken this βασιλικός to be identical with the centurion of Capernaum (Irenæus, Semler, Strauss, Baumgarten-Crusius).

The office, the sick boy, the distant healing, are similar features.

On the other side are these differences:

1.The time; here before the removal of Jesus to Capernaum, there long after it.

2. The place of Christ at the time; here Cana, there the vicinity of Capernaum.

3.The characters; here excited, weak, feebly believing, there calm, confident, strong of faith.

Other differences, by themselves considered, might be more easily wiped away: The υἱός here, the δοῦλος there (a distinction, however, which is not resolved by the common παῖς: here the boy is a small boy, a child ( John 4:49), there a stout youth); there a Gentile, here a miracle-believer, probably a Jew. Yet these with the foregoing strengthen the difference. But the most decisive diversity is in the judgment of the Lord. The faith of the centurion He commends with admiration; the faith of the nobleman He must first subject to a trial. [Chrysostom, Trench, Alford: The weak faith of the nobleman is strengthened, while the humility of the centurion is honored.]

Accordingly this miracle has been in fact by most expositors (from Origen down) made distinct from the other.[FN106]

John 4:48. Except ye see signs and wonders.—Shall have seen. Ye must first have seen these, before ye come to faith. The stress does not lie decidedly on ἴδητε (Storr), thus censuring the request to go with him. The man’s answer does not agree with this; and ἴδητε must then have stood first. Still the ἴδητε is not without significance; as is indicated by the fact that we here have for the first time in John σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα, whereas hitherto he has spoken only of σημεῖα. And wonders (τέρατα) must be emphasized. But the less therefore can we suppose a general reproof of the Galileans, with reference to John 4:45 (Meyer); for it was the way of Jesus Himself to lead through faith in miracles to faith in the word, John 10:38; John 14:11; John 15:24. Christ, therefore, reproves not the faith in miracles in itself (Eckermann), but the craving for miracles or miracle-mania. He intimates besides, that there is a higher grade of faith than that which rests on the seeing of miracles; as appears more distinctly afterwards, in John 14:11; John 20:29. He designates the petitioner and those like him as a class of people who are not

set beforehand towards the kingdom of God, but have yet to be brought to faith by signs and wonders (τέρατα); of course presupposing a sensuous spirit with a weak readiness to believe, passion for miracles, personal interest in the miracle (signs and wonders for yourselves), and an inordinate desire for seeing, 1 Corinthians 1:22. We must, however, consider that the reproof is not intended for a rejection, but for discipline, to hush the excitement of the Prayer of Manasseh, and recall him to his inward spirit. Yet the palliation of Maldonatus [Rom. Cath.] is too strong: That the words contain no censure, but only a declaration of the spiritual infirmity of the people now proved by a fact.

John 4:49. Sirach, come down ere, etc.—The man proves not strong enough, indeed, to take the reproof of Christ, but it is enough that he does not feel wounded and repulsed, and that he persists and grows more urgent in his prayer. The utterance of a father’s love in trouble and anguish: My child is dying; as in Jairus, the Canaanitish mother, and the father of the demoniac under the mount of transfiguration. This distress of love makes him a believer.

John 4:50. Go thy way; thy son liveth.—Not only the word of miraculous help, but at the same time also the second and decisive test. He must believe and go at the word. And the man believed the word; he stood the test.

Explanation of the miracle:

1. Paulus makes of it a medical prognostication after the account of the sickness given by the father: comp. also Ammon.

2. Others have supposed the operation of a magnetic healing power (Olshausen, Krabbe, etc.).

3. Meyer, on the other hand: By his will. This is of course the main thing, as in the doctrine of creation. God created the world by His will. But if we conceive the will of God abstractly, and exclude all co-operation of His vital force, we are ultra-supernaturalistic (and perhaps ultra-Reformed). The will of Christ is unquestionably the main thing, but it does not work abstractly; without a vital force proceeding from Him. (comp. Mark 5:30) the thing is not apprehended, though the magnetic healing virtue affords only the natural analogy or form for it. Even the miracle of immediate knowledge comes into the account, inasmuch as Christ wrought only where He saw the Father work, John 5:19. And the same instant, in which this saving life-ray flies into the heart of the father, it flies also into the heart of his distant son. For how near this father now was to his son in his inward communication, Jesus alone knew.

