Dec, 780—March, 781. A. D. 27-28.
The Pharisees sowing dissensions between the disciples John iii. 25, 26. of John and those of Jesus, the latter gives up His work John iv. 1-3. of baptizing and goes back to Galilee. The Baptist, in re- John iii. 27-36. ply to the complaints of his disciples, bears a fresh testimony to Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus takes His way to John iv. 4-42. Galilee, through Samaria, and abides there two days teaching, and many believed on Him. Upon reaching Galilee His disciples depart to their respective homes. He is re- John iv. 43-45.
Before entering upon the examination of the several points which this section presents, it will he wTell to take a brief preliminary survey of the several stages of John's ministry, and their relations to corresponding stages in the Lord's work.
The first labor of the Baptist was to announce the near approach of the Messiah, and through the baptism of repentance to prepare His way. He demanded of the people that they should believe in Him that should come after him, and who should baptize with the Holy Ghost, (Acts xix. 4.) When, after a considerable time thus spent, and multitudes from all parts of the land had been baptized, Jesus appeared and was recognized by him as the Messiah, his ministry necessarily took a new form. He could no longer testify to his auditors of one to come, but must point out Jesus as the Messiah already come. This he did, when, in the presence of his disciples and of the people, he pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God. This witness to the personal Christ was the culminating point of his work. It was now a question for the Jews, how they would receive and treat Him to whom he had thus borne witness. Jesus henceforth became the chief figure on the stage, and John sank to the position of a subordinate.
With the coming of Jesus it might have been supposed that the mission of the Baptist would cease, its end being accomplished. As we have seen, however, it did not wholly cease, but it changed its form. And it is probably from this point of view that we are to explain the departure of John from the Jordan to jEnon. And as the place of baptism was changed, so also in some degree the rite. Hisl baptism could no more have a general and indefinite reference to one still to come. Having declared Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah, the undefined Messianic hopes of the nation were now to be concentrated upon Him. All the teachings and labors of the Baptist pointed to Him, and all tended to prepare the people to receive Him. Whether there was any change in the baptismal formula may be doubted, but the immediate and personal reference to Jesus as the Messiah was that which distinctively characterized the last stage of John's work.
To this form of John's ministry the ministry of Jesus, at its beginning, corresponded. The former had borne his witness to Him, and He must now confirm that witness; must show Himself to be the Messiah through His own words and acts. This He does. He gathers a small body of disciples, to whom He manifests His glory through the miracle at the marriage in Cana. Afterward, before the priests and the people, He asserts His Messianic claims by the purifying of the temple, and the miracles He subsequently wrought at the feast. But why should He establish, or rather continue the rite of baptism ? In what relation did this rite stand to His Messianic character ? The answer to this question may be found in its nature as the baptism of repentance. It was an indispensable condition to the reception of the Christ, the Holy One of God, that sin should be repented of and put away. Upon this John had insisted in his preaching, " Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand." But this preaching, and this rite, both pointing to repentance, were no less important now that the Messiah had actually come. Without holiness of heart they could not receive Him, could not even discern Him as the Messiah. John had already baptized many into the hope of His coming, but others had equal need to be baptized into the reality of it.
We can now see why John should have continued baptizing after the Lord came, and why Jesus should Himself, through His disciples, adopt the rite. It was not enough that He had personally come. "Would the Jews receive Him ? None could do so but the repentant. All those that, with hearts conscious of guilt, both personal and national, and truly penitent, were waiting for the consolation of Israel, were willing to be baptized, confessing their sins; but the unrepentant, the unbelieving, the self-righteous, all who justified themselves, rejected the rite, (Luke vii. 29, 30.) Hence it w^as a most decisive test of the spiritual state of the people. And tried by this test, the nation, as such, was condemned. Neither the baptism of John, nor that of the Lord, brought it to repentance. True, great numbers went at first to John, and afterward many resorted to Jesus, and were baptized ; but these were the common people, those without reputation or authority. Those who ruled in all religious matters and gave direction to public opinion, the priests, the scribes and Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the rich and influential, held themselves almost wholly aloof. Hence, as regarded the nation at large, the baptismal work failed of its end. The true and divinely-appointed representatives of the people, the ecclesiastical authorities, who sat in Moses' seat, were not brought to repentance, and therefore could not receive the Messiah.
