《Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures – John (Ch. 4~Ch. 8》(Johann P. Lange) 04 Chapter 4

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Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures – John (Ch.4~Ch.8(Johann P. Lange)
04 Chapter 4
Verses 1-42



John 4:1-42

1When therefore the Lord [Jesus][FN1] knew how [that] the Pharisees had heard that 2 Jesus made [makes] and baptized [baptizes] more disciples than John (Though 3 Jesus himself baptized not [did not baptize], but his disciples), He left Judea, and departed again[FN2] into Galilee 4 And he must needs go through Samaria 5 Then cometh he [He cometh, therefore] to a city of Samaria, which is [omit which is] called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground [or piece of land] that Jacob gave to his 6 son Joseph. Now [And] Jacob’s well [fountain][FN3] was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus [simply sat down] on the well: [.] and [omit and] it was about[FN4] the sixth hour.

7There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.[FN5] 8(For his disciples were [had] gone away unto the city to buy meat9[food]). Then[FN6] saith the woman of Samaria [The Samaritan woman[FN7] saith] unto him, How is it that thou being a Jew, askest drink of me, which [who] am a woman of Samaria [a Samaritan woman]? for the [omit the] Jews have no dealings with the [omit the] Samaritans.[FN8] 10Jesus 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 wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water 11 The woman saith unto him, Sirach, thou, hast nothing to draw with,[FN9] and the well is deep: from whence 12 then hast thou that [the] living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which [who] gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children [sons], and his cattle? 13Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever [Every one that] drinketh [πᾶς δ πίνων] of this water shall [will] thirst again: 14But whosoever drinketh [whosoever shall drink, δς δ’ ἅν πίῃ][FN10] of the water that I shall give him shall [will] never thirst; but the water that I shall give him[FN11] shall be [become, γενήσεται] in him a well [fountain] of water springing up into everlasting life 15 The woman saith unto him, Sirach, give me this water, that I thirst not [may 16 not thirst], neither [nor] come [all the way, διέρχωμαι] hither [ἐνθάδε] to draw. Jesus17[He][FN12] saith unto her, Go, call thy husband,[FN13] and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband [οὐχ ἕχω ἅνδρα]. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband [A husband I have not, or, Husband I have none, ἅνδρα οὐχ ἕχω]: 18For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly [in this thou hast spoken truly, or, truth, τοῦτο ὰληθὲς εἵρηκας]. 19The woman saith unto him, Sirach, I perceive that thou art a prophet 20 Our fathers worshipped in [or, on] this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me,[FN14] the [an] hour cometh [is coming], when ye shall neither in [or, on] this mountain, nor yet [omit yet] at [in] Jerusalem, worship the Father 22 Ye worship ye know not what [that which ye know not]: we know what we worship [we worship that which we know]; for [the] salvation[FN15] is [or, comes] of [from] the Jews 23 But the [an] hour cometh [is coming], and now Isaiah, when the true worshippers shall [will] worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him [for also (καὶ γάρ) such worshippers the Father seeketh], 24God is a Spirit [is spirit]:[FN16] and they that worship him must worship him [omit him] in spirit and in truth 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which26[who] is called Christ:[FN17] when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

27And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the [a] woman:[FN18] yet no man [no one] said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?

28The woman then left her water-pot, and went her way [went away] into the city, and saith to the men, 29Come, see a Prayer of Manasseh, which [who] told me all things that ever[FN19] 30I did: is not [omit not][FN20] this the Christ? Then [omit Then][FN21] they went out of the city, and came unto [to] him.

31In the mean while his disciples prayed [asked] him, saying, Master [Rabbi], eat 32 But he said unto them, I have meat [food] to eat that ye know not of 33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him aught [any thing] to eat? 34Jesus saith unto them, My meat [food] is to do[FN22] the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work 35 Say not ye [Do ye not say], There are yet four months [it is yet a four-month[FN23]], and then cometh [the] harvest? behold [Lo!] I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already 36 to harvest [white for harvest already]. And [omit And][FN24] he that reapeth [the reaper] receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that 37 soweth and he that reapeth [the sower and the reaper] may rejoice together. And [For, γάρ] herein [in this spiritual field] is that saying [fully] true, One soweth, and 38 another reapeth. I [have] sent you to reap that whereon ye [have] bestowed no labour: other men [others have] laboured, and ye are [have] entered into their labours.