John 4:52. Then he inquired of them.—The fact alone did not satisfy him; he wished to trace it to its cause. That Isaiah, he leaned towards faith. “Not self-interest merely, but a religious interest also in the case, is guiding him.” Tholuck. And then it appeared, (1) that the son suddenly recovered, and (2) at the hour when Jesus spoke the word. Yesterday at the seventh hour.—According to the Jewish division of the day this could perhaps have been said in the evening of the same day, after six o’clock. The healing took place soon after noon, and probably the father set out immediately for home. According to our reckoning of the day, a night must have intervened; which would give a strange length of time for a distance of some eight or ten hours, and Lampe adjusts by supposing that the Prayer of Manasseh, in his firm faith, did not travel festinans, while De Wette thinks it strange that he stopped over night on the way. But the meeting of the servants might very well have occurred the next morning, without the journey having been slow.

John 4:53. And he himself believed, and his whole house.—It is palpably the rule, that, with the father, the family also become believers ( Acts 10:44; Acts 16:15; Acts 16:32); but here the Evangelist calls particular attention to it by his expression. The members of the family had seen the sudden recovery, but had not heard the word of the Saviour.

John 4:54. This sign Jesus wrought as the second, etc., Πάλιν is not to be connected with δεύτερον, nor to be referred to ἐποίησεν by itself, but to the statement that Jesus had returned from Judea to Galilee. Jesus had meantime done many other miracles, even in Capernaum; this miracle marks His second return to Galilee, as the miracle at Cana had marked the first. He brought healing with Him at once, and it went out from Him even in distant results.


1. In regard to the spirit in which Jesus just now comes to Upper Galilee and performs this miracle, it must be observed that according to Luke 4:14 sqq.; Matthew 13:53 sqq, He had just been thrust out from His city Nazareth. See Leben Jesu, II:2, p541. Experiences of this kind could in Him produce only an increase of His manifestations of love to those who were susceptible.

2. As the first miracle of distant operation this incident bears a close relation to the healing of the servant of the centurion at Capernaum and of the daughter of the Canaanitish woman. In the mysterious manifestation of the divine power of Christ, we must still not neglect the human media, which here lay in the inward connection of an anxious father’s heart with the dying child. As in fact the help of God owns the human intercession. The spiritual roads, streets and paths which human love, distress, and prayer have to make for the divine help in the invisible world, can only glorify the freedom, truth, and miraculous power of this help, as a power which is at the same time the power of a personal Spirit and love, i. e., not abstractly working in a void, but as divine life applied to the human.

3. As the Lord in the case of the Samaritan woman rebuked superstitious trust in a place of pilgrimage, so here He reproves superstitious trust in visible miracles.


