John 4:5
Then comes he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
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(5) The “Samaria” of this chapter is the province into which the older kingdom had degenerated, and which took its name from the capital city. This was the Shomĕron built by Omri, on a hill purchased from Shemer (1Kings 16:23-24). The city was given by Augustus to Herod the Great, who rebuilt it, and called it after the Emperor, Sebaste, a name which survives in the modern village Sebustiêh.

Sychar involves questions of greater uncertainty. The reading may be regarded as beyond doubt, the attempts to substitute “Sychem,” or “Sichem” being obviously made to avoid the topographical difficulty. The older geographers, followed by many modern commentators, suppose the word to be an intentional variation of the word Sychem, by which the Jews expressed their contempt for the city of the Samaritans, the sound being very nearly that of the Hebrew words for “lie” and “drunken.” Others suppose the change of termination is a natural dialectic variation. (Comp. Ben, the Hebrew for son, as in Benjamin, Genesis 35:18, which in the later language became Bar, as in Simon Bar-Jona, Matthew 16:17.) These explanations assume that Sychar is the same place as Shechem; but it is very improbable that St. John would have spoken of a city so well known as Shechem with the prefix “which is called,” or would have thought it necessary to define it as “near to the parcel of ground. . . .” The only other places with the same prefix are Ephraim (John 11:54), the Pavement (John 19:13), and Golgotha (John 19:17), but in the latter instances, as in the mention of Thomas called Didymus (John 11:16; John 20:24), the words do not imply a soubriquet (comp. Farrar, Life of Christ, i. 206, note, and Grove in Smith’s Dictionary of Bible, “Sychar”), but are a citation of the names in Hebrew and Greek, for the benefit of Greek readers. To assert that Sychar is meant to convey a double meaning is to imply that this would be understood by readers for whom it is necessary to translate Gabbatha and Golgotha, Thomas and Cephas (John 1:42), for whom Messias has been rendered in Greek in John 1:41, and is to be again in this very discourse (John 4:25). Shechem, moreover, was then known by the Greek name Neapolis, which has become the present Naplûs (see Ewald in loc., and comp. Jos. Wars, iv.), and this name would have been as natural in this Gospel as, e.g., Tiberias, which is found in it only (John 6:1; John 6:23; John 21:1). Nor can it be said that Shechem was near to Jacob’s well, for admitting that the old city extended considerably “farther eastward than at present,” it must still have been more than a mile distant.

As early as the fourth century, Sychar was distinguished from Shechem by Eusebius, Jerome, and the Bordeaux Pilgrim, and the name also occurs in the Talmud. (See quotations in Wieseler’s Synopsis, p. 231 of the Eng. Trans.) It is still found in the modern village Askar, about half a mile north from Jacob’s well. A plan and description of the neighbourhood, by Dr. Rosen, Prussian Consul at Jerusalem, appeared in the Journal of the German Oriental Society (xiv. 634), and the results of this are now accessible to the English reader in the translation of Caspari’s Introduction (p. 124). (Comp. Dr. Thomson’s The Land and the Book, John 31) The identification is accepted by Ewald, Godet, and Luthardt, among modern writers. Mr. Grove (Art. “Sychar,” as above), inclines to it, but, as he says, “there is an etymological difficulty . . . ‘Askar begins with the letter ‘Ain, which Sychar does not appear to have contained; a letter too stubborn and enduring to be easily either dropped or assumed in a name.” One is tempted to think it possible that this ‘Ain is the first letter of the word for Spring or Fountain, the plural of which occurs in Ænon, in John 3:23, and that ‘A-Sychar (well of Sychar) = ‘Askar.

The parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.—The reference is to the blessing of Joseph in Genesis 48:22, which is translated by Kalisch, “And I give to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I take out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.” The patriarch is confident that he will, in his posterity, drive out the Amorite and possess the land promised him by God (John 4:4; John 4:21). In that land there is a portion where Abraham had raised his first altar, and received the first promise that his seed should possess that land (Genesis 12:6-7). That portion had been his own first halting-place on his return from Padan-aram; and he, too, had erected an altar there, in a parcel of a field where his tent rested, which he bought for a hundred pieces of money, and made it sacred to El, the God of Israel (Genesis 33:18-20). It comes to his mind now, when in the last days of his life he looks on to the future and back to the past, and he gives it to his own and Rachel’s son. The Hebrew word here used for portion is “Shechem” (Shekhem), and this, as the proper names in the following chapter, has, and is meant to have, a double meaning. The Greek of the LXX. could not preserve this play upon the words, and rendered it by the proper name Sikima, understanding that the portion referred to was that at Shechem. This the children of Israel understood too, for they gave this region to Ephraim (Joshua 16), and the parcel of ground became the resting-place for the bones of Joseph (Joshua 24:32-33).

