John 4:16-42

Editor's note. The conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well began in John 4:7. To gain the most from this commentary it may be worthwhile to review the previous commentary regarding John 4:1-15.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

[Call thy husband] Our Lord appears to have spoken these words for two purposes; 1. To make the woman consider her own state. 2. To show her that he knew her heart and the secret actions of her life, and was therefore well qualified to teach her heavenly truths.

17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.

[I have no husband] In the time of our Lord, divorces were very common among the Jews, so that a man may put away his wife for any fault. We may presume that Samaritan culture was similar. We do not know the details of her life, but the woman knew, and she knew that Jesus knew.

19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.

[I perceive that thou art a prophet] And therefore thought him well qualified to decide the grand question of the dispute between the Jews and the Samaritans, but she did not perceive him to be the Messiah.

20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

[Worshipped in this mountain] Probably pointing to mount Gerizim, at the foot of which Sychar was situated. The patriarchs had worshipped here - Abram (Genesis 12:6-8), and Jacob (Genesis 33:18-20) - thus she could say, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain."

21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

[The hour cometh...] The time was now at hand in which the spiritual worship of God was about to be established in the earth. The temple, the place of worship was about to be transferred from a physical location on earth to the hearts of believers. See 1 Corinthians 3:17 and 1 Corinthians 6:19.

[Worship the Father] This phrase shows the mild and tender nature of the Gospel dispensation. Men are called to worship their heavenly Father and to consider themselved to be his children.

22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.

[Ye worship ye know not what] The Samaritans believed in the same God with the Jews, but, as they had rejected all of the prophetical writings, they had an imperfect knowledge of the Diety; besides, as they incorporated the worship of idols with his worship, they might justly be said to worship him whom they did not properly know.

[Salvation is of the Jews] Or, more literally translated, Salvation is from the Jews. Salvation seems here to mean the Savior, the Messiah, as it does in Luke 2:30 and Acts 4:12 and so the woman appears to have understood it, see verse 25. The Messiah was to spring from the Jews and from them the preaching of the Gospel and the knowledge of the truth were to go to all the nations of the world. It was to the Jews that the promises were made, and it was in their prophetic Scriptures, which the Samaritans rejected, that Jesus Christ was proclaimed and described. See Isaiah 11.

23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

[The true worshippers shall spirit] The worship of the Samaritans was a defective worship - being a mixed multitude they did not take the prophetical writings as particularly relevant - and the Jewish worship was carnal, dealing only in the letter and the performance of rites and ceremonies. The Gospel of Christ showed the meaning of all these ordinances and sacrifices which had their consummation in his offering of himself.

24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

[God is a Spirit] This is one of the first, the greatest, the most necessary truths in all nature! There is a God, the cause of all things, the fountain of all perfection, without parts or dimension, for he is ETERNAL, filling the heavens and the earth, pervading, governing and upholding all things. He is an infinite Spirit!
This God can be pleased only with that which resembles himself; therefore he must hate sin and sinfulness, and can delight in those only who are partakers of his own Divine nature. As all creatures were made by him so all owe him obedience and reverence, but, to be acceptable to this infinite Spirit, the worship must be of a spiritual nature - must spring from the heart through the influence of the Holy Spirit; and it must be not only in sincerity, but in truth, performed according to that Divine revelation which he has given men of himself. A man worships God in SPIRIT when, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, he brings all his affections, appetites and desires to the throne of God; and he worships in TRUTH when every purpose and passion of his heart is guided and regulated by the Word of God.

25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.

[I know that Messias cometh] Though they did not accept the prophetic writings, yet the tradition of the advent of Messiah, which was common among the Jews, was also generally acknowledged by the Samaritans.

[He will tell us all things] Relative to the nature of God, the nature of his worship and the proper place to adore him. In a word, he will settle the great national question.

26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

[ he.] I am the Messiah.

27 And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?

[Marvelled that he talked with the Woman] Because it was contrary to the custom of the eastern countries.

28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,

[Left her waterpot] She was so excited that she forgot her errand to the well and returned to the city without the water for which she had come.

29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

[All things that ever I did] The Jews believed that one essential characteristic of the Messiah would be that he should be able to tell the secrets of all hearts. See again Isaiah 11:1-4.

30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.

[They went out of the city] Such effect had the simple testimony of the woman on their minds.

31 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.

[Master, eat] They knew he was greatly spent both with hunger and fatigue.

32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?

[Hath any man brought him aught to eat?] Did some passerby give him food? Has he gotten food in some unusual way? They could not help remembering the miraculous interventions of Divine providence in feeding Elijah by the ravens at the brook Cherith, 1 Kings 17:4-6 and by the ministry of an angel, 1 Kings 19:5-8.

34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

[My meat is to do the will of him that sent me] In these words our blessed Lord teaches a lesson of zeal and ernestness to his apostles and their successors in the Christian ministry. Let the salvation of souls lie nearer to your heart than life itself. Let eating and drinking, labor and rest, study, prayer and all things be directed to the accomplishment of this great work.

35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

[There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?] In Palestine the harvest did not begin until after the passover, which was fixed on the 14th of the month Nisan, which answers to our March and sometimes extends into April. The barley harvest was first; after that the wheat; and both were finished by Pentecost. For in the feast of Pentecost, the first fruits of all the harvest were carried into the temple and waved before the Lord. See Leviticus 23:11.

[Lift up your eyes] The seed of life, which he had sown but a few hours ago had already brought forth much fruit; therefore he says, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields," over which it is likely the Samaritans were coming in troops, guided by the woman who had already received the light of the Gospel of peace.

36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.
37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.
38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.

[Gathereth fruit unto life eternal] An illustration based upon their common knowledge of farming. Sowers are essential. Seed must be sown, else there is no harvest. Reapers are essential. If the harvest is not brought in the crop is wasted. Sowers and reapers may be interchangeable, sowing in one place and reaping in another. The goal is the harvest and both reaper and sower rejoice when the harvest is gathered.

39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.
41 And many more believed because of his own word;
42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

[We have heard him ourselves] On seeing and hearing our Lord, the faith of those who had already believed on the woman's testimony was abundantly confirmed. And, beside those, many others believed who had not heard the woman speak.

[This is indeed the Christ] The promised Messiah.

[The savior of the world.] Not of the Jews only, but also of the Samaritans and the whole Gentile world.

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 10/23/2006

Copyright (C) 1999,2003,2006 Robert C. Denig. All rights reserved