Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” . . . (John 4:1-25)
A WOMAN AND A WELL
There are numerous accounts in the Gospels of Jesus encountering various women. But the disciples never “marveled” (v. 27) at any of these. Why was this so different? This whole encounter looks like the setup for a man finding a wife. Moses (Ex. 2:15-21), Isaac (Gen. 24:14-16), and Jacob (Gen. 29:1-9) all meet their brides at a well in a foreign land.
HER FIVE BAALS
We can infer that this woman has had a rough life with five different husbands (v. 16-18), probably the result of a string of divorces. It is interesting that the Hebrew word for husband is baal, the same word that is used to describe the pagan gods (Hos. 2:16-18). Samaria is the land of false gods and religious syncretism (2 Kings 17:29-40) and a woman with five baals is a picture of this land. Jesus corrects her theological misunderstanding (v. 20-22), while pointing her to a much more significant truth.
Living water is a Hebrew expression to describe running water of a spring or a river, as opposed to standing, stagnant water. In Jewish legend, when Jacob rolled back the stone from the mouth of the well for Rachel, he also turned the water of the well into living water that overflowed the well. Living water was required in the ceremonial washing to be clean from an impurity (Num. 19:17-20). One of the occasions that required this kind of washing with living water was the bride before her wedding, to purify her for the ceremony.
THE TEMPLE AND THE RIVER
The Old Testament prophesied that the time would come when a river of water would flow out of the Temple (Ez. 47) or out of Jerusalem (Zech. 14:8), as Israel looks on the One whom they have pierced (Zech. 12:10). Jesus was announcing to the Samaritan woman, what would be revealed on the cross (John 19:34).