Page images
PDF
EPUB

168

JESUS AT THE WELL OF SICHEM.

BOOK I.

h

and tolerant spirit, so beautifully embodied in his precepts. He passed on in quiet security through the dangerous district; and it is remarkable that here, safe from the suspicious vigilance of the Pharisaic party, among these proscribed aliens from the hopes of Israel, He more distinctly and publicly than He had hitherto done, avowed his title as the Messiah, and developed that leading characteristic of his religion, the abolition of all local and national deities, and the promulgation of one comprehensive faith, in which the great Eternal Spirit was to be worshipped by all mankind in “ spirit and in truth."

There was a well near the gates of Sichem, a name which by the Jews had been long perverted into the opprobrious term Sichar.i This spot, according to immemorial tradition, the Patriarch Jacob had purchased, and here were laid the bones of Joseph, his elder son, carried from Egypt, to whose descendant, Ephraim, this district had been assigned. Sichem lay in a valley between the two famous mountains Ebal and Gerizim, on which the Law was read, and ratified by the acclamations of the assembled tribes; and on the latter height stood the rival temple of the Samaritans, which had so long afflicted the more zealous Jews by its daring opposition to the one chosen sanctuary on Mount Moriah. The well bore the name of the Patriarch; and while his disciples entered the town to purchase

b Tradition still points to this well, thirty-five in depth, five of which we about a mile distant from the walls of found full of water." Maundrell, Sichar, which Maundrell supposes to p. 62. have extended farther. A church was i From a Hebrew word meaning a built over it by the Empress Helena, “ lie” or an “idol.” The name had but it is now entirely destroyed. “It no doubt grown into common use, as is dug in a firm rock, and contains ! it could not be meant by the Evangeabout three yards in diameter, and lists in an offensive sense.

CHAP. IV.

THE SAMARITAN WOMAN.

169

provisions,k a traffic from which probably few, except the disciples of Christ, would not have abstained,m except in extreme necessity, Jesus reposed by its margin. It was the sultry hour of noon, about twelve o'clock," when a woman, as is the general usage in the East, where the females commonly resort to the wells or tanks to obtain water for all domestic uses, approached the well. Jesus, whom she knew not to be her countryman, either from his dress, or perhaps his dialect or pronunciation, in which the inhabitants of the Ephraimitish district of Samaria differed both from the Jews and Galileans, to her astonishment, asked her for water to quench his thirst. For in general the lip of a Jew, especially a Pharisaic Jew, would have shrunk in disgust from the purest element in a vessel defiled by the hand of a Samaritan. Drawing, as usual, his similitudes from the present circumstances, Jesus excites the wonder of the woman by speaking of living waters at his command, waters which were to nourish the soul for everlasting life: he increases her awe by allusions which show more than mortal knowledge of her own private history (she was living in concubinage, having been married to five husbands), and at length clearly

a

k

According to the traditions they | Townson, in his ingenious argument might buy of them, use their labour, to prove that the hours of John are or say Amen to their benedictions not Roman or Jewish but Asiatic, (Beracoth, i. 8), lodge in their towns, adduces this passage, as in his favour, but not receive any gift or kindness the evening being the usual time at from them. Buxtorf, Lex Talm. 1370. which the women resort to the wells. Lightfoot in loc.

On the other hand it is observed that Probably the more rigid would noon was the usual time of dinner have refrained, even from this per- among the Jews, and the disciples mitted intercourse, unless in cases of probably entered the town for proabsolute necessity.

visions for that meal. This is the usual opinion. Dr.

in

170

SAMARITAN BELIEF IN MESSIAH.

BOOK I.

announces that the local worship, both on Gerizim and at Jerusalem, was to give place to a more sublime and comprehensive faith. The astonished woman confesses her belief that, on the coming of the Messiah, truths equally wonderful may be announced. Jesus, for the first time, distinctly and unequivocally declares himself to be the Messiah.° On the return of the disciples from the town, their Jewish prejudices are immediately betrayed at beholding their master thus familiarly conversing with a woman of the hateful race: on the other hand, the intelligence of the woman runs rapidly through the town, and the Samaritans crowd forth in eager interest to behold and listen to the extraordinary teacher. The nature and origin of the Samaritan belief in the

Messiah is even a more obscure question than

that of the Jews. That belief was evidently more clear and defined than the vague expectation

Samaritan belief in the Messiah.

