John 4
Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
Chap. 4:1-54.] Manifestation of Himself as the Son of God in Samaria and Galilee. 1-42. On his way back to Galilee through Samaria, he discourses with a Samaritan woman. Confession of his Messiahship by the Samaritans.

1.] An inference may be drawn from this, that our Lord knew the anger of the Pharisees to be more directed against Him thau against the Baptist,—probably on account of what had passed in Jerusalem.

ὃτι Ἰησοῦς, not ὅτι αὐτὸς.… because the report which the Pharisees had heard is given verbatim: the ὅτι is ‘recitantis’ merely.

2.] Probably for the same reason that Paul did not baptize usually (1Corinthians 1:14-16); viz. because His office was to preach and teach;—and the disciples as yet had no office of this kind. To assume a further reason, e.g. that there might not be ground for those whom the Lord himself had baptized to boast of it, is arbitrary and unnecessary. “Johannes, minister, sua manu baptizavit; discipuli ejus, ut videtur, neminem. At Christus baptizat Spiritu Sancto.” Bengel.

4.] If He was already on the borders of Samaria, not far from Ænon (see note on ch. 3:23), the direct way was through Samaria. Indeed without this assumption, we know that the Galilæans ordinarily took this way (Jos. Antt. xx. 6. 1, beginning). But there was probably design also in the journey. It could not have been mere speed (πάντως ἔδει τοὺς ταχὺ βουλομένους ἀπελθεῖν διʼ ἐκείνης πορεύεσθαι, Jos. Vit. 52),—since He made two days’ stay on the way.

5.] Sychar is better known by the O.T. name of Sychem (Συχέμ), or τὰ Σίκιμα (Josephus, Euseb., &c.), or ἡ Σικίμα (LXX, 3 Kings 12:25). It was a very old town on the range of Mt. Ephraim, in a narrow valley between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim. Judges 9:7. The name Sychar has been variously derived: from שֶׁקֶר, a lie, or שִׁכֹּר, drunken (Isaiah 28:1), by some (Reland, Lightfoot), who believe it to have originally been an opprobrious name given by the Jews, but by this time to have lost its signification, and become the usual appelation: by others from Συχέμ, by mere corruption of the terminating liquid μ into ρ, Olsh.

Very near it was afterwards built Flavia Neapolis (Συχέμ, νῦν ἔρημος, δείκνυται δὲ ὁ τόπος ἐν προαστείοις νέας πόλεως, Euseb. Onomasticon, in Winer, sub voce). There is a long and interesting history of Sychem and the Samaritan worship on Gerizim, and the Christian church in the neighbourhood, in Robinson’s Palestine, iii. 113-136. [See also Dr. Thomson, The Land and the Book, p. 472 ff. He thinks that Sychar and Shechem are not the same, because at Shechem (Nablus) there are delicious fountains of water, which the woman would hardly have left to draw from a deep well two miles off.]

τοῦ χωρ. ὃ ἔδωκ …] This is traditional: it finds however support from Genesis 33:19, where we find Jacob buying a field near Shechem, and Joshua 24:32, where, on the mention of Joseph’s bones being laid there, it is said that it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph. This form of the tradition is supposed to have arisen from the translation by the LXX of Genesis 48:22, ἐγὼ δὲ δίδωμί σοι Σίκιμα ἐξαίρετον (שְׁכֶם אַהַד, ‘one share’) ὑπὲρ τοὺς ἀδελφούς σου: and of Joshua 24:32, ἐν τῇ μερίδι τοῦ ἀγροῦ οὗ ἐκτήσατο Ἰακὼβ παρὰ τῶν Ἀμοῤῥαίων τῶν κατοικούντων ἐν Σικίμοις … καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτὴν Ἰωσὴφ ἐν μερίδι, where they apparently read or mistook וַיִהְיוּ for וַיֵּהֲבֵהוּ (3 sing. fut. Kal. w. suffix of יָהַב, a verb which only occurs in the imperative mood, unless it be in the very doubtful place of Hosea 4:18). Our Lord does not allude to it in the conversation, though the woman does.

6.] Robinson (iii. 112) can only solve the difficulty of the present well standing in a spot watered by so many natural fountains, by supposing that it may have been dug, according to the practice of the patriarchs, by Jacob, in connexion with the plot of ground which he brought, to have an independent supply of water.

οὕτως—see reff.—refers to κεκοπιακὼς ἐκ τ. ὁδ., and may be rendered accordingly. There is no authority for the meaning ἁπλῶς ὡς ἔτυχε, ‘just as he was,’ or ‘just as it happened,’ i.e. on the bare stone.

ὥρα … ἕκτη, mid-day. Townson supposed the sixth hour, according to John, to mean six in the evening, “after the way of reckoning in Asia Minor;”—but, as Lücke observes (i. 580), this way of reckoning in Asia Minor is a pure invention of Townson’s. A decisive answer however to such a supposition here, or any where else in our Evangelist, is, that he would naturally have specified whether it was 6 a.m. or p.m. The unusualness of a woman coming to draw water at mid-day is no argument against its possibility; indeed the very fact of her being alone seems to shew that it was not the common time. This purely arbitrary hypothesis of St. John’s way of reckoning the hours has been recently again upheld by Bp. Wordsworth: but it has only harmonistic grounds to rest on. The passage which he urges as supporting it, Martyr. Polycarp, c. 21, p. 1044, ed. Migne, does not in reality give it the least countenance. The ὥρα ὀγδόη there mentioned is much more probably according to the usual Roman computation.

7.] ἐκ τ. Σ., i.e. a Samaritan—so γυνὴ Χαναν. ἀπὸ τῶν ὁρίων ἐκείνων, Matthew 15:22.

8.] The disciples had probably taken with them the baggage, among which would be the ἄντλημα,—see ver. 11.

