Gospel of John Chapter 4:1-15, 25-26 Antique Commentary Quotes

John Calvin

John 4:1

1.When, therefore, the Lord knew. The Evangelist, intending now to give an account of the conversation which Christ had with a Samaritan woman, begins with explaining the cause of his journey. Knowing that the Pharisees were ill-disposed towards him, he did not wish to expose himself to their anger before the proper time. This was his motive for setting out from Judea. The Evangelist thus informs us that Christ did not come into Samaria with the intention of dwelling there, but because he had to pass through it on his way from Judea to Galilee; for until, by his resurrection, he should open up the way for the gospel, it was necessary that he should be employed in gathering the sheep of Israel to which he had been sent. That he now favored the Samaritans with his instruction was an extraordinary and almost accidental occurrence, if we may be allowed the expression.

But why does he seek the retirement and lurking-places of Galilee, as if he were unwilling to be known, which was highly to be desired? I reply, he knew well the proper way to act, and made such use of the opportunities of usefulness that he did not allow a moment to be lost. He wished, therefore, to pursue his course with regularity, and in such a manner as he judged to be proper. Hence too we hear that our minds ought to be regulated in such a manner that, on the one hand, we may not be deterred by any fear from going forward in duty; and that, on the other hand, we may not too rashly throw ourselves into dangers. All who are earnestly desirous to pursue their calling will be careful to maintain this moderation, for which they will steadily follow the Lord even through the midst of deaths; they will not rush into them heedlessly, but will walk in their ways. Let us, therefore, remember that we must not advance farther than our calling demands.

That the Pharisees had heard. The Pharisees alone are mentioned by the Evangelist as having been hostile to Christ; not that the other scribes were friendly, but because this sect was at that time in the ascendant, and because they were filled with rage under the pretense of godly zeal. It may be asked, Did they envy Christ that he had more disciples, because their stronger attachment to John led them to promote his honor and reputation? The meaning of the words is different; for though they were formerly dissatisfied at finding that John collected disciples, their minds were still more exasperated, when they saw that a still greater number of disciples came to Christ. From the time that John avowed himself to be nothing more than the herald of the Son of God, they began to flock to Christ in greater crowds, and already he had almost completed his ministry. Thus he gradually resigned to Christ the office of teaching and baptizing.

A.T. Robertson

John 4:1

When therefore (Hōs oun). Reference to Joh_3:22. the work of the Baptist and the jealousy of his disciples. Oun is very common in John’s Gospel in such transitions.

The Lord (ho Kurios). So the best manuscripts (Neutral Alexandrian), though the Western class has ho Iēsous. Mark usually has ho Iēsous and Luke often ho Kurios. In the narrative portion of John we have usually ho Iēsous, but ho Kurios in five passages (Joh_4:1; Joh_6:23; Joh_11:2; Joh_20:20; Joh_21:12). There is no reason why John should not apply ho Kurios to Jesus in the narrative sections as well as Luke. Bernard argues that these are “explanatory glosses,” not in the first draft of the Gospel. But why? When John wrote his Gospel he certainly held Jesus to be Kurios (Lord) as Luke did earlier when he wrote both Gospel and Acts This is hypercriticism.

Knew (egnō). Second aorist active indicative of ginōskō. The Pharisees knew this obvious fact. It was easy for Jesus to know the attitude of the Pharisees about it (Joh_2:24). Already the Pharisees are suspicious of Jesus.

How that (hoti). Declarative hoti (indirect assertion).

Was making and baptizing more disciples than John (pleionas mathētas poiei kai baptizei ē Iōanēs). Present active indicative in both verbs retained in indirect discourse. Recall the tremendous success of John’s early ministry (Mar_1:5; Mat_3:5; Luk_3:7, Luk_3:15) in order to see the significance of this statement that Jesus had forged ahead of him in popular favour. Already the Pharisees had turned violently against John who had called them broods of vipers. It is most likely that they drew John out about the marriage of Herod Antipas and got him involved directly with the tetrarch so as to have him cast into prison (Luk_3:19.). Josephus (Ant. XVIII. v. 2) gives a public reason for this act of Herod Antipas, the fear that John would “raise a rebellion,” probably the public reason for his private vengeance as given by Luke. Apparently John was cast into prison, though recently still free (Joh_3:24), before Jesus left for Galilee. The Pharisees, with John out of the way, turn to Jesus with envy and hate.

John Calvin

John 4:2

2.Though Jesus himself baptized not. He gives the designation of Christ ’s Baptism to that which he conferred by the hands of other, in order to inform us that Baptism ought not to be estimated by the person of the minister, but that its power depends entirely on its Author, in whose name, and by whose authority, it is conferred. Hence we derive a remarkable consolation, when we know that our baptism has no less efficacy to wash and renew us, than if it had been given by the hand of the Son of God. Nor can it be doubted that, so long as he lived in the world, he abstained from the outward administration of the sign, for the express purpose of testifying to all ages, that Baptism loses nothing of its value when it is administered by a mortal man. In short, not only does Christ baptize inwardly by his Spirit, but the very symbol which we receive from a mortal man ought to be viewed by us in the same light as if Christ himself displayed his hand from heaven, and stretched it out to us. Now if the Baptism administered by a man is Christ’s Baptism, it will not cease to be Christ’s Baptism whoever be the minister. And this is sufficient for refuting the Anabaptists, who maintain that, when the minister is a wicked man, the baptism is also vitiated, and, by means of this absurdity, disturb the Church; as Augustine has very properly employed the same argument against the Donatists.

Pulpit Commentary

Joh_4:1, Joh_4:2

When therefore the Lord—a few occasions are found in the Gospels where this appellative, without any proper name, is used for Jesus (Joh_6:23; Joh_11:2; Luk_10:1; Luk_17:5; Luk_22:61), and on these occasions some special suggestion is made of the Divine rank and personality of Jesus—knew that the Pharisees heard; i.e. were taking notice, after their wont, with secret machination and with open hostility, of the course which he was pursuing. The treatment which John the Baptist received at their hands was pointedly referred to by our Lord on two occasions (Mat_17:12, Mat_17:13; Mat_21:23-32). They did not believe in John’s baptism. The publicans and harlots had repented and pressed into the kingdom before them. This “generation” did whatever it listed to the Elias. Therefore we judge that Herod’s persecution, stimulated by his guilty passions, was assisted by “the offspring of vipers.” They had probably broken up the baptismal enthusiasm of the multitudes, and aided Herod to shut up John in the castle of Machearus, and hence their present “hearing” meant immediate and hostile action. Jesus had left the temple, and retired to the courts and homes and neighbourhood of Jerusalem; and then was only visited at night by solitary men, who ought to have come in crowds. He left Jerusalem itself for some point in Judaean territory, and there continued for a season the preparatory call for repentance and conversion. The extraordinary success of Jesus at this period excited the special attention of the Pharisees. The matter that came to their ears was that Jesus makes and baptizes more disciples than John. In other words, they heard of an extraordinary wave of popular excitement, yet of nothing answering to the Baptist’s imagination of what ought to have taken place. John’s ideas corresponded more closely than the teaching of Jesus did with the tenets and methods of the Pharisees. We find that the disciples of John are coupled with Pharisees in the matter of fasting (Mat_9:14 and parallel passages), yet that John’s preaching and baptism were distasteful to the Pharisees. A fortiori the baptism of Jesus would be still more offensive, for it was doubtless accompanied by more searching demands. It had invaded the temple precincts, it had advanced more conspicuous personal claims. John said, “I am come to prepare the way of the Lord;” Jesus said, “I am come down from heaven.” (Although (and yet) Jesus himself (in person) baptized not, but his disciples performed the act.) This parenthetical clause, explanatory of the statement of Joh_3:22, as well as of the previous verse, is justified on the simple ground that Jesus baptized with the Spirit, and not with water. For him to baptize into his own name would have been to darken the mystery; for him to baptize into One who should come would in a way have hidden the fact that he had come. The administration of the rite by the few disciples who were with him would preserve all the symbolism of the new observance. We have no repetition of this statement, nor the faintest hint that the apostles continued this Johannine ceremonial. Moulton and some others lay emphasis on the present; tenses, “makes and baptizes,” and therefrom argue that the ministry of John had not yet been brought to a termination, that John was not yet cast into prison, and that the journey into Galilee does not correspond with that described in Mat_4:1-25, but thai; our Lord removed from Judaea simply to avoid the apparent rivalry between the two baptismal and evangelistic ministries. When Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard, etc., he resolved upon a new and startling course.

