John 4:19
The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
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(19) But who can it be who thus enters her mind and reads the pages of her memory as if it were a book? He must be as one of those of olden time of whom she has heard. The tone of reverence prevails again, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.”

John 4:19-20. The woman saith, Sir, I perceive thou art a prophet — “To find a person who was a perfect stranger, and who, on account of the national animosity, could not be suspected of having any intercourse with her townsmen, or with the Samaritans in general, discovering, nevertheless, the most secret particulars of her life, made so sensible an impression on her mind, that she could not but confess such a degree of knowledge more than natural; and consequently, that the person possessed of it was a prophet, and had it communicated to him by divine inspiration.” Our fathers worshipped, &c. — The instant she perceived that the person conversing with her was a prophet, being glad of the opportunity, and perhaps, also, desiring to shift the discourse to a subject less disagreeable to her, she proposes what she thought the most important of all questions; Our fathers worshipped on this mountain — As if she had said, True, I have been a sinful woman, and have not worshipped and served God as I ought, but if I wished to worship and serve him, I know not where I ought to do it, whether on this mountain, (pointing, probably, to mount Gerizim, at the foot of which Sychar was built,) as the Samaritans say, or in Jerusalem, which you Jews affirm to be the only place where God can be acceptably worshipped. It is well known, and necessary to be recollected here, that Sanballat, by the permission of Alexander the Great, had built a temple upon mount Gerizim, for Manasseh his son-in-law, who, for marrying Sanballat’s daughter, had been expelled from the priesthood and from Jerusalem, Nehemiah 13:28. This was the place where the Samaritans used to worship, in opposition to Jerusalem. The woman, in saying, Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, plainly refers to Abraham and Jacob, (from whom the Samaritans pretended to deduce their genealogy,) who erected altars in this place, Genesis 12:6-7; and Genesis 33:18; Genesis 33:20; and possibly to the whole congregation, who were directed, when they came into the land of Canaan, to put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, Deuteronomy 11:29. And though Hyrcanus, the son of Simon, who succeeded his father as high-priest, and prince of the Jews, had long ago destroyed the temple which Sanballat built here, (Jos. Antiq., John 13:9,) yet it is plain that the Samaritans still resorted thither to worship, having, doubtless, rebuilt it, though probably in a meaner manner.