The Rabbis say that a Jew might not eat the bread or drink the wine of a Samaritan: but that appears from this verse to be exaggerated.

9. Ἰουδαῖος ὤν] She knew this perhaps by his dress, more probably by his dialect. There seems to be a sort of playful triumph in the woman’s question, q. d. ‘even a Jew, when weary and athirst, can humble himself to ask drink of a Samaritan woman.’

οὐ γὰρ συγχρ … are the words of the Evangelist to explain her question. συγχράομαι is properly spoken of trade,—but here is in a wider signification. Wetstein quotes from Polybius, παρὰ Ταραντίνων καὶ Λοκρῶν συγχρησάμενοι πεντηκοντόρους καὶ τριήρεις.

Notice, 1) that this explanatory clause is omitted by 1, and certainly may have been a gloss originally: but the authority is not enough to justify us in bracketing it: 2) that Ἰουδ. and Σαμ. are both anarthrous—‘Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.’ The fact is abundantly illustrated in the Rabbinical writings: see Schöttg. h. l. The question of the woman shews a lively naïve disposition, which is further drawn out and exemplified by Him who knew what is in man, in the following dialogue.

10.] The important words the gift of God have been misunderstood by many Commentators. Some suppose them to mean ‘our Lord himself,’ and to be in apposition with the next clause, καὶ τίς ἐστιν κ.τ.λ. Others, ‘this opportunity of speaking with me.’ Doubtless both these meanings are involved,—especially the former: but neither of them is the primary one, as addressed to the woman. The water is, in this first part of the discourse, the subject, and serves as a point of connexion, whereby the woman’s thoughts may be elevated, and her desire aroused. The process of the discourse in this particular is similar to that in Acts 14:17. From recognizing this water as the gift of God, in its limitation, ver. 13, and its parabolic import, ver. 14, her view is directed to Him who was speaking with her, and the Gift which He should bestow,—the gift of the Holy Spirit: see ch. 7:37-39.

τίς ἐστιν] These pregnant words form the second step in our Lord’s declaration. He who speaks with thee is no ordinary Ἰουδαῖος, nor any ordinary man, but One who can give thee the gift of God; One sent from God, and God Himself. All this lies in the words, which however only serve to arouse in the woman’s mind the question of ver. 12 (see below).

ὕδωρ ζῶν] Designedly used in a double sense by our Lord, that the woman may lay hold of the material meaning, and by it be awakened to the higher one (see reff.). The words bring with them, and in our Lord’s inner meaning involved, the performance of all such prophetic promises as Ezekiel 36:25: Zechariah 13:1 (see also Jeremiah 2:13); but, as regarded the woman, the ordinary sense was that intended for her to fasten on, which she does accordingly. On the question, how this living water could be now given, before Jesus was glorified, see on ch. 7:38, 39.

11, 12.] Though κύριε is not to be pressed as emphatic, it is not without import; it surely betokens a different regard of the stranger than σὺ Ἰουδαῖος ὤν did;—κύριον αὐτὸν προσηγόρευσε, νομίσασα μέγαν εἶναί τινα. The course of her thoughts appears to be:—‘Thou canst not mean living water (ἀναβλύζον καὶ ἁλλόμενον, Euthym.), from this well, because thou hast no vessel to draw with, and it is deep; whence then hast thou (knowest thou of, drawest thou) the living water of which thou speakest? Our father Jacob was contented with this, used it, and bequeathed it to us: if thou hast better water, and canst give it (notice the ἔδωκεν in both verses), thou must be greater than Jacob.’ There is something also of Samaritan nationality speaking here. Claiming Jacob as her father (ὅταν μὲν εὖ πράττοντας βλέπωσι τοὺς Ἰουδαίους, συγγενεῖς ἀποκαλοῦσιν, ὡς ἐξ Ἰωσήπου φύντες, ὅταν δὲ πταίσαντας ἴδωσιν, οὐδαμόθεν αὑτοῖς προσήκειν λέγουσιν, Jos. Antt. ix. 14. 3), she expresses by this question an appropriation of descent from him, such as almost to exclude, or at all events set at a greater distance, the Jews, to one of whom she believed herself to be speaking.

13, 14.] Our Lord, without noticing this, by His answer leaves it to be implied, that, assuming what she has stated, He is greater than Jacob: for his (Jacob’s) gift was of water which cannot satisfy: but the water which He should give has living power, and becomes an eternal fountain within. This however, ‘that He was greater than Jacob,’ lies only in the background: the water is the subject, as before.

The words apply to every similar quenching of desire by earthly means: the desire springs up again;—is not satisfied, but only postponed. The manna was as insufficient to satisfy hunger,—as this water, thirst, see ch. 6:49, 58: it is only the ὕδωρ ζῶν, and the ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς, which can satisfy.

The ὁ πίνων sets forth the recurrence, the interrupted seasons, of the drinking of earthly water;—the ὃς δʼ ἂν πίῃ—the once having tasted, and ever continuing in the increasing power, and living forth-flowing, of that life-long draught.

οὐ μὴ διψήσει, shall never have to go away and be exhausted, and come again to be filled;—but shall have the spring at home, in his own breast,—so that he can “draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3) at his pleasure. “Ubi sitis recurrit, hominis, non aquæ, defectus est.” Bengel.

γενήσεται πηγή] All earthly supplies have access only into those lower parts of our being where the desires work themselves out—are but local applications; but the heavenly gift of spiritual life which Jesus gives to those who believe on Him, enters into the very secret and highest place of their personal life, the source whence the desires spring out;—and, its nature being living and spiritual, it does not merely supply, but it lives and waxes onward, unto everlasting life, in duration, and also as producing and sustaining it.