Thus Jesus began His work as the Baptizer with water unto repentance. It wras this baptism that gave to His Judean ministry its distinctive character. It was an attempt to bring the nation, as headed up in its ecclesiastical rulers, to repentance. Had these come to Him, or to John, confessing their sins, His way wrould have been prepared, and He could then have proceeded to teach them the true nature of the Messianic kingdom, and prepared them for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. But as they had "frustrated the counsel of God within themselves, being not baptized of John," so they continued to frustrate it by rejecting the baptism of Jesus. To continue, therefore, to baptize was to expose God's ordinance to contempt, and discontinuing His labors in Judea, He retired into Galilee. How long after this John continued to baptize, we are not told. He must have felt that, as regarded the rulers and the body of the people, little could be done, (John i. 19-25 ; and iii. 32 ;) and perhaps he may now have gone from place to place, seeking out and baptizing all who had humility to confess their sins, and faith to receive his witness. Not improbably, as the novelty of his first appearance was over, his popularity was already on the wane, although the people at large continued to hold him in high esteem as a teacher and prophet.
Many have placed the imprisonment of John by Herod (Matt. iv. 12 ; Mark i. 14 ; Luke iii. 19 and 20) just before this departure of Jesus into Galilee, and regard the latter as determined by the former. But for this there are no sufficient grounds. There is nothing in the language of the fourth Evangelist that implies this; but, on the contrary, a fair construction of his words (iv. 1) shows that John was yet baptizing when Jesus left Judea. " When, therefore, the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John—He left Judea." Translated more strictly, it would read, " that Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John." This plainly implies comparison between the two, and therefore their contemporaneous activity. Both are making and baptizing disciples, but more come to Jesus than to. John.1 There is, beside, no allusion to Herod, or intimation that the Baptist's labors were now suspended because of his imprisonment. Nor, unfriendly as the Pharisees doubtless were to him, is there mention anywhere made of any overt acts of hostility against him.
1 So Greswell, ii. 212; Wieseler, 161.
They were satisfied with denying his authority to baptize, for his reputation was too high among the people to permit them to take any active steps against him. His imprisonment was not their act, nor do they seem to have had any part in it, (Matt, xiv. 3.)
But if John was not now imprisoned, why did Jesus now cease baptizing and retire into Galilee ? Some ascribe this to His fear of the Pharisees.1 But there is no proof that this party was ready at this early period to hinder Him in His work by any active opposition, much less that His life and personal safety were endangered. When a few months afterward they sought to slay Him, because by healing on the Sabbath He had, as they said, broken the Law of God, (John v. 16,) there was a plausible reason for their hostility; but this did not now exist. Others, on better grounds, ascribe this departure to the fact that the Pharisees were availing themselves of the jealousy of John's disciples to the injury of Jesus.3 It appears from John hi. 25-27, that there was a dispute between the disciples of John and the Jews, or a Jew, respecting purification. This may have had reference to the nature of baptism as a purifying rite; to the authority of John to administer it; or, more probably, to the respective values of the baptisms of John and Jesus. That the baptismal work of the latter gave umbrage to John's disciples, upon some ground, is apparent ; for they complain to their master that He was baptizing, and that all the people were thronging to Him. They seem to have considered this act on His part as one that needed explanation, perhaps as an interference with John in his peculiar work, or as unsuitable to His Messianic character.
If, however, we admit that the Pharisees did attempt to arouse the jealousy of John's disciples to the injury of the work in which he and Jesus were jointly engaged, this alone does not explain why the latter should have ceased to baptize. The true reason has been already intimated. The increasing popularity of Jesus, as shown by the numbers that came to His baptism, only brought out more strongly the envy and dislike of the Pharisees, and confirmed them in their hostility. To have continued His work could, therefore, have answered no good end, since it was not now the gathering of a body of disciples around Him at which He aimed, but the rej3entance of the priests and leaders of the people. We conclude, therefore, that He now left Judea because the moral conditions for the successful prosecution of His baptismal labors were wanting.
1 So Greswell, Alford, Meyer.
2 So Lichtenstein, 162; Luthardt, i. 391.
The only datum we have by which to determine the time of the year when Jesus went into Galilee, is found in His words to His disciples when seated by the well in Sychar : " Say not ye there are yet four months and then cometh harvest ? behold I say unto you," &c, (John iv. 35.) Some, however, deny that this reference to the harvest, as yet four months distant, is of any chronological value, because the expression is a proverbial one, based upon the fact that there is an average interval of four months between the sowing and harvesting.1 But the form of the expression seems to forbid that we regard it as a proverb, " Say not ye there are yet four months," &c.; here " yet," en, obviously refers to the time when the words were spoken. From this time, not from the time of sowing, are four months, and then the harvest.2 We are then to determine the time of the harvest, and counting backward four months, reach the time when the words were spoken. Upon the 16th ISTisan, a sheaf of the first fruits of the harvest was to be waved before the Lord in the Temple.