After the two days. The great days of grace, in which the Lord visits us, are numbered, and swiftly pass away.—Jesus departed thence. The itinerancy of Jesus a clear expression of His inner life: (1) of His Israelite fidelity to duty; (2) of His heavenly calling; (3) of His love; (4) of His holy Spirit.—The rapid change of time and place in the life of Jesus a token of His unworldly pilgrim nature.—How the Lord learned and sealed in its highest sense the universal human experience that a prophet has no honor in his own country, in order to make of it a holy maxim of life.—Want of esteem at home, the prophet’s signal to travel.—The closed door a way-mark for the Lord and His disciples to go on to the open door.—A good word finds its place.—It is no question, Whether there be in the world persons susceptible to thy mission; the only question Isaiah, Where they are (whether here or far away; whether in the present or in the future); and herein is much to be unlearned and to be learned by the heart of youthful Christian enthusiasm.—How the divine fire of Christ was always only inflamed by the coldness of men.—The two works of Jesus in Cana, the transformation of water and the distant healing, as conspicuous tokens of His heavenly nature: 1. The first, so to speak, leads up into heaven2. The second as it were comes down from heaven.—How the nobleman of Capernaum learns to believe. This nobleman compared with the centurion of Capernaum (resemblances, differences, see above).—The deliberation of Jesus with the nobleman, a mark of the elevation of His spirit; (1) Of His freedom from obsequiousness and respect of persons; (2) of His wise reserve and loving compliance.—Except ye see signs and wonders. Or, the distinction between true and false resting of faith on miracles.—Also a distinction between the true and the false miracle.—The marks of each (faith and miracle).—Except ye. Or, the connection between worldly-minded unbelief and worldly-minded superstition in the polite world (at that time the court of Herod).—Yet a nobler germ may lie in the miracle-craving form of faith. (The question Isaiah, which is the germ, and which the shell.)—The testing of faith, which the nobleman stands: 1. How he is tested (a) in his humility by a stern word which might wound the pride of a nobleman; (b) in his faith, by being required to trust a word2. How he stands the test: (a) in his persistent prayer he passes the test of the humility of his faith; (b) in his confident departure at the word of Jesus he proves the power of his faith.—Only the faith, which is itself a miracle of God can receive the miraculous help of God.—Faith in the divine help must be directed above all to the divine in the help.—How the Lord in granting refuses and in refusing grants.—His refusing, a higher granting.—Necessity and love as handmaids of faith.—Comparison of the nobleman with the Canaanitish woman.—The father and his sick child.—How the upright man in approaching Jesus becomes at once smaller and greater: 1. The nobleman is smaller in his going than in his coming, in that he is humbly satisfied with the healing word of Jesus, and no longer desires that he should go down with him2. He is greater in his going than in his coming, in that he returns full of confidence in the word of Jesus. The majesty in trusting the promise of Christ, the power, out of which the greatness in the confidence of the believer grows. Out of the Amen of Christ the Amen of the believer. The divine education of the sensuous believing of miracles into believing of the word: (1) In this incident, (2) in the church, (3) in the life of the individual Christian.—The health-message of Christ and the health-messenger of the servants; or, how the health-messages of heaven by far precede the health-messages of earth.—The echo of the divine word of Christ: Thy son liveth! in the mouth of the servants: Thy son liveth!—The dull echo of earth, and the clear echo of heaven.—The hard ascent and the glad descent in the journey of the nobleman.—Yesterday at the seventh hour; or, in the proper hour the help comes home with power.—Mark the great hours (of extremity, of prayer, of miraculous help).—Remember those hours, and believe!—The distress of the whole house must become also the faith of the whole (this maybe said of the family, of the church, of mankind).—The faith wrought by the miracle at the moment must make itself good in the moral expansion of faith1. Through the whole life, 2. Through the whole house.—How the sickness of a child may become the salvation of a whole house; may, under His management, serve to glorify the Lord.—The connection between the faith of the father and the germ of faith in the heart of the child.—He prayed for the healing of his child, and obtained healing for himself and his whole house.—The Lord comes announced by the forerunning miraculous help.—The healing work of Christ in His presence and at a distance: (1) At a distance even when it is in His presence; (2) in His presence even when it is at a distance (susceptible hearts are near to Him, and He is near to them).—Jesus always peculiarly rich when He comes from Judea to Galilee: 1. From enemies to friends; 2. From the great to the small; 3. From the proud to the poor.