Pulpit Commentary


He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. But it should be observed that ἀφῆκε is a very peculiar word for a simple departure. The verb ἀφίημι is used when καταλείπω might have been expected (Westcott). The word means “to leave a thing to itself,” to its own ways, to treat it as no longer exercising an influence on the mind. (It is, with the noun ἄφφεσις, used for “forgive,” “forgiveness,” of sins.) Jesus left Judaea, which had so imperfectly accepted his claims. The word suggests that his departure was a consequence of the action of the Pharisees; And he departed again.This refers to the first departure after the early testimonies of John, when Jesus went to Cana and Capernaum (Joh_1:43). Whether this journey corresponded with that mentioned in Matthew and Mark, as following the baptism and temptation of Jesus, or not, it is not to be confounded with the journey which John had already recorded.

Pop Comm Schaff

John 4:1-3

Joh_4:1-3.When therefore the Lord perceived that the Pharisees had heard, Jesus maketh and baptizeth more disciples than John, (though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) he leftJudea, and departed again into Galilee. The object of these verses is to explain the reason why Jesus now left Judea for Galilee. How long He had remained in Judea we are not informed (seethe note on chap. Joh_3:22), being only told that in thecountry districts the success of His ministry had excited the notice of the Pharisees (of Jerusalem), andhad led to comparisons between the two teachers who had so suddenly appeared in the land. It will be observed that the circumstances described in this verse are substantially the same asthose brought before us in the words of the disciples of John after their disputation with the Jew (chap. Joh_3:26). They said to their master that to Jesus all were coming,-that is, by plain inference, more were flocking to Jesus than to the Baptist. It is only necessary to allow a short interval of time for the diffusion of the news, and we are brought to the state of things presented here. If, then, thereis this close connection between chap. 25, 26, and the opening of the present chapter, it seems impossible to believe that the imprisonment of the Baptist can have taken place in the interval, when in chap. Joh_3:24 the Evangelist expressly refers to the fact that John was as yet at liberty. The imprisonment is nowhere expressly mentioned by him; but while it is very easy to understand such an omission if the event fell in one of those intervals which separate so markedly the successive narratives of his Gospel, it would be strange if, in a closely connected paragraph, he should first record that the imprisonment had not yet taken place, and then, although the event took place at the very time, pass over it in silence. It seems, then, much more natural to interpret the words heard by the Pharisees as meaning that Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John is making and baptizing, than to suppose the contrast to be between the present action of the one and the past ministry of the other,—as if the words were, ‘Jesus maketh more disciples than John used to make. ‘Hence we regard the ministry of John as still enduring at the period to which this verserelates. The journey into Galilee now alluded to is not, therefore, that recorded in Mat_4:12, which was taken after the imprisonment of John. (See further the note on Joh_6:1.) On the determination of this question rests the explanation of our Lord’s departure from Judea. If Johnhad now been delivered up to his foes, the Evangelist’s meaning might be that Jesus withdrew from a persecution which those who had successfully opposed the Baptist would surely raise against. One whose success was even greater. But such ameaning is beset with difficulties, for there would be something strange and unlike the style of this Gospel in so brief an allusion to the avoidance by our Lord of open hostility at this early period of His ministry; and it would not be easy to see why the Pharisees should be expressly mentioned and not ‘the Jews.’ If, however, we take the view defended above, that the Baptist was still pursuing his course, these difficulties disappear. Not to escape from persecution, but to put an end to comparisons which (however true in fact) were mischievously used, Jesus retired from the land in which John was teaching and baptizing. True, He must increase and John must decrease; but the hour for the close of John’s preparatory labours had not yet come, and the purposes of Jesus Himself would be best furthered by the complete accomplishment of the Baptist’s mission. Individuals might be removed from the circle of John’s disciples and be received by Jesus (see chap. Joh_1:37); but a general impression of this kind could not be made until a certain work of preparation had taken place. For His own sake, therefore, it was not desirable that this preparation – work should prematurely close. Again, we shall thus better understand the mention of the Pharisees. That class had rigidly and suspiciously inquired into John’s right to assume the position of a prophet, and the report which they now heard might well rouse them to renewed action in their character of defenders of the faith and religious practice of their nation. Any such action on their part could hardly fail at this stage to be injurious, even if it were directed against John and not against Jesus Himself. But there was no reason to think that their opposition would be limited to the Baptist Jesus, too, would have His work interrupted by their embittered feeling. Not, therefore, to avoid His enemies, but to transfer His labours to freer and more open fields, did our Lord withdraw from Judea at this time. The remarkable indirectness of the language of this verse is explained by the writer’s wish to seize the very moment at which the withdrawal from Judea became necessary. The sojourn of Jesus in the neighbourhood of John’s sphere of action brought out John’s distinct confession of the relation in which he stood to his Lord. That was for the present enough; and the sojourn terminated at the very moment when it threatened to be the means of injuring the Baptist’s work, and of precipitating the open conflict between Jesus and the Jews.—It seems most natural to take the word ‘knew’ or ‘perceived’ as referring, not to information obtained, but to supernatural knowledge (compare chap. Joh_2:24-25). Most seemly, therefore, is the designation of Jesus here as ‘the Lord’—a rare usage with John, who commonly employs the personal name Jesus. Because He was the Lord, not man only, He discerned the first stirrings of hostility in the minds of the Pharisees and the occasion which gave them birth. Afterwards the name Jesus occurs, because the Evangelist quotes the very words of the report,—a report indeed containing an incorrect statement, set right in the parenthesis which follows. But there was nothing unnatural in the error. Jesus might easily be represented as baptizing (compare chap. Joh_3:22), because His disciples could only have acted in His name and by His authority. The Pharisees could not know why He should abstain from performing the act Himself: we know that His baptism was not with water but with the Holy Ghost, and ‘the Holy Ghost was not yet given’(chap. Joh_7:39). Such, then, were the circumstances amidst which Jesus ‘left’ Judea and retired into Galilee. The word used for ‘left’ is interesting, and confirms our interpretation. It means literally Met go, Let alone; ‘and it is hardly possible not to feel that by his use of it the Evangelist would direct our attention to the fact that Israel’s rejection of God’s mercy was, in the wisdom of the Divine arrangements, the cause why it was itself rejected, and the other nations of the world called.-It should be added that we have assumed throughout that AEnon and Salim were situated in Judea, so that both Jesus and the Baptist were at this time in the same region of the country. If Salim was near Scythopolis, in Samaria (which seems very unlikely), the argument is not seriously affected. In any case, it is clear that for the time Jesus wished to remove His sphere of labour from the immediate view of the Pharisees by a retirement into Galilee.

Pulpit Commentary


And he must needs go through Samaria. There was no physical necessity about it. He might, as bigoted Jews were accustomed to do, have crossed the Jordan and passed through Peraea instead. There was no such animus in the heart of Jesus, and a Divine and providential monition was the occasion of his taking the direct road. Geikie has drawn a vivid picture of the difficulties to which Jewish travellers on the borders of Samaria were exposed (see Hos_6:9; Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 20:6. 1; ‘Bell. Jud.,’ Hos_2:12. 4; ‘Vit.,’ 52), and also of the physical features of the land. Samaria, as a name of the small district of central Palestine, arose from the name of the city “Samaria,” built by Omri, and made the site of the kingdom of Israel (1Ki_16:24), and that of the Baal- and of the calf-worship. Samaria suffered from the siege, and the city was depopulated by Shalmanezer (Sargon), and colonized with Assyrians under Esarhaddon. It was destroyed by Hyrcanus, and rebuilt in splendour by Herod the Great, and by him dedicated to Augustus, and called Sebaste after him. Though Shechem (equivalent to Sichem) was the more famous site, and overshadowed Herod’s city by its historical interest, yet “Samaria” was the name which has survived all others, and covered a larger space. Jesus was probably on the borders of Samaria, in the Judaean country, before he commenced his journey. Samaria was included in the tetrarchy of Archelaus, and formed part of the province under the pro-curatorship of Pontius Pilate; while Herod Antipas reigned over Galilee and Persia. The Lord was fulfilling the Divine will, in commencing his Galilaean ministry, in leaving Judaea proper for the present, and passing through Samaria. It is worthy of notice that John here attributes to “the Pharisees,” rather than “the Jews,” the opposition which indicated the wisdom or necessity of this course.

