True worship is not the use of any individual element of our being. It is our whole being in relationship to the Father, not something we can draw forth by our own efforts but rather something we receive from G-d through Messiah Yeshua.
Mayim Chayim—Waters of Life
4:3 “Yeshua left Judea and went back again to the Galil”
Yeshua knew (verses 1-2) that some of the Perushim—Pharisees—were getting up tight about His generating so much attention. It seems He was heading home for a break from the hoopla?
4:4 “He had to go through Samaria.”
Yeshua didn’t have to go through Samaria for ease of travel or because there was no other way to get to the Galil: on the contrary, most Jews crossed the Jordan and traveled its east back so as to avoid Samaria. Why? Because the Samaritans were spiritual apostates and had become a stench in the nostrils of the Jewish people. The Talmud, which has a small tractate that addresses the issue of the Kuthim—Samaritans along with other ancient rabbinical texts say the following:
“No Israelite is to eat--or drink for that matter—of anything that belongs to a Samaritan, for it is as if he should eat swine flesh.”
–Rabbi Tanchum (italic statement is added for the purpose of clarification)
“When may they--Samaritans—be received into the Jewish community? When they have renounced Mt Gerizim--that is the mountain where their apostate temple had been built—and acknowledge Jerusalem--as the true G-d ordained place of worship—and the resurrection of the dead--like the Saddusim—Sadducees, the Samaritans venerated only the Torah and did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.”
–Talmud, closing Statement of tractate Kuthim (italic statements are added for the purpose of clarification)
So why did Yeshua have to go to Samaria? The only contextual possibility is that it was always in G-d’s plan to reconcile the people of Samaria to Himself and that Yeshua intentionally sought out the Samaritan woman to arrange the salvation of her village. There is literally no other textual evidence that can offer us any options outside of this.
While it must be conceded that the origin of the Samaritan people may include a small number of intermarriages with Israelites, the Scripture clearly indicates that this was negligible at best and that the Samaritan blood line was so diluted that they could not be considered Jewish based on blood relationship. This is later confirmed by Yeshua Himself when He makes a clear distinction between the two people groups. For information regarding the inception of the Samaritan people read 2 Kings 17:22-34.
4:5 “Yeshua came to a town in Samaria called Sychar—possibly Shechem—near the plot of land Yaakov had given to his son Yosef. Yaakov’s well was there and Yeshua, who was exhausted from His journey, sat down beside the well.”
“Yeshua came to a town in Samaria,” in fact we know—from the previous verse—that he had to go to this town. The town Sychar has been identified by some scholars to be an alternate name or spelling for Shechem—the seat of Jeroboam’s idolatrous power (1 Kings 12:25-33). This is significant because it sheds light on the conversation that Yeshua has with the woman regarding places of worship. Jeroboam had sought to set up a new system of worship both as a political maneuver and as an act of willful rebellion against G-d. It seems that the sin of Jeroboam became a negative spiritual platform for idolatrous worship which found its fulfillment in the later syncretistic practices of the pagan peoples brought into the north of Israel by the Assyrian King in the 7th and 8th centuries B.C.E.
“Near the plot of land Yaakov had given to his son Yosef.” Joseph is probably mentioned here because the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, originally inherited the land that had later become the region of Samaria. Yochanan/John, the Jewish writer of this gospel may well have been alluding to the fact that the Samaritan claim on the land was a violation of its rightful allotment in Israel.
“Yaakov’s well,” may be mentioned as a further statement of irony, given that the author probably considers the Jews to be the true descendants of Jacob and therefore the rightful owners of the well. It is also likely that Jacob’s well is referenced as a precursor to the Samaritan ancestral claim that they were descended from Jacob—a dubious claim at best.
“Yeshua, who was exhausted from His journey, sat down beside the well.” Yeshua, G-d with us, was tired.
