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1. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
[Nicodemus.] The Talmudists frequently mention Nicodemus. Now the Jews derive this name, not from the Greek original, but from this story:
"Upon a certain time, all Israel ascended up to Jerusalem to the feast, and there wanted water for them. Nicodemus Ben Gorion comes to a great man, and prays him, saying, 'Lend me twelve wells of water, for the use of those that are to come up to the feast, and I will give you back twelve wells again; or else engage to pay you twelve talents of silver': and they appointed a day. When the day of payment came, and it had not yet rained, Nicodemus went to a little oratory, and covered himself, and prayed: and of a sudden the clouds gathered, and a plentiful rain descended, so that twelve wells were filled, and a great deal over. The great man cavilled that the day was past, for the sun was set: Nicodemus goes into his oratory again, covers himself and prays, and the clouds dispersing themselves, the sun breaks out again. Hence that name given him Nicodemus, because the sun shone out for him."
If there be any thing of truth in this part of the story, it should seem Nicodemus was a priest, and that kind of officer whose title was a digger of wells; under whose peculiar care and charge was the provision of water for those that should come up to the feast. His proper name was not Nicodemus, but Bonai; as Taanith in the place above quoted. Now in Sanhedrim, Bonai is reckoned amongst the disciples of Jesus, and accounted one of the three richest men amongst the Jews at that time, when Titus besieged Jerusalem. "There were three the most wealthy men in Jerusalem, Nicodemus Ben Gorion, Calba Sabua, and Zizith Hakkeesoth." But in Echah Rabbathi, "There were then in Jerusalem four counsellors, Ben Zizith, and Ben Gorion, and Ben Nicodemon, and Ben Calba Sabua; men of great wealth," &c.
There is mention also of a "daughter of Nicodemus Ben Gorion, the furniture of whose bed was twelve thousand deniers." But so miserably was she and the whole family impoverished, that "Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccahi saw her gathering barleycorns out of the dung of the Arabs' cattle: saith he to her, 'Who art thou, my daughter?' 'I am (saith she) the daughter of Nicodemus Ben Gorion.' 'What then (saith he) is become of all thy father's wealth?'" &c.
I leave it with the reader to determine with himself whether the Nicodemus mentioned amongst them be the same with this of ours or no. It is not much for the reputation of that Nicodemus (whatever may be supposed in the affirmative), that these authors should all along make so honourable mention of him. However, some passages look as if it might be the same man, viz., the name Bonai, by which he went for a disciple of Jesus; the impoverishment of his family, which may be conceived to fall upon them in the persecution of Christianity, &c.: but it is not tanti that we should labour at all in a thing so very perplexed, and perhaps no less unprofitable.
2. The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
[We know.] It may be a question whether Nicodemus, using the plural number [we know], does by that seem to own that the whole Sanhedrim (of which himself was a member) acknowledge the same thing. I am apt to think the fathers of the Sanhedrim could not well tell how indeed to deny it: which will be more largely discussed upon chapter 11:48. But we know may either be the plural or the singular, which in the first person is most commonly used in all languages. Or else, we know, may signify as much as, it is commonly owned and acknowledged.
[Thou art a teacher come from God.] Nicodemus seems to have reference to the long cessation of prophecy which had not been known in that nation for above four hundred years now past; in which space of time there had been no masters or teachers of the people instituted but by men and the imposition of hands; nor had there in that appeared any one person that would pretend to teach them by a spirit of prophecy:--But we see that thou art a teacher sent from God.
3. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
[Jesus answered, &c.] You may ask how this answer suits with the question that Nicodemus put: it may appear very apposite upon this account: "You seem, O Nicodemus, to see some sign of the approaching kingdom of heaven in these miracles that are done by me. Verily, I say unto thee, No one can see the kingdom of God as he ought, if he be not born from above."
[Except a man be born again.] By what word our Saviour expressed born again in the Jewish language, it is not easy determining. The subject of the question, well considered, may afford us some light in the solution of it.
I. We must not suppose it a set discourse merely, and on purpose directed upon the subject of regeneration, though the doctrine of the new birth may be well enough asserted and explained from hence: but the question is about the aptitude and capacity of the man qualified to be a partaker of the kingdom of God, or of heaven, or of the times or benefits of the Messiah. For that the kingdom of God or of heaven are terms convertible in the evangelist, is obvious to every one that will take the pains to compare them: and that by the kingdom of God or of heaven is meant the kingdom and times of the Messiah, is so plain, that it needs no argument to prove it.
When, therefore, there was so vehement and universal an expectation of the coming and reign of the Messiah amongst the Jews, and when some token and indication of these times might appear to Nicodemus in the miracles that Christ had wrought, our Saviour instructs him by what way and means he may be made apt and capable for seeing and entering into this kingdom, and enjoying the benefits and advantages of Messiah's days. For,
II. The Jews thought that it was enough for them to have been of the seed of Abraham, or the stock of Israel, to make them fit subjects for the kingdom of heaven, and the happiness that should accrue to them from the days of the Messiah. Hence that passage, There is a part allotted to all Israel in the world to come; that is, in the participation of the Messiah. But whence comes it that universal Israel claim such a part? Merely because they are Israelites; i.e. merely because they come of the stock and lineage of Israel. Our Saviour sets himself against this error of theirs, and teacheth that it is not enough for them to be the children of Abraham, or the stock of Israel, to give them any title to or interest in the Messiah; but they must further be born from above; they must claim it by a heavenly, not an earthly birth. These words of his seem to fall in and bear the same kind of sense with those of John Baptist, "Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our Father."