39And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on [in] him for the saying [because of the word, διὰ τὸν λόγον] of the woman, which [who] testified, He told me 40 all that ever I did. So when [When, therefore] the Samaritans were come [came] unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them [to abide with them]: and he abode there two days 41 And many more believed because of his own [omit own] word [ὁιὰ τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ]; 42And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not [No longer do we believe] because of thy saying [story, διὰ τὴν σὴν λαλίαν]: for we have heard him [omit him] ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ [omit the Christ],[FN25] the Saviour of the world.


[In this section our Saviour, sitting on Jacob’s well in weariness of body, yet with ever fresh sympathy for Prayer of Manasseh, discourses on the water of eternal life with an ignorant, degraded, semi-heathenish, yet quick-witted, sprightly and susceptible woman, a sort of “Samaritan Magdalene,”[FN26] and teaches her the sublime truths of the true worship of God which broke down the partition wall between Jews and Gentiles. He saw, by super-natural intuition, the dark spots in her character, but also the deeper aspirations of her soul which had not been extinguished by a life of shame; and when she began to repent and believe, He unveiled to her the future of His kingdom, as He had not done to an orthodox Jew. This scene is in striking contrast with the one related in the third chapter, where He instructed a Jew of the highest respectability in Jerusalem on the mystery of regeneration and the divine counsel of redemption. Christianity touches the extremes of society: humbling the lofty, raising the lowly, saving both. Christ’s intercourse with women, “the last at the cross and the earliest at the tomb,” was marked by freedom from Jewish and Oriental contempt of the weaker sex (comp. John 4:27), by elevation above earthly passion, and a marvellous union of purity and frankness, dignity and tenderness. He approached them as a friend and brother, and yet as their Lord and Saviour, while they were irresistibly drawn towards Him with mingled feelings of affection and adoration. He dealt with them as one who condemned even an impure look ( Matthew 5:28), and yet He permitted the sinful woman to wash His feet with tears of repentance ( Luke 7:37 ff.). He partook of the hospitality of practical, busy Martha, while gently reminding her of the better part which her contemplative sister Mary had chosen in reverently listening to His instruction ( Luke 10:38 ff.), and comforted them both at the death of their brother ( John 11); He lent a sympathizing ear to the sorrows of travail and the joy of deliverance ( John 16:21); He remembered His mother in the last agony on the cross ( John 19:26-27); and He appeared first in His resurrection glory to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils.[FN27]

[The Samaritans, whether we regard them (with Gesenius and the majority of modern scholars) as the descendants of the remnants of the ten tribes and the heathen colonists introduced by the Assyrians, or (with Hengstenberg, Robinson, and the older writers) as pure heathen in descent, who afterwards adopted certain features of the Jewish religion, such as circumcision, the worship of Jehovah and the hopes of the Messiah (comp. note on John 4:4), were, at all events, in their religion, a mongrel people, at one time more Jewish, at another more heathenish, according to circumstances and policy, much given to deceit and lying, and more cordially hated by the Jews than the pure Gentiles. Christ broke the spell of this long nourished national prejudice. It is true, He forbade the disciples, in their early missionary labors, to go to the Samaritans ( Matthew 10:5-6), and this seems to be inconsistent with His own conduct as related in this chapter. But the prohibition was only temporary and well founded in the divine law of order and progress. The Apostles were first sent to the house of Israel; they must lay the foundation of Christianity in that soil which had been providentially prepared for centuries, before it could be successfully planted among Gentiles. At the same time Christ Himself, though in the days of His flesh “sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” incidentally and by prophetic anticipation, as it were, made an exception, not only in this case, but also in the case of the Syro-Phenician woman ( Matthew 15:21 ff.), and the heathen centurion of Capernaum ( Matthew 8:5 ff.); and, in the parable of the good Samaritan ( Luke 10:30 ff.), He rebuked the pride and prejudice of the Jews with regard to that people. His favorable reception among them is confirmed by the report of Luke 17:11 ff, that of the ten lepers whom He healed on a journey through Samaria, only one returned thanks, and he a Samaritan, putting to shame the remaining nine, who were Jews.

