|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:4-26 There was great hatred between the Samaritans and the Jews. Christ's road from Judea to Galilee lay through Samaria. We should not go into places of temptation but when we needs must; and then must not dwell in them, but hasten through them. We have here our Lord Jesus under the common fatigue of travellers. Thus we see that he was truly a man. Toil came in with sin; therefore Christ, having made himself a curse for us, submitted to it. Also, he was a poor man, and went all his journeys on foot. Being wearied, he sat thus on the well; he had no couch to rest upon. He sat thus, as people wearied with travelling sit. Surely, we ought readily to submit to be like the Son of God in such things as these. Christ asked a woman for water. She was surprised because he did not show the anger of his own nation against the Samaritans. Moderate men of all sides are men wondered at. Christ took the occasion to teach her Divine things: he converted this woman, by showing her ignorance and sinfulness, and her need of a Saviour. By this living water is meant the Spirit. Under this comparison the blessing of the Messiah had been promised in the Old Testament. The graces of the Spirit, and his comforts, satisfy the thirsting soul, that knows its own nature and necessity. What Jesus spake figuratively, she took literally. Christ shows that the water of Jacob's well yielded a very short satisfaction. Of whatever waters of comfort we drink, we shall thirst again. But whoever partakes of the Spirit of grace, and the comforts of the gospel, shall never want that which will abundantly satisfy his soul. Carnal hearts look no higher than carnal ends. Give it me, saith she, not that I may have everlasting life, which Christ proposed, but that I come not hither to draw. The carnal mind is very ingenious in shifting off convictions, and keeping them from fastening. But how closely our Lord Jesus brings home the conviction to her conscience! He severely reproved her present state of life. The woman acknowledged Christ to be a prophet. The power of his word in searching the heart, and convincing the conscience of secret things, is a proof of Divine authority. It should cool our contests, to think that the things we are striving about are passing away. The object of worship will continue still the same, God, as a Father; but an end shall be put to all differences about the place of worship. Reason teaches us to consult decency and convenience in the places of our worship; but religion gives no preference to one place above another, in respect of holiness and approval with God. The Jews were certainly in the right. Those who by the Scriptures have obtained some knowledge of God, know whom they worship. The word of salvation was of the Jews. It came to other nations through them. Christ justly preferred the Jewish worship before the Samaritan, yet here he speaks of the former as soon to be done away. God was about to be revealed as the Father of all believers in every nation. The spirit or the soul of man, as influenced by the Holy Spirit, must worship God, and have communion with him. Spiritual affections, as shown in fervent prayers, supplications, and thanksgivings, form the worship of an upright heart, in which God delights and is glorified. The woman was disposed to leave the matter undecided, till the coming of the Messiah. But Christ told her, I that speak to thee, am He. She was an alien and a hostile Samaritan, merely speaking to her was thought to disgrace our Lord Jesus. Yet to this woman did our Lord reveal himself more fully than as yet he had done to any of his disciples. No past sins can bar our acceptance with him, if we humble ourselves before him, believing in him as the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Verse 22 - Ye worship that which (not "him whom") ye know not. "That which" points to the essence and inner character of the object of their worship. They gave him a name, but they were comparatively ignorant of, and confessedly hostile as a people to, the revelation that the Father had made. They fell back on a past of rigid orthodoxy but of limited range. They rejected every portion of the Old Testament with the exception of the Pentateuch, i.e. the entire historical treatment of the primeval faith; even that very essence of it which involved the progressive and expanding conception of the character of God - the perpetuity and continuous renovation of relations, the prophetic insight into providence, the sublime liturgy of a ceaseless worship, the prediction of a Messianic glory which, in the fulness of the times, should complete and complement all that preceded. They were, by their prejudices and hostility, kept ignorant of and unacquainted with the Name that was above every name. In contradistinction from this, we Jews, to whom as a nation you rightly conclude I belong, and as a representative of whom I speak - We worship that which we know. Christ in this place, more distinctly perhaps than in any portion of the four Gospels, places himself as a worshipper side by side with his hearers. Here, moreover, he identifies himself with the Jews - becomes their interpreter and mouthpiece and representative. When a question arises, which of the two has the larger amount of truth, Jew or Gentile, Jew or Samaritan, he pronounced in stringent terms in favour of the Jew. The revelation advancing beyond the narrow limitations of Samaritan nationality as to place, and time, and historic fact, with its pregnant ritual, has revealed the Father to us Jews, in this respect and because the salvation of which Moses partly dreamed, but which has been the burden of every prophecy and psalm - the "salvation" which gives meaning to all our knowledge, is from (ἐκ, not "belonging to," but "proceeding from," John 1:46; John 7:22, 52) the Jews. The Jews have been the school where the highest lessons have been taught, the richest experiences felt, the noblest lives lived, the types and shadows of good things to come most conspicuous. We cannot avoid reading between the lines the sublime enthusiasm which Paul gathered from this class of teaching ("To whom pertaineth the adoption,...and covenant,...whose are the fathers, and to whom were committed the oracles of God,... and from whom as concerning the flesh Christ came"). The utterance is profoundly significant, as it is a powerful repudiation of the theory which makes the author of this Fourth Gospel a Gentile of the second century, with a Gnostic antipathy to Judaism and Jews. The contradiction to this theory indubitably involved in this verse has led to the wildest conjectures - even the suggestion of a Jewish gloss on some ancient manuscripts of the Gospel has been one desperate device to save the theory. Taut pis pour les fairs.