III. The Jews acknowledged, in order to proselytism, some kind of regeneration or new birth absolutely necessary: but then this was very slightly and easily attainable. If any one become a proselyte, he is like a child new born. But in what sense is he so?
"The Gentile that is made a proselyte, and the servant that is made free, behold, he is like a child new born. And all those relations he had whiles either Gentile or servant, they now cease from being so. By the law it is lawful for a Gentile to marry his mother, or the sister of his mother, if they are proselyted to the Jewish religion. But the wise men have forbidden this, lest it should be said, We go downward from a greater degree of sanctity to a less; and that which was forbidden yesterday is allowable today." Compare this with 1 Corinthians 5:1.
Christ teaches another kind of new birth, requisite for those that partake of the kingdom of the Messiah, beyond what they have either as Israelites or proselytes; viz., that they should be born from above, or by a celestial generation, which only makes them capable of the kingdom of heaven.
4. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
[Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb?] The common opinion of the Jews about the qualification of an Israelite, qua Israelite, still sticks in the mind of this Pharisee: and although our Saviour useth that term, which in the Jewish language plainly enough intimates the necessity of being born from heaven, yet cannot he easily get off from his first prejudice about the Israelitish generation: "Whereas the Israelites, as they are Israelites, have a right to be admitted into the kingdom of the Messiah, do you therefore mean by this expression of yours, that it is necessary for any to enter a second time into his mother's womb, that he may be an Israelite anew?"
He knew and acknowledged, as we have already said, that there must be a sort of a new birth in those that come over to the Jewish religion; but he never dreamt of any new proselytism requisite in one that had been born an Israelite. He could not therefore conceive the manner of a new birth, that he should be made an Israelite anew, unless it were by entering into the mother's womb a second time; which to him seemed an impossible thing.
5. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
[Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit.] He tells him, that the Jew himself cannot be admitted into the kingdom of the Messiah unless he first strip himself of his Judaism by baptism, and then put off his carnal and put on a spiritual state. That by water here is meant baptism, I make no doubt: nor do I much less question but our Saviour goes on from thence to the second article of the evangelical doctrine. And as he had taught that towards the participation of the benefits to be had by the Messiah, it is of little or of no value for a man to be born of the seed of Abraham, or to be originally an Israelite, unless he was also born from above.
10. Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
[Art thou a master of Israel?] Art thou a Wise man in Israel? It was the answer of a boy to R. Joshua, when he asked him, "Which is the shortest way to the city? The boy answered, 'This is the shortest way though it is the longest: and that is the longest way though it is the shortest.' R. Joshua took that way which was the shortest, though the longest. When he came very near the city, he found gardens and places of pleasure hedged in [so that he could go no further]. He returned therefore to the boy, and said to him, 'My son, is this the shortest way to the city?' The boy answered, 'Art thou a wise man in Israel? did I not thus say to thee, That is the shortest way though the longest?'" &c.
14. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
[And as Moses lifted up the serpent, &c.] The Jews dote horribly about this noble mystery. There are those in Bemidbar Rabba, that think that the brazen serpent was not affixed to a pole, but thrown up into the air by Moses, and there to have settled without any other support.
"Moses put up the serpent for a sign; as he that chastiseth his son sticks up the rod in some eminent place, where the child may see it, and remember."
Thou shalt remove the mischief by that which did the mischief; and thou shalt heal the disease by that which made thee sick. The same hath R. Bechai; and both confess that it was a miracle within a miracle. But it is not for a Jew to understand the mystery; this is the Christian's attainment only.
17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
[Not to condemn the world.] In what sense (beside that which is most common and proper) the Jewish schools use the word the world, we may see from these and such like instances:
I. The whole world hath forsaken the Misnas, and followed the Gemara. Where something may be noted in the story as well as in the grammar of it.
So John 12:19: Behold the world is gone after him. We very often meet with All the world confesseth, &c. and The whole world doth not dissent, &c. By which kind of phrase, both amongst them and all other languages, is meant a very great number or multitude.
II. When they distinguish, as frequently they do, betwixt the poor of their own city, and the poor of the world; it is easy to discern, that by the poor of the world are meant those poor that come from any other parts.
III. "R. Ulla requires not only that every great man should be worthy of belief, but that the man of the world should be so too." It is easy to conceive, that by the man of the world is meant any person, of any kind or degree.
IV. But it is principally worthy our observation, that they distinguish the whole world into Israel, and the nations of the world; the Israelites and the Gentiles. This distinction, by which they call the Gentiles the nations of the world, occurs almost in every leaf, so that I need not bring instances of this nature. Compare Luke 12:30 with Matthew 6:32; and that may suffice.
V. They further teach us, that the nations of the world are not only not to be redeemed, but to be wasted, destroyed, and trodden underfoot. "This seems to me to be the sense: the rod of the exactor shall not depart from Judah, until his Son shall come to whom belongs the subduing and breaking of the people; for he shall vanquish them all with the edge of his sword." So saith Rambam upon that passage in Genesis 49.