[The discourse here told has all the artless simplicity, freshness, vivacity and truthfulness of historical reality. No one could have invented it. The portrait of the woman is remarkably life-like—every word and act is characteristic. The whole scenery remains to this day almost unchanged; Jacob’s well, though partly in ruins; round about the waving harvests of a fertile and beautiful valley, with abundance of water; the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim; a heap of stones on the spot where the Samaritan temple stood; the flat roofs of the neighboring town, visible through olive trees; veiled women in oriental costume coming for water, bearing a stone pitcher on the head or the shoulder; the weary traveller thirsting for a refreshing drink; the old bigotry and hatred of race and religion still burning beneath the ashes. How often has this chapter been read since by Christian pilgrims on the very spot where the Saviour rested, with the irresistible impression that every ward is true and adapted to the time and place, yet applicable to all times and places. Jacob’s well is no more used, but the living spring of water which the Saviour first opened there to a poor, sinful, yet penitent woman, is as deep and fresh as ever, and will quench the thirst of souls to the end of time.

[On this visit of our Saviour, the seed was sown which, a few years afterwards, as He prophetically foresaw ( John 4:35), grew up into a plentiful harvest and resulted in the conversion of the Samaritans, as related Acts 8:5 ff, and this in turn prepared the way for the conversion of the Gentiles. From Samaria hailed Simon Magus with the first doctrinal corruptions of Christianity by the admixture of heathen notions, but also Justin Martyr, the fearless apologist, who was a native of that very Sychar or Flavia Neapolis, where Christ met the Samaritan woman. But of far greater consequence than the result related in the Acts, is the example here set by Christ for missionary operations, and the doctrines laid down for all ages.—P. S.]

See the Literature in Heubner, p269 et al.; Niedhofer: Jesus und die Samariterin (Homiletic Discourses), Augsburg, 1821. [Archbishop Trench: Christ and the Samaritan Woman, in his Studies in the Gospels, pp83–137. Dr. J. R. Macduff: Noontide at Sychar; or the Story of Jacob’s Well. A N. Test. chapter in Providence and grace. N. York, 1869 (pp263).—P. S.]

John 4:1. When therefore the Lord [Jesus] knew.—The Lord, for the first time in this Gospel.[FN28] Ἔγνω or γνούς no doubt has in John, after what he has previously said of Christ’s immediate knowledge of men’s hearts, a special signification when it relates to human thoughts and purposes connected with Christ.[FN29] Οὗν primarily looks back to the preceding account, of the growing labors of Jesus; but it also points to the insight of Jesus into the spirit of the Pharisees, which was well understood, as natural means of knowledge are not excluded.

The Pharisees had heard.—Their hearing carries with it the idea of their having sought information, and keeping a jealous watch. Hence Jesus, it is true, avoids a premature hindrance to his labors, or, as Meyer says, a danger.[FN30] Yet this one motive, which John states, does not exclude another: that the Baptist was about this time cast into prison, after having labored last in Galilee, and that in answer to the special occasion thus arising for a confirming of hearts in that region, Christ appeared in the place of John in Galilee. Besides, enough for the present had been done for Judea. A third motive probably was, that Jesus had now determined for a while entirely to cease baptizing.

That Jesus made more disciples.—Literally: “makes and baptizes.” The verbal quoting of what they had heard, expressed by the present tense, indicates a very definite or a very well known report. More disciples than John.—Jesus gave the Pharisaic spirit more to fear: His freer address; more public appearance in Jerusalem; His stronger influence; the purification of the temple: His higher authority; miracles; Himself accredited as the Messiah by John.

John 4:2. Though Jesus himself.—Evidently a parenthesis, otherwise it would belong to what the Pharisees had heard.[FN31] The Evangelist does not correct the report (Meyer), for it was true; he only states the fact more precisely. The observation no doubt means not that it so happened, but that it was a rule, that Jesus Himself baptized not. Why? (1) Because the work of teaching was more important ( 1 Corinthians 1:17, De Wette [Alford]); (2) because He would have had to baptize into Himself (Tertullian); (3) Bengel: “Baptizare actio ministerialis est … Christus baptizat Spiritu sancto.” [So Godet, Trench. Godet: “Il était le Seigneur, et il se réservait le baptéme de l’ Esprit.”—P. S.] Nonnus follows this: the Lord baptizes not with water. Tertullian’s explanation, too, has warrant. As Christ is the object of baptism, the centre of the new kingdom, He would obscure the idea of baptism, if He should not have the transition from the old system to the new, so far as the baptism was concerned, administered by others.[FN32]

John 4:3. He left Judea.—At the same time giving up baptizing. Why? Because the imprisonment of the Baptist in the midst of the Jewish people had brought a ban of uncleanness again upon the whole congregation of Israel (see my Leben Jesu, II:2, p515). This settled it, that a new baptism could proceed only from the baptism of blood, which at the same time would give it a deeper significance (as the final ideal consecration of death).