John Calvin

John 4:5

5.Which is called Sichar Jerome, in his epitaph on Paula, thinks that this is an incorrect reading, and that it ought to have been written Sichem; and, indeed, the latter appears to have been the ancient and true name; but it is probable that, in the time of the Evangelist, the word Sichar was already in common use. As to the place, it is generally agreed that it was a city situated close to Mount Gerizzim, the inhabitants of which were treacherously slain by Simeon and Levi, (Gen_34:25,) and which Abimelech, a native of the place, afterwards razed to its thundations, (Jud_9:45.) But the convenience of its situation was such that, a third time, a city was built there, which, in the age of Jerome, they called Neapolis By adding so many circumstances, the Apostle removes all doubt; for we are clearly informed by Moses where that field was which Jacob assigned to the children of Joseph, (Gen_48:22.) It is universally acknowledged, also, that Mount Gerizzim was near to Shechem. We shall afterwards state that a temple was built there; and there can be no doubt that Jacob dwelt a long time in that place with his family.

And Jesus, fatigued by the journey. He did not pretend weariness, but was actually fatigued; for, in order that he might be better prepared for the exercise of sympathy and compassion towards us, he took upon him our weaknesses, as the Apostle shows that

we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, (Heb_4:15.)

With this agrees the circumstance of the time; for it is not wonderful that, being thirsty andfatigued, he rested at the well about noon; for as the day, from sunrise to sunset, had twelve hours, the sixth hour wasNoon When the Evangelist says that he sat thus, he means that it was the attitude of a man who wasfatigued

Pulpit Commentary


He cometh therefore to a city of Samaria, called Sychar (Συχάρ, with all the principal uncials; not Σιχάρ, as read by the Elzevir edition of Stephens, with one cursive, 69); not “the city” Shechem—the Συχέμ of Act_7:16, or Σίκιμα of Josephus (Gen_33:18; Jos_20:7; Jdg_9:7)—not Sebaste (Samaria), but “a city,” one of the cities requiring special designation beyond its mere name, which would hardly have been necessary, if so renowned a spot as the metropolis of the ancient kingdom, or the ancient patriarchal city of Shechem or Sychem, had been thought of. The similarity of the names Sychar and Sichem led many to suppose that John confounded either the names or the places. Those who were anxious to undervalue the accuracy of the author have attributed it to mistake. Schenkel still sees the error of a Gentile Christian. Others have supposed that the word meaning “town of drunkards” (Isa_28:1, רכָשֵׁ), or “town of liars” Hab_2:18, רקֶשֶׁ), was intentionally applied by John to Shechem, or that some provincial pronunciation of the name of the old city had thus been commemorated. Hengstenberg suggested that Sychar was a suburb of Siehem or Shechem, and Robinson placed the latter much nearer to Jacob’s welt than the present Nablous. Tholuck gave a philosophical solution—that m and r in the two words, being liquids, were interchanged; and Meyer at one time held that John simply applied the vulgar name. Jerome (‘Quaest. Web. in Gen_48:1-22.’) said it was a corruption of the name Sichem. But Eusebius discriminated Shechem from Sychar in his ‘Onomasticon,’ sub voce; and a place called Sochar or Sichra is mentioned, and also its “well,” in the Talmud. Delitzsch has quoted seven passages which refer to the place as the birthplace of rabbis, and as having been alternately occupied by Jews and Samaritans. Moreover, in late years, Palestine explorers have found, within half a mile of Jacob’s well, a village, El ‘Askar, preserving to the present day the old name.£ Nor has the name been in late years drawn from this narrative and given to this insignificant village, for a Samaritan chronicle, dating from the twelfth century, preserves the name as Iskar. A priori it is far more probable that a woman of Sychar, than one of Shechem, should have come to draw water, in consequence of the nearer proximity of the former “city” than of the latter to Jacob’s well. It is further characterized as near to the parcel of ground which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. In Gen_33:19; Gen_34:25; Gen_48:22 (LXX.); Jos_24:32, we see that Jacob’s treaty with the sons of Humor, and the summary violence of his sons in punishment of Dinah’s dishonour, were treated by him as giving him special possession in Shechem (the LXX., in Gen_48:22, have translated the word for “portion,” מכֶשְׁ as Σίκιμα, erroneously supposing that the word was a proper name, instead of an allusive play on the word “Shechem”), and he solemnly bequeathed it to Joseph. In Jos_24:32 we find the bones of Joseph were deposited there. (Knobel translates Gen_48:22 as the portion which he, Jacob, (by his sons) would win (not had won) with sword and bow.) Geiger, ‘Urschrift.,’ p. 80 (referred to by Edersheim, i.e., 1:404), shows that St. John’s interpretation of Genesis is perfectly in harmony with rabbinic tradition.

Albert Barnes

John 4:5

Sychar – This city stood about eight miles southeast of the city called Samaria, between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. It was one of the oldest cities of Palestine, and was formerly known by the name of “Shechem,” or Sichem, Gen_33:18; Gen_12:6. The city was in the tribe of Ephraim, Jos_21:21. It was at this place that Joshua assembled the people before his death, and here they renewed their covenant with the Lord, Josh. 24. After the death of Gideon it became a place of idolatrous worship, the people worshipping Baal-berith, Jdg_9:46. It was destroyed by Abimelech, who beat down the city and sowed it with salt, Jdg_9:45. It was afterward rebuilt, and became the residence of Jeroboam, the King of Israel, 1Ki_12:25. It was called by the Romans “Flavia Neapolis,” and this has been corrupted by the Arabs into “Nablus,” its present name. It is still a considerable place, and its site is remarkably pleasant and productive.

The parcel of ground – The piece of ground; or the land, etc.

That Jacob gave … – Jacob bought one piece of ground near to Shalem, a city of Shechem, of the children of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for an hundred pieces of silver, Gen_33:19. In this place the bones of Joseph were buried when they were brought up from Egypt, Jos_24:32. He also gave to Joseph an additional piece of ground which he took from the hand of the Amorite by his own valor, “with his sword and his bow,” as a portion above that which was given to his brethren, Gen_48:22. Possibly these pieces of ground lay near together, and were a part of the homestead of Jacob. The well was near to this. There is now, E. Smith mentioned to me in conversation, a place near this well called Shalem.