It should not be overlooked, that this discourse had, besides its manifold and wonderful meaning for us all, an especial moral one as applied to the woman,—who, by successive draughts at the ‘broken cistern’ of carnal lust, had been vainly seeking solace:—and this consideration serves to bind on the following verses (ver. 16 ff.) to the preceding, by another link besides those noticed below.

15.] This request seems to be made still under a misunderstanding, but not so great an one as at first sight appears. She apprehends this water as something not requiring an ἄντλημα to draw it;—as something whose power shall never fail;—which shall quench thirst for ever;—and half in banter, half in earnest, wishing perhaps besides to see whether the gift would after all be conferred, and how,—she mingles in with the τοῦτο τὸ ὕδωρ,—implying some view of its distinct nature,—her ‘not coming hither to draw,’—her willing avoidance of the toil of her noonday journey to the well. We must be able to enter into the complication of her character, and the impressions made on her by the strange things which she has heard, fully to appreciate the spirit of this answer.

16.] The connexion of this verse with the foregoing has been much disputed; and the strangest and most unworthy views have been taken of it. Some (e.g. Grotius) have strangely referred it to the supposed indecorum of the longer continuance of the colloquy with the woman alone; some more strangely still ( in Catena, Lücke, p. 588) to the incapacity of the female mind to apprehend the matters of which He was to speak. Both these need surely no refutation. The band of women from Galilee, “last at the cross, and earliest at the tomb,” are a sufficient answer to them.

Those approach nearer the truth, who believe the command to have been given to awaken her conscience (Maldonatus and .); or to shew her the divine knowledge which the Lord had of her heart (Meyer). But I am persuaded that the right account is found, in viewing this command, as the first step of granting her request, δός μοι τοῦτο τὸ ὕδωρ. The first work of the Spirit of God, and of Him who here spoke in the fulness of that Spirit, is, to convince of sin. The ‘give me this water’ was not so simple a matter as she supposed. The heart must first be laid bare before the Wisdom of God: the secret sins set in the light of His countenance; and this our Lord here does. The command itself is of course given in the fulness of knowledge of her sinful condition of life. In every conversation which our Lord held with men, while He connects usually one remark with another by the common links which bind human thought, we perceive that He knows, and sees through, those with whom He speaks. Euthymius, though not seeing the whole bearing of the command, expresses well this last remark;—ἐγκειμένης καὶ ζητούσης λαβεῖν, λέγει Ὕπαγε κ.τ.λ. προσποιούμενος ὅτι χρὴ κἀκεῖνον κοινωνῆσαι ταύτῃ τοῦ δώρον. καὶ ὅτι μὲν οὐκ ἔχει ἄνδρα νόμιμον ἐγίνωσκεν, ὡς πάντα εἰδώς· ἐβούλετο δὲ ταύτην εἰπεῖν ὅτι οὐκ ἔχω ἄνδρα, ἵνα λοιπόν, προφάσεως δραξάμενος, προφητεύσῃ τὰ κατʼ αὐτὴν καὶ διορθώσηται ταύτην. θέλει γὰρ τῶν προῤῥήσεων καὶ τῶν θαυμάτων τὰς ἀφορμὰς παρʼ αὐτῶν λαμβάνειν τῶν προσιόντων, ὥστε καὶ τὴν τοῦ κενοδοξεῖν ὑπόνοιαν διαφεύγειν, καὶ οἰκειοῦσθαι μᾶλλον αὐτούς.

17.] This answer is not for a moment to be treated as something unexpected by Him who commanded her (Lücke). He has before Him her whole life of sin, which she in vain endeavours to cover by the doubtful words of this verse.

18.] There was literal truth, but no more, in the woman’s answer: and the Lord, by His divine knowledge, detects the hidden falsehood of it. Notice it is ἀληθές, not ἀληθῶς: this one word was true: further shewn by the emphatic position of ἄνδρα in our Lord’s answer.

πέντε γὰρ ἄνδ. ἔσχες] These five were certainly lawful husbands; they are distinguished from the sixth, who was not;—probably the woman had been separated from some by divorce (the law of which was but loose among the Samaritans),—from some by death,—or perhaps by other reasons more or less discreditable to her character, which had now become degraded into that of an openly licentious woman. The conviction of sin here lies beneath the surface: it is not pressed, nor at the moment does it seem to have worked deeply, for she goes on with the conversation with apparent indifference to it; but our Lord’s words in vv. 25, 26 would tend to infix it more deeply, and we find at ver. 29, that it had been working during her journey back to the city.

19.] In speaking this her conviction, she virtually confesses all the truth. That she should pass to another subject immediately, seems, as Stier remarks (iv. 125, edn. 2), to arise, not from a wish to turn the conversation from a matter so unpleasing to her, but from a real desire to obtain from this Prophet the teaching requisite that she may pray to God acceptably. The idea of her endeavouring to escape from the Lord’s rebuke, is quite inconsistent with her recognition of Him as a prophet. Rather we may suppose a pause, which makes it evident that He does not mean to proceed further with His laying open of her character.

Obs., not σύ (Wordsw.), but προφήτης, is the word of primary emphasis. σύ has the secondary emphasis, by its very expression.

20.] ἐν τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ—Mount Gerizim, on which once stood the national temple of the Samaritan race. In Nehemiah 13:28 we read that the grandson of the high-priest Eliashib was banished by Nehemiah because he was son-in-law to Sanballat, the Persian satrap of Samaria. Him Sanballat not only received, but (Jos. Antt. xi. 8. 2-4) made him high-priest of a temple which he built on Mount Gerizim. Josephus makes this appointment sanctioned by Alexander, when at Tyre;—but the chronology is certainly not accurate, for between Sanballat and Alexander is a difference of nearly a century. This temple was destroyed 200 years after by John Hyrcanus (b.c. 129), see Jos. Antt. xiii. 9. 1; but the Samaritans still used it as a place of prayer and sacrifice, and to this day the few Samaritans resident in Nablus (Sychem) call it the holy mountain, and turn their faces to it in prayer.