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.Sychar - This city stood about eight miles southeast of the city called Samaria, between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. It was one of the oldest cities of Palestine, and was formerly known by the name of "Shechem," or Sichem, Genesis 33:18; Genesis 12:6. The city was in the tribe of Ephraim, Joshua 21:21. It was at this place that Joshua assembled the people before his death, and here they renewed their covenant with the Lord, Joshua 24. After the death of Gideon it became a place of idolatrous worship, the people worshipping Baal-berith, Judges 9:46. It was destroyed by Abimelech, who beat down the city and sowed it with salt, Judges 9:45. It was afterward rebuilt, and became the residence of Jeroboam, the King of Israel, 1 Kings 12:25. It was called by the Romans "Flavia Neapolis," and this has been corrupted by the Arabs into "Nablus," its present name. It is still a considerable place, and its site is remarkably pleasant and productive.

The parcel of ground - The piece of ground; or the land, etc.

That Jacob gave ... - Jacob bought one piece of ground near to Shalem, a city of Shechem, of the children of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for an hundred pieces of silver, Genesis 33:19. In this place the bones of Joseph were buried when they were brought up from Egypt, Joshua 24:32. He also gave to Joseph an additional piece of ground which he took from the hand of the Amorite by his own valor, "with his sword and his bow," as a portion above that which was given to his brethren, Genesis 48:22. Possibly these pieces of ground lay near together, and were a part of the homestead of Jacob. The well was near to this. There is now, E. Smith mentioned to me in conversation, a place near this well called Shalem.

5. cometh … to—that is, as far as: for He remained at some distance from it.

Sychar—the "Shechem" of the Old Testament, about thirty-four miles from Jerusalem, afterwards called "Neapolis," and now "Nablous."

The most valuable interpreters agree, that this Sychar is the city called Shechem; it was originally a parcel of a field bought by Jacob of Hamor, the father of Shechem, Genesis 33:19. Jeroboam built the city there, called Shechem, 1 Kings 12:25. It was in the lot of Mount Ephraim. Joseph’s bones were there buried, Joshua 24:32. Jacob gave it to his son Joseph, as a parcel above his brethren, Genesis 48:22; a parcel of ground near unto which was this city called Sychar, anciently Shechem. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar,.... Now called Neapolis (d); the same with "Sichem", or "Shechem", as appears from its situation,

near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; see Genesis 33:18; and is either the same, only its termination is changed from "em" into "ar", as Achan into Achar, 1 Chronicles 2:7. Or it is a new name that was given it, and by which it went in the time of Christ; and might be so called, either from "Socher", which signifies a grave; because here, Joseph and the rest of the patriarchs were buried, Joshua 24:32. Or rather, it was a name of reproach, and so called, from "drunken"; since the Ephraimites, the posterity of Joseph, which dwelt in these parts, were infamous for the sin of drunkenness; see Isaiah 28:1. Hence "Sychar Sichem", is "drunken Sichem"; mention is made in the Talmud (e), of a place called "Sichra". The "parcel of ground", or of a "field", as in Genesis 33:19, is in the Persic version, called "a vineyard"; and so Nonnus renders it, "a field planted with vines"; and which may serve to confirm the above conjecture, concerning "Sychar" being a nickname.

(d) Hieron. Epitaph. Paulae, Tom. I. fol. 59. & R. Benjamin Itin. p. 38. (e) T. Bab. Bava Metzia, foi. 42. 1. & 83. 1. & Cholin, fol. 94.

{2} Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

(2) Christ, leaving the proud Pharisees, communicates the treasures of everlasting life with a poor sinful woman and stranger, refuting the gross errors of the Samaritans, and defending the true service of God, which was delivered to the Jews, but yet in such a way that he here calls both Samaritans and Jews back to himself, as one whom only all the fathers, and also all the ceremonies of the law, regarded, and had respect for.