• Le Clerc observes that Jesus spoke zim, qui fidem Mosaïcam evecturus sit, with more freedom to the woman of tabernaculum restituturus in monte Samaria, as he had no fear of sedition, Garizim, populum suum beaturus, or violent attempts to make him a postea moriturus et sepeliendus apud king. On John iv. 26.

Josephum (i. e. in tribu Ephraim). P Bertholdt, ch. vii., which contains Quo tempore venturus sit, id nemini extracts from the celebrated Samaritan præter Deum cognitum esse. Geseletters, and references to the modern nius in his note to the curious Sawriters who have translated them, and maritan poems which he has pubdiscussed their purport. Quæ vero | lished (p. 75), proceeds to say that fuerit spei Messianæ ratio neque ex his name is to be Hasch - hab or hoc loco, neque ex ullo alio antiquiore Hat-hab, which he translates conmonumento accuratius intelligi potest, i versor (converter), as converting the et ex recentiorum demum Samaritan- people to a higher state of religion. orum epistolis innotuit. Atque his The Messiah ben Joseph of the Rabtestibus prophetam quemdam illus- bins, Gesenius observes, is of a much trem venturum esse sperant, cui ob- later date. Quotations concerning the servaturi sint populi ac credituri in latter may be found in Eisenmenger, illum, et in legem et in montem Gari. | ii, 720.

CHAP. IV.

BELIEF OF THE SAMARITANS.

171

which prevailed throughout the East; still it was probably, like that of the Jews, by no means distinct or definite. It is generally supposed that the Samaritans, admitting only the Law, must have rested their hope solely on some ambiguous or latent prediction in the books of Moses, who had foretold the coming of another and a mightier prophet than himself. But though the Samaritans may not have admitted the authority of the prophets as equal to that of the Law—though they had not installed them in the regular and canonised code of their sacred books, it does not follow that they were unacquainted with them, or that they did not listen with devout belief to the more general promises, which by no means limited the benefits of the Messiah's coming to the local sanctuary of Jerusalem, or to the line of the Jewish kings. There appear some faint traces of a belief in the descent of the Messiah from the line of Joseph, of which, as belonging to the tribe of Ephraim, the Samaritans seem to have considered themselves the representatives. Nor is it improbable, from the subsequent rapid progress of the doctrines of Simon Magus, which were deeply impregnated with Orientalism," that the Samaritan notion of the Messiah had already a strong Magian or Babylonian tendency. On the other hand, if their expectations rested on less

a

9 We still want a complete and tradition. See an abstract at the end critical edition of the Samaritan chro- of Hottinger's Dissertationes anti Monicle (the Liber Josuæ), which may rinianæ. This defect has now been throw light on the character and supplied by a complete critical editenets of this remarkable branch of tion by Joynbull. I do not find, howthe Jewish nation. Though in its ever, the value of the work to the present form a comparatively modern historian much increased by the pubcompilation, it appears to me, from lication of the whole. (1863.) the fragments hitherto edited, to con- Mosheim, ii. 19. tain manifest vestiges of very ancient

172

SAMARITAN IDEA OF MESSIAH,

BOOK I

[ocr errors]

definite grounds, the Samaritans were unenslaved by many of those fatal prejudices of the Jews, which so completely secularised their notions of the Messiah, and were free from that rigid and exclusive pride which so jealously appropriated the divine promises. If the Samaritans could not pretend to an equal share in the splendid anticipations of the ancient prophets, they were safer from their misinterpretation. They had no visions of universal dominion; they looked not to Samaria or Sichem to become the metropolis of some mighty empire. They had some legend of the return of Moses to discover the sacred vessels concealed near Mount Gerizim, but they did not expect to see the banner raised, and the conqueror go forth to beat the nations to the earth and prostrate mankind before their re-established theocracy. They might even be more inclined to recognise the Messiah in the person of a purely religious reformer, on account of the overbearing confidence with which the rival people announced their hour of triumph, when the Great King should erect his throne on Sion, and punish all the enemies of the chosen race, among whom the “ foolish people,” as they were called, " who dwelt at Sichem," t would not be the last to incur the terrible vengeance.

A Messiah who would disappoint the insulting hopes of the Jews would, for that very reason, be more acceptable to the Samaritans.

The Samaritan commonwealth was governed, under the Roman supremacy, by a council or sanhedrin. But

[ocr errors]

s Hist, of the Jews, ii. 123. upon the mountain of Samaria, and

* There be two manner of nationsthey that dwell among the Philistines, which my heart abhorreth, and the and that foolish people that dwell at third is no nation. They that sit į Sichem. Ecclesiast. 1, 25, 26.

« PreviousContinue »