They defended their practice by Deuteronomy 27:4, where our reading and the Hebr. and LXX is Ebal, but that of the Samaritan Pentateuch, Gerizim (probably an alteration): also by Genesis 12:6, Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:4; Genesis 33:18, Genesis 33:20: Deuteronomy 11:26 ff.

Our fathers most likely mean not the patriarchs, but the ancestors of the then Samaritans.

ὁ τόπος] The definite place spoken of Deuteronomy 12:5.

She pauses, having suggested, rather than asked, a question,—seeming to imply, ‘Before I can receive this gift of God, it must be decided, where I can acceptably pray for it;’ and she leaves it for Him whom she now recognizes as a prophet, to resolve this doubt.

21.] Our Lord first raises her view to a higher point than her question implied, or than indeed she, or any one, without His prophetic announcement, could then have attained.

οὔτε.… οὔτε are exclusive: Ye shall worship the Father, but not (only) in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem:—had it been οὐδὲ.… οὐδέ, it would have meant, ‘Ye shall not worship the Father, either in this mountain, or even in Jerusalem.’

The προσκυνήσετε, though embracing in its wider sense all mankind, may be taken primarily as foretelling the success of the gospel in Samaria, Acts 8:1-25.

τῷ πατρί, as implying the One God and Father of all. There is also, as Calvin remarks (Stier, iv. 129, edn. 2), a “tacita oppositio” between ὁ πατήρ,—and ὁ π. ἡμ. Ἰακώβ, ver. 12, οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν, ver. 20.

22.] But he will not leave the temple of Zion and the worship appointed by God without His testimony. He decides her question not merely by affirming, but by proving the Jewish worship to be the right one. In the Samaritan worship there was no leading of God to guide them, there were no prophetic voices revealing more and more of His purposes. The neuter is used to shew the want of personality and distinctness in their idea of God:—the second ὅ, merely as corresponding to it in the other member of the sentence. Or perhaps better, both, as designating merely the abstract object of worship, not the personal God.

The ἡμεῖς is remarkable, as being the only instance of our Lord thus speaking. But the nature of the case accounts for it. He never elsewhere is speaking to one so set in opposition to the Jews on a point where Himself and the Jews stood together for God’s truth. He now speaks as a Jew. The nearest approach to it is in His answer to the Canaanitish woman, Matthew 15:24, Matthew 15:26.

ὅτι, because: this is the reason why we know what we worship, because the promises of God are made to us, and we possess them and believe them: see Romans 3:1, Romans 3:2.

ἡ σωτ. ἐκ τ. Ἰ. ἐστ.] It was in this point especially, expectation of the promised salvation by the great Deliverer (see Genesis 49:18), that the Samaritan rejection of the prophetic word had made them so deficient in comparison of the Jews. But not only this;—the Messiah Himself was to spring from among the Jews, and had sprung from among them;—not ἔσται, but ἐστίν, the abstract present, but perhaps with a reference to what was then happening. See Isaiah 2:1-3.

23.] The discourse returns to the ground taken in ver. 21, but not so as to make ver. 22 parenthetical only: the spiritual worship now to be spoken of is the carrying out and consequence of the σωτηρία just mentioned, and could not have been brought in without it.

καὶ νῦν ἐστίν] “Hoc (versu 21 non additum) nunc additur, ne mulier putet, sibi tantisper sedem in Judæa quærendam esse.” Bengel.

οἱ ἀληθ. προσκ., as distinguished (1) from hypocrites, who have pretended to worship Him: (2) from all who went before, whose worship was necessarily imperfect.

The ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ (not without an allusion to ἐν τούτῳ τῷ ὄρει) is, in its first meaning, opposed to ἐν ἔθει καὶ ψεύδει,—and denotes the earnestness of spirit with which the true worshippers shall worship: so Ps. 144:18, ἐγγὺς κύριος πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις αὐτὸν ἐν ἀληθείᾳ. A deeper meaning is brought out where the ground of this kind of worship is stated, in the next verse.

ζητεῖ—not only ‘requires,’ from His very nature, but seeks,—is seeking. This seeking on the part of the Father naturally brings in the idea, in the woman’s answer, of the Messiah, by Whom He seeks (Luke 19:10) His true worshippers to gather them out of the world.

τοὺς προσκ.] The construction is, the Father is seeking for such to be οἱ προσκυνοῦντες αὐτόν,—‘for οἱ προσκ. αὐτ. of this kind.’

τοιούτους may be the predicate—‘such the Father seeketh his worshippers to be:’ or it may be the object—‘such the Father seeketh as (or to be) his worshippers.’

24.] πνεῦμα ὁ θεός was the great Truth of Judaism, whereby the Jews were distinguished from the idolatrous people around them. And the Samaritans held even more strongly than the Jews the pure monotheistic view. Traces of this, remarks Lücke (from Gesenius), i. 599 note, are found in the alterations made by them in their Pentateuch, long before the time of this history. This may perhaps be partly the reason why our Lord, as Bengel remarks, “Discipulis non tradidit sublimiora,” than to this Samaritan woman.