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Ye worship ye know not what,.... However, as to her question, he more directly replies by condemning the Samaritans, and their ignorance in worship, and by approving the Jews; and so manifestly gives the preference to the Jews, not only with respect to the place, and object of worship, but with respect to knowledge and salvation. As for the Samaritans, he suggests, that they were ignorant, not only of the true object of worship, but knew not what they themselves worshipped; or, at least, were not agreed in it. The original inhabitants of those parts, from whence these Samaritans sprung, were idolatrous Heathens, placed by the king of Assyria in the room of the ten tribes he carried away captive; and these feared not the Lord, for they "knew not the manner of the God of the land": wherefore lions were sent among them which slew many of them; upon which the king of Assyria ordered a priest to be sent to instruct them: but notwithstanding this, they had everyone gods of their own, some one, and some another; and so served divers graven images, they and their children, and their children's children, to the time of the writer of the Book of Kings; see 2 Kings 17:24. And though after Manasseh, and other Jews were come among them, and they had received the law of Moses, they might have some knowledge of the true God, yet they glorified him not as God; and though they might in words profess him, yet in works they denied him; and even after this they are very highly charged by the Jews with idolatrous practices on this mount. Sometimes they say (g) the Cuthites, or Samaritans, worshipped fire; and at other times, and which chiefly prevails with them, they assert (h), that their wise men, upon searching, found that they worshipped the image of a dove on Mount Gerizim; and sometimes they say (i), they worshipped the idols, the strange gods, or Teraphim, which Jacob hid under the oak in Sichem; which last, if true, may serve to illustrate these words of Christ, that they worshipped they knew not what, since they worshipped idols hid in the mount.
"R. Ishmael bar Jose, they say (k) went to Neapolis, (Sichem, called Naplous,) the Cuthites, or Samaritans came to him (to persuade him to worship with them in their mountain); he said unto them, I will show you that ye do not "worship at this mountain", but "the images which are hid under it"; for it is written, Genesis 35:4; "and Jacob hid them" under the oak which was by Shechem.''
And elsewhere (l) it is reported of the same Rabbi, that he went to Jerusalem to pray, as before related on John 4:20, and after what passed between him, and the Samaritan he met with at Mount Gerizim, before mentioned, he added;
"and said to him, I will tell you what ye are like, (ye are like) to a dog that lusts after carrion; so because ye know the idols are hid under it, (the mountain,) as it is written, Genesis 35:4 and Jacob hid them, therefore ye lust after it: they said--this man knows that idols are hid here, and perhaps he will take them away; and they consulted together to kill him: he arose, and made his escape in the night.''
But this was not the case of the Jews:
we know what we worship; Christ puts himself among them, for he was a Jew, as the woman took him to be; and, as man, was a worshipper of God; he feared, loved, and obeyed God; he trusted in him, and prayed unto him; though, as God, he was the object of worship himself: and the true worshippers among the Jews, of which sort Christ was, knew God, whom they worshipped, spiritually and savingly; and the generality of that people had right notions of the God of Israel, having the oracles, and service of God, and being instructed out of Moses, and the prophets:
for salvation is of the Jews; the promises of salvation, and of a Saviour, were made to them, when the Gentiles were strangers to them; the means of salvation, and of the knowledge of it, as the word, statutes, and ordinances, were enjoyed by them, when others were ignorant of them; and the Messiah, who is sometimes styled "Salvation", see Genesis 49:18, was not only prophesied of in their books, and promised unto them, but came of them, as well as to them; and the number of the saved ones had been for many hundreds of years, and still was among them; the line of election ran among them, and few among the Gentiles were called and saved, as yet.
(g) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 5. 2.((h) Maimon. in Misn. Beracot, c. 8. sect. 8. & Bartenora in ib. c. 7. sect. 1. & in Nidda, c. 4. sect. 1.((i) Shalshelet Hakkabala, fol. 15. 2.((k) T. Hieros. Avoda Zara, fol. 44. 4. (l) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 81. fol. 71. 1.
Wesley's Notes on the Bible
4:22 Ye worship ye know not what - Ye Samaritans are ignorant, not only of the place, but of the very object of worship. Indeed, they feared the Lord after a fashion; but at the same time served their own gods, 2Kings 17:33. Salvation is from the Jews - So spake all the prophets, that the Saviour should arise out of the Jewish nation: and that from thence the knowledge of him should spread to all nations under heaven.
John 4:22 Parallel Commentaries
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