John 4:17
The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
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(17) I have no husband.—The stroke has left its mark. It lays bare to her own consciousness the past and present life, but she does not know that it is laid bare to His. The reply is no longer prefaced by the half-sarcastic “Thou, being a Jew,” or the reverential “Sir.” The tone has passed from vivacity to earnestness, and from earnestness to sadness. That one word—what a history it has revealed! But she will hide it from Him and from herself. “I have no husband” (or, according to the Sinaitic MS., more emphatically still, A husband I have not).

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.I have no husband - This was said, evidently, to evade the subject. Perhaps she feared that if she came there with the man that she lived with, the truth might be exposed. It is not improbable that by this time she began to suspect that Jesus was a prophet.

Hast well said - Hast said the truth.

16. call thy husband—now proceeding to arouse her slumbering conscience by laying bare the guilty life she was leading, and by the minute details which that life furnished, not only bringing her sin vividly up before her, but preparing her to receive in His true character that wonderful Stranger to whom her whole life, in its minutest particulars, evidently lay open. I have no husband; that is, none who is my lawful husband she denieth not that she had one whom she used and lived with as a husband, but that she had any legal husband, to whom she clave, and to no other: still she goeth on, thinking to deceive Christ, and to put tricks upon him. Christ tells her, she in this did speak truth; he knew she had no legal husband.

The woman answered and said, I have no husband,.... Which was a truth she would not have spoke at another time and place, or to any of her neighbours; but Christ being a stranger, and no odium incurring upon her by it; and this serving a purpose to excuse her going to call him, she declares the truth of the matter:

Jesus said unto her, thou hast well said, I have no husband; this is the truth, it is really fact, and is the true state of the case, between thee and him, who goes for thy husband.

The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
John 4:17-18. The woman is taken aback; her light, naive, bantering manner is now completely gone, and she quickly seeks to shun the sensitive point with the answer, true only in words, οὐκ ἔχω ἄνδρα; but Jesus goes deeper still.

καλῶς] rightly, truly; John 8:48; Matthew 15:7; Luke 20:39. How far truly, what follows shows,—namely, only relatively, and therefore the approval is only apparent, and in some degree ironical.

ἄνδρα οὐκ ἔχω] “a husband I have not;” as it is the conception of ἀνήρ which Jesus has to emphasize, it stands first.

πέντε γὰρ, κ.τ.λ.] It is doubtful whether she really had five successive husbands, from whom she had been separated either by death or by divorce, or whether Jesus included paramours, using ἄνδρας in a varying sense according to the varying subjects; or whether, again, He meant that all five were scortatores (Chrysostom, Maldonatus, and most others). The first supposition is to be adopted, because the present man, who is not her husband, stands in contrast with the former husbands. She had been therefore five times married (such a history had already seared her conscience, John 4:29; how? is not stated), and now she was either a widow or a divorced wife, and had a paramour (νόθον ἀκοίτην, Nonnus), who lived with her as a husband, but really was not her husband (hence the οὐκ ἔστι is emphatically put first). To interpret the story of the five husbands as a whole as a symbolical history of the Samaritan nation (according to 2 Kings 17:24 ff.; Josephus, Antt. ix. 14. 3 : πέντε ἔθνηἕκαστον ἴδιον θεὸν εἰς Σαμαρ. κομίσαντες), either as a divinely intended coincidence (Hengstenberg, Köstlin, comp. Baumgarten and Scholten), or as a type in the mind of the evangelist (Weizsäcker, p. 387), so that the symbolic meaning excludes any actual fact (Keim, Gesch. J. p. 116), or again as fiction (B. Bauer), whose mythical basis was that history (Strauss), is totally destitute of any historical warrant. For the man whom the woman now had must, symbolically understood, represent Jehovah; and He had been the God of the Samaritans before the introduction of false gods, and therefore it would have been more correct to speak of six husbands (Heracleon actually read ἕξ). But how incredible is it, that Jesus would represent Jehovah under the similitude of a paramour (for the woman was now living in concubinage), and the “fivefold heathenism” of the nation under the type of real marriages!

For the rest, the knowledge which Jesus had of the woman’s circumstances was immediate and supernatural. To assume that He had ascertained her history from others (Paulus, Ammon), is opposed to the Johannean view; while the notion that the disciples introduced into the history what they afterwards discovered (Schweizer, p. 139) is psychologically groundless, if once we admit that Jesus possessed a knowledge of the moral state of others (and here we have not merely a knowledge of outward circumstances,—against De Wette) beyond that attainable by ordinary means.[189] Lange invents the strange and unnecessary (John 2:24 f.) addition, that “the psychical effects produced by the five husbands upon the woman were traceable in her manner and mien, and these were recognised by Jesus.”

ἀληθές] as something true. See Winer, p. 433 [E. T. p. 582]. Comp. Plato, Gorg. p. 493 D: τοῦτʼ ἀληθέστερον εἴρηκας; Soph. Phil. 909; Lucian, D. M. vi. 3; Tim. 20.

[189] We must not therefore suppose, as Ewald does, that Jesus named simply a round number of husbands, which in a wonderful manner turned out to be right.