God being pure spirit (perhaps better not ‘a Spirit,’ since it is His Essence, not His Personality, which is here spoken of), cannot dwell in particular spots or temples (see Acts 7:48; Acts 17:24, Acts 17:25); cannot require, nor be pleased with, earthly material offerings nor ceremonies, as such: on the other hand, is only to be approached in that part of our being, which is spirit,—and even there, inasmuch as He is pure and holy, with no by-ends nor hypocritical regards, but in truth and earnestness. But here comes in the deeper sense alluded to above. How is the spirit of man to be brought into communion with God? “In templo vis orare; in te ora. Sed prius esto templum Dei.” (Stier, iv. 137, edn. 2.) And how is this to be? Man cannot make himself the temple of God. So that here comes in the gift of God, with which the discourse began,—the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Christ should give to them that believe on Him: thus we have ‘praying ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ,’ Jude 1:20. So beautifully does the expression ὁ πατήρ here bring with it the new birth by the Spirit,—and for us, the readers of the Gospel, does the discourse of ch. 3 reflect light on this. And so wonderfully do these words form the conclusion to the great subject of these first chapters: ‘God is become one flesh with us, that we might become one Spirit with Him.’

25.] These words again seem uttered under a complicated feeling. From her λαλιά, ver. 29, she certainly had some suspicion (in her own mind, perhaps over and beyond His own assertion of the fact: but see note there) that He who had told her all things, &c., was the Christ; and from her breaking in with this remark after the weighty truth which had been just spoken, it seems as if she thought thus, ‘How these matters may be, I cannot understand;—they will be all made clear when the Christ shall come.’ The question of ver. 20 had not been answered to her liking or expectation: she therefore puts aside, as it were, what has been said, by a remark on that suspicion which was arising in her mind. It is not certain what expectations the Samaritans had regarding the Messiah. The view here advanced might be well derived from Deuteronomy 18:15;—and the name, and much that belonged to it, might have been borrowed from the Jews originally.

ὁ λεγόμ. χριστός appear to me to be the words of the woman, not of the Evangelist; for in this latter case he would certainly have used ὁ μεσσίας again in ver. 29. See also the difference of expression where he inserts an interpretation, ch. 1:42; 19:13, 17. It is possible that the name ὁ χριστός had become common in popular parlance, like many other Greek words and names.

ἀναγγέλλω is used especially of enouncing or propounding by divine or superior authority,—see reff.

26.] Of the reasons which our Lord had, thus to declare Himself to this Samaritan woman and through her to the inhabitants of Sychem (ver. 42), as the Christ, thus early in his ministry, we surely are not qualified to judge. There is nothing so opposed to true Scripture criticism, as to form a preconceived plan and rationale of the course of our Lord in the flesh, and then to force recorded events into agreement with it. Such a plan will be formed in our own minds from continued study of the Scripture narrative:—but by the arbitrary and procrustean system which I am here condemning, the very facts which are the chief data of such a scheme, are themselves set aside. When De Wette says, “This early and decided declaration of Jesus is in contradiction with Matthew 8:4, and 16:20,”—he forgets the very different circumstances under which both those injunctions were spoken:—while he is forced to confess that it is in agreement with the whole spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. He who knew what was in man, varied His revelations and injunctions, as the time and place, and individual dispositions required.

ἐγώ εἰμι] The verb involves in it the predicate.

ὁ λαλῶν σοι has a reference to her words, ἀναγγελεῖ ἡμ. πάντα—I am He, who am now speaking to thee—fulfilling part of this telling all things: see also her confession ver. 29.

27.] μετὰ γυν., with a woman. No inference, it is true, can be drawn as to the indefiniteness of the noun, from the omission of the article after a preposition, see Bp. Middleton, ch. 6 § 1: but the position of μετὰ γυναικός before the verb throws an emphasis on the words, and makes it probable that the meaning is as above.

τί ζητεῖς; κ.τ.λ.] Either—to the womanWhat seekest thou? and to the Lord, Why talkest thou with her?—or perhaps both questions to Him: and then we must suppose a mixture of two constructions, of τί ζ. παρʼ αὐτῆς;—and τί λαλεῖς μετʼ αὐτῆς;—I rather prefer the former interpretation.

28-30.] She does not mention to the men His own announcement of Himself,—but as is most natural under such circumstances, rests the matter on the testimony likely to weigh most with them,—her own. We often, and that unconsciously, put before another not our strongest, but what is likely to be his strongest reason. At the same time she shews how the suspicion expressed in ver. 25 arose in her own mind.

30.] ἤρχοντοwere coming,—had not arrived, when what follows happened.

31, 32.] The bodily thirst (and hunger probably, from the time of day) which our Lord had felt before, had been and was forgotten in the carrying on of His divine work in the soul of this Samaritan woman. Although ἐγώ and ὑμεῖς are emphatic, the words are not spoken in blame, for none was deserved: but in fulness and earnestness of spirit;—in a feeling analogous to that which comes upon us when called from high and holy employment to the supply of the body or business of this world.

βρῶσις, generally distinguished, as ‘eating,’ from βρῶμα, ‘food’ (see ref. 1 Cor.),—is here equivalent to it.

33.] It is very characteristic of the first part of this Gospel to bring forward instances of unreceptivity of spiritual meaning: compare ver. 11; ch. 2:20; 3:4; 6:42, 52. The disciples probably have the woman in their thoughts.

34.] Christ alone could properly say these words. In the believer on Him, they are partially true,—true as far as he has received the Spirit, and entered into the spiritual life;—but in Him they were absolutely and fully true. His whole life was the doing of the Father’s will. We can ‘eat and drink, &c. to the glory of God,’—but in Him the hallowing of the Father’s name, doing His will, bringing about His Kingdom, was His daily bread, and superseded the thoughts and desires for the other, needful as it was for His humanity.

ἵνα is not = ὅτι. The latter would imply what was true (but not here expressed), that the absolute doing, &c. was His food;—as it now stands, it implies that it was His food to carry onward to completion that work: to be ever, step after step, having regard to its being completed. My meat is (not to do, as E. V., but) that I may do, &c. In the τελειώσω αὐτοῦ τὸ ἔργον, the way is prepared for the idea introduced in the next verse. These words give an answer to the questioning in the minds of the disciples, and shew that He had been employed in the Father’s work during their absence.