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted (tried) in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
—Hebrews 4:15 (NASB)
4:6-9 “It was 12pm. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Yeshua said to her, ‘will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You’re a Jew and I’m a Samaritan woman. What are you thinking, asking me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)”
“It was midday.” It is rightly pointed out by a number of commentators that it was customary for water to be drawn in the cool of the day, either early in the morning or in the evening at sundown. This may indicate that the woman was an outcast, possibly due to her multiple husbands which would have been looked down upon as immorality.
“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Yeshua said to her, ‘will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into town to buy food.)” Whilst it is possible the author was present and observing this event, it is unlikely. It seems more reasonable to assume that the textual note regarding the disciples’ absence is meant to emphasis the solitary aspect of this meeting. Yeshua was tired and if He had walked all day from sunrise, very thirsty. I believe He genuinely wanted a drink—the fact that He was able to use the metaphor of water to expound the deeper reality of His ministry is an example of the wonderful unity of the physical and spiritual within G-d’s creation.
“The Samaritan woman said to Him, “You’re a Jew and I’m a Samaritan woman. What are you thinking, asking me for a drink? (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” There are several perspectives to consider here. Firstly Yeshua was a thirsty stranger in obvious need of water, in a hot climate, having walked a great distance and in danger of passing out from heat exhaustion. Regardless of any animosity between Jews and Samaritans or any social educate issues regarding men and women, the fact is that both cultures had a policy of welcome and provision for travelers. The primary moral thing to do here was to give Yeshua a drink of water.
However, who’s to say the woman didn’t do that very thing as the conversation progressed? It was definitely an unusual situation from her perspective. Jewish men, especially Rabbis’ did not make a habit of being seen alone with women in public. Jews detested Samaritans and vice versa, so the woman’s incredulous question makes sense even if it was somewhat rude.
4:10 “Yeshua answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of G-d and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you Mayim Chayim—Living water.”
Yeshua came here to meet this woman--He had to go. His intention is made full in the use of the water metaphor. He desires the salvation of this woman and her entire village. So, regardless of whether she gives Him physical water or not, He offers her a fresh spring of Life Water, perpetually running spiritual springs of water that sustain the soul for eternity. The Hebrew—and there’s no good reason to presume they were speaking a language other than Hebrew--Mayim Chayim, running waters full of life, is rhythmic and captivating: it’s a move away from the sitting water of the well.
It’s interesting to note that the key phrases in Yeshua’s response: gift, Who and given, are pretexted in John 3:27-31.
“An individual can only receive what is given from the heavens.” John 3:27
This explains both the gift and the giver. Yeshua is the gift and the extension of Who He is, the living water that flows from His sacrificial death, is a stream whose waters are eternal. He is explaining to the Samaritan woman that she could not possibly hope to draw this water herself because it can only be received as a gift from the heavens.
“The One Who comes from the heavens is above all.” John 3:31
Yeshua is the One Who comes from the heavens. This answers the Who.
4:11-12 “‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘You have no way of drawing water and the well is deep. Where can you get this mayim chayim—running waters that are alive? Are You greater than our Father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock?’”
She begins respectfully but soon issues a challenge that shows she is unable to perceive what Yeshua is offering. She refers to Jacob as her people’s ancestral father in much the same way the religious leaders of the Jews claimed affiliation to Moses and Abraham. The point is, she’s looking for excuses to avoid taking this crazy Jew seriously. She is also emphasizing the Samaritan claim to the well and land, both of which were purchased long ago and rightfully belonged to the Jewish people, not the Samaritans.
4:13-14“Yeshua answered, ‘everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give them--there’s the Who and the gift again—will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water bubbling up to eternal life.’”
It is important to note the difference between the well water and the water Yeshua offers. A well contains settled, unmoving water; on the other hand Yeshua is offering a kind of spiritual water that is like a bubbling fresh spring. Springs are moving, fresh water, that can bubble up through the ground. They are almost always from an abundant core source and rarely fail. In addition they do not require effort in collection of water because the water bubbles up and flows continuously, allowing the drinker to simply receive the water as a gift rather than work for it as a compensation. The water Messiah offers cannot be drawn up with human effort, it can only be received from the heavens.
