The profound Jewish meaning of this claim
John chapter 4
John 4 When Yeshua learned that the P’rushim had heard he was making and immersing more talmidim than Yochanan 2 (although it was not Yeshua himself who immersed but his talmidim), 3 Yeshua left Y’hudah and set out again for the Galil. 4 This meant that he had to pass through Shomron. 5 He came to a town in Shomron called Sh’khem, near the field Ya‘akov had given to his son Yosef. 6 Ya‘akov’s Well was there; so Yeshua, exhausted from his travel, sat down by the well; it was about noon. 7 A woman from Shomron came to draw some water; and Yeshua said to her, “Give me a drink of water.” 8 (His talmidim had gone into town to buy food.) 9 The woman from Shomron said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for water from me, a woman of Shomron?” (For Jews don’t associate with people from Shomron.) 10 Yeshua answered her, “If you knew God’s gift, that is, who it is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink of water,’ then you would have asked him; and he would have given you living water.”11 She said to him, “Sir, you don’t have a bucket, and the well is deep; so where do you get this ‘living water’? 12 You aren’t greater than our father Ya‘akov, are you? He gave us this well and drank from it, and so did his sons and his cattle.” 13 Yeshua answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I will give him will never be thirsty again! On the contrary, the water I give him will become a spring of water inside him, welling up into eternal life!”
15 “Sir, give me this water,” the woman said to him, “so that I won’t have to be thirsty and keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 She answered, “I don’t have a husband.” Yeshua said to her, “You’re right, you don’t have a husband! 18 You’ve had five husbands in the past, and you’re not married to the man you’re living with now! You’ve spoken the truth!”19 “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet,” the woman replied. 20 “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you people say that the place where one has to worship is in Yerushalayim.” 21 Yeshua said, “Lady, believe me, the time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Yerushalayim. 22 You people don’t know what you are worshipping; we worship what we do know, because salvation comes from the Jews. 23 But the time is coming — indeed, it’s here now — when the true worshippers will worship the Father spiritually and truly, for these are the kind of people the Father wants worshipping him. 24 God is spirit; and worshippers must worship him spiritually and truly.”25 The woman replied, “I know that Mashiach is coming” (that is, “the one who has been anointed”). “When he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Yeshua said to her, “I, the person speaking to you, am he.”27 Just then, his talmidim arrived. They were amazed that he was talking with a woman; but none of them said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water-jar, went back to the town and said to the people there, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could it be that this is the Messiah?”
‘THE ENCOUNTER’ with the woman at the well is extremely rich in Jewish significance and equally rich in Yeshua’s claim to be the messiah that is able to forgive sins. This richness could be quite the opportunity to enrich yourself if taken the time to read and be aware of the various ‘background’ sniblets provided below all obtained from various sources of great knowledge of the Jewish history and culture of this given time, which is tremendously relevant to the whole story.
~THE WELL, rich in history. Shechem, a city in Samaria ( Genesis 33:18 ), called also Sichem (Genesis 12:6 ), Sychem ( Acts 7:16 ). It stood in the narrow sheltered valley between Ebal on the north and Gerizim on the south, these mountains at their base being only some 500 yards apart. Here Abraham pitched his tent and built his first altar in the Promised Land, and received the first divine promise ( Genesis 12:6; Genesis 12:7 ). Here also Jacob “bought a parcel of a field at the hands of the children of Hamor” after his return from Mesopotamia, and settled with his household, which he purged from idolatry by burying the teraphim of his followers under an oak tree, which was afterwards called “the oak of the sorcerer” ( Genesis 33:19; Genesis 35:4 ; Judges 9:37 ). Here too, after a while, he dug a well, which bears his name to this day ( John 4:5 John 4:39-42 ). To Shechem Joshua gathered all Israel “before God,” and delivered to them his second parting address ( Joshua 24:1-15 ). He “made a covenant with the people that day” at the very place where, on first entering the land, they had responded to the law from Ebal and Gerizim ( Joshua 24:25 ). Shechem became one of the cities of refuge, the central city of refuge for Western Palestine ( Joshua 20:7 ), and here the bones of Joseph were buried (Joshua 24:32 ). Rehoboam was appointed king in Shechem ( 1 Kings 12:1 1 Kings 12:19 ), but Jeroboam afterwards took up his residence here. Remaining as it does to the present day, it is one of the oldest cities of the world.
~SAMARITANS, the Samaritans were not considered Jews. In fact, exactly what they were is not easy for us to define, and neither was it for people of that era. There was a thread of Jewishness, but an equally large thread of gentile-ness in Samaria’s population. So in the eyes of Judaism, Samaritans were an unclean mixture, an ungodly hybrid. They weren’t quite Jews, and they weren’t quite gentiles. They practiced a religion based on their own version of the Torah of Moses, yet they didn’t believe in the Prophets of Israel. But even without accepting the Old Testament Prophets, the Samaritans were still expecting a Messiah largely because of Moses saying that in time a “prophet like me” would arise.
The people of Samaria were seen universally by Judaism as ungodly, unclean hybrids who were neither Jew nor gentile; a people to be shunned, and a place to avoid. And for Jews of that era, even though Samaria originally formed the heartland of the Promised Land, at the moment Samaria was acknowledged as foreign and so its residents were foreigners. This is not because of any declaration by Rome, but because of a declaration by Judaism. This was because the Samaritans practiced what the Jews considered to be a perverted form of Torah-based religion, with their holiest place being Mt. Gerizim, and their Priesthood having no connection to Levites or to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Samaritans generally would not allow Jews to travel through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem.