Departed again into Galille—As after He was baptized.

John 4:4. Through Samaria.—Samaria lay between Judea and Galilee, and through this province, therefore, the usual route of pilgrimage also passed (Joseph. Antiq. XX:6, 1).[FN33] The custom of scrupulous Jews, to make a circuit through Peræa, could have no force with Jesus; though afterwards the Samaritans themselves once occasioned His following it. But He then also had probably already come near the boundary of Samaria (see Maier, Commentar., p328), Luke 9:52. Samaria, שׂמְרוֹן; Chald. שָׁמְרָיִן, Ezra 4:10; Ezra 4:17, primarily the name of a city. The city lay in the kingdom of the ten tribes in middle Palestine, on a mountain (Robinson [Germ. ed.] III. p365); built by Omri about922 B. C, and made the seat of the kingdom of Israel ( 1 Kings 16:24, and elsewhere); a chief seat of the worship of Baal during the time of the apostasy, 1 Kings 16:31; as the capital of Ephraim, the counterpart of Jerusalem ( Ezekiel 16:46, and elsewhere). Shalmanezer conquered the city and filled it with colonists, 2 Kings 17:5 sqq. John Hyrcanus destroyed it, but it was soon rebuilt. Herod the Great, to whom Cæsar Augustus gave the city, beautified it, strengthened it, planted a colony of veterans in it, and named it Sebaste [Augusta, in honor of Augustus, Joseph. Antiq. XV:8, 5]. The growth of Sichem [Neapolis] in the vicinity threw back the city to a hamlet, which still exists as Sebustieh, in ruins. From the city of Samaria (Σαμάρεια) the region of Middle Palestine gradually took its name, Σαμαρεῖτις ( 1 Maccabees 10:30); it is a separate province in the time of the Syrian kings (also Σαμαρίς. Σαμάρεια in Josephus). The description which Josephus gives of the country, see in Winer under the word. Samaria appears more friendly than Judea, rich in vegetation and forest-clad hills. In the same article are the accounts of modern tourists respecting the city of Samaria.

By the Samaritans, שֹׁמְרוֹנִים, Σαμαρεῖται, Σαμαρεις, history understands the later post-exilian inhabitants of the country, the Χουθαῖοι (Joseph. Antiq. IX:14, 3, etc.). According to the prevailing view, a mixed population grew up from the heathen colonists of Shalmanezer (and Esarhaddon, Ezra 4:2) from Assyrian provinces ( 2 Kings 17:24), Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hameth, and Sepharvaim, and from the remnants of the Israelites. In the land of Israel they adopted the Israelite religion ( 2 Kings 17:25; Ezra 6:21; Nehemiah 10:28), and soon went so far as to call themselves the genuine offspring of Israel, or of the house of Joseph (Joseph. Antiq. XI:8, 6). And now they would still be called Israelites, but not Jews. But as they presumed in pride to boast an Israelite descent, so too they often permitted themselves through policy utterly to deny this extraction, and give themselves out for Persians (Joseph. Antiq. XI:9, 4) or Sidonians [Ibid. XI:8, 6].

After Hottinger and others, Hengstenberg in particular [Beiträge I:117; II:3 sqq] has wholly denied to the Samaritans any genealogical connection with the Jews. The document, 2 Kings 17, mentions nothing, it is true, of remaining Israelites, and the Samaritans have often boasted that they were of heathen origin. This last fact, however, can signify nothing; for they likewise boasted, generally, that they were pure Jews (and the ἀλλογενής, Luke 17:18, evidently proves nothing). But it is said in 2 Kings 17:24, that the colonists were placed in the cities; so that the colonization was limited. Besides, the deportations of this kind in history, as Winer observes, are never radical. The Samaritans were also early distinguished from the heathen ( 1 Maccabees 3:10). Under Hezekiah ( 2 Chronicles 30:6; 2 Chronicles 30:10) and under Josiah ( 2 Chronicles 34:9) there were remnants of Israel in Ephraim and Manasseh. And Christ, as well as the Apostles after Him, considered the Samaritans a middle people between Jews and heathen, Acts 1:8; Acts 8:5. A predominance of heathen blood is assumed by many.