"'The morning cometh, and also the night,' Isaiah 21:12. It will be the morning to Israel [when the Messiah shall come]; but it will be night to the nations of the world."
"R. Abin saith, That the Holy Blessed God will make the elders of Israel sit down in a semicircle, himself sitting president, as the father of the Sanhedrim; and shall judge the nations of the world."
"Then comes the thrashing; the straw they throw into the fire, the chaff into the wind; but the wheat they keep upon the floor: so the nations of the world shall be as the burning of a furnace; but Israel alone shall be preserved."
I could be endless in passages of this nature out of these authors: but that which is very observable in all of them is this; That all those curses and dreadful judgments which God in his holy writ threatens against wicked men, they post it off wholly from themselves and their own nation, as if not at all belonging to them, devolving all upon the Gentiles and the nations of the world. So that it was not without great reason that the apostle asserteth, Romans 3:19, "Whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them which are under the law." Which yet they will by no means endure.
Christ, therefore, by this kind of phrase or scheme of speech, well enough known to Nicodemus, teacheth him (contrary to a vulgar opinion, which he also could not be ignorant of), that the Messiah should become a Redeemer and propitiation, as well to the Gentiles as to the Jews. They had taught amongst themselves, that God had no regard to the nations of the world, they were odious to him, and the Messiah, when he came, would destroy and condemn them: but the Truth saith, "God so loved the world, that he hath sent his Son not to condemn, but to save the world." This very evangelist himself is the best commentator upon this expression, 1 John 2:2; "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world"; i.e. not for us Jews only, but for the nations of the world.
25. Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.
[A question about purifying.] I. Question, Syriac, inquire: which calls to mind that which is so perpetually in use amongst the Talmudic authors; R. N. inquired of R. N. Whence that also, as familiarly used, If you ask I will tell you. If the word in this place be taken according to this scholastic use of it, as it may very well be, then we may expound this passage thus:
The disciples of John, having heard that Jesus did baptize also, they with the Jews inquire, what sort of purifying resulted from the baptism of Christ; whether that purified more than the baptism of John. They inquire jointly, Doth Jesus superinduce a baptism upon the baptism of John? and John his upon the baptisms or washing of the Jews? Whither will this purifying at last tend? and what virtue hath this of Jesus' beyond that of John's?
II. Or, if you will, suppose we that this be a dispute betwixt the disciples of St. John and the Jews about the legal purifications and the baptism now introduced: there is no doubt but both parties contended to the uttermost of their power.
27. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
[A man can receive nothing.] The rendering of this word receive , may be a little questioned. The Syriac hath it to receive. Perhaps it might be more fitly translated to perceive or apprehend. For the Baptist seems in these words to rebuke the incredulity and stupidity of these men: q.d. "Ye see, by this very instance of yourselves, that no man can learn, perceive, or believe, unless it be given him from heaven. For ye yourselves are my witnesses, that I did prefer Jesus before myself, that I testified of him that he was the Son of God, the Lamb of God, &c.; and ye now would cavil against him, and prefer me before him. It is apparent that no one can perceive or discern what he ought to do, unless it be given from heaven." Compare with this, verse 32, "No man receiveth his testimony."
29. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
[But the friend of the bridegroom.] Of which we have already spoken in our notes upon chapter 2.
His friend, that is, his 'shoshebin.' Where the Gloss hath this passage, which at first sight the reader may a little wonder at:
The friend of the bridegroom is not allowed him all the days of the nuptials. The sense is; He is not admitted to be a judge or witness for him all that time, wherein for certain days of the nuptials he is his shoshebin, or the friend of the bridegroom.
31. He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.
[He that is of the earth is earthly.] Mark but the antithesis, and you will not suspect any tautology:
1. He that is of the earth, and He that cometh from heaven. Where the antithesis is not so much between Christ and John, as betwixt Christ and all mankind.
2. He is of the earth, and He is above all. He that is of the earth is only of earthly degree, or rank: and he that is from heaven is above all degree.
3. He speaks of the earth, and what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth. He that is of the earth speaketh earthly things, and what he hath learned upon the earth; but he that is from heaven speaketh those things which he learned in heaven, viz., those things which he hath seen and heard from God. The Baptist seems to allude to the manner of bearing witness, and teaching. In matter of fact there was need of an eyewitness; in matter of doctrine, they delivered what they had heard from their Master.
4. And he must needs go through Samaria.
[He must needs go through Samaria.] Josephus tells us, It was the custom for the Galileans, in their journeying to Jerusalem to their feasts, to go through Samaria.
Our countryman Biddulph describes the way which he himself travelled from Galilee to Jerusalem, anno Domini 1601: out of whom, for the reader's sake, I will borrow a few passages. He tells us, that on March 24 they rode near the sea of Galilee, and gives the computation of that sea to be in length about eight leagues and in breadth five. Now a league is three miles. After they had gone about seven miles, having the sea of Galilee on their left hands, they went up a hill, not very steep, but very pleasant; which (he saith) is said to be the hill mentioned John 6:3. [Although here indeed either I am mistaken or his guides deceived him; because that mountain was on the other side of the sea.]
However he tells us, that from the top of this hill they discerned Saphetta, the Jews' university. All the way they went was infinitely pleasant, the hills and dales all very fruitful: and that about two o'clock in the afternoon they came to a certain village called by the Arabians 'Inel Tyger,' i.e. 'The merchant's eye.' When they had taken some food and sleep, their mind leaped within them to go up mount Tabor, which was not far off. [I fear his guides deceived him here also concerning this mount.]
