John 4:1
When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
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(1) When therefore the Lord knew.—The second clause of this verse is given in the exact words of the report which came to the Pharisees: When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees heard, “Jesus maketh and baptizeth more disciples than John.”

The report which reached John (John 3:26) had come to them also, and the inference from His retirement is that it had excited their hostility. The hour to meet this has not yet come, and He withdraws to make, in a wider circle, the announcement which He has made in the Temple, in Jerusalem, in Judæa, and is about to make in Samaria and in Galilee.

John 4:1-3. When the Lord knew — Without receiving information from any one; how the Pharisees — Whose interest in the sanhedrim was very great; had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John — To shun the effects of their envy and malice, which were hereby excited; he left Judea — After having continued there, it seems, about eight months; and departed again into Galilee — His former place of abode, where the influence and power of the council were not so great, and where his presence was necessary, as the ministry of his forerunner in that country was now brought to a period. It seems the testimony which the Baptist had given to Christ, together with the miracles which he himself had wrought at Jerusalem during the passover, had greatly impressed the minds of the people; so that vast numbers, during his abode in those parts, were continually flocking around him, and many attached themselves to him as his followers; a circumstance which gave great umbrage to the Pharisees. For these men claimed it as the privilege of their sect to direct the consciences of the people, and were therefore enraged to find such numbers of them acknowledging, as the Messiah, one whose birth and fortune so little suited the notions which they had taught concerning the great deliverer of the nation. The evangelist informs us, that Jesus himself baptized not — Perhaps because it was not proper to baptize in his own name, and because it was of more importance to preach than to baptize, 1 Corinthians 1:17. Besides, it might have given those who were baptized by him occasion to value themselves above others, as happened in the church of Corinth, where the brethren valued themselves upon the character of the persons who had baptized them. Indeed the baptism properly Christ’s was that of the Holy Ghost, with which Spirit John had foretold he should baptize his followers. See Macknight.

4:1-3 Jesus applied himself more to preaching, which was the more excellent, 1Co 1:17, than to baptism. He would put honour upon his disciples, by employing them to baptize. He teaches us that the benefit of sacraments depends not on the hand that administers them.The Lord knew - When Jesus knew. how he knew this we are not informed; whether by that power of omniscience by which he knew all things, or whether some person had informed him of it.

How the Pharisees had heard - The Pharisees, here, seem to denote either the members of the Sanhedrin or those who were in authority. They claimed the authority to regulate the rites and ceremonies of religion, and hence they supposed they had a right to inquire into the conduct of both John and our Lord. They had on a former occasion sent to inquire of John to know by what authority he had introduced such a rite into the religion of the Jewish people. See the notes at John 1:25.

More disciples than John - Though many of the Pharisees came to his baptism Matthew 3, yet those who were in authority were displeased with the success of John, John 1:25. The reasons of this were, probably, the severity and justness of his reproofs Matthew 3:7, and the fact that by drawing many after him he weakened their authority and influence. As they were displeased with John, so they were with Jesus, who was doing the same thing on a larger scale - not only making disciples, but baptizing also without their authority, and drawing away the people after him.


Joh 4:1-42. Christ and the Woman of Samaria—The Samaritans of Sychar.

1-4. the Lord knew—not by report, but in the sense of Joh 2:25, for which reason He is here styled "the Lord."John 4:1-26 Christ talketh with a woman of Samaria, and revealeth

himself unto her.

John 4:27-30 His disciples marvel; the woman calleth the men of

her city to see him.

John 4:31-38 Christ showeth his own zeal to do God’s work, and the

blessedness of his disciples, who were to reap the

fruit of his labours.

John 4:39-42 Many Samaritans believe on him.

John 4:43-54 He goeth into Galilee, and healeth a nobleman’s son

who lay sick at Capernaum.

Our Saviour knew as God, from that omniscience which is

inseparable from the Divine nature, or as man, by the relation of

others, that the Pharisees, (who had the greatest stroke in the

sanhedrim), and the government of the church of the Jews, had received

an information concerning him, that he had, by his doctrine which he

preached, and confirmed by miraculous operations,

made and (by his

disciples) baptized more disciples than John, thereby initiating

them into a new church.

