man pouring water | The Powerful Story Of The Woman At The Well

The Powerful Story Of The Woman At The Well

The story of a nameless Samaritan woman at the well in the book of John is a short but powerful story in the New Testament. This story is filled with so many important truths for our lives. Her encounter with Jesus has so much in it that can impact us today and through her story we get a beautiful look at the heart of God. 


The Story Of The Samaritan Woman At The Well


The woman at the well is a story that you can easly miss the significance of, if your don’t know the cultural traditions much of the gravity of this story is lost. It’s only after we dive into the history and cultural significance of this encounter with Jesus do we see the true magnitude of the story. 


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Woman At The Well Scripture


We find the story of the woman at the well in the New Testament book of John in chapter 4:

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:4-10 NIV


You can almost hear the brittleness in her words, can’t you? She’s used to rejection, and in a way already defending herself from the pain. Can you relate to her? You’re tired, you’re broken in more ways than one. You’ve been used up. You’re empty, and maybe just maybe you’ve been walking through a dry season of rejection, or disappointment. You don’t like where you are, but you don’t know how to change it, so you’re locked into the same pattern over and over again. 


“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4: 11-14 NIV


There are empty places in us, that can only be filled by Jesus. There are needs in our life that can never be met by anything but Him. 


 Woman At The Well Bible Study


Want to go deeper into this powerful story of the woman at the well? Grab a copy of our Living Water: The Woman At The Well Bible Study


Where Is Samaria Today?


Samaria also called Sebaste, modern Sabasṭiyah, where the story of the woman at the well in the Bible takes place is located on a hill northwest of Nāblus in the West Bank territory under Israeli administration since 1967.


Why Is Samaria Important In The Bible


Samaria and Samaritans have an interesting history in the Bible after Israel split into nations (Judah & Israel), both kingdoms fell into corruption and sin. Despite many warnings by prophets, the people didn’t return nor did their leaders turn back to God. The northern Kingdom fared far worse than the southern kingdom did, and it didn’t help the relationship much that the temple where the people were to worship was located in the southern kingdom. 


In 721 B.C., the northern kingdom of Israel was captured by the Assyrians. Many of the people of Israel were taken away as captives, but some remained in the land and eventually intermarried with foreigners planted there by the Assyrians. These half-Jewish, half-Gentile people became known as the Samaritans, and this is how we come to meet the woman at the well in the book of John in the New Testament. You can learn more about the importance of Samaria here


Who Was The Woman At The Well In The Bible?


The Bible doesn’t tell us who the woman at the well is, no name is recorded, no family or much of her history is found in scripture. It does tell us that she had five husbands and when she encounters she is living with another man that is not her husband. So you say, “That makes her unimportant to God, right. After all, she is a sinner, she is not even mentioned by name.”  Let’s come back to that in a minute. 


Is Mary Magdalene The Woman At The Well?


No Mary Magdalene is not the woman at the well found in John 4. This woman is a Samaritan and Mary is from a town called Magdala.


Jesus And The Woman At The Well


This woman is not at all insignificant. He came to Samaria for her. This woman at the well, He knew her. He knew what she had been through, He knew her messy past and He sought her out. The one the world rejected, the one others only saw by her past with no chance of redemption. This one lost lamb, Jesus saw her. The God who sees stepped into the middle of her story like the man possessed by demons, and even blind Bartameous not to condemn but to redeem. This meeting wasn’t by chance, it was no accident the Jesus found Himself at that well, at just that time.


I’ve always found myself drawn to this story of the Samaritan woman at the well, but it wasn’t until one Sunday at church that my pastor who had studied this story with Jewish scholars told us that the original translation is “He told me everything that had ever been done to me” that this story really struck home for me. He is the God who sees, the God who sees every tear, every bad decision, every misuse, and chooses us anyway. The God who sees it all, and still picks us- His lost lamb.


Why Did Jesus Talk To The Woman At The Well?


Jesus talked to the woman at the well for a reason, He’d made this trek for her. So He needed her to know who He was, that He wasn’t some stalker or scam artist that had found out about her. But truly the God who sees, the God who knew her inmost heart, the broken places no one else had ever seen. That He saw the present and the past, He knew her history because He’d been with her every step of the way- even though she didn’t know it. 


Why Did Jesus Tell The Samaritan Woman To Go Get Her Husband?