As might be expected of such a mixed people, adopting Judaism in an outward way, (1) they were not consistent in their national and religious spirit; they professed now to be Jews, now to be Gentiles, as their interest might require. Under Antiochus Epiphanes their temple was dedicated to Jupiter Hellenius. Heresy in the Christian church, which is mainly a mixture of Christianity with heathenism, takes its rise in the Christianity of Samaria.[FN34] (2) They attained no living development of their religious ideas; so that in their canon (the Pentateuch), their Messianic expectation, and their use of the law, they stopped where they began; whence they in many respects resembled the Sadducees (though the Sadducees had their abridged and stunted Judaism for having gone backwards with a negative criticism, the Samaritans for having gotten fast in the letter, and not gone forwards). (3) For this very reason, however, their Messianic hope remained more simple and pure. (4) After having been refused a share in the Revelation -building of the temple in Jerusalem [ Ezra 4:1 sqq.] they fully reciprocated (first of all by hindering the building of the temple, Ezra 4:4, .and the subsequent strengthening of the city, Nehemiah 4:1) the fanatical hatred of the Jews, who looked upon them as heretics, not as heathen [see Sir. L27]; and they built a temple of their own on Gerizim. According to Josephus, Antiq. XI:8, 4, this took place in the time of Alexander the Great. Prayer of Manasseh, brother of the Jewish high-priest Jaddus, had a heathen lady for his wife. The Jewish rulers demanded his circumcision; whereupon Sanballat induced him to renounce his membership in the Jewish religion, and built the temple on Gerizim, of which Manasseh became high-priest. According to Nehemiah 13:28, a son of the high-priest Joiada, not named, had married a daughter of Sanballat, and was excommunicated for it. We may suppose that the two accounts relate to the same case, and that the chronology of Josephus is here at fault, the case having occurred under Darius Nothus (see Winer, Samaritaner). On the further fortunes of the Samaritans, see Winer, l. c. (comp. Com. on Matthew 10:5, p185; Leben Jesu II:2, p539).

John 4:5. To a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar [lit. drunken].—Near to the city, into its vicinity: εἰς πόλιν. Συχάρ = Shechem or Sichem (שְׁכֶם), Genesis 33:18, etc.; Συχέμ Sept, Acts 7:16; also Σίκιμα; after the time of Christ, Neapolis [Joseph. De bello Jud. IV:8, 1]; now Nabulus (Robinson, III. p336; Schubert, III. p136).[FN35]

Its general identity with Sichem is established by the particular statement that Jacob’s well was near. But the name Sychar for Sichem is not otherwise known, apart from the statement in Wieseler, that in the Talmud occurs the name of a place עין סוכר, well of the grave, literally of the purchased, that Isaiah, of the purchased burial-ground. Hug also (Einleitung II. p218) supposes the name comes from Suchar, and denotes the place of burial where the bones of Joseph [ Joshua 24:32] and, according to the tradition common in the times of Jesus, of the twelve patriarchs of the children of Israel, were deposited, Acts 7:15-16. It is the prevailing presumption that Συχάρ is a popular Jewish nick-name, a contemptuous travesty of Sichem; with allusion, according to Reland, to Isaiah 28:1; Isaiah 28:7 : Samaria the crown of pride of the drunkards in Ephraim, therefore the city of drunkards [שִׁכּוֹר, drunkard]; according to Lightfoot, alluding to שֶׁקֶר, heathenism as falsehood [ Habakkuk 2:18], therefore the city of deceit.[FN36] According to Hug and others, Sychar is to be distinguished from Sichem itself somewhat as a suburb, and then means the city of the sepulchre. This view is favored by the fact that both Schubert and Robinson put the ancient Sichem nearer Jacob’s well, than the present town lies, and that at the time of Eusebius, Sychar and Sichem were distinguished as two places. Consequently the views of Reland and Lightfoot may well be dismissed as ingenious scholastic conjectures (especially since the first view would make the city of Samaria, not Sichem, a Sychar, and since the allusion to Habakkuk is quite too subtile), though it might be some relief to suppose, with Meyer, that John uses the name Sychar only as the vulgar name. Yet then we might have to admit ignorance in reference to the true name; which we could hardly do; still less admit that John made nick-names. The hypothesis of an interchange of the liquidæ (Tholuck) is also inconclusive. We abide, therefore, by the hypothesis that Sychar is distinguished as the city of the sepulchre from Sichem[FN37] On the situation of Nablus between Gerizim and Ebal, see Schubert, Robinson, and others (comp. Leben Jesu II:2, p525).

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