1 Norton, Krafft, Greswell, Alford.
2 Lightfoot, Baroriius, Liefetenstein, Wieseler, Stier, Meyer, Robinson.
Till this was done, Bo one might lawfully gather his grain.1 From this legal commencement of the harvest about the first of April, we obtain the month of December as that in which the words were spoken.2 Tholuck (in loco) regards the expression as proverbial, yet reaches nearly the same result. " As our Lord points them to the fields, it is highly probable that it was just then seed-time, and we are thus furnished with the date, to wit, that Jesus had remained in Judea from April, when the Passover occurred, till November." 3
A very different result is reached by some, who take the Lord's words: " Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to the harvest," as not figurative, but literal, and expressive of an actual fact. The harvest, then, was not four months distant, but just at hand. Upon this ground Greswell (ii. 229) decides " that the time of the journey coincided with the acme of wheat harvest, or was but a little before it," and puts it two or three weeks before Pentecost, or about the middle of May.*
The direct route from Judea to Nazareth led through Samaria by Sichem, and was generally taken by the companies attending the feasts from Galilee, although the enmity of the Samaritans to the Jews seems especially to have manifested itself on such occasions.5 Josephus says * that it was necessary for those that would travel quickly to take that route, as by it Jerusalem could be reached in three days from Galilee. Sychar is regarded by many as another reading for Sychem, (Acts vii. 16,) which stood upon the site of the present Neapolis, or Nablous> and is often mentioned in biblical history.1 1 Levit. xxiii. 10, &c.; Deut. xvi. 9, &c.; Josephus, Antiq., 3. 10. 5. 2 Lightfoot, Lichtenstein, Meyer, Ellicott. 3 A. Clarke and Stier, putting the harvest in May, make the departure to have been in January. Stanley, in January or February. * So Townsend in loco, " The Messiah," 101. Alford regards all chronological inferences built on this passage, as unwarranted. s Josephus, Antiq., 20. 6.1. « Life, 52. For a time after the return from the captivity, Samaria (1 Kings xvi. 24) was the chief city, but Sichem soon gained the ascendency. The change from Sichem to Sychar is supposed to mark the contempt of the Jews toward the Sichemites, the latter word meaning the " toper city," or the " heathen city." Alexander calls it " a later Aramaic form." It is not to be supposed that this change was made by John in his narrative to express his own dislike, or that, as said by Stier, " it was an intentional intimation of the relation and position of things between Judea and Samaria." Unless the name Sychar was in common use, we can scarce suppose him to have employed it; for, in a simple historical statement, the intentional use of any mock name or opprobrious epithet would be out of keeping.
1 Levit. xxiii. 10, &c.; Deut. xvi. 9, &c.; Josephus, Antiq., 3. 10. 5.
2 Lightfoot, Lichtenstein, Meyer, Ellicott.
3 A. Clarke and Stier, putting the harvest in May, make the departure to have been in January. Stanley, in January or February.
* So Townsend in loco, " The Messiah," 101. Alford regards all chronological inferences built on this passage, as unwarranted.
s Josephus, Antiq., 20. 6.1. « Life, 52.
For a time after the return from the captivity, Samaria (1 Kings xvi. 24) was the chief city, but Sichem soon gained the ascendency. The change from Sichem to Sychar is supposed to mark the contempt of the Jews toward the Sichemites, the latter word meaning the " toper city," or the " heathen city." Alexander calls it " a later Aramaic form." It is not to be supposed that this change was made by John in his narrative to express his own dislike, or that, as said by Stier, " it was an intentional intimation of the relation and position of things between Judea and Samaria." Unless the name Sychar was in common use, we can scarce suppose him to have employed it; for, in a simple historical statement, the intentional use of any mock name or opprobrious epithet would be out of keeping.
Some make Sychar a village near Sichem, but distinct from it.2 This was the early opinion. They were distinguished by Eusebius, and in the Jerusalem Itinerarium.3 Ra'umer supposes that the village of Sichem was a long straggling one, and that the east end of it, near Jacob's well, was called Sychar. There is now a village near the well called El Askar, which some have supposed to be Sychar. Thomson (ii. 206) says: " This is so like John's Sychar that I feel inclined to adopt it." 4
Jacob's well, where Jesus was resting Himself when He met the Samaritan woman, " is on the end of a low spur or swell running out from the north-eastern base of Gerizim • and is still 15 or 20 feet above the level of the plain below."B It is dug in the solid rock to the depth of 15 or 80 feet, and is about 9 feet in diameter, and the sides hewn smooth and regular, and perfectly round.6 The quantity of water in it greatly varies.