When therefore our Lord knew,.... Or Jesus, as some copies, as the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions read; who is Lord of all, Lord of lords, the one and only Lord of saints: and who knew all things as God; every man, and what is in man; who would believe in him, and who not, and who would betray him; he knew his adversaries, what they thought, said, or did; what was told them, and how it operated in them; and what were the secret motions of their hearts, and their most private counsels and designs; for this is not merely to be understood of his knowledge as man, which he might have by private intelligence from others; though what is here said, might be true also in this sense:

how the Pharisees; the inveterate and implacable enemies of Christ, and particularly those that dwelt at Jerusalem, and were of the great sanhedrim, or council of the nation:

had heard; either by their spies, which they constantly kept about Christ; or by John s disciples, who, through envy, might apply to the sanhedrim, to put a stop to, or check upon the baptism and ministry of Christ; or by common fame:

that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John; see John 3:26. The method Christ took was, he first made men disciples, and then baptized them; and the same he directed his apostles to, saying, "go and teach", or "disciple all nations, baptizing them", &c. And this should be a rule of conduct to us, to baptize only such, who appear to have been made the disciples of Christ: now a disciple of Christ, is one that has learned of Christ, and has learned Christ; the way of life, righteousness, and salvation by him; who is a believer in him; who has seen a beauty, glory, fulness, and suitableness in him, as a Saviour; and is come to him, and has ventured on him, and trusted in him; and who has been taught to deny himself, sinful self, and righteous self; to part with his sins, and to renounce his own righteousness, and all dependence on it, for justification before God; and who has been made willing to leave and forsake all worldly things and advantages, and to bear all reproach, indignities, and persecutions, for Christ's sake: and such who are Christ's disciples in this sense, are the only proper persons to be baptized; these are they, that ought to put on this badge, and wear Christ's livery: nor can baptism be of any use to any others; for such only are baptized into him, and into his death, and partake of the saving benefits of it; for whatsoever is not of faith, is sin; and without it also, it is impossible to please God.

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

(1) This balance is to be kept in doing our duty, that neither by fear are we terrified from going forward, and neither by rashness procure or bring dangers upon ourselves.

John 4:1-3. Ὡς οὖν ἔγνω, κ.τ.λ.] οὖν, igitur, namely, in consequence of the concourse of people who flocked to Him, and which had been previously mentioned. Considering this concourse, He could not fail to come to know (ἔγνω, not supernatural knowledge, but comp. John 4:53; John 5:6; John 11:57; John 12:9) that it had reached the ears of the Pharisees, how He, etc. This prompted Him, however, to withdraw to Galilee, where their hostility would not be so directly aroused and cherished as in Judaea, the headquarters of the hierarchy. To surrender Himself to them before the time, before His hour arrived, and the vocation of which He was conscious had been fulfilled, was opposed to His consciousness of the divine arrangements and the object of His mission. He contented himself, therefore, for the present with the interest which He had already excited in Jndaea on behalf of His work, and withdrew, for the time being, to His own less esteemed country.[181] As to the date of this return, see John 4:35; it is an arbitrary invention to say (Lange, L. J. II. p. 515), that upon leaving Judaea He gave up baptizing because John’s imprisonment (?) brought a ban of uncleanness upon Israel (515 sq.). The performance of baptism must be supposed as taking place subsequent to this, when conversions are spoken of (e.g. John 4:53), comp. John 3:5; and Matthew 28:19 does not contain a wholly new command to baptize, but its completion and extension to all times and nations.

οἱ Φαρισ.] It is only this party, the most powerful and most dangerous of the Jewish sects, that is still named by John, the evangelist who had become furthest removed from Judaism.

ὅτι Ἰησοῦς, κ.τ.λ.] a verbatim repetition of the report; hence the name (1 Corinthians 11:23), and the present tenses. Comp. Galatians 1:23.

ἢ Ἰωάννης] whom they had moreover less to fear, on account of his legal standpoint, and his declarations in John 1:19 ff., than Jesus, whose appearance was in Jerusalem at once so reformatory, miraculous, and rich in results, and who was so ominously attested by John.

John 4:2 is not to be put in a parenthesis, for the construction is not interrupted.

