This field study was the most intriguing thus far, predominantly because of the trip to Jacob’s well. I have enjoyed reading the story of the Samaritan women because it distinctly breaks cultural standards and norms that so strongly control human behavior.
Jacob’s well was my favorite site because it had an old charm to it. Unlike other sites, like the Church of the Nativity and the Church of the Holy Sepulchure, this site was preserved and intact. I could actually picture this story taking place around me. I didn’t have to change the scenery to make the story come to life.
The Samaritans were the offspring of the Israelites that stayed after the Assyrian conquest and the people that came to Israel as a result of the conquest. In other words, they were the offspring of the people that stayed and the people that the Assyrians brought in from other nations after 722 BC. These people became know as Samaritans. When the Jews returned to Israel, they distinguished themselves as separate from this mixed race.
The Samaritans believe they are God’s chosen people and believe solely in the Pentateuch (first five books of O.T.). They cling tightly to the verse Deuteronomy 11:29 “When the LORD your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.” They resided in Sychar right next to Mt. Gerazim, located next to Shechem. About a century before this story, the Jews destroyed the Samarian temple. This created an even greater tension between the two groups.
Right off the bat Jesus starts with a metaphor- “living water” (John 4:10). This isn’t just an impressive phrase. “Living water” refers to the fresh and healthy water of flowing springs. Unlike the wells and cisterns of the time, springs were much better. Therefore, “living water” is the perfect term to use. He is being relevant here, and proving who He is. The story starts out very personal. However, the woman quickly changes the topic to politics and religion, something less hurtful to discuss. “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem” (John 4:20). This is expressing the Samaritan worship of Mt. Gerezim and Judaism worship in Jerusalem.
Later in the conversation, she understands that He is the messiah. I cannot get over the awe of the story. The fact that Jesus talked to this hated women, and then used her to reach many of other Samaritans. Like I previously explained, this story has intrigued me for some time. Learning about the background and context shed light to a deeper understanding. Jesus talked to this woman, this prostitute, this “other,” a hated race. Maybe I will meet someone like the Samaritan woman. What am I thinking? I already have. I think it is so interesting how people treat others that are different from them. I wish I could say I am not guilty of this.
How do we translate this love in a simple conversation that represents much more than what was said?