On the twenty-fifth of March they spent the whole day in traversing the pleasant fields of Bashan near the hill of Bashan. In the way they saw some rubbish of the tower of Gehazi, 2 Kings 5:24; and came to a town commonly called 'Jenine,' of old 'Engannim,' Joshua 15:34 [more truly, Good man, Joshua 19:21], distant from Tabor two-and-twenty miles; a place of gardens and waters, and places of pleasure. There they stayed all the next day, upon the occasion of a Turkish feast called 'Byram.' March 27, riding by Engannim they were twice in danger; once by thieves, dwelling hard by; another time by the Arabs, in a wood about twelve miles thence. That night they came to Sychar, a city of Samaria, mentioned John 4; distant from Engannim seven-and-twenty miles. They stayed there the next day. It is now called Napolis: Jacob's well is near it, the waters of it sweet as milk.
March 29, they went from Sychar towards Jerusalem; the nearer to which place they came, the more barren and unpleasant they found the soil. At length, coming to a large grove or wilderness full of trees and hills [perhaps this was mount Ephraim], from the top of the hill they saw the sea on the right hand, and little vessels upon it passing to Joppa. About three or four in the afternoon they came to a ruinous town called 'Beere,' of old (as was reported to them) 'Beer-sheba,' a great city [but more probably 'Beeroth,' mentioned Joshua 18:25]. It is said, that was the place where Christ's parents first missed him in their journey, Luke 2:44. They would have lodged there that night, being weary and hungry, and having spent their provision, but they could have nothing fit for themselves or their horses; and being from Jerusalem but ten miles, they went on; and after having travelled five or six miles, had a view of the city. Thus our countryman, a clergyman, tells us in his book.
This interposition of Samaria between Galilee and Judea must be remembered, when we read the borders and portions of the tribes set out, Ezekiel 48; where Manasseh and Ephraim (the country of Samaria) are bounded and set out as formerly, but must not be reckoned under the notion of Samaria, as they had been.
Necessity itself found, or made a way betwixt Judea and Galilee through Samaria; because, indeed, there was no other way they could go, unless a long way about, through the country beyond Jordan. Nor was there any reason why they should make any difficulty of going through Samaria, unless the hostility of the country. For,
"The country of the Cuthites is clean." So that without scruple they might gather of the fruits and products of it. "The gatherings of their waters are clean." So that a Jew might drink, or wash himself in them. "Their dwellings are clean." So that he might enter thereinto, eat or lodge there. "Their roads are clean." So that the dust of them did not defile a Jew's feet.
The method of the story in this place, by comparing it with other evangelists, may be thus put together: Herod had imprisoned John Baptist, under pretence of his growing too popular, and that the multitude of his followers increasing, tended to innovate. Our Saviour understanding this, and withal that the Sanhedrim had heard something of the increase of his disciples too, withdrew from Judea into Galilee, that he might be more remote from that kind of thunderbolt that St. John had been struck with.
5. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
[Near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.] Genesis 48:22. Jacob had bought a piece of land of the children of Hamor for a hundred lambs, Genesis 33:19. But, after the slaughter of the Shechemites, he with his family being forced to retire to places more remote, viz., to Bethel, Bethlehem, and Hebron; the Amorites thrust themselves into possession, and he fain to regain it with his sword and bow.
6. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.
[Now Jacob's well was there.] Of this well doth Jacob seem to speak in those last words of his about Joseph, Genesis 49:22: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well." For Joseph's offspring increased to a kingdom in Jeroboam, and that in Sychem, hard by Jacob's well...
[He sat thus.] He sat thus, as one wearied. The evangelist would let us know that Christ did not seemingly, or for fashion's sake, beg water of the Samaritan woman, but in good earnest, being urged to it by thirst and weariness. So 1 Kings 2:7; "Shew kindness to the sons of Barzillai," for so, that is, in a great deal of kindness, they came to me. Acts 7:8, "He gave him the covenant of circumcision," and so [being circumcised] "he begat Isaac."
8. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
[To buy meat.] If the disciples were gone into the city to buy food, how agrees this with verse 9, the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans? and with that rule of the Jews, "Let no Israelite eat one mouthful of any thing that is a Samaritan's; for if he eat but a little mouthful, he is as if he ate swine's flesh." A mouthful, that is, of nothing over which a blessing must be pronounced.
"Ezra, Zorobabel, and Joshua gathered together the whole congregation into the Temple of the Lord; and with three hundred priests, three hundred books of the law, and three hundred children, anathematized, shammatized, excommunicated the Samaritans, in the name of Jehovah, by a writing indented upon tables, and an anathema both of the upper and the lower house: 'Let no Israelite eat one morsel of any thing that is a Samaritan's; let no Samaritan become a proselyte to Israel; nor let them have a part in the resurrection of the dead.' And they sent this curse to all Israel that were in Babylon, who also themselves added their anathema to this," &c.