1 So Meyer, Weiseler, Raumer, Robinson, Ritter, Alford.
2 Hug, Luthardt, Lichtenstein. 3 See Raumer, 146, note.
4 See contra Robinson, iii. 133; see also Wieseler, 256, note.
5 Robinson, iii. 132. • Porter.
Maundrell found it 5 yards in depth. Sometimes it is nearly or wholly dry. Dr. Wilson (1842) found so little water in it, that a servant, whom he let down to the bottom, was able, by means of dry sticks thrown to him, to kindle a blaze which distinctly showed the whole of the well from the top to the bottom. Osborne1 says: " There was no water at the time of our visit, near the close of December." " Formerly there was a square hole opening into a carefully-built vaulted chamber, about 10 feet square, in the floor of which was the true mouth of the well. Now a portion of the vault has fallen in, and completely covered up the mouth, so that nothing can be seen but a shallow pit half filled with stones and rubbish."2 A church was built near this spot, of which few traces remain.
It has been much questioned why a well should have been dug here, since there are several springs within a little distance giving an abundance of water. Some su£>pose that earthquakes may have caused the springs to flow since the well was dug. More probable is the supposition that Jacob found the springs in the possession of others, who were unwilling to share the water with him, and therefore, as matter of necessity, he must obtain it from a well. Why the woman should have come to this well to draw water, which was so much more easily attainable near by, cannot now be explained. If the city itself was at some distance, and the language seems to imply this, (vs. 8, 28-30,) she may have lived in the suburbs, for it is not said that she resided in the city; but if she did so, she may have had special reasons for wishing the water of this well, because of its coolness or other qualities ; or as especially valuable because of its association with Jacob. Porter (ii, 342) speaks of those at Damascus, who send to a particular fountain a mile or more distant from their homes, although water is everywhere very abundant.
i Palestine, 335. 2 Porter, ii. 340.
It was about the sixth hour that Jesus sat on the well. This, according to Jewish reckoning, would be 12 M. or noon; if reckoned according to Roman computation, 6 p. M., or as some say,1 6 A. M. Ebrard (296) contends that John always uses the Roman computation, and prefers the evening here, on the grounds that the noonday was an unfit time to travel, and that wells were usually visited for water at evening. But if we remember that this was in December, travelling at mid-day will not appear strange. Noon was not indeed the time for general resort to the well, but such resort must be determined in particular cases by individual need; and that the woman was alone, and held so long a private conversation uninterrupted, shows that it was an hour when the well was not generally visited. There seems, then, no reason to depart from the common opinion that it was about noon. At this hour the Jews were accustomed to take their principal meal.2
The reception which the Lord met with among the Samaritans was in striking contrast with His reception in Judea; yet among the former He seems to have wrought no miracles, and to have been received because the truth He taught was the convincing proof of His Messianic character.
Arriving in Galilee, Jesus was honorably received by the Galileans, for they had been at the Passover, and had "seen all the things that He did at Jerusalem at the feast," (John iv. 43-45.) But in face of this honorable reception, how are His words (v. 44) to be understood, "that a prophet hath no honor in his own country," and which are apparently cited as explaining why He went into Galilee. There are several interpretations : 1. Galilee is to be taken in opposition to Nazareth.
i Greswell, ii. 216 ; McKnight. « Winer, ii. 47.
In this city, His own country, Jesus had no honor, but elsewhere in Galilee He was received as a prophet.1 2. Galilee is to be taken in opposition to Judea. Judea was His birthplace, and so His own country, and it was also the land of the prophets; but there He had found no reception, and had been compelled to discontinue His ministry. In Galilee, on the contrary, all were ready to honor Him.2 3. Galilee is His own country where, according to the proverb, He would have had no honor, except He had first gone into Judea and distinguished Himself there. It was His miracles and works abroad that gave Him fame and favor at home.3
The last interpretation appears best to suit the scope of the narrative. The connection between vs. 43 and 44 is this; in v. 43 the fact is stated that He went into Galilee, and in v. 44 the reason is assigned why He went. As, according to the proverb, a prophet is without honor in his own country, by retiring into Galilee He could avoid all publicity, and find retirement. But in v. 45 the fact is stated that the Galileans, notwithstanding the proverb, did receive Him, and the reason is also added, because they had been at Jerusalem, and had seen what He did there. And in verses 46-53 a particular instance is given, showing how Irgh His reputation in Galilee, and what publicity attended His movements. His arrival at Cana was soon known at Capernaum, and a nobleman from the latter city, supposed by many to be Chuza, steward of Herod, coming to Him, desires that He would return with him, and heal his son. Without leaving Cana, Jesus heals him. This was His second Galilean miracle.
