By: Matthew Dyer
The story of the woman of Samaria in John chapter 4 is one of the most beautiful events in the Gospels, and it is hard to truly read it without it bringing a tear to your eye. In our day and age this passage is often used as a message of racial acceptance by many Christians, teaching that Jesus was showing the disciples that He came to redeem all people, and not just the Israelites who needed redemption from their unfaithfulness to the Old Covenant.
Many non-Christians use this passage as a contradiction to prove the Bible is not true, because of what Jesus said in Matthew 15:24 that He was sent only to “…the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He then turns around and goes to the Samarians who most teacher consider non-Israelites. So which is it? Was the woman of Samaria an Israelite, or not?
“And he must needs go through Samaria. 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.” – John 4:4-5
The city Sychar (or more properly spelled Suchar) is a town near to the parcel of ground named Shechem that Jacob gave to Joseph. This is where Joseph’s bones were brought to after their return from Egypt in Joshua 24:32. Some people even believe Sychar could even be Shechem, and went by another name later on.
“Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.” – John 4:6-7
It is worth noting that this verse does not identify her race, but rather as a woman of the land of Samaria. Much like today, not every person in Houston, Texas or New Orleans is completely of one race, but a mixture of people.
“Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew [Judean], askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her,
…If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” – John 4:9-10
These two verses is our first evidence to identify this woman as being an Israelite. Jesus is directing this woman to ask Him for the Living Water. Verse 4 clearly proves why Jesus purposely came this route. Without doubt His plan all along was to come speak to this woman. Why is this evidence? Like mentioned before, Jesus said in Matthew 15:24 that He was sent only to “…the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and Jesus is not a liar. By saying this woman is not an Israelite, makes what Jesus said in Matthew 15:24 a lie.
“The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?” – John 4:11-12
This woman clearly claims that her and others of this city were descendants of Jacob/Israel by calling him their father. She also declares that this well, known as Jacob’s Well, was given to their ancestors. This specific parcel of land that these people lived on was given to Joseph, and then this land would have passed on to his sons Ephraim and Manasseh.
The town of Suchar and Shechem are both between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim, which were the mountains that the Law was read aloud. From there Joshua proclaimed the blessings and curses upon the children of Israel before crossing the Jordan in Joshua chapter 8. This town was in the southern land of Manasseh near the Ephraim border. Since this woman claims ancestry to Jacob, and is living on the land that was given to Manasseh, it only makes sense that this woman is of the tribe of Manasseh, and therefore an Israelite.
Now those that are familiar with the history of Samaria, and the deportation of the Israelites into Assyrian captivity may be wondering how could people from the tribe of Manasseh be living in this land at the time of Jesus. Although almost all of the tribe of Manasseh was deported during that invasion as recording in the book of 2nd Chronicles, it makes sense that the Assyrians may have left a small portion of people behind to be vinedressers and farmers like Nebuchadnezzar’s captains did in 2nd Kings 25:12 when invading Judah. A land with so many resources as Israel possessed would not be left to go to waste.
It is also very important to note that Jesus does not correct her when she claims ancestry to Jacob, and that Jacob gave her ancestors that well.
“Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” – John 4:20
There is much history concerning the land of Samaria, but it is important that this woman again is referring to her Israelite forefathers and she is not completely oblivious to the worship of the True God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob.
“Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to
worship.” – John 4:25
Now we see this woman is familiar with the Hebrew scriptures of Israel, and is looking for the Messiah of Israel to come. Christ does not tell this woman: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” like He said concerning the woman’s child in Matthew 15:26. Jesus rather reveals to her, He is that Messiah, the Christ, the Holy One of Israel.
“Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”
– John 4:26, 28-29
Can you imagine? You being the one to bring the news of the arrival of the Messiah of Israel to your town and family, and that you heard the news directly from Him. This woman had the same excitement that Andrew did with Peter in John 1:40-41, and that Philip had with his brother Nathanael in John 4:45-49. She even left her water pot behind in order to not slow her down in order to share this good news!
“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word.” – John 4:39-41
Jesus said in John 10:27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” It is clear that this specific city which there seems to be people from the tribe of Manasseh heard the Shepherd’s voice and followed Him. There is only one group of people in scripture known as God’s sheep, and that is the Israelites.