καίτοι γε] quanquam quidem, and yet; see Baeumlein, Partik. p. 245 ff.; Klotz, ad Devar. p. 654 f. The thing is thus expressed, because “semper is dicitur facere, cui praeministratur,” Tertullian. A pretext for this lay in the fact that John did himself baptize. But why did not Jesus Himself baptize? Not because it was incumbent on Him only to preach (1 Corinthians 1:17); there must have been a principle underlying His not baptizing, seeing that John, without limitation, made it so prominent (against Thomas, Lyra, Maldonatus, and most); not, again, because He must have baptized unto Himself (so already Tertull. de bapt. 11), for He could have done this; not even for the clear preservation of the truth: “that it is He who baptizes all down to the present day” (Hengstenberg), an arbitrarily invented abstraction, and quite foreign even to the N. T. Nonnus hits upon the true reason: οὐ γὰρ ἄναξ βάπτιζεν ἐν ὕδατι. Bengel well says: “baptizare actio ministralis, Acts 10:48, 1 Corinthians 1:17; Johannes minister sua manu baptizavit, discipuli ejus ut videtur neminem, at Christus baptizat Spiritu sancto,” which the disciples had not power to do until afterwards (John 7:39). Comp. Ewald. For the rest, John 4:2 does not contain a correction of himself by the evangelist (Hengstenberg and early expositors),—for we must not omit to ask why he should not at once have expressed himself correctly,—but, on the contrary, a correction of the form of the rumour mentioned in John 4:1. Comp. John 3:26. Nonnus: ἐτήτυμος οὐ πέλε φήμη. In this consists the historical interest of the observation (against Baur and Hilgenfeld), which we are not to regard as an unhistorical consequence of transporting Christian baptism back to the time of Jesus.

[181] According to Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 1, p. 168 f., whom Lichtenstein follows, Jesus withdrew, because He was apprehensive lest what had come to the Pharisees’ ears should be made use of by them to throw suspicion on the Baptist. But this is all the less credible, when we remember that Jesus certainly, as well as John himself (John 3:30), knew it to be a divine necessity that He should increase and the Baptist decrease, and therefore would hardly determine his movements by considerations of the kind supposed. He could more effectually have met any such suspicions, by testifying on behalf of the noble Baptist in the neighbourhood where he was, than by withdrawing from the scene. No; Jesus went out of the way of the danger that threatened Himself, and which He knew it was not yet time for Him to expose Himself to; comp. John 7:1, John 10:40, John 11:54. Nonnus: φεύγων λὐσσαν ἄπιστον ἀκηλήτων Φαρισαίων. Still, however, we must not, with Hengstenberg and most others, suppose that this retirement to Galileo arose from the fact that John had already fallen a prey to pharisaic persecution, and that Jesus had all the more reason to apprehend this persecution. There is no hint whatever of the supposed fact that the Pharisees had delivered John over to Herod. This explanation is based merely upon an attempt at harmonizing, in order to make this journey back to Galilee the same with that named in Matthew 4:12. See on John 3:24.

John 4:1-4 account for His being in Samaria; 5–26 relate His conversation with a Samaritan woman; 27–38 His consequent conversation with His own disciples; 39–42 the impression He made upon the Samaritans. The circumstances which brought our Lord into Samaria seem to be related as much for the sake of maintaining the continuity of the history and of exhibiting the motives which guided His movements as for the sake of introducing the incident at Sychar.

1. When therefore the Lord knew] The ‘therefore’ refers us back to John 3:26. Of the many who came to Christ some told the Pharisees of His doings, just as others told John.

the Pharisees] See on John 1:24.

made and baptized] Literally, is making and baptizing, the very words of the report are given. This is important as shewing the meaning of the next verse, which is a correction not of the Evangelist’s own statement but of the report. In the Authorised Version S. John seems to be correcting himself: he is really correcting the report carried to the Pharisees.

than John] They did not object so much to John’s making disciples. He disclaimed being the Messiah, and he took his stand on the Law. Moreover, he ‘did no miracle.’ They could understand his position much better than that of Jesus, and feared it less. See on John 6:15.

John 4:1. Ἔγνω, knew) even though none told Him the fact.—[70] ἤκουσαν, heard) Comp. ch. John 3:25-26.—οἱ Φαρισαῖοι, the Pharisees) who were likely to be displeased at it: ch. John 1:24, “They which were sent to John, were of the Pharisees:” for the Pharisees’ wish was, that disciples should join themselves: Matthew 23:15, “Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte.”—πλείονας, more) See again, ch. John 3:26, “All men come to Him.”

[70] ὁ Κύριος, the Lord) How it has happened that in this passage the Germ. Vers. departs from the margin of both Editions, preferring the name Jesus to the appellative Lord, it is not indeed easy for me to judge. I suspect that there is beneath it rather a lapse of memory, than a change of his critical opinion.—E. B.