They are very anti-Jewish. In fact they went through the Mosaic Law and they changed every possible reference to Jerusalem and made it Mount Gerizim. So, if you pick up the Samaritan Pentateuch it doesn’t say Abraham brought Isaac to Mount Moriah, but to Mount Gerizim. So when Jews wished to travel through Samaria to get to Jerusalem they are often forbidden to travel, or were attacked and often killed. The Samaritans did not mind seeing Jews travelling away from Jerusalem, that was alright. And the Jews were just as much anti-Samaritan as the Samaritans were anti-Jewish.
Jesus now travels from Jerusalem and that is fine. Later on we will see when he tries to travel again through Samaria in the opposite direction they will not let him pass.
“LIVING WATER” (mayim chayyim in Hebrew). On a physical level mayim chayyim was merely water taken from an artesian well or a river. It was from a source of water that moved (as opposed to water from a lake, a pond, or a water well in which the water just kind of sat there). Bet you thought that the “living water” reference to Jesus was a New Testament idea. In fact living water…..meaning water taken NOT from a well or a pond, but from a running spring or a river that flows……living water is a requirement for the water used in many of the Levitical sacrifices……particularly the ones involving purification from uncleanness. Mayim chayim is what God says must be used as the water that Hebrews bathe in order for them to be spiritually purified from ritual impurity. Living water is required for all holy priestly ritual, and thus it is also called holy water.
What, exactly, is holy water? It is just a synonym for “living water”. Holy water only indicates that it is water that had been drawn from a running spring or river, and designated for use in the Temple. From a practical standpoint, holy water was but the water that filled the Copper Laver at the Temple; the same water priests used to dip from to wash their feet and hands during Temple rituals. Holy water and Living water are two terms for the same thing.
Leviticus illustrates that all uncleanness is not the same, and neither is the way to purity from the different kinds of uncleanness all the same…..except that it ALWAYS involves Living Water…..mayim chayim.
So when Yeshua described Himself as the source of “living water” it was instantly understood by the Jews of His day. The power to wash away our sins!! To make us clean and spiritully acceptable to God (Yahweh). Jesus was saying that He was the REAL source for purification, and it NEVER dried up; the source was unlimited. So here we have yet another NT idea that actually begins in the Torah. Just one of the many times he made claims only God himself had the authority to do.
Strictly speaking no unclean person could even participate in the only means that could make a person holy, which was a ritual sacrifice involving blood. Only clean people could offer blood sacrifices. It was living water that was the primary medium required to make the unclean, clean.
Unlike Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman was no theologian, (so it is unlikely she knew even what living water was) but her heart was ready to acknowledge her sin and believe in the Messiah. All we know about the woman’s background is that her life was a tangle of adultery and broken marriages. In her culture, that would have made her a spurned outcast. He recognized Jesus as a teacher from God; she didn’t have any idea who He was. Jesus is talking about spiritual living water. The woman does not yet understand this, but she will as the conversation progresses.
Thus there is the reason for Jesus the Christ, Yeshua HaMashiach. The principles and demands behind these strict laws of Leviticus have never been countermanded. If we hope to approach God, to find favor with Him, somehow we have to be perfect without the tiniest blemish. There were some laws that the sacrificial system DID NOT ATONE FOR. Thank God the sacrifice of Yeshua has atoned for ALL our sins so completely that our blemishes are gone. His Living Water has washed us so clean that to God, we are as perfect, spotless. Not because we ARE perfect…..not because we have merited perfection, nor attained perfection…..but because we have been DECLARED perfect.
Recall Yeshua’s crucifixion; when the Roman soldier…
The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been put on a stake beside Yeshua, then the legs of the other one; 33 but when they got to Yeshua and saw that he was already dead, they didn’t break his legs. 34 However, one of the soldiers stabbed his side with a spear, and at once blood and water flowed out. 35 The man who saw it has testified about it, and his testimony is true. And he knows that he tells the truth, so you too can trust. 36 For these things happened in order to fulfill this passage of the Tanakh:
…wanted to determine if Jesus was actually dead, or just passed out, he reached up with a spear and pierced his side. And what flowed out? Blood AND water. Blood we would expect, but why water? Because blood atones, and water purifies, and both actions are needed. Blood removes sin, water removes uncleanness. Two different things, two different spiritual elements, but Yeshua was sufficient for both. What was the purification mixture of Numbers 19 ? Blood and water. The blood was in the ashes of the Heifer, mixed with the water of purification, and applied to the person contaminated with death.
For Christ, called Living Water in the NT, is what this all pointed to. Our old natures die, and we are purified through this Living Water. And, it sets up all the symbolic meaning of water baptism. Through death, we are brought to new life.
It is interesting, is it not, that the FIRST non-Jewish person to be offered a drink of the living water that brings everlasting life was a) a woman, and b) a hated Samaritan. And, it occurred at the very first place Jacob, Israel, settled when he came back into the Promised Land from Mesopotamia.
Later in John 7 you will again see Yeshua DECLARE in front of millions that HE is the source of “living water”.