Starke: The bad manners of men in esteeming nothing which is common and always before their eyes, but highly esteeming what is strange and rare.—Every one is bound, indeed, to serve his own country; but if his own country despise him, any place which receives him is his country.—Hedinger: Jesus comes again (when He has once retired apparently in vexation).—God has a holy seed even among the great. All men, whatever their station, are subject to need and sickness.—The same: Trouble gives feet, humbles pride, teaches prayer.—Lange: To seek Jesus under special distress is indeed good and needful, but it is better that one should not wait so long, but knowing his sin and misery should in spirit be near to Jesus.—Osiander: Parents should interest themselves both bodily and spiritually for their children.—The bodily sickness of children troubles Christian “parents; what an affliction, when-they lie sick in soul! Christ comes always at the right time with His help.—Bibl. Wirt.: Christ rejects not those who are weak in faith, but takes pains, that their faith may grow.—Nova Bibl. Tub.: Faith is [seems] shameless and cannot be rebuffed.—Osiander: It is well to persevere in prayer, but not prescribe the manner or time of help.—Faith has not only grand, but also swift results: almost every hour some form of divine help meets the believer.—As the master, so the servant; good governing makes good domestics.—Canstein: When we duly reflect, not an hour passes in which God does not show us good.—Osiander: Christ’s followers must not be weary of wandering far on earth and doing good in all places.—The more a country has seen and heard of Christ, the heavier judgment will it receive, if it believe not.—Rieger: Much of the teaching and wholesome direction of God comes to us through our children, and what concerns their life and death, their success and hindrances, goes to our heart.—All depends on whether a man will.

Besser: It is a wonderfully beautiful example of growing faith, that we have in this nobleman. Methinks John expresses his own joyful surprise, when he pictures to us the suddenly stilled and satisfied man: The man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.

Heubner: By the sickness of children God disciplines the parents themselves.—Though he was at the court of Herod (at least as a servant), yet he went to Jesus.—Domestic troubles should drive us to Jesus.—The true sense is: Except ye see signs and wonders. The emphasis lies on see [yet τέρατα also is not unmeaning].—There is a secret inclination [a universal passion of the world] for miracles: 1. Desire for special extraordinary fortune to befall us, while we do not exert ourselves to obtain that which satisfies2. Waiting for extraordinary help in exigency, when we will not earnestly use the right means3. Desire for extraordinary fruits of our labor, when we will not sow, hoping in faith4. Desire of extraordinary violent assistance when we wish to get rid of faults, while we ourselves do not lift a hand5. Desire or expectation of honor, etc., while yet we have done or sacrificed nothing at all for the glory of God.—The word of Jesus holds good for us in every conflict and every strait; Go thy way, and believe!—Hours of deliverance in human life.—The more thou searchest, the more plain will the moments of the divine deliverance be to thee.—And he believed. This faith was more than the preceding; it attained to faith in Jesus the Saviour.—This faith was the fruit of trial. For this God sends distress.—The Christian father, as priest in his own house.—(Whitefield): The head of a family has three offices (prophet, priest, king: “the last he does not so easily forget”).—The nobleman as an example of gradual progress in faith.

Draeseke: The new house: 1. It has a now attitude outwardly2. It has a new manner of spirit. (These two are reversible).—Greiling: To our sufferings we owe the most precious experiences of our life.—Goldhorn: Consolatory reflections on the moral influence of sickness.—Grueneisen: Concerning the growth of faith: 1. Need is its rise; bodily need, less than spiritual2. Trust is its second stage; and it must be directed less to the bodily than to the spiritual3. Experience is the third stage; experience more of spiritual than of bodily help.—Kniewel: The three stages of faith: 1. Its childhood, the stage of seeking miracle2. Its youth, the stage of receiving miracle3. Its manhood, the stage of the power of miracle.—Reinhard: How weighty should be to us the thought, that distress is often our guide to truth.—Schulz: How trial and trouble lead men to the fellowship of Jesus Christ.—Bachmann: The Christian calls the Saviour to his sick: 1. He calls Him2. In due time3. In the right spirit4. With the most blessed result.—Lisco: The house of the Christian, when God visits it with trouble: The trouble (1) unites the members in tenderer love, (2) directs their hearts more trustfully to the Lord, (3) awakens them to importunate prayer and intercession, (4) produces at last a joyful and thankful faith.—Kaempfe: The humility and the persistence of the nobleman.—Ahlfeld: The blessing of trial.—Beck: The exigence, the test, the victory, of faith.—Rautenberg: The hard condition of the Christian at the sick-bed of his darlings.