Pulpit Commentary


Now Jacob’s well was there; more literally, now there was a spring there, Jacob’s. The word generally translated “well” is φρέαρ, the representative of ראֵבְּ, puteus; but πηγή, the word here used, corresponds with ניִעַ, fons. In Joh_4:11, Joh_4:12 the word φρέαρ is used of the same place. To the present day this indubitable site goes by both names. This district abounds in springs (Deu_8:7), and the digging of this deep well was a work of supererogation, such as might be performed by a stranger in the land. The well is indeed fed by fountains of water in the neighbourhood. It has been known as Jacob’s well by a continuous tradition, and is situated in the plain of Mukhhan, under the rough sides of Gerizim, just beyond the spot where the plain is entered almost at right angles by the eastern end of the vale of Shechem. The latter vale is constituted by the two mountain ridges of Gerizim on the south and Ebal on the north. Nablous, or Shechem, is not visible from the well of Sychar, being hidden by the spur of Gerizim from view, and higher up the valley of Shechem are the present ruins of Sebastich or Samaria proper. Dean Stanley said it was one of the most beautiful spots in Palestine. Sychar lies half a mile to the north of the traditional well. The well, two hundred years ago, was declared by Maundrell to be a hundred and five feet deep, and built of solid masonry. In 1866 Lieutenant Anderson found it seventy-five feet deep, and quite dry. It is nine or ten feet in diameter; and it is one of the most indubitable spots where we may feel certain that the feet of the blessed Lord have trod. Efforts are now being made by the Palestine Exploration Society to protect and restore the well. Jesus therefore, being wearied (κοπιάω is “to labour unto weariness,” from κόπος, exhausting toil) with his journey. A long, exhausting march told upon him, and he felt the weakness of our humanity. Thoma suggests that, because the woman that Jacob found at the well was Rachel, the mother of Joseph, the Samaritans’ special patriarch, and because Leah was the mother of Levi and Judah, and her name means “wearied,” so Jesus is represented as weary with his journey unto the home of Rachel! It is far more important to notice that the author of this Gospel, whose main idea was that Jesus is “the only begotten Son of the Father,” “the Word made flesh,” yet impresses upon us continually his realization of the full humanity, the definite, concrete human existence of Jesus. His life was no phantasm of the imagination, no mere docetic manifestation, as the Tubingen school attribute to the Johannine Christ, but veritable man. This Gospel alone records his presence and miracle at Cana, his travel-worn sympathy with our weakness, his making clay with spittle, his weeping over the grave of a friend, his thirst upon the cross, the blood that issued from his wounded side, and the obvious physical reality of his risen body, and thus furnishes the Church with the grounds on which the apostle maintained his Divine humanity. Jesus was seated thus—or, sat thus; i.e. wearied, exhausted—on the well; or on the low parapet of the well, which protected its mouth, he sat there comparatively, if not quite, alone. The position of the word “thus” after “sat” would, in classic Greek, make the οὕτως mean “simply, without other preoccupation;” but there is no logical reason to deprive the οὕτως of its full meaning (Hengstenberg). The Lord, taking his seat by this memorable spot, rich in varied associations, becomes at once a type of the richer and diviner supply of life which he is able and ready to dispense to mankind. The weariness and waiting of the Lord at the well was a sublime hint of the exhaustless supply of grace which was ever flowing from the broken heart of the Son of God. It was about the sixth hour. The author is remarkable for his repeated mention of the hours at which some of the most memorable crises of his life took place, and thus gives a vivid impression of reality and of the presence of the eyewitness. He must himself have waited by the side of the Lord, and overheard the conversation which followed, just as he did the conversation with Nicodemus. Great difference of opinion prevails as to his method of computing time; i.e. whether he adopted the Jewish computation, from sunrise to sunset into twelve variable hours, or the Roman method of computation, from midnight to midday, from noon to midnight, into twelve hours of equal length. Some difficulties are reduced by the latter hypothesis. The hour referred to would then be about six o’clock in the evening, the very time when purchases would be made, and when women are in the habit of drawing water. The difficulty that presents itself is the brevity of the time remaining for all that happens as described in Joh_4:27-38, broad daylight being almost presupposed in Joh_4:35. Still, if “about the sixth hour” was five o’clock, even in January there would be possible time for the conversation, for the return of the disciples, and also for the approach of the Samaritans; though it must be remembered that twilight in Palestine is very brief, and that the whole narrative suggests the idea of leisure rather than hurried converse. If the Roman method of interpretation were adopted, the sixth hour might mean six o’clock in the morning, which was the hour intended, if the Roman computation must be supposed in Joh_19:14. This suggestion has further difficulties. The weariness of the Lord at that early hour would imply a long journey before daybreak, which is extremely improbable (see Joh_11:9). Besides, though Townson and M’Clellan lay emphasis on this Roman computation of time in Asia Minor, and advance some proof of it, yet some of their authorities are far from proving it. Luthardt says we have no right to suppose that John would deviate from the current Jewish computation. “About the sixth hour” would therefore mean “about noon,” the very time when it is so common to rest after a morning journey. Lucke, Meyer, Hengstenberg, Godet, Lange, Schaff, Geikie, Watkins, all press the same interpretation of the words. Lucke justly says that there is no hint of the Lord and his disciples intending to remain by the well, but to pursue their journey after rest and food. This is inconsistent with the idea of an evening halt.

Pulpit Commentary


There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. The ἐκ τῆς Σαμαρείας undoubtedly qualifies the word γυνή, and not ἔρχεται; therefore the country, not the city, of Samaria is referred to. Besides, that city was at much too great a distance to be the home of this Samaritaness. There were other springs still nearer to the city of Sychar, which the women of the place would frequent. We need not, with Hengstenberg, suppose that, from a religious motive, one of reverence for the well of Jacob, this woman had chosen the longer walk and greater exertion, in the heat of the day. No hint of the kind occurs. The simple supposition that her home was hard by the well is sufficient to explain the somewhat unusual circumstance that she should have come alone and at midday. No longer, as in ancient times, did women of social position perform this duty (Gen_24:15; Exo_2:16). She by her action proclaimed her humble station in life. Hard work is performed by women at the present day in the East and South. Jesus saith to her, Give me to drink. This form of expression is not uncommon. The Lord was not only weary, but veritably thirsty. He had taken upon himself all our innocent desires and cravings. “He would know all, that he might succour all,” and was intent upon conferring a blessing by asking a favour. He put it into her power to do him a kindness, just as when God evermore says, “Give me thy heart,” when he is yearning to give himself to us. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” He will at once confer on this poor “waif and stray” the unspeakable privilege of bestowing the cup of cold water on the Lord of all. It is not that in the first instant he implied that he was thirsting for her salvation; that interpretation would almost lift the narrative into the purely symbolic region, greatly to its injury, and to the damage of the entire Gospel.

Pulpit Commentary


For his disciples had departed into the city to buy food. This is stated as a reason why he asked water from the chance wayfarer, who had obviously with her the “water pot” and the ἄντλημα (Joh_4:11), a word used for the rope with which the bucket or water jar was let down into the well. There are very discordant statements as to the degree of separation which the Jews insisted upon between themselves and Samaritans. The later rabbis greatly aggravated the feeling. They refused to eat the bread of Samaritans, as though it were more defiling than swine’s flesh; objected to drink their wine or vinegar; and, if this animosity at the time of Christ had been equally pronounced, would have limited the disciples in their choice of food to uncooked eggs, fruits, and vegetables, and possibly to meal and wine. But it seems, from the earlier rabbinical books (Edersheim quotes several, which modify Lightfoot’s authorities), that the meat of a Samaritan was lawful food if an Israelite had witnessed its killing, and that their bread, wine, etc., were not forbidden. We see no reason for thinking that Jesus was left absolutely alone on this occasion, and, from John’s habitual method of avoiding direct mention of himself, it becomes perfectly possible that he was there listening silently to all these gracious words. Moulton cannot doubt that the beloved disciple subsequently received the whole from the Lord’s own lips; but there is no reason to conclude that he must have been absent, and very much to suggest his quiet presence (Weiss, ‘Life of Christ,’ 2:34).

John Calvin

John 4:9

9.How dost thou, who art a Jew? This is a reproach, by which she retorts upon him the contempt which was generally entertained by his nation. The Samaritans are known to have been the scum of a people gathered from among foreigners. Having corrupted the worship of God, and introduced many spurious and wicked ceremonies, they were justly regarded by the Jews with detestation. Yet it cannot be doubted that the Jews, for the most part, held out their zeal for the law as a cloak for their carnal hatred; for many were actuated more by ambition and envy, and by displeasure at seeing the country which had been allotted to them occupied by the Samaritans, than by grief and uneasiness because the worship of God had been corrupted. There was just ground for the separation, provided that their feelings had been pure and well regulated. For this reason Christ, when he first sends the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel, forbids them to turn aside to the Samaritans, (Mat_10:5.)

But this woman does what is natural to almost all of us; for, being desirous to be held in esteem, we take very ill to be despised. This disease of human nature is so general, that every person wishes that his vices should please others. If any man disapproves of us, or of any thing that we do or say, we are immediately offended without any good reason. Let any man examine himself, and he will find this seed of pride in his mind, until it has been eradicated by the Spirit of God. This woman, therefore, knowing that the superstitions of her nation were condemned by the Jews, now offers an insult to them in the person of Christ.

For the Jews hold no intercourse with the Samaritans. These words I consider to have been uttered by the woman. Others suppose that the Evangelist added them for the sake of explanation, and, indeed, it is of little consequence which meaning you prefer. But I think it more natural to believe that the woman jeers at Christ in this manner: “What? Is it lawful for you to ask drink from me, when you hold us to be so profane?” If any prefer the other interpretation, I do not dispute the point. Besides, it is possible that the Jews carried their abhorrence of the Samaritans beyond proper bounds; for as we have said that they applied to an improper purpose a false pretense of zeal, so it was natural for them to go to excess, as almost always happens with those who give way to wicked passions.

Pulpit Commentary


The Samaritan woman therefore saith to him, How is it (compare this “how” with that of Nicodemus. Jesus had at once provoked inquiry, which he was not unwilling to gratify)—How is it that thou, being a Jew? She would have known that he was a Jew by his speech, for the Samaritans were accustomed to turn the sound of sh into that of s; and so, when Jesus said in Jewish Aramaic, Teni lishekoth, “Give me to drink,” while she would herself have said, Teni lisekoth, his speech would betray him. Again, the contour of the Jewish face differs greatly from that of the Samaritan, and the customary fringes on their robes were of different national colours. Moreover, his appearance, travel stained, weary, and thirsty, on the great highway between Galilee and Judaea, would have suggested at once that he was no Samaritan. Askest drink from me, who am a Samaritan, and a woman, too? Already this was a startling puzzle, for her experience so far had only shown her that Jews have no dealings (a word only once and here used in the New Testament) with Samaritans. Most commentators suppose that this is an explanatory remark of the evangelist, pointing to the absence, in a hostile and haughty spirit, of all pleasant relations between the peoples (see note at commencement of chapter). We are not compelled to this conclusion. The words may just as likely have been the pert, half-ironical tone of the woman, who was drawing a contrast between the current profession of Israelites and the request which the need of Jesus had extorted (Moulton). The eighth verse had just said that the disciples had clearly some dealings with Samaritans, and had gone to purchase food at Sychar, taking with them the apparatus used for drawing water. This last fact is the evangelist’s reason for introducing the remark of the woman. He would hardly have made it himself.

