John 4:1-15

1 When therefore the LORD knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,

[Jesus made and baptized] These seem to be quoted as the very words which were brought to the Pharisees; and, from our Lord's conduct after this information, we may take it for granted that the Pharisees were so irritated that they were determined to find an occasion to take his life; in consequece of which, leaving Judea, he withdrew into Galilee.

2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
3 He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.
4 And he must needs go through Samaria.

Or, it was necessary for him to pass through Samaria; for this plain reason, and no other, it was the only proper road. Samaria lay north of Judea, and south of Galilee, with the great sea (Mediterranean) on the west and the sea of Galilee and its outlet, the Jordan river on the east. Therefore there was no going from Jerusalem to Galilee but through this province. From Jerusalem to Galilee, through Samaria, according to Josephus, was three day's journey.

5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

[A city ... called Sychar] This city was anciently called Shechem. It seems to have been situated on the foot of Mount Garazim, in the province of Samaria, on which the temple of the Samaritans was built. After the ruin of Samaria by Salmanezer, Sychar, or Sheckem, became the capital of the Samaritans. This place is remarkable in the Scriptures; 1. As being that where Abram first stopped on his coming from Haran to Canaan. 2. Where God first appeared to that patriarch and promised to give the land to his seed. 3. The place where Abram first built an altar to the Lord and called upon his name. The present name of the city is Neapolis.

[That Jacob gave to his son Joseph] Jacob had bought this field from the children of Hamor, the father of Schehem, for a hundred pieces of money. This Jacob left as a private, or overplus inheritance to Joseph and his children

6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.

[Jacob's well] Cutting wells or pools for public use renderd a man famous, so this well was named after Jacob because he had digged it, and it was for public use. The well stands about a third of an hour walk from the present city of Neapolis and may be seen today.

[The sixth hour] About twelve o'clock. The time is noted here; 1. To account for Christ's fatigue - he had already travelled several hours, 2. To account for his thirst - the sun had by this time waxed hot. 3. To account for the disciples going to buy food because it was the normal time of dinner among the Jews.

7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.

[There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water] This was the normal employment of women, as we see in different parts of the sacred writings. The Jews say that those who wished to get wives went to the wells where young women were accustomed to come and draw water; and it is supposed that women of ill fame frequented such places also.

8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

[That thou, being a Jew] Possibly the inhabitants of Judea distinguished themselves from those of Samaria by some peculiar mode of dress; and by this the Samaritan woman might have known Christ; but it is likely that our Lord spoke the Galilean dialect.

[The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans] The woman's question appears to have ended with the words, "Of Samaria" and the subsequent phrase are the words of the evangelist to explain the reason for the woman's question. The hatred which existed between these two nations is well known. The middle kingdom had been taken captive by the Assyrians, who then repopulated the area with non-jews (see 2 Kings 17 ), and to the Jews, who so prized racial and religious purity, the Samaritans were at best a people of suspect pedigree who practiced a corrupt religion.

10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

[If thou knewest the gift of God] The Greek word used here signifies a free gift, a gift which is given without asking anything in return. Such a free gift of kindness was Jesus Christ to the world (Chapter 3:16), and through him comes the gift of the Spirit which those who believe on his name were to receive.

[Living water] By this expression, which was common to the inhabitants both of the east and the west, is always meant spring water, in opposition to the dead, stagnant water contained in pools, ponds, tanks and cisterns; and what our Lord means by it is evidently the Holy Spirit, as may be seen in Chapter 7:38-39. As water quenches the thrist, refreshes and invigorates the body, purifies things defiled and renders the earth fruitful, so it is an apt emblem of the Holy Spirit which so satisfies the souls that they no longer thirst for earthly good; it purifies them from spiritual defilement and it makes them who receive it fruitful in every good word and work.

11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?

[Thou hast nothing to draw with] You have no bucket. Good water is not plentiful in the east and travellers are often obliged to carry leather buckets or bottles with them, and a line also, to let them down into deep wells in order to draw up water. (It has been estimated that Jacob's well is about one hundred feet deep with ten to fifteen feet of water at the bottom.)

12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

[Our father Jacob] Despite of the mixture of the races the Samaritans still counted themselves as descendants of Jacob.

13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

[Springing up into everlasting life] On this account he can never thirst - for how can he lack water who has in himself a living, eternal spring? By this water our Lord means also his doctrine, explaining and promising the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, which proceed from Jesus Christ their fountain, dwelling in a believing heart. There is no eternal life without the Spirit; no Spirit without Christ; and no Christ to give the Spirit without dwelling in the heart; this his whole doctrine proclaims.

15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.

[Give me this water] She did not as yet comprehend our Lord's meaning; but her curiosity was much excited, and this was the design of our Lord, that he might have her mind properly prepared to receive the great truths which he was about to announce.

Based upon excerpts from Adam Clarke's Commentary, 2nd edition published in New York by Lane and Scott, 1850. More recent editions may be purchased from


This page updated 10/19/2006

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