35.] The sense of these much-controverted words will be best ascertained by narrowly observing the form of the sentence.

οὐχ ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι.… surely cannot be the introduction to an observation of what was matter of fact at the time. Had the words been spoken at a time when it wanted four months to the harvest, and had our Lord intended to express this,—is it conceivable that He should have thus introduced the remark? Would not, must not, the question have been a direct one in that case—‘are there not four months?’ &c. I know not how to account for this οὐχ ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι.… except that it introduces some common saying which the Jews, or perhaps the people of Galilee only, were in the habit of using. Are not ye accustomed to say, that …? That we hear of no such proverb elsewhere, is not to the point;—for such unrecorded sayings are among every people. That we do not know whence to date the four months, is again no objection:—there may have been, in the part where the saying was usual (possibly in the land west of the lake of Tiberias, for those addressed were from thence, and the emphatic ὑμεῖς seems to point to some particular locality), some fixed period in the year,—the end of the sowing, or some religious anniversary,—when it was a common saying, that it wanted four months to harvest. And this might have been the first date in the year which had regard to the harvest, and so the best known in connexion with it.

If this be so, all that has been built on this saying, as giving a chronological date, must fall to the ground. (Lightfoot, Meyer (1), Wieseler, i. p. 215 ff., and others, maintain, that since the harvest began on the 16th of Nisan, we must reckon four months back from that time for this journey through Samaria, which would bring it to the middle of Chisleu, i.e. the beginning of December.)

To get the meaning of the latter part of the verse, we must endeavour to follow, as far as may be, the train of thought which pervades the discourse. He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man: our Lord had now been employed in this His work. But not as in the natural year, so was it to be in the world’s lifetime. One-third of the year may elapse, or more, before the sown seed springs up; but the sowing by the Son of Man comes late in time, and the harvest should immediately follow. The fields were whitening for it; these Samaritans (not that I believe He pointed to them approaching, as Chrys. and most expositors. but had them in his view in what he said), and the multitudes in Galilee, were all nearly ready. In the discourse as far as ver. 38, He is ὁ σπείρων, the disciples (see Act_8) were οἱ θερίζοντες:—He was the κεκοπιακώς, they were the εἰς τὸν κόπον αὐτοῦ εἰσεληλυθότες. The past is used, as descriptive of the office which each held, not of the actual thing done. I cannot also but see an allusion to the words spoken by Joshua (24:13), on this very spot;—‘I have given you a land for which ye did not labour’—ἐφʼ ἣν οὐκ ἐκοπιάσατε ἐπʼ αὐτῆς (αὐτήν Α).

Taking this view, I do not believe there was any allusion to the actual state of the fields at that time. The words ἐπάρατε κ.τ.λ. are of course to be understood literally;—they were to lift up their eyes and look on the lands around them;—and then came the assurance; ‘they are whitening already towards the harvest.’ And it seems to me that on this view—of the Lord speaking of spiritual things to them, and announcing to them the approach of the spiritual harvest, and none else,—the right understanding of the following verses depends.

It is of course possible that it may have been seed-time;—possible also, that the fields may have been actually whitening for the harvest;—but to lay down either of these as certain, and build chronological inferences on it, is quite unwarranted.

ἤδη belongs certainly to ver. 35, and refers back to ἔτι. Taken with ver. 36, it would not agree with the truth of the comparison. The harvest was not yet come. The ancient mss. are not trustworthy guides in division and punctuation, which rather form matter of criticism, in which we stand on the same ground as they.

36.] The μισθός of the θερίζων is in the χαρά here implied, in having gathered many into eternal life, just as the βρῶσις of the σπείρων was His joy already begun in His heavenly work. See Matthew 20:1-16 and notes.

37.] ὁ λόγ. ἐστιν [ὁ] ἀλ., i.e. has place,—applies = συμβέβηκεν in 2Peter 2:22. So Winer, Meyer (1), Stier, but contr. Lücke, De Wette, who question the propriety of the art. and take [ὁ] ἀληθινός for the predicate, and as = ἀληθής. John’s usage however is to join ὁ λόγ. ὁ ἀληθινός: see ch. 15:1. We may also take the words, without doing any violence to the art. before ἀληθινός, ‘Herein is that saying the true one.’ But I still prefer the other way. If we regard the bracketed article as omitted, the sense will of course be, ‘Herein is that saying true.’ Such however is not St. John’s usage: see above.

38.] Here, as often, our Lord speaks of the office and its work as accomplished, which is but beginning (see Isaiah 46:10).

By ἄλλοι here He cannot mean the O.T. Prophets (Grotius, Bengel, Lange), for then His own place would be altogether left out;—and besides, all Scripture analogy is against the idea of the O.T. being the seed of which the N.T. is the fruit:—nor can it be right, as Olshausen maintains, to leave Him out, as being the Lord of the Harvest:—for He is certainly elsewhere, and was by the very nature of the case here, the Sower. The plural is I believe merely inserted as the correspondent word to ὑμεῖς in the explanation, as it was ἄλλος—ἄλλος, in the proverb. (So Lücke, Tholuck, Stier. De Wette denies their interpretation, but gives none of his own.)

39-42.] The truth of the saying of ver. 35 begins to be manifested. These Samaritans were the foundation of the church afterwards built up there. It does not seem that any miracle was wrought there: αὐτοὶ ἀκηκόαμεν was enough to raise their faith to a point never attained by the Jews, and hardly as yet by the disciples,—that He was the Saviour of the world. Their view seems to have been less clouded by prejudice and narrow-mindedness than that of the Jews; and though the conversion of this people lay not in the plan of the official life of our Lord, or working of His Apostles during it (see Matthew 10:5),—yet we have abundant proof from this history, of His gracious purposes towards them. A trace of this occurrence may be found ch. 8:48, where see note. Compare throughout Acts 8:1-25. (In ver. 42 λαλιά is perhaps not to be distinguished from λόγος before: see ch. 8:43. But it is hardly possible not to see in the word something of allusion to the woman’s eager and diffuse report to them.)

