"Jacob's well" was located approximately half a mile south of the village of Sychar and 100 yards from the base of Mount Gerizim. Commentators record its depth as being over 65 feet deep with a diameter of over 7 feet. This well is one of the few Biblical sites about which there is no dispute, and it is probably the only place on Earth where one can draw a relatively small circle and confidently say that the feet of Christ stood within the circumference. It was likely around 6 P.M. that day (since it appears that John is using Roman time). John shows a glimpse of Jesus' humanity--our Lord was tired from His journey.
The woman was not of the city of Samaria but from the province of Samaria, which was between Judea and Galilee. Jesus made a simple request for her to give Him a drink. Today, we would probably not consider such a request to be anything out of the ordinary. However, this was very unusual in the first century--not because of what Jesus requested, but to whom He made the request, namely, a Samaritan who was also a woman! By His speech and manner of dress the woman recognized Jesus as a Jew and expressed surprise that He would so much as speak to her since the Jews and Samaritans were enemies and had no social "dealings" with each other. It should be noted, however, that racial prejudice did not interfere with trade or other matters involving money (e.g., 4:8). According to tradition, a Jew accepted no hospitality from a Samaritan, and to eat their bread as a guest was as polluting as to eat swine's flesh. Even today, Samaritans living in this region do not eat, drink, or marry with the Jews, but only trade with them. Thus, the woman was surprised by His request.
Jesus' response to the woman's question was much like the response He gave to Nicodemus (cf. 3:3). Jesus spoke of a physical object or event in a spiritual way, much to the confusion of the inquirer. This woman knew that Jesus was a Jew, but she was unaware of His real identity. Had she known He was the Christ, she would have asked Him for that which He alone could give--the living water of eternal life! Ironically, their positions were reversed spiritually--the woman was the one in need of a "drink" and Jesus could give her "living water" (cf. 7:37-39).
The woman would have normally understood "living water" to be a reference to flowing or running water; on this occasion, however, she evidently believed Jesus was referring to the well water.
After she commented on that which she perceived as impossible (i.e., Him getting water since the well was deep and He was not equipped), she then ridiculed Him by contrasting Him to Jacob, the giver of the well. It's as if she said: Surely, stranger, you aren't greater than Jacob with his sons, cattle, and wealth, are you? She would soon find out the answer to that question.
We will continue this study tomorrow.