But Hierosol. Avodah Zara tells us, "R. Jacob Bar Acha, in the name of R. Lazar, saith, That the victuals of the Cuthites are allowed, if nothing of their wine or vinegar be mingled amongst them." Nay, further, we meet with this passage in Bab. Kiddushin; "The unleavened bread of the Cuthites is allowed, and by that a man may rightly enough keep the Passover." If the unleavened bread for the Passover may be had of the Samaritans, much more common bread. And grant that the Samaritans were to the Jews as heathens, yet was it lawful for the Jew to partake of the edibles of the Gentiles, if there was no suspicion that they had been any way polluted, nor been offered to idols; as may be largely made out from Maimonides in his treatise about forbidden meats. Which suspicion was altogether needless as to the Samaritans; because they and the Jews in a manner agreed upon the same things as clean or unclean, and they were very near as free from idolatry.
9. Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
[For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.] I. That translation, the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans, which the French and English follow, seems to stretch the sense of the word beyond what it will well bear: for, 1. Granting the Samaritans were mere heathens, (which some of the Rabbins have affirmed,) yet did not this forbid the Jews having any kind of dealings with them; for they did not refuse merchandising with any of the Gentile nations whatever. See Nehemiah 13:16, &c. 2. But if the Samaritans were true proselytes, as R. Akibah asserts, or 'as the Israelites in all things,' as Rabban Simeon Ben Gamaliel saith of them; then much more might the Jews have dealing with them.
II. "It is lawful to eat the unleavened bread of the Samaritans, nor is there any suspicion as to their leavened bread neither. This is to be understood, if the Samaritan should knead it in the house of an Israelite." Now if the Samaritan may knead dough in an Israelite's house, it is evident the Israelite might use the Samaritan.
"An Israelite may circumcise a Cuthite; but a Cuthite may not circumcise an Israelite, because he is circumcised into the name of mount Gerizim. R. Josah saith, Let him circumcise him, and let him pass into the name of mount Gerizim till he departs this life." If therefore it was lawful for the Israelite to circumcise the Cuthite or Samaritan, and the Samaritan the Israelite, then the Jews had dealings with, or did use, the Samaritans...
"For three days before the feasts of the idolaters, it is forbidden [the Jews] either to give to or receive from them, to ask, or lend, or borrow of them": but for any other parts of the year it was not forbidden them. But as to the Samaritans, it was not permitted the Jews to borrow or receive any thing from them at any time gratis. Whereas it was lawful for the Jews to converse with the Samaritans, buy of them, use their labour, answer to their benedictions, 'Amen,' as we find in Beracoth, lodge in their towns, Luke 9:52, I would fain know in what sense, after all this, can it be said, For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans, but in this only, that they would not be obliged to them for any kindness? which may a little serve to illustrate that of Luke 10:33, &c.; and it does very well agree with the matter in hand.
For the words which we are handling seem to be what the woman speaks, and not what the evangelist: and they spokescoptically, or with sarcasm; "Dost thou, who art a Jew, ask water of me, who am a Samaritan?" for you Jews despise all courtesy of the Samaritans to receive the least kindness of them; and do you ask me for water?
11. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
[From whence then hast thou that living water?] Living water; the woman mistakes our Saviour's meaning, as if he intended only what was usually expressed by bubbling, or springing waters. So that when our Saviour talks to her of a water that he had to give, which whosoever should drink of should thirst no more, the woman [laughs in her sleeve indeed, and] with all the scorn that could be, saith, "Sir, pray give me of this water, that I may never have any thirst, or give myself the trouble of coming hither to draw"; for so we ought to conceive of her answer to be rather by way of scoff, not supplication.
18. For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
[Thou hast had five husbands, &c.] Christ stops her fleering mouth with the dung of her own unchaste conversation, charging her with that infamous sort of life she had hitherto lived: q.d. "Thou, for thy impudent adulteries, hast suffered divorce from five husbands already; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband, but an adulterer."
The Cuthites do not understand the law about betrothings and divorcings. They had their customs of affiancing and divorcing; and perhaps by how much the less accurate they were about their divorces, (I mean with respect to the Jewish rules,) the nearer they might come to the first institution of Moses, who allowed no divorces but in the case of adultery. That this woman was dismissed from her husbands for these infamous faults of hers, seems evident, partly, from the extraordinary number of husbands, partly, that our Saviour mentions her husbands, as well as him that then lived adulterously with her: as if he would intimate, that she lived dishonestly under her husbands, as well as with this man.
20. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
[Worshipped in this mountain.] The story of that Temple on Gerizim, out of Josephus and others, is very well known. It was built in emulation and envy to that at Jerusalem, as of old were Dan and Bethel. Hence that irreconcilable hatred between the two nations, and the apostasy of divers Jews. The Samaritans attributed a certain holiness to the mountain, even after the Temple had been destroyed; but for what reason, they themselves could not well tell. However, for the defence of it, the Samaritan text hath notoriously falsified the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 27:4: for whereas the Hebrew hath it, "Ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal"; the Samaritan text and version hath it in mount Gerizim; as I have elsewhere observed.
"R. Jochanan going to Jerusalem to pray, he passed by that mountain [Gerizim]. A certain Samaritan seeing him, asked him, 'Whither goest thou?' 'I am,' saith he, 'going to Jerusalem to pray.' To whom the Samaritan, 'Were it not better for thee to pray in this holy mountain, than in that cursed house?' 'Whence comes this mountain to be so holy?' saith he: 'Because (saith the other) it was not overflown by the waters of the deluge.'" A doughty reason indeed!
