Jesus finds out that the Pharisees (ultra-strict religious leaders of the Jews) have heard that He is still near Jerusalem, baptizing people in the river. He knows they will try to kill Him if they get the chance, so He decides to go back to the Galilee region. This time, He will not take the long route around to avoid Samaria, but will pass right through. After Solomon, King David’s son, died in about 931 BC, the kingdom of Israel split in two. The northern part of the kingdom was still called Israel, and the southern part was called Judah, after the name of the tribe that inhabited that area. Israel, from that point on, began to turn away from following God and slid farther and farther into idol worship. Samaria was the capitol of the region of Israel. The north (Israel) was taken captive by the Assyrians, and almost 200 years later, the south (Judah) was invaded by the Babylonians, and the people taken captive. When the people were eventually freed and allowed to return to their homeland, they went back to the areas they had previously inhabited, and also some of their previous practices. For this reason, the people of Israel and those of Judah, now known as Samaritans and Jews, hate each other. The Jews travel far to the east to go around Samaria instead of walking through it, in order to travel between Galilee and the rest of the region of Judea, so that they will not contaminate themselves with the dust of the region.
Jesus’ disciples are not happy about traveling through Samaria. “Why do we have to breathe the same air as those Samaritan pigs?” asks Peter, but seeing Jesus’ face, keeps further thoughts to himself. They walk in relative silence, brooding to themselves, until midday, when they finally reach the small town of Sychar. This was part of the land that the Patriarch Jacob had given to his son Joseph, and there he had dug a well that is still known as Jacob’s Well. Jesus sits at the well to rest while the rest of the disciples go in search of something to eat. A woman comes to the well and sees Jesus sitting there. She can tell by His clothing that He is a Jew, and is greatly surprised when He says, “Hello! Will you give me a drink of water from the well?” Doesn’t He know that she is a Samaritan? And won’t He defile Himself by drinking out of her water bucket? She hesitates, wondering if it is a trap of some sort. “How can I give You a drink? You are a Jew, I am a Samaritan.” He replies, “If you knew who I AM, you would have asked me for a drink, and I would have given you living water.” “Our forefather, Jacob, gave us this well. Are You greater than he is? Besides, You have nothing to draw water with, how would You get this living water? Who are You?” she asks Him. “If you drink the water of this well, or any other, you will be thirsty again soon. But whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty again,” He tells her. “Please! Give me this living water so I won’t have to keep coming to this well to get it!” she says.