43-54.] The second miracle of Jesus in Galilee. The healing of the Ruler’s son.

43.] τάς should have been expressed in E. V.,—after the two days.

We find no mention of the disciples again till ch. 6:3.

44.] Much difficulty has been found in the connexion of this verse, but unnecessarily. Some have supposed that the Evangelist means Judæa by ἡ ἰδία πατρίς (, Lücke (second edn., but see below), Ebrard, &c.),—which cannot be, for there is no allusion to Judæa at all here, as He came from Samaria, and the verse manifestly alludes to His journey into Galilee:—some, that Capernaum is meant, or Nazareth, and ‘He went into Galilee,’ as distinguished from one or other of these places (Chrys., Euthym., Cyril, Olsh.);—but neither can this be, for our Evangelist does not so lightly pass over the reasons of the remarks he makes, and there is no allusion to any city in Galilee, but to His going into Galilee in general.

Some again suppose it to be a reason why He did not go into Galilee before, but remained in Judæa and Samaria (Theophyl., Meyer (1), and somewhat similarly Neander, L. J. 385, and Jacobi); this however would be equally alien from the simplicity of John’s style, and not in accordance with the fact of almost all His teaching and working being in Galilee. Nor is γάρ to be rendered ‘although’ (Kuinoel)—a sense (Lücke, 1. 613) which it never has. One admissible view is (Tholuck, Lücke (third edn.), De Wette), that this verse refers to the next following, and indeed to the whole narrative which it introduces. It stands as a preliminary explanation of the ‘Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe;’ and as indicating the contrast between the Samaritans, who believed on Him for His word,—and His own countrymen, who only received Him because they had seen the miracles which He did at Jerusalem. Such use of γάρ is not unexampled (see Hartung, Partikellehre, i. p. 467; Lücke, 467; Thol.; De Wette; and Matthiæ, Gr. Gr. § 615). In Herod. 1. 124 we have ὦ παῖ Καμβύσεω, σὲ γὰρ θεοὶ ἐπορέωσι· οὐ γὰρ ἄν κοτε ἐς τοσοῦτον τύχης ἀπίκεν· σὺ νῦν Ἀστυάγεα τὸν σεωυτοῦ φονέα τίσαι. Soph. Antig. 393: ἀλλʼ, ἡ γὰρ ἐκτὸς καὶ παρʼ ἐλπίδας χαρὰ " ἔοικεν ἄλλῃ μῆκος οὐδὲν ἡδονῇ, " ἥκω κ.τ.λ. And thus the οὖν in the next verse will be a particle connecting it with this preliminary reason given. But ἐμαρτύρησεν is not to be taken as a pluperfect.

A simpler view still is this: the reason (ver. 1) why He left Judæa for Galilee was, because of the publicity which was gathering round Himself and his ministry. He betakes Himself to Galilee therefore, to avoid fame, testifying that His own country (Galilee) was that where, as a prophet, He was least likely to be honoured.

45.] They received Him, but in accordance with the proverbial saying just recorded;—not for any honour in which they themselves held Him, or value which they had for His teaching; but on account of His fame in Jerusalem, the metropolis,—which set them the fashion in their estimate of men and things.

καὶ αὐτοὶ γάρ, inserted for those readers who might not be aware of the practice of the Galilæans to frequent the feasts at Jerusalem.

46.] οὖν, perhaps (see above) because of the receptivity of Him from signs and wonders merely,—not as a Prophet from His teaching. But it is hardly safe in this Gospel to mark the inference in οὖν so strongly: it is St. John’s habitual particle of sequence, even where that sequence is not strictly logical, only temporal, and thus in God’s purposes, no doubt, consequential.

βασιλικός] ἢ ἐκ γένους βασιλικοῦ, ἢ ὡς ἀξίωμά τι κεκτημένος ἀφʼ οὗπερ ἐκαλεῖτο βασιλικός (Euthym., Chrys.), ἢ ὡς ὑπηρέτης βασιλικός (Euthym.). Origen thinks he may have been one of the household of Cæsar, having some business in Judæa at that time. But the usage of Josephus is perhaps our surest guide. He uses βασ. to distinguish the soldiers, or courtiers, or officers of the kings (Herods or others), from those of Rome,—but never to designate the royal family: see B. J. vii. 5. 2: Antt. xv. 8, 4. So that this man was probably an officer of Herod Antipas. He may have been Chuza, Herod’s steward, Luke 8:3: but this is pure conjecture. The man seems to have been a Jew: see below.

47, 48.] This miracle is a notable instance of our Lord ‘not quenching the smoking flax:’ just as His reproof of the Samaritan woman was of His ‘not breaking the bruised reed.’ The little spark of faith in the breast of this nobleman is by Him lit up into a clear and enduring flame for the light and comfort of himself and his house.

καταβῇ] See on ch. 2:12.

The charge brought against them, ἐὰν μὴ κ.τ.λ., does not imply, as some (Raphel and Storr) think, that they would not believe signs and wonders heard of, but required to see them (thus laying the stress on ἴδητε)—for in this case the expression would certainly have been fuller, ἴδητε τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς, or something similar;—and it would not accord with our Lord’s known low estimate of all mere miracle-faith, to find Him making so weighty a difference between faith from miracles seen and faith from miracles heard. The words imply the contrast between the Samaritans, who believed because of His word, and the Jews (the plural reckoning the βασιλικός among them), who would not believe but through signs and prodigies: see 1Corinthians 1:22. And observe also that it is not implied that even when they had seen signs and wonders, they would believe:—the required these as a condition of their faith, but even these were rejected by them: see ch. 12:37.