"R. Ismael, the son of R. Joseph, going to Jerusalem to pray, passed by that mountain. A certain Samaritan meeting him, asks, 'Where art thou going?' 'I am going,' saith he, 'to Jerusalem, to pray.' Saith the other, 'Were it not better for thee to pray in this blessed mountain, than in that cursed place?' Saith the R., 'I will tell you what you are like; you are like a dog greedy after carrion: so you when you know that idols are hid under this mountain, as it is said, And Jacob hid them, you are acted with a greedy desire after them.' They said amongst themselves, 'Seeing he knows there are idols hidden in this mountain, he will come in the night and steal them away.' And they consulted together to have killed him, but he, getting up in the night, stole away."
Somewhat akin to this Temple on Gerizim was that built by Onias in Egypt, the story of which you have in Josephus, and the description of it. Of this Temple also the Gemarists discourse, from whom we will borrow a few things.
"Simeon the just dying, said, 'Onias my son shall minister in my stead.' For this, his brother Shimei, being older than he by two years and a half, grew very envious. He saith to his brother, 'Come hither, and I will teach thee the rule and way of ministering.' So he puts him on a leathern garment and girds him, and then setting him by the altar, cries out to his brethren the priests, 'See here what this man hath vowed, and does accordingly perform to his wife, viz., that whenever he ministered in the high priesthood, he would put on her stomacher [pectorale], and be girt about with her girdle.'" The Gloss upon the place saith the leathern garment, but Aruch, from Avodah Zarah, saith the stomacher of the heart. What the word in this place should mean is plain enough from the story itself. Shimei, that he might render his brother both ridiculous and odious to the rest of the priests, persuades him to perform his services with his wife's stomacher, instead of the breastplate of the high priest, and her girdle, instead of that curious one they were wont to be girt with, &c.
The story goes on: "His brethren the priests, upon this, contrive his death; but he, escaping their hands, fled into Alexandria of Egypt; and there building an altar, offered idolatrous sacrifices upon it. These are the words of Meir: but R. Judah tells him the thing was not so: for Onias did not own his brother Shimei to be two years and a half older than himself; but envying him, told him, 'Come, and I will teach thee the rule and method of thy ministry.'" And so, as R. Judah relates the matter, the tables are turned, the whole scene altered; so that Onias persuades his brother Shimei to put on his wife's stomacher, and gird himself with her girdle; and for that reason the priests do plot the death of Shimei. "But when he had declared the whole matter as it was indeed, then they designed to kill Onias. He therefore flying into Alexandria in Egypt, builds there an altar, and offered sacrifices upon it to the name of the Lord, according as it is said, In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt."
And now it is at the reader's choice to determine which of these two Temples, that in Egypt, or this upon Gerizim, is built upon the best foundation; the one, by a fugitive priest, under pretence of a divine prophecy; the other, by a fugitive priest too, under pretence that that mount was the mount upon which the blessings had been pronounced. Let the Jews speak for themselves, whether they believed that Onias, with pure regard to that prophecy, did build his Temple in Egypt; and let every wise man laugh at those that do thus persuade themselves. However, this is certain, they had universally much more favourable thoughts of that in Egypt than of this upon mount Gerizim. Hence that passage in the place before quoted: "If any one say, 'I devote a whole burnt offering,' let him offer it in the Temple at Jerusalem; for if he offer it in the Temple of Onias, he doth not perform his vow. But if any one say, 'I devote a whole burnt offering for the Temple of Onias, though he ought to offer it in the Temple at Jerusalem, yet if he offer it in the Temple of Onias, he acquits himself.' R. Simeon saith, It is no burnt offering. Moreover, if any one shall say, 'I vow myself to be a Nazarite,' let him shave himself in the Temple at Jerusalem; for if he be shaven in the Temple of Onias, he doth not perform his vow. But if he should say, 'I vow myself a Nazarite, so that I may be shaven in the Temple of Onias,' and he do shave himself there, he is a Nazarite."
[And ye say, that in Jerusalem, &c.] What! did not the Samaritans themselves confess that Jerusalem was the place appointed by God himself for his worship? No doubt they could not be ignorant of the Temple which Solomon had built; nor did they believe but that from the times of David and Solomon God had fixed his name and residence at Jerusalem. And as to their preferring their Temple on Gerizim before that in Jerusalem notwithstanding all this, it is probable their boldness and emulation might take its rise from hence, viz., they saw the second Temple falling so short of its ancient and primitive glory; they observed that the divine presence over the ark, the ark itself, the cherubims, the Urim and Thummim, the spirit of prophecy, &c., were no more in that place.
25. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
[I know that Messias cometh.] If the Samaritans rejected all the books of the Old Testament excepting the five Books of Moses, it may be a question whence this woman should know the name of Messias; for that is not to be found throughout the whole Pentateuch. From whence also may further arise a twofold inquiry more; one, whether the Samaritans were of the same opinion with the Sadducees? the other, whether those Sadducees that lived amongst the Jews rejected all the books of the Old Testament, excepting those of Moses only? Perhaps they might so reject them as to forbid their being read in their synagogues, in the same manner as the Jews rejected the Hagiographa from being read in the synagogues: but the question is, whether they did not use them, read them, and believe them, as the Jews did those holy writings?