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.A prophet - One sent from God, and who understood her life. The word here does not denote one who foretells future events, but one who knew her heart and life, and who must therefore have come from God. She did not yet suppose him to be the Messiah, John 4:25. Believing him now to be a man sent from God, she proposed to him a question respecting the proper place of worship. This point had been long a matter of dispute between the Samaritans and the Jews. She submitted it to him because she thought he could settle the question, and perhaps because she wished to divert the conversation from the unpleasant topic respecting her husbands. The conversation about her manner of life was a very unpleasant topic to her - as it is always unpleasant to sinners to talk about their lives and the necessity of religion - and she was glad to turn the conversation to something else. Nothing is more common than for sinners to change the conversation when it begins to bear too hard upon their consciences; and no way of doing it is more common than to direct it to sonic speculative inquiry having some sort of connection with religion, as if to show that they are willing to talk about religion, and do not wish to appear to be opposed to it. Sinners do not love direct religious conversation, but many are too well-bred to refuse altogether to talk about it; yet they choose to converse about some speculative matter, or something pertaining to the mere "externals" of religion, rather than the salvation of their own souls. So sinners often now change the conversation to some inquiry about a preacher, or about some doctrine, or about building or repairing a place of worship, or about a Sunday school, in order to seeM to talk about religion, and yet to evade close and faithful appeals to their own consciences. 19, 20. Sir, I perceive, &c.—Seeing herself all revealed, does she now break down and ask what hopes there might be for one so guilty? Nay, her convictions have not reached that point yet. She ingeniously shifts the subject from a personal to a public question. It is not, "Alas, what a wicked life am I leading!" but "Lo, what a wonderful prophet I got into conversation with! He will be able to settle that interminable dispute between us and the Jews. Sir, you must know all about such matters—our fathers hold to this mountain here," pointing to Gerizim in Samaria, "as the divinely consecrated place of worship, but ye Jews say that Jerusalem is the proper place—which of us is right?" How slowly does the human heart submit to thorough humiliation! (Compare the prodigal; see on [1779]Lu 15:15). Doubtless our Lord saw through the fetch; but does He say, "That question is not the point just now, but have you been living in the way described, yea or nay? Till this is disposed of I cannot be drawn into theological controversies." The Prince of preachers takes another method: He humors the poor woman, letting her take her own way, allowing her to lead while He follows—but thus only the more effectually gaining His object. He answers her question, pours light into her mind on the spirituality of all true worship, as of its glorious Object, and so brings her insensibly to the point at which He could disclose to her wondering mind whom she was all the while speaking to. Whose office is to reveal the will of God, and to whom God revealeth secret things; one to whom the Lord maketh known himself in a vision, and speaketh in a dream, Numbers 12:6. The woman’s reply seemeth to signify both. Her acknowledgment of Christ as a prophet, upon his telling her secret things, justifieth her looking upon him as one to whom God revealed things not known ordinarily to men; and this report of her meaning appeareth by what she said John 4:29, to her fellow citizens, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did; but the following verse, in which she entereth into a discourse with our Saviour about the controversy betwixt the Jews and the Samaritans about worship, lets us know that she looked upon him as a prophet in the more ordinary sense as prophet signifies one influenced by God to reveal his mind and will unto men; and indeed there was no prophet in the former sense, but was also in the latter; though there were many prophets in the latter sense, sent of God, and enabled to reveal the will of God unto men, who were not influenced so far as to foretell things to come. The difference betwixt a hypocrite and one truly brought to a sense of sin, is very conspicuous in the example of this woman; she doth not deny her sin, as Cain, Gehazi, and Ananias and Sapphira; neither doth she discover any anger upon the discovery of it, as the scribes and Pharisees, the wicked princes of Israel and Judah, and Herod did; neither doth she go about to excuse or mitigate her sin; but she applies herself to Christ as a prophet, to teach her what to do. The example also of this woman informs us what use we ought to make of prophets, to guide us into the right way, and faithfully to acquaint us with the will of God.

The woman saith unto him, Sir,.... With another countenance, and a different air and gesture, with another accent and tone of speech, dropping her scoffs and jeers:

I perceive that thou art a prophet; such an one as Samuel was, who could tell Saul what was in his heart, and that his father's asses were found, and where they were, 1 Samuel 9:19; and as Elisha, whose heart went with his servant Gehazi, when Naaman turned to him to meet him, and give him presents; and who could tell, ere the king's messenger came to him, that the son of a murderer had sent to take away his head, 2 Kings 5:26. And such a prophet, that had such a spirit of discerning, this woman took Christ to be; and who indeed is greater than a prophet, and is the omniscient God; who knows all men's hearts, thoughts, words and actions, and needs not that any should testify of them to him; for he knows what is in them, and done by them; and can tell them all that ever they did, as he did this woman, John 4:29. Now in order either to shift off the discourse from this subject, which touched her to the quick; or else being truly sensible of her sin, and willing to reform, and for the future to worship God in the place and manner he had directed, she addressed Christ in the following words.

The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
John 4:19-20. The woman now discerns in Jesus the man of God endowed with higher knowledge, a prophet,[190] and puts to Him accordingly—perhaps also to leave no further room for the unpleasant mention of the circumstances of her life which had been thus unveiled—the national religious question ever in dispute; a question which does not, indeed, imply a presentiment of the superiority of the Jews’ religion (Ewald), but one, the decision of which might be expected from such a prophet as she now deemed Him to be. The great national interest in this question (see Josephus, Antt. xiii. 3. 4) is sufficient to remove any apparent improbability attaching to it as coming from the lips of this morally frivolous woman (against Strauss, B. Bauer). Luthardt thinks that she now wished to go in prayer for the forgiveness of her sins to the holy place appointed, and only desires to know where? on Gerizim or in Jerusalem. But she has not arrived at this stage yet; she does not give any intimation of this, she does not call the place a place of expiation (this also against Lange); and Jesus, in His answer, gives no hint to that effect. Her seeking after religious information is still theoretical merely, laying hold upon a matter of popular controversy, naive, without any depth of personal anxiety, as also without any thought about the fundamental difference between the two nations, which Hengstenberg attributes to her as a representative of the Samaritans, one who first wished to remove the stumbling-block between the nations; see John 4:25.