John 4:5. ἔρχεται οὖντῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ. “So He comes to a city of Samaria called Sychar.” λεγομένην, cf. John 11:16, John 11:54, John 19:13, etc. In the Itinerary of Jerusalem (A.D. 333) Sychar is identified with ‘Askar, west of Salim and near Shechem, the modern Nablûs. The strength of the case for ‘Askar, according to Prof. G. A. Smith (Hist. Geog., p. 371), is this: “That in the fourth century two authorities independently describe a Sychar distinct from Shechem; that in the twelfth century at least three travellers, and in the thirteenth at least one, do the same, the latter also quoting a corrupt but still possible variation of the name; that in the fourteenth the Samaritan Chronicle mentions another form of the name; and that modern travellers find a third possible variation of it not only applied to a village suiting the site described by the authorities in the fourth century, but important enough to cover all the plain about the village”. The difficulty regarding the initial Ayin in the name ‘Askar is also removed by Prof. Smith. See further Conder’s Tent-work, i. 71. Sychar is described as πλησίοναὐτοῦ, near the “parcel of ground” (particella, little part; the Vulgate has “praedium,” estate) which Jacob gave to Joseph his son; according to Genesis 48:22, where Jacob says, “I have given thee one portion (Shechem) above thy brethren”; cf. Genesis 33:19. Shechem in Hebrew means “the shoulder,” and some have fancied that the shoulder being the priest’s portion, the word came to denote any allotment. Gesenius, however, is of opinion that the word was transferred to a portion of land, on account of the shape resembling the back across the shoulders.5. Then cometh he] Better, He cometh therefore; because that was His route.

a city of Samaria] City is used loosely, and must not be supposed to imply anything large. Capernaum, which Josephus calls a village, the Evangelists call a city. ‘Town’ would be better as a translation. Samaria is the insignificant province of Samaria into which the old kingdom of Jeroboam had dwindled. Omit ‘which is’ before ‘called.’

called Sychar] ‘Called’ may be another indication that this Gospel was written outside Palestine or it may mean that Sychar was a nickname (‘liar’ or ‘drunkard’). In the one case Sychar is a different place from Sychem or Shechem, though close to it, viz. the modern Askar: in the other it is another name for Sychem, the Neapolis of S. John’s day, and the modern Naplûs. The former view is preferable, though certainty is impossible. Would S. John have written ‘Neapolis’ if Sychem were meant? He writes Tiberias (John 6:1; John 6:23, John 21:1): but Tiberias was probably a new town as well as a new name, whereas Neapolis was a new name for an old town; so the analogy is not perfect. Eusebius and Jerome distinguish Sychar from Sychem. Naplûs has many wells close at hand.

that Jacob gave to his son Joseph] Genesis 33:19; Genesis 48:22; Joshua 24:32. Abraham bought the ground, Jacob gave it to Joseph, and Joseph was buried there.

5–42. Doubt has been thrown on this narrative in three different ways. (1) On a priori grounds. How could the Samaritans, who rejected the prophetical books, and were such bitter enemies of the Jews, be expecting a Messiah? The narrative is based on a fundamental mistake. But it is notorious that the Samaritans did look for a Messiah, and are looking for one to the present day. Though they rejected the Prophets, they accepted the Pentateuch, with all its Messianic prophecies. (2) On account of Acts 8:5. How could Philip go and convert the Samaritans, if Christ had already done so? But is it to be supposed that in two days Christ perfected Christianity in Samaria (even allowing, what is not certain, that Christ and Philip went to the same town), so as to leave nothing for a preacher to do afterwards? Many acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah who afterwards, on finding Him to be very different from the Messiah they expected, fell away. This would be likely enough at Samaria. The seed had fallen on rocky ground. (3) On the supposition that the narrative is an allegory, of which the whole point lies in the words ‘thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband.’ The five husbands are the five religions from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, brought to Samaria by the colonists from Assyria (2 Kings 17:24.); and the sixth is the adulterated worship of Jehovah. If our interpreting Scripture depends upon our guessing such riddles as this, we may well despair of the task. But the allegory is a pure fiction. 1. When S. John gives us an allegory, he leaves no doubt that it is an allegory. There is not the faintest hint here. 2. It would be extraordinary that in a narrative of 38 verses the whole allegory should be contained in less than one verse, the rest being mere setting. This is like a frame a yard wide round a miniature. 3. There is a singular impropriety in making the five heathen religions ‘husbands,’ while the worship of Jehovah is represented by a paramour.