"They snatch all the sacred books out of the fire [though on the sabbath day], whether they read or whether they read them not." The Gloss is, "Whether they read them, that is, the Prophets; which they are wont to read in their synagogues on the sabbath day; or whether they read them not, that is, the Hagiographa." It is likely that the Sadducees and Samaritans (I mean those Samaritans that lived about our Saviour's time and before) might disown the Prophets and the holy writings much after the same manner, and no more. For is it at all probable that they were either ignorant of the histories of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, the Kings, and the writings of the prophets, or that they accounted them tales and of no value? There were some amongst the Samaritans, as Eulogius in Photius tells us, who had an opinion, that "Joshua the son of Nun was that prophet of whom Moses spake, that God would raise up to them out of their brethren like to him." Do we think then that the history and Book of Joshua were unknown or disowned by them? However, I cannot omit, without some remarks, some few passages we meet with in Sanhedrim, fol. 90. 2:
"The Sadducees asked Rabban Gamaliel, Whence he could prove it, that God would raise the dead? 'From the Law (saith he), and from the Prophets, and from the holy writings.' And accordingly he allegeth his proofs out of each book, which, I hope, may not be very tedious to the reader to take notice of in this place: I prove it out of the Law, where it is written, And the Lord said to Moses, Deuteronomy 31:16, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers and rise again. They say, Probably it is meant This people will rise up and go a whoring. I prove it out of the Prophets, according as it is written, Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise: awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, Isaiah 26:19. But, perhaps (say they), this may be meant of those dead which Ezekiel raised. I prove it out of the Hagiographa, according as it is written, The roof of thy mouth is like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak, Canticles 7:9. But perhaps (say they), it is meant, they move their lips in the world." I add, say they, though it is not, I confess, in the Gemarist's text, because reason and sense make it evident that this ought to be added, and the Gloss confirms it.
Now it would have been a most absurd thing for Gamaliel to have offered any proofs of the resurrection, either out of the Prophets, or the Hagiographa against the Sadducees, if those books had been either not known or of no authority amongst them...
But further, the Book of Ezekiel is quoted by a Samaritan in this story: "Rabban Jonathan went to Neapolis (i.e. Sychar) of the Samaritans. A certain Samaritan was in his company. When they came to Mount Gerizim, the Samaritan saith unto him, 'How comes it to pass that we are gotten to this holy mountain?' R. Jonathan saith, 'How comes this mountain to be holy?' The Samaritan answered, Because it was never plagued with the waters of the deluge. Saith R. Jonathan, 'How prove you this?' The Samaritan answered, 'Is it not written, Son of man, say unto her, Thou art the land not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation, Ezekiel 22:24.' 'If it were so (saith R. Jonathan), then should the Lord have commanded Noah to have gone up into this mountain, and not have built himself an ark.'" We also meet with a Sadducee quoting the prophet Amos: "A certain Sadducee said to a certain Rabbi, 'He that created the hills did not make a spirit or the wind: and he that created the wind did not make the hills: for it is written, Behold, he that formeth the mountains and createth the wind, Amos 5:13.' The Rabbi answered, 'Thou fool, go on but to the end of the verse, and thou wilt find the Lord of hosts is his name.'"
That passage also is remarkable: "They do not snatch the books and volumes of the heretics from the flames; but they may be burnt where they are." The Gloss is, "The books of heretics, i.e. idolaters [or those that use any strange worship], who wrote out the Law, the Prophets, and the Holy Writings, for their own use in the Assyrian character and holy language." If by heretics the Sadducees are to be understood, as the latter Gloss would have it, then comparing it with the former, they had the Law, Prophets, and the Holy Writings writ in the Assyrian character in the holy language.
If by heretics the Christians are understood, as in the former Gloss (for as to the Gentiles, there is no room to understand it of them in this place), then we see what copies of the Old Testament the Hebrew Christians anciently had in use.
It may be objected, That if the Sadducees admitted the books of the Prophets and the Holy Writings with this exception only, that they had them not read in their synagogues, how came they to deny the resurrection from the dead, when it is so plainly asserted in those books?
To this may be answered, That this argument might have something in it, if it had not been one fundamental of the Sadducees' faith, that no article in religion ought to be admitted that cannot be made out plainly from the five books of Moses. Compare this with that of the Pharisees; "However any person may acknowledge the resurrection from the dead, yet if he does not own that there is some indication of it in the law, he denies a fundamental." So that whereas Moses seemed not, clearly and in terminis, to express himself as to the resurrection, the Sadducees would not admit it as an article of their faith, though something like it may have occurred in the Prophets, so long as those expressions in the Prophets may be turned to some other sense, either historical or allegorical. But if they had apprehended any thing plain and express in the books of Moses, the Prophets also asserting and illustrating the same thing, I cannot see why we should not believe they were received by them.
Something of this kind is the passage now in hand, where we find the Samaritan woman using the word Messias; which though it is not to be met with in the books of Moses, yet Moses having clearly spoken of his coming, whom the Prophets afterward signalized by the name of the Messias; this foundation being laid, the Sadducees and the Samaritans do not stick to speak of him in the same manner, and under the same title, wherein the Prophets had mentioned him. But then what kind of conceptions they had of the person, kingdom, and days of the Messiah, whether they expected the forerunner Elias, or the resurrection of the dead at his coming, as the scribes and Pharisees did, is scarcely credible.