Verses 1-42. - 7. The ministry and revelation of the Lord to those beyond the strict compass of the theocracy. This passage describes an incident of consummate interest, and records a specimen of our Lord's intercourse with individuals, and the reaction of that instruction upon the disciples. The event is a solitary chink through which the light of historical fact falls upon an otherwise darkened and unknown period of the Saviour's life. When we skirt a forest we see at intervals, where by some accident of growth the light falls upon a narrow space, a miniature world of life and loveliness of every kind, suggesting what might happen if every square yard of the forest could receive a similar illumination. Every day of that wondrous life of Christ may have been equally full of meaning to some souls. "These things are written, that we may believe that Jesus is the Son of God; and that believing we may have life." The relation of the Jews to the Samaritans gives a special character and both typical and symbolical meaning to the incident. The lifelike reality of the scene, the extreme unlikelihood of such an event having been fabricated with consummate art to establish any specific theological conclusion, the natural appropriateness of the transaction, all confer a high value and historicity upon this paragraph. Thoma, after the manner of Strauss, finds the origin of every detail in the story of Eliezer at the well; but there are no limits to what allegorists may dream, if the reins are thrown on the neck of imagination. The story of Philip's ministry in Samaria and the successes of the gospel in the early days of Christianity are also supposed to have aided the composition of the story. In our opinion, Acts 8 is better explained from John 4 than the reverse process. Baur's supposition, that the author sought to contrast the cautious hesitation of the Jewish doctor with the susceptible emotional disposition of the Samaritan woman as the representative of the Gentile world, is unreasonable. The woman is represented as a believer in Divine revelation and worship, in the early traditions of the Jews themselves, and even in their Messianic hopes, which, in this instance, were more spiritual than those of the Jews. There are numerous debates as to the origin of the Samaritan nation, and opinions waver as to whether they were the descendants of those remnants of the kingdom of Israel who were left in the district once occupied by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, after the final deportation under Shalmaneser (or Sargon, as the Assyrian inscriptions make probable), together with the heathen settlers who had been mixed up with them, or were solely and purely of Assyrian origin, as they appear to maintain (Ezra 4:2). The narrative of 2 Kings 25:12 implies that all the inhabitants were carried away to cities of the Medes, but it is tolerably clear and eminently probable (2 Chronicles 34:9) that there were some of the people left behind; so that the extent to which Israelitish blood and ideas prevailed in the mongrel race is very difficult to determine. We know that heathen notions of Jehovah, and the worship of graven images, were curiously blended (2 Kings 17:28-41; 2 Chronicles 34:6, 7). But this is only what might be anticipated if their moral and religious degeneration corresponded with the charges brought against them by Hosea and Amos. In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, efforts on their part to share in the honours and independence of Judah were sternly interdicted, and the interdict avenged by angry recriminations which delayed the progress of reconstruction. The antagonism commenced then was deepened into a deadly rivalry by the erection of a temple to Jehovah on Mount Gerizim ( B.C. 409), and by Manasseh, brother of the high priest of Judah, being driven from Jerusalem by his refusal to renounce Sanballat's daughter, and by his becoming high priest of the heretical temple. This temple on Gerizim, in close proximity with the site of Shechem, the abode of the first patriarchs, gave dignity and solidity to some of their traditions and claims; and the modifications they had introduced into the text of the Pentateuch in their celebrated version of it helped to aggravate the schism between the two peoples. The district of country was held during the quarrels of the Ptolemies and Seleucidae alternately by both. Samaritan hatred of the Jews led them to purchase peace during the cruel oppression of Judah under Antiochus Epiphanes, by dedicating their temple to Zeus (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 12:05, 5), and again by siding with the Syrians against the Maccabees. Their temple was destroyed by John Hyrcanus, B.C. 130, and its ruins only were visible in the time of Christ. The city of Sebaste was built by Herod, on the site of the city of Samaria, and Flavia Neapolis, now called Nablous, was erected on the site or close neighbourhood of the ancient Shechem. There were mutual recriminations between Jews and Samaritans, which led to strained relations and fierce condemnation, and yet, strange to say, the rabbis did not treat the land as "unclean" (Edersheim, 'Life of Jesus the Messiah,' bk. 3, 100, 7), and consequently the disciples were not precluded from purchasing articles of food from the Samaritan village. They were the "foolish people," "abhorred" of devout Jews (Ecclus. 50, 25, 26); and Rabbi Chuda treated them as heathens, yet Simon ben Gamaliel regarded them as Israelites, and the 'Mishnah' shows that in many of their customs they resembled the Jews. It is doubtful whether they denied the resurrection, and it is certain that their principal tenets and practices were derived from the old revelation. The opposition was felt so strongly by some Jews in the northern province of Galileo that they travelled to Jerusalem through Persea in order to avoid it. Our Lord's treatment of Samaritans in this narrative seems at first sight inconsistent with Matthew 10:5, where the apostles are advised to avoid cities of the Samaritans on their first experimental journey. Still, there is a difference between Christ's "passing through" Samaria, on his way to Galilee, and his limiting the early proclamation of the kingdom to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The disciples were not then to be entrusted with a commission which, not until after Pentecost, they would fulfil with so much joy (Acts 8.). The success of Philip, Peter, and John may have been due to the first sowing of the heavenly seed by the Lord himself. That Christ should have chosen a woman of doubtful reputation from a semi-alien and accursed race to have received some of his greatest teaching (albeit there was no less an ear than John's at hand to record the marvel) is akin to many of the mysteries of his life. Why, it is sometimes asked, did he not proclaim his sublimest thoughts in the schools or temple courts? Why did he confine them to Nicodemus and the Samaritaness? There is no reason to compel us to any such conclusion. The simple fact before us is full justification of the belief that on many another occasion as well as on this, he uttered like things. Verses 1-6. -