The narrative is true to what we know of Jews and Samaritans at this time. The topography is well preserved. ‘The gradual development of the woman’s belief is psychologically true.’ These and other points to be noticed as they occur may convince us that this narrative cannot be a fiction. Far the easiest supposition is that it is a faithful record of actual facts.John 4:5. Συχάρ) Formerly called Sichem; subsequently, by the change of a single letter, Sichar, שכר (according to Hiller’s Onomasticon) reward [wages], namely, that of Jacob’s expedition: Genesis 48:22, “I have given to thee (Joseph) one portion, which I (Jacob) took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword.” On this account Jacob was able to bequeath to Joseph this region, in respect to the land divinely promised [to his seed. See Joshua 17:14]. To this derivation, John 4:36 seems to allude, μισθόν, [He that reapeth, receiveth] wages. For neither is such an allusion to a derivation despised elsewhere: ch. John 9:7, “Siloam, which is by interpretation, Sent.”—ἔδωκεν, gave) Jacob had dwelt there, John 4:12 : and had given it as an estate to Joseph, owing to his special love for him.Verse 5. - He cometh therefore to a city of Samaria, called Sychar (Συχάρ, with all the principal uncials; not Σιχάρ, as read by the Elzevir edition of Stephens, with one cursive, 69); not "the city" Shechem - the Συχέμ of Acts 7:16, or Σίκιμα of Josephus (Genesis 33:18; Joshua 20:7; Judges 9:7) - not Sebaste (Samaria), but "a city," one of the cities requiring special designation beyond its mere name, which would hardly have been necessary, if so renowned a spot as the metropolis of the ancient kingdom, or the ancient patriarchal city of Shechem or Sychem, had been thought cf. The similarity of the names Sychar and Sichem led many to suppose that John confounded either the names or the places. Those who were anxious to undervalue the accuracy of the author have attributed it to mistake. Schenkel still sees the error of a Gentile Christian. Others have supposed that the word meaning "town of drunkards" (Isaiah 28:1, שֵׁכָר), or "town of liars" Habakkuk 2:18, שֶׁקֶר), was intentionally applied by John to Shechem, or that some provincial pronunciation of the name of the old city had thus been commemorated. Hengstenberg suggested that Sychar was a suburb of Siehem or Shechem, and Robinson placed the latter much nearer to Jacob's welt than the present Nablous. Tholuck gave a philosophical solution - that m and r in the two words, being liquids, were interchanged; and Meyer at one time held that John simply applied the vulgar name. Jerome ('Quaest. Web. in Genesis 48.') said it was a corruption of the name Sichem. But Eusebius discriminated Shechem from Sychar in his 'Onomasticon,' sub voce; and a place called Sochar or Sichra is mentioned, and also its "well," in the Talmud. Delitzsch ('Zeitsehrift flit Luth. Theol.,' 1856) has quoted seven passages which refer to the place as the birthplace of rabbis, and as having been alternately occupied by Jews and Samaritans. Moreover, in late years, Palestine explorers have found, within half a mile of Jacob's well, a village, El 'Askar, preserving to the present day the old name. Nor has the name been in late years drawn from this narrative and given to this insignificant village, for a Samaritan chronicle, dating from the twelfth century, preserves the name as Iskar. A priori it is far more probable that a woman of Sychar, than one of Shechem, should have come to draw water, in consequence of the nearer proximity of the former "city" than of the latter to Jacob's well. It is further characterized as near to the parcel of ground which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. In Genesis 33:19; Genesis 34:25; Genesis 48:22 (LXX.); Joshua 24:32, we see that Jacob's treaty with the sons of Humor, and the summary violence of his sons in punishment of Dinah's dishonour, were treated by him as giving him special possession in Shechem (the LXX., in Genesis 48:22, have translated the word for "portion," שְׁכֶם as Σίκιμα, erroneously supposing that the word was a proper name, instead of an allusive play on the word "Shechem"), and he solemnly bequeathed it to Joseph. In Joshua 24:32 we find the bones of Joseph were deposited there. (Knobel translates Genesis 48:22 as the portion which he, Jacob, (by his sons) would win (not had won) with sword and bow.) Geiger, 'Urschrift.,' p. 80 (referred to by Edersheim, i.e., 1:404), shows that St. John's interpretation of Genesis is perfectly in harmony with rabbinic tradition. Then (οὖν)

Not a particle of time, but of logical connection. Therefore, going by this route, He must needs, etc.


Not implying a place of great size or importance. Compare John 11:54; Matthew 2:23.


Commonly identified with Schechem, the modern Nablous, and regarded as a corruption of Sichem. Some modern authorities, however, argue that a place so famous as Schechem would not be referred to under another name, and identify the site with Askar, about two miles east of Nablous. The name Sychar means drunken-town or lying-town.

Parcel of ground (χωρίου)

A diminutive from χώρα a region.

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