27. And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?
[They marvelled that he talked with the woman.] They marvel he should talk with a woman, much more with a Samaritan woman. "R. Jose the Galilean being upon a journey [I am much mistaken if it should not be writ] found Berurea in the way: to whom he said, What way must we go to Lydda? She answered, 'O thou foolish Galilean, have not the wise men taught Do not multiply discourse with a woman? Thou oughtest only to have said Which way to Lydda?'"
Upon what occasion this woman should be called Berurea is not our business at present to inquire: but that the reader may know something of her, she was the wife of R. Meir, a learned woman, and a teacher herself: "His wife Berurea was a wise woman, of whom many things are related in Avodah Zarah." Another story we have of her; "Berurea found a certain scholar reading mutteringly, and spurned at him," &c.
"Samuel saith, They do not salute a woman at all." "A certain matron asked R. Eleazar, 'Why, when the sin of the golden calf was but one only, should it be punished with a threefold kind of death?' He answered, A woman ought not to be wise above her distaff. Saith Hyrcanus to him, 'Because you did not answer her a word out of the law, she will keep back from us three hundred measures of tithes yearly.' But he, Let the words of the law be burned rather than committed to women." "Let no one talk with a woman in the street, no, not with his own wife."
28. The women then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
[Left her waterpot.] It was kindly done to leave her waterpot behind her; that Jesus and his disciples, whom she now saw come up to him, might have wherewithal to drink.
29. Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
[Which told me all things that ever I did, &c.] This passage doth something agree with the Jewish notion about their Messiah's smelling:
"It is written, And he shall make him of quick scent or smell in the fear of the Lord, Isaiah 11:3. Rabba saith, He shall be of quick scent, and shall judge, as it is written, He shall not judge by the sight of his eyes, &c. Ben Coziba reigned two years and a half, and said to the Rabbins, 'I am the Messiah.' They say unto him, 'It is said of the Messiah, that he shall be of quick scent and shall judge: let us see if you can smell and judge': which when he could not do, they killed him."
The Samaritan woman perceived that Jesus had smelt out all her clandestine wickednesses, which she had perpetrated out of the view of men; for which very reason she argued it with herself, that this must be the Messiah. And by her report her fellow-citizens are encouraged to come and see him. They see him, hear him, invite him, receive and entertain him, and believe in him. Is it not probable, therefore, that they, as well as the Jews, might have expected the coming of the Messiah about this time? If so, whence should they learn it? from the Jews? or from the Book of Daniel?
35. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
[There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest.] The beginning of the harvest [that is, the barley-harvest] was about the middle of the month Nisan. Consult Leviticus 23:10, &c., Deuteronomy 16:9.
"Half Tisri, all Marchesvan, and half Chisleu, is the seed time. Half Chisleu, whole Tebeth, and half Shebat, is the winter. Half Shebat, whole Adar, and half Nisan, is the winter solstice. Half Nisan, all Iyar, and half Sivan is the harvest. Half Sivan, all Tammuz, and half Ab, is the summer. Half Ab, all Elul, and half Tisri, is the great heat."
They sowed the wheat and spelt in the month Tisri, and Marchesvan, and so onward. Targum upon Ecclesiastes 11:2; "Give a good portion of thy seed to thy field in the month Tisri, and withhold thou not from sowing also in Chisleu."
They sowed barley in the months Shebat and Adar.
The lateward seed, or that which is hid and lieth long in the earth; "The wheat and the spelt which do not soon ripen, are sown in Marchesvan; the early seed, the barley, which soon ripens, is sown in Shebat and Adar."
"They sow seventy days before the Passover."
The barley, therefore, the hope of a harvest to come after four months, was not yet committed to the ground; and yet our Saviour saith, "Behold the fields are already white unto the harvest." Which thing being a little observed, will help to illustrate the words and design of our Lord. "Lift up your eyes (saith he) and look upon the fields," &c. pointing without doubt towards that numerous crowd of people, that at that time flocked towards him out of the city; q.d. "Behold, what a harvest of souls is here, where there had been no sowing beforehand."
Now let us but reckon the four months backward from the beginning of the barley-harvest, or the middle of the month Nisan, and we shall go back to the middle of the month Chisleu; which will fall in with the beginning of our December, or thereabout: whence it will be easy to conjecture what feast that was of which mention is made, chapter 5:1.
46. So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.
[A nobleman.] This nobleman, probably, might be some Herodian, such as we find mentioned, Matthew 22:16; not merely a servant or attendant upon Herod the tetrarch, who reigned at this time, but one devoted to Herod's family, out of principles of conscience and submission. For we have elsewhere shewn the controversy in that nation about the introducing of Herod the Great into the government, and whether there was not a spice of that quarrel in the differences of the Shammeans and the Hillelites, might be a matter worth our inquiry, but not in this place. But suppose this nobleman at present to have been an attendant upon Herod the tetrarch (setting aside that controversy); and then the words of our blessed Saviour, verse 48, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe," may have this tendency and design in them: The Jews they required signs, 1 Corinthians 1:22; but Herod's court was especially to be charged with this curiosity, because they had heard John the Baptist, yea, even the tetrarch himself, with some kind of observance and veneration; and yet because John shewed no sign, "did no miracle," John 10:41, he was the easilier thrown into prison and not believed: for the story of his imprisonment immediately follows. Compare that passage with Luke 23:8.
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