John 4:17. The woman shrinks from exposure and replies οὐκ ἔχω ἄνδρα, “I have no husband”. A literal truth, but scarcely honest in intention. Jesus at once veils her deceit, καλῶς εἶπας, etc., and disposes of her equivocation by emphasising the ἄνδρα. Thou hast well said, I have no husband.—πέντε γὰρεἴρηκας. “He whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in this [so far] you said what is true.” In Malachi’s time facility for divorce was producing disastrous consequences, and probably many women, not only in Samaria but among the poorer Jews, had a similar history to relate. The stringency with which our Lord speaks on this subject suggests that matters were fast approaching the condition in which they now are in Mohammedan countries. Lane tells us that “there are certainly not many persons in Cairo who have not divorced one wife if they have been long married,” and that there are many who have in the course of ten years married twenty or thirty or more wives (cf. Lecky’s European Morals for the state of matters in the Roman world). Jerome, Ep. ad Ageruch, 123, mentions a Roman woman who had had twenty-two husbands. Serious attention need scarcely be given to the fancy of “the critical school” that the woman with her five husbands is intended as an allegorical representation of Samaria with the [seven] gods of the five nations who peopled the country. See 2 Kings 17:24-31. Consistently the man with whom the woman now lived would represent Jehovah. Holtzmann, shrinking from this, suggests Simon Magus. Heracleon discovered in the husband that was not a husband the woman’s guardian angel or Pleroma (Bigg’s Neoplatonism, 150).

17. hast well said] i.e. saidst rightly. Comp. John 8:48; Matthew 15:7; Luke 20:39. There is perhaps a touch of irony in the ‘well.’

John 4:17. Καλῶς) well, i.e. truly. There is the utmost gravity in the Lord’s speech combined with the utmost courtesy. This plain assertion altogether convicted the Samaritan woman.

Verses 17, 18. - The woman answered, and said to him, I have no husband. Jesus saith unto her, Thou said correctly, Husband have I none: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband. This true thing hast thou spoken. The woman resists the description which Jesus assumes that she bears to the man with whom she stands in illegal relations. Convinced, brought to bay, she cannot lie to Jesus. She says, in penitence and shame, "I have no husband." There is no concealment of the fact; she must need the cleansing of the life-giving stream. Jesus, not without a tone of solemn remonstrance, accuses her of a life of loose morals. It is implied that the first five husbands were conventionally allowable; but the suggestion is that, either by divorce or wanton rushing to further nuptials if the former had been ruptured by death, her character had been ever deteriorating until, under present circumstances, she was committing an overt act of illegality and impurity. "In saying thou hast no husband, thou hast spoken to the point, and for the reasons I recite thou hast made a true statement." As the woman in ver. 27 tells her friends "He told me all things that ever I did," we may easily believe that she felt, under his searching glance, that no folly, no weakness, no rebellious deed, no damning compromise, was hidden from him. How much more he said we can only conjecture. The revelation thus recorded is akin to other events in our Lord's life, which we cannot account for by the supposition that information concerning her had been conveyed by some rumour which thus he flashed upon her. This would suffer from the intolerable supposition that his claim to have prophetic light was a self-conscious fraud, and that by such a subterfuge the entire Samaritan mission had been characterized and controlled. Lunge thought that the definite traces of the five marriages were in some mysterious fashion hieroglyphed upon her face. This is a great extravagance of the working of natural law, to avoid the supernatural perception which our Lord exercised whenever he chose to draw upon the inexhaustible resources and powers at his disposal. Hengstenberg ('Contributions to Genuineness of the Pentateuch,' and in his 'Commentary'), while he recognizes the historical fact here mentioned and penetrated by our Lord, considered that there was a twofold meaning in our Lord's reply. Thou hast had five husbands; i.e. there were five gods - those of Cuthah, Babylon, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 9:14, 3; 2 Kings 17:24), whose worship by spiritual adultery the Samaritan people (of which you are a representative) have tolerated, and HE, Jehovah, whom thou now hast by surreptitious claim, is not thy covenanted Lord. Unfortunately, this too ingenious interpretation fails, first of all in this, that to the five nations seven gods are reckoned (2 Kings 17:30, 31). Again, it is inconceivable that the worship of Jehovah should be represented as on a par with these idolatries, and that Jehovah himself should be set forth as the sixth and worst of the theocratic husbands of the Samaritan state. Nor can we suppose that Christ, who said such wondrous things about the spirituality and the love of God to man, and was in the same breath about to utter one of the grandest of them, should thus have poured contumely on the Samaritan worship of Jehovah. Thoma practically adopts Hengstenberg's speculative interpretation. Strauss (1st and 2nd edit. 'Leb. Jes.') made use of Hengstenberg's admission to find in the whole narrative a mythical fiction; and Keim has only made matters worse by ascribing the entire narrative to the unknown author of the Fourth Gospel. Christ's own Divine penetration revealed the woman to herself, and she knew how hateful her life must have been in his sight. She made no attempt at denial, or concealment, or self-justification. The events referred to had burnt themselves on her memory, and her only refuge is in a bold admission of the right of the unknown Stranger to teach. She concedes his claim to solve perplexities, and penetrate other mysteries as well as the depths of her own heart. John 4:17Well (καλῶς)

Aptly, truly. Compare John 8:48; Matthew 15:7; Luke 20:39.

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