(1) The contrast between Jewish unsusceptibility and Samaritan pre-disposition to faith. Verses 1, 2. - When therefore the Lord - a few occasions are found in the Gospels where this appellative, without any proper name, is used for Jesus (John 6:23; John 11:2; Luke 10:1; Luke 17:5; Luke 22:61), and on these occasions some special suggestion is made of the Divine rank and personality of Jesus - knew that the Pharisees heard; i.e. were taking notice, after their wont, with secret machination and with open hostility, of the course which he was pursuing. The treatment which John the Baptist received at their hands was pointedly referred to by our Lord on two occasions (Matthew 17:12, 13; Matthew 21:23-32). They did not believe in John's baptism. The publicans and harlots had repented and pressed into the kingdom before them. This "generation" did whatever it listed to the Elias. Therefore we judge that Herod's persecution, stimulated by his guilty passions, was assisted by "the offspring of vipers." They had probably broken up the baptismal enthusiasm of the multitudes, and aided Herod to shut up John in the castle of Machearus, and hence their present "hearing" meant immediate and hostile action. Jesus had left the temple, and retired to the courts and homes and neighbourhood of Jerusalem; and then was only visited at night by solitary men, who ought to have come in crowds. He left Jerusalem itself for some point in Judaean territory, and there continued for a season the preparatory call for repentance and conversion. The extraordinary success of Jesus at this period excited the special attention of the Pharisees. The matter that came to their ears was that Jesus makes and baptizes more disciples than John. In other words, they heard of an extraordinary wave of popular excitement, yet of nothing answering to the Baptist's imagination of what ought to have taken place. John's ideas corresponded more closely than the teaching of Jesus did with the tenets and methods of the Pharisees. We find that the disciples of John are coupled with Pharisees in the matter of fasting (Matthew 9:14 and parallel passages), yet that John's preaching and baptism were distasteful to the Pharisees. A fortiori the baptism of Jesus would be still more offensive, for it was doubtless accompanied by more searching demands. It had invaded the temple precincts, it had advanced more conspicuous personal claims. John said, "I am come to prepare the way of the Lord;" Jesus said, "I am come down from heaven." (Although (and yet) Jesus himself (in person) baptized not, but his disciples performed the act.) This parenthetical clause, explanatory of the statement of John 3:22, as well as of the previous verse, is justified on the simple ground that Jesus baptized with the Spirit, and not with water. For him to baptize into his own name would have been to darken the mystery; for him to baptize into One who should come would in a way have hidden the fact that he had come. The administration of the rite by the few disciples who were with him would preserve all the symbolism of the new observance. We have no repetition of this statement, nor the faintest hint that the apostles continued this Johannine ceremonial. Moulton and some others lay emphasis on the present; tenses, "makes and baptizes," and therefrom argue that the ministry of John had not yet been brought to a termination, that John was not yet cast into prison, and that the journey into Galilee does not correspond with that described in Matthew 4, but thai; our Lord removed from Judaea simply to avoid the apparent rivalry between the two baptismal and evangelistic ministries. When Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard, etc., he resolved upon a new and startling course. John 4:1Therefore

Pointing back to John 3:22, and the controversy which arose about the two baptisms.

The Lord

See on Matthew 21:3.

Knew (ἔγνω)

Or perceived. See on John 2:24.


John never alludes to the Sadducees by name. The Pharisees represented the opposition to Jesus, the most powerful and dangerous of the Jewish sects.

Made and baptized

Both verbs are in the present tense. The narrator puts himself at the scene of the story: is making and baptizing.

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