Pop Comm Philip Schaff

John 4:9

Joh_4:9. The Samaritan woman therefore saith unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a Samaritan woman? for Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.It is evident that Jesus was at once recognised as a Jew, probably through some difference of accent, or language, or dress. Wecan hardly suppose that the woman was really surprised atthe request preferred, so natural from the lips of a weary traveller (comp. Gen_24:17). We may rather imagine her as hastening to procure what was asked for, whilst not failing to point out how inconsistent with Jewish principles it was to ask even for such a favour as this. As has been said above, the maxims of the Jews respecting intercourse with the Samaritan people varied much at different times, and it is not easy to say what rules prevailed at he period with which we are here concerned. One precept of the Talmud (quoted in the Diet, of the Bible, iii. 1117) approves their mode of preparing the flesh of animals; others commend their unleavened bread, their cheese, and finally all their food. Elsewhere, however, we find restrictions; and the wine, vinegar, etc., of the Samaritans are forbidden to every Israelite, their country only with its roads and its other products being regarded as clean. This narrative shows that it was held lawful to bay food in a Samaritan town, so that the words of this verse must probably be understood to mean that Jews avoided all familiar intercourse with the alien people, sought and expected no favours at their hands. It is usually assumed that the last sentence is inserted by the Evangelist in the interest of Gentile readers. It may be so, as such short parenthetical explanations are certainly to be found elsewhere in this Gospel. There seems, however, no sufficient reason for removing the clause from the woman’s answer. The repetition of the well-known maxim gives a piquant emphasis to her words, bringing out with sharp distinctness the contrast between the principles of the countrymen of Jesus and the request which necessity had extorted. The use of the present tense (‘have no dealings’) adds some support to this view; and one can hardly avoid the conviction that, had John himself given such an explanation, he would have so expressed himself as to avoid all appearance of discordance with his statement in Joh_4:8.

John Calvin

John 4:10

10.Jesus answered. Christ now, availing himself of the opportunity, begins to preach about the grace and power of his Spirit, and that to a woman who did not at all deserve that he should speak a word to her. This is certainly an astonishing instance of his goodness. For what was there in this wretched woman, that, from being a prostitute, she suddenly became a disciple of the Son of God? Though in all of us he has displayed a similar instance of his compassion. All the women, indeed, are not prostitutes, nor are all the men stained by some heinous crime; but what excellence can any of us plead as a reason why he deigned to bestow on us the heavenly doctrine, and the honor of being admitted into his family? Nor was it by accident that the conversation with such a person occurred; for the Lord showed us, as in a model, that those to whom he imparts the doctrine of salvation are not selected on the ground of merit. And it appears at first sight a wonderful arrangement, that he passed by so many great men in Judea, and yet held familiar discourse with this woman. But it was necessary that, in his person, it should be explained how true is that saying of the Prophet, I was found by them that sought me not; I was made manifest to them that asked not after me. I said to those who sought me not, Behold, here I am, (Isa_65:1.)

If thou knewest the gift of God. These two clauses, If thou knewest the gift of God, and, who it is that talketh with thee, I read separately, viewing the latter as an interpretation of the former. For it was a wonderful kindness of God to have Christ present, who brought with him eternal life. The meaning will be more plain if, instead of and, we put namely, or some other word of that kind, thus: If thou knewest the gift of God, namely,who it is that talketh with thee By these words we are taught that then only do we know what Christ is, when we understand what the Father hath given to us in him, and what benefits he brings to us. Now that knowledge begins with a conviction of our poverty; for, before any one desires a remedy, he must be previously affected with the view of his distresses. Thus the Lord invites not those who have drunk enough, but the thirsty, not those who are satiated, but the hungry, to eat and drink. And why would Christ be sent with the fullness of the Spirit, if we were not empty?

Again, as he has made great progress, who, feeling his deficiency, already acknowledges how much he needs the aid of another; so it would not be enough for him to groan under his distresses, if he had not also hope of aid ready and prepared. In this way we might do no more than waste ourselves with grief, or at least we might, like the Papists, run about in every direction, and oppress ourselves with useless and unprofitable weariness. But when Christ appears, we no longer wander in vain, seeking a remedy where none can be obtained, but we go straight to him. The only true and profitable knowledge of the grace of God is, when we know that it is exhibited to us in Christ, and that it is held out to us by his hand. In like manner does Christ remind us how efficacious is a knowledge of his blessings, since it excites us to seek them and kindles our hearts.If thou knewest, says he, thou wouldst have asked. The design of these words is not difficult to be perceived; for he intended to whet the desire of this woman, that she might not despise and reject the life which was offered to her.

He would have given thee. By these words Christ testifies that, if our prayers be addressed to him, they will not be fruitless; and, indeed, without this confidence, the earnestness of prayer would be entirely cooled. But when Christ meets those who come to him, and is ready to satisfy their desires, there is no more room for sluggishness or delay. And there is no man who would not feel that this is said to all of us, if he were not prevented by his unbelief.

Living water. Though the nameWater is borrowed from the present occurrence, and applied to the Spirit, yet this metaphor is very frequent in Scripture, and rests on the best grounds. For we are like a dry and barren soil; there is no sap and no rigour in us, until the Lord water us by his Spirit. In another passage, the Spirit is likewise called clean water, (Heb_10:22,) but in a different sense; namely, because he washes and cleanses us from the pollutions with which we are entirely covered. But in this and similar passages, the subject treated of is the secret energy by which he restores life in us, and maintains and brings it to perfection. There are some who explain this as referring to the doctrine of the Gospel, to which I own that this appellation is fully applicable; but I think that Christ includes here the whole grace of our renewal; for we know that he was sent for the purpose of bringing to us a new life. In my opinion, therefore, he intended to contrast water with that destitution of all blessings under which mankind groan and labor. Again, living water is not so called from its effect, as life-giving, but the allusion is to different kinds of waters. It is called living, because it flows from a living fountain.

Pulpit Commentary


Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou hadst known the gift of God (but thou dost not;—this conclusion is involved in the form of the conditional sentence), and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink. Many suggestions are offered as to the meaning here of the “gift of God.” Elsewhere (Joh_3:16) Christ is himself God’s Gift, and St. Paul speaks of Christ as God’s unspeakable Gift (Hengstenberg). Paul also declares that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” The living water, the refreshing, life-giving stream of blessedness which Christ is opening in this wilderness, is the meaning put back by some into these memorable words as they first fell from the lips of Jesus. So Lampe and Godet. But Augustine and others point to Joh_7:39, where John tells us that the living water of which Jesus speaks as welling up like a river in the heart of a believer, in the bosom of one who has come to him to slake his otherwise quenchless thirst, is “the Spirit,” which those who believe on him should receive when Jesus would be glorified. This sublime renewal of the greatest gift of God by the Spirit is set forth under similar imagery in Isa_44:3 and Joe_2:28. However, words are functions of two minds; what they must or might have meant to her must have been Christ’s meaning when he uttered them. The explanatory clause, Who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, solves the perplexity. That the Son of God, that the Loges in flesh, should have so emptied himself of his eternal glory as to ask for water from a Samaritan, and a woman, is in itself a gift, the supreme gift, of God. She did not know the fulness of his nature. So Lange, Grotius, and others. A remark by Dr. Yeomans is singularly suggestive: “The context shows that ‘the gift of God’ is a gift which God had already given, rather than one yet held in reserve—the actual gift of his condescension, rather than the offered gift of living water, or the Holy Ghost.” Had she known it and put the two thoughts together in the rudest fashion, she would have known the gift of God, and she would have become the suppliant at once and he the Giver. Thou wouldest have asked (prayed, taken the position of the inferior) of him, and he would have given to thee living water. (For the phrase, “living water,” see Gen_26:19; and for its application, Zec_14:8; Jer_2:13; Rev_7:17; Rev_21:6; Rev_22:1.) The Divine supply of heaven-sent life, which will slake all thirst for lesser gifts, and which will constitute the perennial blessedness of saved and glorified spirits. The gift of God is the full discovery of personal relations with the veritable Source of all life. This becomes life eternal as it leads to knowledge of the only God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent; and assists a full realization of the life, the Source and End of which are God. It is interesting to notice that Philo, in many places, declares these wells of water (Gen_29:2) to mean “true philosophy or wisdom, deep and only with difficulty drawn upon.” “Flowing water is the Loges himself, ‘cisterns’ represent memories of past knowledge;” but the Old Testament usage quoted above is a far more rational justification of the language used by our Lord.