From the time of this miracle at Cana, we lose sight of the Lord till He reappears going up to a feast at Jerusalem (John v. 1.) If, as we have supposed, He left Judea in December, this miracle must have been wrought soon after His arrival in Galilee.
i Lightfoot, Krafft. a Ebrard, Norton. 3 Meyer, Alford. As the first feast which He could attend was that of Purim, in March, an interval of some two or three months must have elapsed. If this feast were the Passover, or any of the later feasts, this interval was correspondingly prolonged. How was this time spent ? Those who make the imprisonment of the Baptist to have taken place before He left Judea, suppose that He now entered upon His Galilean work. But, upon grounds already stated, we conclude that John was not yet imprisoned, and therefore His Galilean work could not now begin, as the two are closely connected by the Synoptists, (Matt. iv. 13, Mark i. 14, Luke iii. 20, and iv. 14.) Several additional considerations induce us to think that this period was not spent in any public labors. 1. When, after the imprisonment of John, Jesus went into Galilee to teach and to preach, His disciples were not with Him, and not till He had begun His labors at Capernaum did they rejoin Him, (Matt. iv. 18, Mark i. 16; Luke v. 2-11.) There was, then, an interval after He had ended His baptismal labors in Judea, in which they were His helpers, and before the beginning of His ministry in Galilee, during which His disciples were separated from Him, and seem to have returned to their accustomed avocations. But if His Galilean work began as soon as His Judean work ended, there was no time for them to have thus returned to their homes, and, therefore, no opportunity to recall them to His service.
i Lightfoot, Krafft. a Ebrard, Norton. 3 Meyer, Alford.
As the first feast which He could attend was that of Purim, in March, an interval of some two or three months must have elapsed. If this feast were the Passover, or any of the later feasts, this interval was correspondingly prolonged. How was this time spent ? Those who make the imprisonment of the Baptist to have taken place before He left Judea, suppose that He now entered upon His Galilean work. But, upon grounds already stated, we conclude that John was not yet imprisoned, and therefore His Galilean work could not now begin, as the two are closely connected by the Synoptists, (Matt. iv. 13, Mark i. 14, Luke iii. 20, and iv. 14.) Several additional considerations induce us to think that this period was not spent in any public labors. 1. When, after the imprisonment of John, Jesus went into Galilee to teach and to preach, His disciples were not with Him, and not till He had begun His labors at Capernaum did they rejoin Him, (Matt. iv. 18, Mark i. 16; Luke v. 2-11.) There was, then, an interval after He had ended His baptismal labors in Judea, in which they were His helpers, and before the beginning of His ministry in Galilee, during which His disciples were separated from Him, and seem to have returned to their accustomed avocations. But if His Galilean work began as soon as His Judean work ended, there was no time for them to have thus returned to their homes, and, therefore, no opportunity to recall them to His service.
2. The Lord gave up baptizing, as we have seen, because of the hostility of the Pharisees, and their rejection of the rite. But, so long as John was able, both in word and act, to bear witness to Him as the Messiah, He could Himself seek retirement, and wait the issue of John's ministry. He could not, till the Baptist was imprisoned and his voice thus silenced, finally leave Judea and begin His work in Galilee. To Galilee He went, therefore, as a place
of seclusion, not of publicity; of rest, not of activity. The proverb, that a prophet has no honor in his own country, did not indeed prove true in His case. He was honorably received, and immediately besought to heal the sick. Still there is no record that He entered upon any public labors, that He preached or taught in the synagogues, or wrought any miracles. How or where His time was spent, can only be conjectured. From the fact that no mention is made of Nazareth, it has been inferred that He purposely avoided that city, and took another route to Cana.1 That He is spoken of as being at Cana, gives a show of confirmation to the supposition already alluded to, that Mary and her children had now left Nazareth, and were dwelling at Cana. But we may as readily suppose that He was now visiting at the house of the friends or relatives, where he changed the water into wine.