[Alford: This miracle is a notable instance of our Lord “not quenching the smoking flax,” just as His reproof of the Samaritan woman was of His “not breaking the bruised reed.” The little spark of faith in the breast of this nobleman is by Him lit up into a clear and enduring flame for the light and comfort of himself and his house.—Wordsworth: Our Lord would not go down at the desire of the nobleman to heal his son, but He offered to go down to heal the servant of the centurion ( Matthew 8:7). He thus teaches us, that what is lofty in man’s sight, is low in His eyes, and the reverse.—There are degrees in faith ( John 4:53) as in other virtues.—Ryle: The lessons of this miracle: 1. The rich have afflictions as well as the poor2. Sickness and death come to the young as well as the old3. What benefits affliction can confer on the soul4. Christ’s word is as good as Christ’s presence.—P. S.]


FN#95 - John 4:43.—[The article refers, of course, to the δύο ἡμέρας in John 4:40.—P. S.]

FN#96 - John 4:43.—Codd. B. C. D. omit: καὶ ἀπῆλθεν; but A. supports the Recepta. Tischendorf omits the words. Meyer also rejects them. But it is evident that they have been omitted through failure to perceive their import. The Evangelist would distinguish between the departure for Galilee in the wider sense, and the removal to Upper Galilee, called by him simply Galilee, in the provincial sense. [The received text is in favor of Dr. Lange’s interpretation of πατρίς, see Exeg. Notes, but the latest editions reject καὶ ἀπῆλθεν on the authority of the oldest MSS. א. B. C. D. Orig. Cyr.—P. S.]

FN#97 - John 4:43.—[Dr. Lange here inserts in small type the gloss: from Lower Galilee to Upper, thus anticipating his explanation of πατρίς, John 4:41. See the Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

FN#98 - John 4:46.—This ̓Ιησοῦς, wanting in most authorities, is added by the textus receptus.

FN#99 - John 4:51.—[Alford brackets καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν. Tischend. ed. VIII. reads καὶ ήγγειλαν with א. D. Westcott and Hort omit it.—P. S.]

FN#100 - John 4:51.—Lachmann: παῖς αὐτοῦ, after A. B. C. etc. [Tischend, Alf, Mey. likewise adopt παῖς αὐτοῦ for the easier lect. rec. παῖς σου, which may have been conformed to παῖς σου, John 4:50.—P. S.]

FN#101 - Augustine, Tittmann, Kninoel and Bloomfield take γάρ here in the sense of καίπερ, which is against all grammar.—P.S.]

FN#102 - Comp. John 1:46; John 2:1; John 7:3; John 7:41; John 7:52.—P. S.]

FN#103 - Dr. Lange mentions Olshausen after Tholuck. But in the third ed. of his Com, Olshausen refers πατρίς to Nazareth. Dean Alford adopts De Wette’s view, but in his sixth edition he combines with it Luthardt’s (see below, sub5).—P. S.]

FN#104 - Godet pretty nearly agrees with Meyer.—P. S]

FN#105 - Some identify this nobleman with Chuza, Herod’s steward, whose wife Joanna was among the followers and supporters of Jesus, Luke 8:3. A mere conjecture.—P. S.]

FN#106 - Among those who have identified the two, Strauss and others would give the preference for accurate narration to Matthew, Gfrörer and Ewald to John. With Weisse again it is “a misapprehension of a parable.” According to Baur the doctrinal import of the story of Nicodemus and of that of the woman of Samaria is here combined in a third story, teaching: How faith in miracles comes by means of faith in word, and consequently is in reality only such. In other words two critical legends are supposed to be combined in a third, and the Jewish councillor and the Samaritan woman become in this phantasy the Galilean nobleman!


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on John 4:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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