A.T. Robertson

John 4:10

Answered and said (apekrithē kai eipen). As often (redundant) in John. The first aorist passive (apekrithē) is deponent, no longer passive in sense.

If thou knewest (ei ēideis). Condition of second class, determined as unfulfilled, ei and past perfect ēideis (used as imperfect) in condition and an and aorist active indicative in conclusion (an ēitēsas kai an edōken, note repetition of an, not always done).

The gift of God (tēn dōrean tou theou). Naturally the gift mentioned in Joh_3:16 (Westcott), the inexpressible gift (2Co_9:15). Some take it to refer to the living water below, but that is another allusion (metaphor) to Joh_3:16. See Eph_4:7 for Paul’s use of both charis and dōrea (from didōmi, to give).

Who it is (tis estin). She only knew that he was a Jew. This Messianic self-consciousness of Jesus is plain in John, but it is early in the Synoptics also.

Living water (hudōr zōn). Running water like a spring or well supplied by springs. This Jacob’s Well was filled by water from rains percolating through, a sort of cistern, good water, but not equal to a real spring which was always preferred (Gen_26:19; Lev_14:5; Num_19:17). Jesus, of course, is symbolically referring to himself as the Living Water though he does not say it in plain words as he does about the Living Bread (Joh_6:51). The phrase “the fountain of life” occurs in Pro_13:14. Jesus supplies the water of life (Joh_7:39). Cf. Rev_7:17; Rev_22:1.

Cambridge Bible Plummer

John 4:12

12. Art thou greater] ‘Thou’ is very emphatic; Surely Thou art not greater. Comp. Joh_8:53. The loquacity of the woman as contrasted with the sententiousness of Nicodemus is very natural, while on the other hand she shews a similar perverseness in misunderstanding spiritual metaphors.

our father Jacob] The Samaritans claimed to be descended from Joseph; with how much justice is a question very much debated. Some maintain that they were of purely heathen origin, although they were driven by calamity to unite the worship of Jehovah with their own idolatries: and this view seems to be in strict accordance with 2Ki_17:23-41. Renegade Jews took refuge among them from time to time; but such immigrants would not affect the texture of the nation more than the French refugees among ourselves. Others hold that the Samaritans were from the first a mongrel nation, a mixture of heathen colonists with Jewish inhabitants, left behind by Shalmaneser. But there is nothing to shew that he did leave any behind (2Ki_18:11); Josephus says (Ant. ix. xiv. 1) that ‘he transplanted all the people.’ When the Samaritans asked Alexander the Great to excuse them from tribute in the Sabbatical year, because as true sons of Joseph they did not till their land in the seventh year, he pronounced their claim an imposture, and destroyed Samaria. Our Lord calls a Samaritan a ‘stranger’ (Luk_17:18), literally ‘one of a different race.’

John Calvin

John 4:13

13. Every one that drinketh of this water. Though Christ perceives that he is doing little good, and even that his instruction is treated with mockery, he proceeds to explain more clearly what he had said. He distinguishes between the use of the two kinds of water; that the one serves the body, and only for a time, while the power of the other gives perpetual vigor to the soul. For, as the body is liable to decay, so the aids by which it is supported must be frail and transitory. That which quickens the soul cannot but be eternal. Again, the words of Christ are not at variance with the fact, that believers, to the very end of life, burn with desire of more abundant grace. For he does not say that, from the very first day, we drink so as to be fully satisfied, but only means that the Holy Spirit is a continually flowing fountain; and that, therefore, there is no danger that they who have been renewed by spiritual grace shall be dried up. And, therefore, although we thirst throughout our whole life, yet it is certain that we have not received the Holy Spirit for a single day, or for any short period, but as a perennial fountain, which will never fail us. Thus believers thirst, and keenly thirst, throughout their whole life; and yet they have abundance of quickening moisture; for however small may have been the measure of grace which they have received, it gives them perpetual vigor, so that they are never entirely dry. When, therefore, he says that they shall be satisfied, he contrasts not with Desire but only with Drought

Shall be a fountain of water springing up into eternal life. These words express still more clearly the preceding statement; for they denote a continual watering, which maintains in them a heavenly eternity during this mortal and perishing life. The grace of Christ, therefore, does not flow to us for a short time, but overflows into a blessed immortality; for it does not cease to flow until the incorruptible life which it commences be brought to perfection.,

Pulpit Commentary


Jesus answered and said to her—leaving the question of his superiority to “our father Jacob” to be settled when she should understand him better—Every one who drinketh (is in the habit of drinking) from this water, or any similar fountain, will thirst again. Earthly desires obtain temporary satisfaction, and then resume their sway. Our whole life is made up of intermittent desires and partial satisfaction, of passion and satiation, of ennui and then of some new longing. This flow and ebb, ebb and flow, of desire belong to the very nature of human appetite. More than that, human desire is never really satiated. Our souls can never be at rest till they find rest in God. This water, even from the well of Jacob, is no exception to the rule.

Pulpit Commentary


But whosoever shall have drunk of the water which I will give him (of which I am speaking) shall not (by any means, οὐ μὴ) thirst again forever. How different from the words of the son of Sirach (Ecclus. 24:21), “They who drink of me,” says Wisdom, “shall thirst again”! They will experience neither continuity nor completeness of enjoyment, but periods of incessant and recurrent desire. Jesus speaks of a Divine and complete satisfaction. The spiritual thirst once slaked, the heavenly desire once realized by appropriating the gift of God, is fundamentally satisfied. The nature itself is changed. How closely this corresponds with the idea of birth into a new world! and how nearly akin to the promise of living water in Joh_7:37, etc. (see also the language of Joh_6:35)! But the water that I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water leaping up (welling, bubbling up and forth) into eternal life. This is the explanation of the full satisfaction of desire. I do not give a simple “drink of water,” but I cause a spring, a perennial fountain, a river of Divine pleasure to issue and flow from that inward satisfaction which follows a reception of my gifts; and it is so abundant that it is enough foreverlasting needs. The water that I give becomes a fountain, and the fountain swells into a river, and the river expands into and loses itself in the great ocean of eternity. The beauty of the image is lost if, with Luthardt and Moulton, we attach the εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον to πηγή rather than ἁλλομε ́νου (ἁλλε ́σθαι is not elsewhere applied to water, and this use of it gives the metaphor all the more force). The imagery is not without its difficulty. We are tempted to conclude from it that the Divine life, once given, becomes consciously a self-dependent force within the soul; but this would not be justified by all the analogy of the Divine working in humanity, which, though abundant, efficacious, and satisfying, never repudiates its Divine source, but continually proclaims it. If the desire for what God alone can supply is eager and quenchless, and if God meet the craving, then the desire is absolutely satisfied. There is a superfluous fulness in the girt of God which will transcend all the needs of this life, and be enough for eternity.

Pop Comm Schaff

John 4:14

Joh_4:14.But whosoever hath drunk of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of springing water, unto eternal life. The living water of which Jesus speaks becomes in him who hath drunk of it a perennial fountain,—a fountain of water that is ever springing up in freshness and life, of water that not only is itself living, but that brings and gives eternal life. As before, this water is the Holy Spirit. The whole thought closely approaches that of chap. Joh_7:38. There the promise is, that out of the heart of him who comes unto Jesus that he may drink, who believes in Jesus, there shall flow rivers of living water; ‘And this spake He of the Spirit.’ The Holy Spirit is the special gift of Jesus; and, reciprocally, it is through the Holy Spirit that the believer remains united to his Lord in an abiding fellowship (chap. Joh_16:14-15), and that Jesus lives in him (chap. Joh_17:23). These truths of the later discourses are really present here: Jesus, who first gives the living water, becomes in him that hath received it the fountain which supplies the same stream of life for ever. The end is life eternal, not attained in the remote future, but begun and actually present in every one who has received the water that Jesus gives; for all those to whom the Spirit is given experience that union with God which is eternal life (see the note on chap. Joh_3:14).