4:15 “The woman said, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t continue to be thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’”
I’m not sure if this was a genuine request or a sarcastic jib? Either way, Yeshua is about to challenge her motivation.
4:16-18 “Yeshua told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied.’ Yeshua said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is that you have had five husbands, and the guy you’re sleeping with now is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’”
At the time, oral tradition indicates that for Jews up to three divorces was within morally acceptable parameters. Perhaps the number was slightly higher for Samaritans—but I find that unlikely. The point is that even by humanities immoral moral standards this woman was exceptionally wayward. Some suggest that she may have been widowed five times thus making her morally righteous, and it is true that the villagers—who based on her supposed immorality should have shunned her—did come out to see the man Yeshua based on her word. However I find this unlikely, especially given that her current sexual partner was not her husband, which infers he was either someone else’s husband or single: in either case it was not a morally acceptable Biblically or cultural situation for her to be in. What is apparent is that Yeshua is exposing her sinful lifestyle in order to show her a starting point for receiving salvation. No one can be saved without admitting their sinfulness before G-d. If we are sinless and there are no harmful consequences to our actions, what do we need saving from? It is important to note how gentle Yeshua is in exposing the Samaritan woman’s shortcomings.
4:19-26 “The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain—Mt Gerizim—and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Yeshua said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I Am the One speaking to you.”
It has always been the primary role of Israel’s prophets to expose the nations’ sin with the purpose of bringing Israel to repentance. The Samaritans, who had a mosaic view of the coming Messiah based on their venerating only the Torah--Samaritan Pentateuch, would probably have understood the Messiah to be a prophet above all else. The woman’s response then is understandable. Her sin has been exposed in prophetic style by a man she doesn’t know, she assumes that He is a prophet at this point.
It seems thought that her heart was still hard toward Yeshua, she begins to start a new argument about rightful worship, or, is she genuinely wanting to know what this man—who is obviously a prophet—will say about true worship. Does she want Him to tell her once and for all which Mountain is the one she should be worshipping on? In the end the point is moot, for Yeshua is about to make forms of worship that rely on humanities efforts, obsolete.
“Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” While Jerusalem was the G-d ordained location for worship, it would soon become immaterial. Yeshua confirms her worst fears, that the Samaritan religion is indeed apostate. He also affirms what was then Israel’s legitimate location for Temple worship. Yeshua, the Messiah is born of a Jewish mother, of the lineage of Jacob and here to save humanity. Yes Salvation--Yeshua—Himself comes from the Jews.
“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. G-d is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The hour is coming means that soon, following Yeshua’s sacrifice, all who receive Him will receive the gift of the Ruach ha-Kodesh—Holy Spirit. This will enable people to worship anywhere. And has now come means that Yeshua, G-d with us, was standing right in front of her. It also means, just as it has always meant, that G-d sees the end from the beginning and that all things in Him are both future and present. From G-d’s perspective the past, future and the present are one and the same.
Filled with the Ruach ha-Kodesh, the true worshippers of G-d will be able to worship in the Spirit and in the Truth. Messiah the physical person is Truth, His Spirit is power. This is the unity all believers live in. If we are in error when we don’t understand the Scriptures—Word—or the power—Holy Spirit, then we are in righteousness when the unity of those two aspects of G-d are present together in us through Messiah. True worship is not the use of any individual element of our being. It is our whole being in relationship to the Father, not something we can draw forth by our own efforts but rather something we receive from G-d through Messiah Yeshua.
“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.’” Jesus said to her, ‘I Am the One speaking to you.’”
Yeshua here literally claims to be G-d with us—Emanuel. The Greek text, rendered literally simply says, “I Am the One…”
© 2014 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.