But even with such inadequate conception and conditions of faith, our Lord receives the nobleman, and works the sign rather than dismiss him. It was otherwise in Matthew 16:1 ff.

49.] Here is the same weakness of faith,—but our Lord’s last words have made visible impression. It is like the Syrophœnician woman’s rejoinder,—‘Yea, Lord; but …,’ only the faith is of a far less noble kind than hers. He seems to believe it necessary that Jesus should be on the spot;—not that there was any thing strange or blameable in this, for Martha and Mary did the same, ch. 11:21, 32:—and to think that it would be too late when his child had expired;—not imagining that He to whom he spoke could raise the dead.

50.] The bringing out and strengthening of the man’s faith by these words was almost as great a spiritual miracle, as the material one which they indicated.

We may observe the difference between our Lord’s dealing here and in the case of the centurion (Matthew 8:6 ff. and ). There, when from humility the man requests Him to speak the word only, He offers to go to his house: here, when pressed to go down, He speaks the word only. Thus (as Trench observes, after Chrysostom) the weak faith of the nobleman is strengthened, while the humility of the centurion is honoured.

51.] He appears [see below] to have gone leisurely away,—for the hour (1 p.m.) was early enough to reach Capernaum the same evening (twenty-five miles): in confidence that an amendment was taking place, which he at present understood to be only a gradual one.

52, 53.] κομψῶς ἔχειν in this sense is found in Arrian. Dissert. Epictet. iii. 10, cited by most of the Commentators. ὅταν ὁ ἰατρὸς εἰσέρχηται, μὴ φοβεῖσθαι τί εἴπῃ· μηδʼ ἂν εἴπη, κομψῶς ἔχεις, ὑπερχαίρειν … μηδʼ ἂν εἴπῃ, κακῶς ἔχεις, ἀθυμεῖν.…

ἀφῆκεν αὐτ. ὁ πυρ.] This was probably more than he expected to hear; and the coincidence of so sudden a recovery with the time at which Jesus had spoken the words to him (after ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὣρᾳ understand ἀφῆκεν αὐτὸν ὁ πυρετός), raises his faith at length into a full belief of the Power and Goodness and the Messiahship of Him, who had by a word commanded the disease, and it had obeyed. The ἐπίστευσεν, absolutely, implies that in the fullest sense he and all his became disciples of Jesus. It is very different from ἐπίστευσεν τῷ λόγῳ ὃν εἶπ. Ἰησ. in ver. 50—as believing on Him must be always different from believing on any thing else in the world, be it even His own word or His own ordinances. Here the advocates of the (imaginary—see above on ver. 6) Asiatic division of the hours by St. John, suppose him to have put that division into the mouth of Jews in Galilee. But that division would in reality not help the narrative here at all, as they maintain. The βασιλικός probably set out, as indeed the narrative implies, immediately on hearing our Lord’s assurance, and spent the night on the way. Indeed, curiously enough, Bp. Wordsw. makes him do this, and yet maintains the seventh hour to have been 7 p.m.

54.] The meaning of the Evangelist clearly is, that this was the second Galilæan miracle (see ch. 3:2, and ver. 45). But (1) how is that expressed in the words? The σημεῖα which He did at Jerusalem in the feast being omitted, the πάλιν δεύτερον σ. naturally carries the thoughts back to a former one related; and the clause added (ἐλθὼν κ.τ.λ.) shews, not that a miracle prior to this, during this return visit, has been passed over,—but that as the scene of this second was in Galilee, so that former one, to which δεύτ. refers, must be sought in Galilee also. And then (2) why should this so particularly be stated? Certainly, it seems to me, on account of the part which this miracle bore in the calling out and assuring of faith by the manifestation of His glory, as that first one had done before. By that (ch. 2:11), His disciples had been convinced: by this, one (himself a type of the weak and unworthy in faith) outside the circle of His own. By both, half-belief was strengthened into faith in Him: but in each case it is of a different kind.

It is an interesting question, whether or not this miracle be the same as the healing of the centurion’s servant (or son, Matt.?) in Matthew 8:5: Luke 7:1. Irenæus appears to hold the two narratives to be the same history (appears only; for his words are, “Filium centurionis absens verbo curavit dicens Vade, filius tuus vivit,” Hær. ii. 22. 3, p. 147: which remark may be simply explained by his having cited from memory, and thus either made this βασιλικός a centurion,—or, which is more probable, having understood the παῖς in Mat_8 as a son, and made our Lord there speak very similar words to those really uttered by Him, but which are in reality found here): so Eusebius also in his canons. Chrysostom notices, but opposes the view:—and it has never in modern times gained many advocates, being only held by Semler, Seiffarth, and the interpreters of the Straussian school. Indeed, the internal evidence is all against it: not only (Chrys.) ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀξιώματος, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς πίστεως, does the man in one case differ from the man in the other. The inner kernel of the history is, in our case here,—the elevation of a weak and mere wonder-seeking faith into a deep conviction of the personal power and love of our Lord; in the other, the commendation of a noble confession of our Lord’s divine power, indicating great strength and grasp of faith, and inducing the greatest personal humility. And the external point brought out in the commendation, οὐδὲ ἐν τῷ Ἰσραήλ, is not only different from, but stands in absolute contrast with, the depreciating charge here, ἐὰν μὴ σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα ἴδητε, οὐ μὴ πιστεύσητε.

Olshausen (whose commentary on John is far less elaborate than on the other Gospels, which may account for my referring less often to it) well remarks, that this narrative may be regarded as a sequel to the foregoing one.

Henry Alford - Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

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