ΟἹ ΠΑΤΈΡΕς ἩΜ.] As ὙΜΕῖς stands opposed, we must not go back to Abraham and Jacob (according to a tradition based upon Genesis 12:6 ff; Genesis 13:4; Genesis 33:20), as Chrysostom, Euthymius Zigabenus, and many others, even Kuinoel and Baumgarten Crusius, do; we must simply take the reference to be to the ancestors of the Samaritans as far back as the building of the temple on Mount Gerizim in the time of Nehemiah.

ἐν τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ] pointing to Gerizim, between which and Ebal the town of Sychem (and Sychar) lay. The temple there had already been destroyed by John Hyrcanus; but the site itself, which Moses had already fixed as that wherein the blessings of the law were to be spoken (Deuteronomy 11:29; Deuteronomy 27:12-13), was still held sacred by the people (comp. Josephus, Antt. xviii. 4. 1; Bell. iii. 7. 32), especially also on account of Deuteronomy 27:4 (where the Samaritan text has גריזים instead of עיבל), and is so even at the present day. See Robinson, III. p. 319 ff.; Ritter, Erdk. XVI. p. 638 ff.; Abulfathi, Annab. Samar. arab. ed., Vilmar, 1865, Proleg. 4. Concerning the ruins on the top of the mountain, see especially Bargès, as before, p. 107 ff.

[190] Comp. 1 Samuel 9:9; in Greek and Latin writers: Hom. Il. i. 70; Hesiod, Theog. 38; Virgil, Georg. iv. 392; Macrobius, Sat. i. 20. 5.

John 4:19. The woman at once recognises this knowledge of her life as evidence of a supernatural endowment.—Κύριε θεωρῶ ὅτι προφήτης εἶ σύ. Cf. John 4:29 and John 2:24. θεωρῶ is used in its post-classical sense. It is not unnatural that the woman finding herself in the presence of a prophet should seek His solution of the standing problem of Samaritan religion. His answer would shed further light on his prophetic endowment, and would also determine whether He had any light and hope to give to a Samaritan. Josephus (Antiq., xiii. 3, 4) narrates that a disputation on this point before Ptolemy Philometor resulted in the death according to contract of the two Samaritan advocates, they not being able to prove their position.

19. a prophet] One divinely inspired with supernatural knowledge, 1 Samuel 9:9. Note the gradual change in her attitude of mind towards Him. First, off-hand pertness (John 4:9); then, respect to His gravity of manner and serious words (John 4:11); next, a misunderstanding belief in what He says (John 4:15); and now, reverence for Him as a ‘man of God.’ Comp. the parallel development of faith in the man born blind (see on John 9:11) and in Martha (see on John 11:21).

John 4:19. Θεωρῶ, I perceive) from Thy knowledge about the most secret things.

Verse 19. - Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. This meant more from a Samaritaness than from a Jewess. The Samaritans accepted the books of Moses, and did not adopt the teaching of the historical or prophetical books, on which the Jews had built up their exaggerated and carnal views of the Messiah and his kingdom. They were not anticipating a King, but a "Prophet like unto Moses." They placed the great Prophet above the King, as a peer of their legislature, and as superior to their rabbis and priests. The sense of standing in the presence of One who looked down into human hearts, justified her in putting the great case of her people and her own sins before him. Let him speak further. Peradventure he will set the relative claims of Zion and Gerizim at rest, so far as approach to the Holy One is concerned. More than ordinary candour was required to make the admission that a Jew might decide the agelong controversy. John 4:19I perceive (θεωρῶ)

See on John 1:18. Not immediate perception, but rather, I perceive as I observe thee longer and more carefully.

A prophet

See on Luke 7:26. The order is a prophet art thou; the emphasis being on prophet.

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