Marvin Vincent

John 4:14

Whosoever drinketh (ὃς δ’ ἂν πίῃ)

So Rev. The A.V. renders the two expressions in the same way, but there is a difference in the pronouns, indicated, though very vaguely, by every one that and whosoever, besides a more striking difference in the verb drinketh. In the former case, the article with the participle indicates something habitual; every one that drinks repeatedly, as men ordinarily do on the recurrence of their thirst. In Joh_4:14 the definite aorist tense expresses a single act – something done once for all. Literally, he who may have drunk.

Shall never thirst (οὐ μὴ διψήσει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα)

The double negative, οὐ μὴ, is a very strong mode of statement, equivalent to by no means, or in nowise. It must not be understood, however, that the reception of the divine life by a believer does away with all further desire. On the contrary, it generates new desires. The drinking of the living water is put as a single act, in order to indicate the divine principle of life as containing in itself alone the satisfaction of all holy desires as they successively arise; in contrast with human sources, which are soon exhausted, and drive one to other fountains. Holy desire, no matter how large or how varied it may become, will always seek and find its satisfaction in Christ, and in Christ only. Thirst is to be taken in the same sense in both clauses, as referring to that natural craving which the world cannot satisfy, and which is therefore ever restless. Drusius, a Flemish critic, cited by Trench (“Studies in the Gospels”), says: “He who drinks the water of wisdom thirsts and does not thirst. He thirsts, that is, he more and more desires that which he drinks. He does not thirst, because he is so filled that he desires no other drink.” The strong contrast of this declaration of our Lord with pagan sentiment, is illustrated by the following passage from Plato:

“Socrates: Let me request you to consider how far you would accept this as an account of the two lives of the temperate and intemperate: There are two men, both of whom have a number of casks; the one man has his casks sound and full, one of wine, another of honey, and a third of milk, besides others filled with other liquids, and the streams which fill them are few and scanty, and he can only obtain them with a great deal of toil and difficulty; but when his casks are once filled he has no need to feed them any more, and has no further trouble with them, or care about them. The other, in like manner, can procure streams, though not without difficulty, but his vessels are leaky and unsound, and night and day he is compelled to be filling them, and if he pauses for a moment he is in an agony of pain. Such are their respective lives: And now would you say that the life of the intemperate is happier than that of the temperate? Do I not convince you that the opposite is the truth?

“Callicles: You do not convince me, Socrates, for the one who has filled himself has no longer any pleasure left; and this, as I was just now saying, is the life of a stone; he has neither joy nor sorrow after he is once filled; but the life of pleasure is the pouring in of the stream.

“Socrates: And if the stream is always pouring in, must there not be a stream always running out, and holes large enough to admit of the discharge?

“Callicles: Certainly.

“Socrates: The life, then, of which you are now speaking is not that of a dead man, or of a stone, but of a cormorant; you mean that he is to be hungering and eating?

“Callicles: Yes.

“Socrates: And he is to be thirsting and drinking?

“Callicles: Yes, that is what I mean; he is to have all his desires about him, and to be able to live happily in the gratification of them” (“Gorgias,” 494). Compare Rev_7:16,Rev_7:17.

Shall be (γενήσεται)

Rev., better, shall become, expressing the ever-developing richness and fresh energy of the divine principle of life.

In Him

A supply having its fountain-head in the man’s own being, and not in something outside himself.

A well (πηγὴ)

The Rev. retains well, where spring would have been more correct.

Springing up (ἀλλπμένου)

Leaping; thus agreeing with shall become. “The imperial philosopher of Rome uttered a great truth, but an imperfect one; saw much, but did not see all; did not see that this spring of water must be fed, and fed evermore, from the ‘upper springs,’ if it is not presently to fail, when he wrote: ‘Look within; within is the fountain of good, and ever able to gush forth if you are ever digging’” (Plutarch, “On Virtue and Vice”).

Unto everlasting life

Christ in a believer is life. This life ever tends toward its divine source, and issues in eternal life.

Come hither (ἔρχωμαι ἐνθάδε)

The best texts read διέρχωμαι, the preposition διά having the force of through the intervening plain.

Albert Barnes

John 4:14

The water that I shall give him – Jesus here refers, without doubt, to his own teaching, his “grace,” his “spirit,” and to the benefits which come into the soul that embraces his gospel. It is a striking image, and especially in Eastern countries, where there are vast deserts, and often a great want of water. The soul by nature is like such a desert, or like a traveler wandering through such a desert. It is thirsting for happiness, and seeking it everywhere, and finds it not. It looks in all directions and tries all objects, but in vain. Nothing meets its desires. Though a sinner seeks for joy in wealth and pleasures, yet he is not satisfied. He still thirsts for more, and seeks still for happiness in some new enjoyment. To such a weary and unsatisfied sinner the grace of Christ is “as cold waters to a thirsty soul.”

Shall never thirst – He shall be “satisfied” with this, and will not have a sense of want, a distressing feeling that it is not adapted to him. He who drinks this will not wish to seek for happiness in other objects. “Satisfied” with the grace of Christ, he will not desire the pleasures and amusements of this world. And this will be forever – in this world and the world to come. “Whosoever” drinketh of this all who partake of the gospel – shall be “forever” satisfied with its pure and rich joys.

Shall be in him – The grace of Christ shall be in his heart; or the principles of religion shall abide with him.

A well of water – There shall be a constant supply, an unfailing fountain; or religion shall live constantly with him.

Springing up – This is a beautiful image, It shall bubble or spring up like a fountain. It is not like a stagnant pool – not like a deep well, but like an ever-living fountain, that flows at all seasons of the year, in heat and cold, and in all external circumstances of weather, whether foul or fair, wet or dry. So religion always lives; and, amid all changes of external circumstances – in heat and cold, hunger and thirst, prosperity and adversity, life, persecution, contempt, or death – it still lives on, and refreshes and cheers the soul.

Into everlasting life – It is not temporary, like the supply of our natural wants; it is not changing in its nature; it is not like a natural fountain or spring of water, to play a While and then die away, as all natural springs will at the end of the world. It is eternal in its nature and supply, and will continue to live on forever. We may learn here:

1. That the Christian has a never-failing source of consolation adapted to all times and circumstances.

2. That religion has its seat in the heart, and that it should constantly live there.

3. That it sheds its blessings on a world of sin, and is manifest by a continual life of piety, like a constant flowing spring.

4. That its end is everlasting life. It will continue forever; and “whosoever drinks of this shall never thirst, but his piety shall be in his heart a pure fountain “springing up to eternal joy.”

Cambridge Bible

John 4:15

15. She still does not understand, but does not wilfully misunderstand. This wonderful water will at any rate be worth having, and she asks quite sincerely (not ironically) for it. Had she been a Jew, she could scarcely have thus misunderstood, this metaphor of ‘water’ and ‘living water’ is so frequent in the Prophets. Comp. Isa_12:3; Isa_44:3; Jer_2:13; Zec_13:1; Zec_14:8. But the Samaritans rejected all but the Pentateuch.

to draw] Same word as in Joh_2:8-9; peculiar to this Gospel.

Pop Comm Schaff

John 4:15

Joh_4:15.The woman saith unto him. Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come all the way hither to draw. These are words of simple earnestness. In the mysterious words of the Jewish traveller one thing was plain,—instead of the water she came to draw, water was offered that would satisfy thirst now and for ever. Could she gain this gift, she would no longer need to traverse the distance from Sychar to Jacob’s well. Though much nearer than Shechem, El-Askar is perhaps three-quarters of a mile from the well. The later narrative makes it impossible for us to regard this answer as one either of flippancy or of dulness of spiritual perception. It is in every way more probable and true to nature to consider it as the expression of a bewildered mind eager to receive such a gift as has been offered, little as she could comprehend of what nature the gift could be. If we are right in the conjecture that other than common motives brought her to the well (see the note on Joh_4:12), it is still easier to understand her reply. With this verse comp. chap. Joh_6:34.

John Calvin

John 4:25

25.The Messiah is about to come. Although religion among the Samaritans was corrupted and mixed up with many errors, yet some principles taken from the Law were impressed on their minds, such as that which related to the Messiah. Now it is probable that, when the woman ascertained from Christ’s discourse that a very extraordinary change was about to take place in the Church of God, her mind instantly recurred to the recollection of Christ, under whom she hoped that all things would be fully restored. When she says that the Messiah is about to come, she seems to speak of the time as near at hand; and, indeed, it is sufficiently evident from many arguments, that the minds of men were everywhere aroused by the expectation of the Messiah, who would restore the affairs which were wretchedly decayed, or rather, which were utterly ruined.