Jesus asking the woman at the well to get her husband is another piece of revealing Himself to her. It’s another layer of yes I see you, yes I know who you are, I’ve been here. It’s a peeling back of her identity, as she is forced to admit the things that have left her rejected by her neighbors. The thing that has caused her to come to the well in the heat of the day instead of with the other woman. 

What Did Jesus Say He Would Give The Woman Of Samaria?

Jesus told the woman at the well that He would give her living water. This is one of only times that Jesus uses this specific phrase in the book of John, and this is the first of those two times. He tells the woman at the well not that He was living water, but that He would give it to her. That’s our first clue as to the meaning behind this phrase. 
The second time Jesus uses this phrase in the book of John is in John 7:37-39, Jesus is surrounded by throngs of worshipers when He suddenly cries out:

…“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

It’s this second time that our eyes are opened to what Jesus meant by Living Water. It’s a picture of the Holy Spirit coming to dwell inside of us when we become a Christian. By telling this Samaritan woman at the well that if she asked He could give her living water He was inviting her back. No condemnation, no fancy ceremonies, no go get yourself straightened out first. 
It’s a gift freely offered, and once received quenches the thirst that we haven’t been able to satisfy with worldly things.  It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, flowing out of the heart of those redeemed by God, that blesses believers and, through them, brings life and light to the world.

What Does The Woman At The Well Teach Us?


There are so many important lessons to be gleaned from the story of the woman at the well, but let’s just take a look at a handful of them:


The Woman At The Well Shows Us That God Sees Us


Much like the story of Hagar in the Old Testament it once again is very clear that God sees us through this story of the woman at the well. God knows our story, and He isn’t scared off by our past. He knows our pain, our fears, and our anxiety because He has been there- even though we couldn’t see Him.


Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:7-12 NIV


The Woman At The Well Is A Reminder That He Will Redeem Us


The story of the woman at the well once again reminds us that God is ready and willing to set us free. Free from the choices that have left us broken and lost. Free from our past. Free from the pain we’ve been dragging around with us and redeem us into a new creation. Set free, and with a purpose. 


Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,  “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”  They came out of the town and made their way toward him. John 4:28-30 NIV


The woman that struggled beneath the burden of water jugs beneath the blazing rays of the sun, wasn’t the woman who left that well. Physically nothing had changed- and yet everything had. She’d gone for a jar of water, and instead found a river that never runs dry. It changed her, it filled her to the brim and bubbled out and she couldn’t help but share it with everyone she met.


The Samaritan Woman Is A Reminder That God Seeks Us Out


Jesus met this woman at the well in the pages of the New Testament where she was, He didn’t require her to get cleaned up first. Didn’t make her figure out her messy life before she could come to Him instead. Instead, Jesus met this Samaritan woman where she was, at a well in the middle of the hottest part of the day. Used up, broken, and rejected.


Instead of waiting for The woman at the well, Jesus sought her out. Like the story of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to find the one lost lamb, Jesus came looking for one lowly Samaritan woman that no one else saw. That no one else wanted. He wanted her, she was His child, and He wanted to restore her. To fill the broken empty places in her life and make her new. To set her apart to pour into the lives of others, and help them find the restorer and giver of living water. 


The Woman At The Well Teaches Us God Has A Purpose For Us


The woman at the well shows us once again that God has a purpose for us. Without the change in this woman’s life, without this encounter with Jesus how many people wouldn’t have come out to meet Jesus. But because one woman that they rejected returned and told them of the man that changed her life that had to see too. 


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This Well Runs Deep


One short encounter with Jesus changed this woman’s whole life and made her into a missionary. This messy woman’s life becomes a platform for the entire town to encounter the living water. Never ever underestimate the power of God to step into your messy life and use it for His glory. If we had it all together there would be no need for Him, there would be no room. 


But through our weakness, through our cracks, through our broken places, God’s strength shines through.  Just like this story of the woman at the well, Jesus meets us in the midst of our mess and the mess becomes a message in God’s hand.




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3 thoughts on “The Powerful Story Of The Woman At The Well”

  1. I am so thankful to god I accidentally found this and read the story on the woman at the well. I have read it before, but you explained it so good it touched my heart and I learned more than I ever knew about it before. I really feel this was so accident for me to read it. Thank you so much and bless you all.

  2. Tammi Georgianna

    Thank you for clearing up my misconception that the woman at the Well was Mary Magdalene. It such a beautiful story if redemption. God knows each of us and meets us at our deepest point of need. And, as you stated, without us having to clean up our messy lives first. So many judge us by our past. I know this all too well.

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