HONORED BY STRANGERS, REJECTED BY HIS OWN
JESUS AND THE SAMARITAN WOMAN
The direct route from Judea to Galilee lay through Samaria; but many Jews,
particularly Galileans, chose to follow an indirect though longer way rather than traverse
the country of a people so despised by them as were the Samaritans. The ill-feeling
between Jews and Samaritans had been growing for centuries, and at the time of our
Lord's earthly ministry had developed into most intense hatred.
The inhabitants of
Samaria were a mixed people, in whom the blood of Israel was mingled with that of the
Assyrians and other nations; and one cause of the animosity existing between them and
their neighbors both on the north and the south was the Samaritans' claim for recognition
as Israelites; it was their boast that Jacob was their father; but this the Jews denied. The
Samaritans had a version of the Pentateuch, which they revered as the law, but they
rejected all the prophetical writings of what is now the Old Testament, because they
considered themselves treated with insufficient respect therein.
To the orthodox Jew of the time a Samaritan was more unclean than a Gentile of any
other nationality. It is interesting to note the extreme and even absurd restrictions then in
force in the matter of regulating unavoidable relations between the two peoples. The
testimony of a Samaritan could not be heard before a Jewish tribunal. For a Jew to eat
food prepared by a Samaritan was at one time regarded by rabbinical authority as an
offense as great as that of eating the flesh of swine. While it was admitted that produce
from a field in Samaria was not unclean, inasmuch as it sprang directly from the soil,
such produce became unclean if subjected to any treatment at Samaritan hands. Thus,
grapes and grain might be purchased from Samaritans, but neither wine nor flour
manufactured therefrom by Samaritan labor. On one occasion the epithet "Samaritan"
was hurled at Christ as an intended insult. "Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and
hast a devil?"
The Samaritan conception of the mission of the expected Messiah was
somewhat better founded than was that of the Jews, for the Samaritans gave greater
prominence to the spiritual kingdom the Messiah would establish, and were less
exclusive in their views as to whom the Messianic blessings would be extended.
In His journey to Galilee Jesus took the shorter course, through Samaria; and
doubtless His choice was guided by purpose, for we read that "He must needs go" that
The road led through or by the town called Sychar,
"near to the parcel of
ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph."
There was Jacob's well, which was held in
high esteem, not only for its intrinsic worth as an unfailing source of water, but also
because of its association with the great patriarch's life. Jesus, travel-worn and weary,
rested at the well, while His disciples went to the town to buy food. A woman came to fill
her water-jar, and Jesus said to her: "Give me to drink." By the rules of oriental