This, at least, is beyond all controversy, that the woman prefers Christ to Moses and to all the Prophets in the office of teaching; for she comprehends three things in a few words. First, that the doctrine of the Law was not absolutely perfect, and that nothing more than first principles was delivered in it; for if there had not been some farther progress to be made, she would not have said thatthe Messiah will tell us all things. There is an implied contrast between him and the Prophets, that it is his peculiar office to conduct his disciples to the goal, while the Prophets had only given them the earliest instructions, and, as it were, led them into the course. Secondly, the woman declares that she expects such aChrist as will be the interpreter of his Father, and the teacher and instructor of all the godly. Lastly, she expresses her belief that we ought not to desire any thing better or more perfect than his doctrine, but that, on the contrary, this is the farthest object of wisdom, beyond which it is unlawful to proceed.

I wish that those who now boast of being the pillars of the Christian Church, would at least imitate this poor woman, so as to be satisfied with the simple doctrine of Christ, rather than claim I know not what power of superintendence for putting forth their inventions. For whence was the religion of the Pope and Mahomet collected but from the wicked additions, by which they imagined that they brought the doctrine of the Gospel to a state of perfection? As if it would have been incomplete without such fooleries. But whoever shall be well taught in the school of Christ will ask no other instructors, and indeed will not receive them.

Cambridge Bible Plummer

John 4:25

25. Messias] See note on Joh_1:41. There is nothing at all improbable in her knowing the Jewish name and using it to a Jew. The word being so rare in N.T. we are perhaps to understand that it was the very word used; but it may be S. John’s equivalent for what she said. Comp. Joh_4:29. Throughout this discourse it is impossible to say how much of it is a translation of the very words used, how much merely the substance of what was said. S. John would obtain his information from Christ, and possibly from the woman also during their two days’ stay. The idea that S. John was left behind by the disciples, and heard the conversation, is against the whole tenour of the narrative and is contradicted by Joh_4:8; Joh_4:27.

which is called Christ] Probably a parenthetic explanation of the Evangelist’s (but contrast Joh_1:41), not the woman’s. The Samaritan name for the expected Saviour was ‘the Returning One,’ or (according to a less probable derivation) ‘the Converter.’ ‘The Returner’ points to the belief that Moses was to appear again.

when he is come] Or, when He comes. ‘He’ is in emphatic contrast to other teachers.

all things] In a vague colloquial sense.

Pulpit Commentary


We probably do not possess here the whole of the conversation. It is clear, however, that strange presentiments of something more precious than any sanctuary, or any ritual, dawned upon the Samaritan woman. “A prophet” might tell her and her people where men ought to worship. The Prophet she discovered answered a desire for the “where” by revealing the “how” they are to worship. But there are many other lessons they need, and she gives expression to an idea of the Messiah, and of his coming, which startles us by its boldness. The woman saith unto him, I know (οἶδα, I know as a matter of current opinion and with intuitive certainty) that Messias cometh (which is called Christ). [This parenthetical clause by the evangelist is the explanatory translation into Greek of the Aramaic word. This must be so, unless we could be certain, with Hug, Diodati, and Roberts, that Jesus and the woman were speaking Greek to each other.] The woman turns from a theme which she has partially understood. How should a woman have been able at a moment to discharge and dispense with the traditions of a life, and the prejudices hoary with age? We know that the Samaritans anticipated One who should be a “converter,” or “restorer”; Hengstenberg, Tholuck, Meyer, by restitutor), and cherished a hope of his appearance, upon the faith of the great promise (Deu_18:15) that One would arise who would make known to them the Divine will. It is remarkable, but not unreasonable, that she should have adopted the Hebrew word in common use among all the Jewish people. In Joh_4:29 it is given in Greek without any reference to the original speech. Samaritans and Jews alike anticipated a Christ an Anointed One, a Plenipotentiary, a Guide. The more spiritual apprehension which follows becomes some explanation of the fact that our blessed Lord should have admitted to her what he afterwards, in Galilee, kept reticently in reserve. The Galilaeans would have come, on his slightest encouragement, and against his will have made him a king. This would have forced on him a position and dignity which, from their standpoint, would have wrecked his spiritual mission and frustrated his design. This woman, here and later on, made it obvious that her notion of the “Restitutor” or “Messiah” was One who, when he is come, will declare to us all things; in Joh_4:29 One who can read the secrets of the heart, and knows her and others altogether; while from Joh_4:42 we learn that she and her friends were anticipating there and then “the Saviour of the world.” Luthardt here points back to Gen_5:29 as part of the origin of the Samaritan idea.

Pop Comm Schaff

John 4:25

Joh_4:25.The woman saith unto him, I know that Messiah cometh (which is called Christ). There is nothing surprising in her avowal that a Deliverer was looked for. We know from other sources that this was, and still is, an article of the Samaritan as of the Jewish faith; from age to age this people had waited in expectation of ‘the Converter’ or ‘the Guide.’ But the use of the Jewish name ‘Messiah’ is more remarkable. We might suppose that it pointed to an approach towards Jewish faith and thought effected in this woman’s heart by the teaching of Jesus, were it not that Joh_4:29 seems to show that the name was understood by Samaritans in general. Yet it could hardly be otherwise. Separated as the nations were, the famous name which the Jews universally applied to the Deliverer, for whose coming both peoples alike were waiting, would naturally be known far beyond the limits of Judea. The explanatory parenthesis, ‘which is called Christ,’ was no doubt added by the Evangelist, who afterwards (Joh_4:29) translates the word without any mention of the Hebrew form.

When he is come, he will tell us all things. There can be little doubt that the Samaritan hope was mainly founded on the great passage in the Pentateuch, Deu_18:15-18 (see note on chap. Joh_1:21). The language here used, ‘He will tell us all things,’ at once reminds us of Deu_18:18, ‘He shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.’ The dependence of the Samaritans on the Pentateuch alone would naturally lead to their giving prominence to the prophetic aspect of the Coming One, so emphatically presented in this passage of the Law, rather than to the aspects under which the Deliverer is viewed in the later books of the Old Testament. The woman’s words, indeed, may not convey her whole conception of Messiah, for the context has pointed only to revelation and teaching; but it is more than probable that many elements of the Jewish faith on this subject would be unknown in Samaria. If, however, the Samaritans expected less than the fuller revelation warranted, they at least escaped the prevalent Jewish error of looking for a Conqueror rather than a Prophet, for a temporal rather than a spiritual King.

John Calvin

John 4:26

26.It is I who talk with thee. When he acknowledges to the woman that; he is the Messiah, he unquestionably presents himself as her Teacher, in compliance with the expectation which she had formed; and, therefore, I think it probable, that he proceeded to give more full instruction, in order to satisfy her thirst. Such a proof of his grace he intended to give in the case of this poor woman, that he might testify to all that he never fails to discharge his office, when we desire to have him for our Teacher. There is, therefore, no danger that he will disappoint one of those whom he finds ready to become his disciples. But they who refuse to submit to him, as we see done by many haughty and irreligious men, or who hope to find elsewhere a wisdom more perfect — as the Mahometans and Papists do — deserve to be driven about by innumerable enchantments, and at length to be plunged in an abyss of errors. Again, by these words, “I who talk with thee am the Messiah, the Son of God,” he employs the name Messiah as a seal to ratify the doctrine of his Gospel; for we must remember that he was anointed by the Father, and that the Spirit of God rested on him, that he might bring to us the message of salvation, as Isaiah declares, (Isa_61:1.)

Albert Barnes

John 4:26

I that speak onto thee am – he I am the Messiah. This was the first time that he openly professed it. He did not do it yet to the Jews, for it would have excited envy and opposition. But nothing could be apprehended in Samaria; and as the woman seemed reluctant to listen to him as a prophet, and professed her willingness to listen to the Messiah, he openly declared that he was the Christ, that by some means he might save her soul. From this we may learn:

1. The great wisdom of the Lord Jesus in leading the thoughts along to the subject of practical personal religion.

2. His knowledge of the heart and of the life. He must be therefore divine.

3. He gave evidence here that he was the Messiah. This was the design of John in writing this gospel. He has therefore recorded this narrative, which was omitted by the other evangelists.

4. We see our duty. It is to seize on all occasions to lead sinners to the belief that Jesus is the Christ, and to make use of all topics of conversation to teach them the nature of religion. There never was a model of so much wisdom in this as the Saviour, and we shall be successful only as we diligently study his character.

5. We see the nature of religion. It does not consist merely in external forms. It is pure, spiritual, active – an ever-bubbling fountain. It is the worship of a pure and holy God, where the heart is offered, and where the desires of an humble soul are breathed out; for salvation.


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