Jesus & the Samaritan Woman
Main themes of the story
The story of the Samaritan woman has 3 parts:
1 The woman meets Jesus at a well John
2 The woman returns to her town John
3 The woman convinces many people about Jesus
The Samaritan woman meets Jesus at the well, John Southall
met Jesus face to face
There had once been a great city there, just where this incident took place. Nearby on the peak of Mount Gerizim had been a temple that rivaled the Temple of Jerusalem. See the section on the Ivory Palace at Samaria, at Bible Archaeology: Palaces.
But all this had been destroyed before the time of Jesus, and only a village remained. Here Jesus stopped, tired and thirsty in the midday heat. His friends had gone to the town to buy food. Only a Samaritan woman was there, drawing water from the well.
‘Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her “Give me a drink”. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying
to you ‘Give me a drink’ you would have asked him, and he would have given
you living water”.’
Every drop of water used in a household had to be carried from the local well. So every day women walked to the bottom of steps cut into the rock, filled their heavy earthenware jars, returned up the steps, and carried the water home.
The strong younger women of the household normally did this task, but this is not happening here.
The Samaritan woman is no longer young, and since she is carrying her own water, it seems she did not have younger women in her household to do this heavy task.
Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for something to drink, and here begins the longest conversation recorded between Jesus and any person. It is surprising that this conversation happens with someone who was a woman, and non-Jewish.
The woman herself was certainly surprised when Jesus spoke to her, because normally Jews and Samaritans did not have anything to do with each other.
There had been a long-running conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans. Samaria had been the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel during the period of the divided kingdoms. In 721BC Assyria conquered Israel, and sent most of its people to live in Assyria. The Assyrians replaced the original people with five alien tribes who resettled the area (for information on this event, see 2 Kings 17:13-34).
Eventually many of the original population returned and intermarried with the five alien tribes. By the time of Jesus, Jews thought that the people who lived in Samaria were not true descendants of the great Jewish ancestors, and that their religion was not true Judaism but a mixture of beliefs.
Jesus blithely disregarded the ancient enmity between the two groups. He began talking to the woman about ‘living water’. The woman questioned him and drew him into conversation. Jesus explained that when people drink ordinary water, they get thirsty again. But he had water that gave eternal, not temporary, life.
Naturally this caught the interest of the woman, burdened as she was with the daily task of carrying water. She asked for some of this 'living water'.
Jesus told her to go and get her husband. She did not have one, she replied. 'You have had five husbands, said Jesus, but the man you are living with now is not your husband.'
At this stage the story contains a great deal of symbolism. The woman herself stood for Samaria, and her five husbands stood for the five alien tribes. The man she was now living with, who was not her true husband, stood for the Samaritan religion.
The woman understood Jesus’ meaning immediately. He was speaking about Samaritan worship in the same way that the Jewish prophets before him had done.
Knowing this, the woman called him a prophet, and began asking him about differences between Samaritan and Jewish worship. She knew that the temple on nearby Mount Gerizim had been the central place of worship for the Samaritans, rivaling the Temple in Jerusalem. Samaritans and Jews always argued over which of the two temples was the true place to worship.
Basically the woman was talking with Jesus about where and how you should worship
God, an issue that interested her. She spoke to him as an intellectual equal, and he
Note that the disciples are surprised that Jesus is talking to a woman. They are not surprised that he is talking to a Samaritan, even though at the time that this event took place in about 30AD, Samaritans were viewed with great suspicion.
By the time that John wrote his gospel, the situation had changed, and there was more concern about the inclusion of women in authority positions than about fraternization with Samaritans.
The woman left the water jar she has brought and hurried back to the town.
Leaving her water jar seems a trivial piece of information, but it parallels other incidents in the gospels, when various men left their everyday pursuits, abandoning fishing nets or tax collection tables to immediately respond to Jesus.
The woman told everyone about Jesus, suggesting that he might be the
woman convinces people about Jesus John 4:39-42
Then Jesus talked about the harvest. He was not referring to a harvest of foodstuffs, but to the many people who would believe in him. Among them were the Samaritan townspeople, who had listened to the words of the woman. Inclusion of the Samaritans among those whom Jesus favored was revolutionary, since there was bitter enmity between the Jewish and Samaritan peoples.
The woman had persuaded them to believe in Jesus. In this, she
acted as an apostle, going out to tell people about Jesus, and bringing them to him.
The Samaritans invited him to stay, and he stayed for two days. Many people believed in Jesus, not just because of the woman but because they have seen for themselves that Jesus was the Saviour of the world. ‘Saviour of the world’ was one of the titles of the Roman Emperor, but at the time that John’s gospel was written, it was being used increasingly among Christians to describe Jesus.
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|Bible Study Resource for Women in the Bible: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman|