By Michael Fortner
When Jesus was speaking to the woman at the well, he was not, that is NOT, revealing her sinful life:
“You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.” (John 4:17-18)(NIV)
I first read that she was not a wicked woman from Paula and John L. Sandford’s book, The Elijah Task. But they said she was a prophetess. I believe I have developed additional information about this woman.
The Samaritans followed the Law of Moses and so did this woman (as will be seen). The fact that she had five former husbands did not mean she was a harlot or anything of the kind. More likely, she was an abused woman since divorce happened easily and for any reason (Matthew 19:3)*. Her last husband either died or divorced her, so she must have been taken in by another man, but that does not mean they were having sex. How did she react when Jesus let her know that she had five previous husbands and the man she was with now was not her husband? Did she react like Peter and said, “away from me I am a sinful woman“? No. She was obviously a God-fearing woman who was knowledgeable in the things of the law because she immediately recognized that Jesus was a prophet and proceed to ask him a difficult religious question:
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” (John 4:19)
Wow! That is hardly the response of a whore. She was testing his knowledge of a deep religious subject. The Samaritans did not go to Jerusalem to worship but worshiped on Mt. Gerizim. In his reply, Jesus acknowledged that she worshiped God: “. . . a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. . . . his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (4:21,24).
She realized at this point that he could be more than a prophet, that he could be the Messiah, so she said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us” (4:25). Jesus said he was the Messiah so she ran back to the town and told the people. Did she say, “come see a man that revealed my sin,” no she did not, she merely said for them to “come see a man who told me everything I ever did.” And what about the town’s people? When the woman reported that she may have found the Messiah, did they say, “What does a whore know about religious things!“? No, they believed her! Later, after speaking with Jesus, They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)
They believed her without ever seeing him, but after speaking with Jesus personally, they were able to know first hand that he was the Messiah. So the woman was not immoral. Jesus was not in any way condemning her divorces or her present situation, he was merely revealing his knowledge of her history. Jesus did not go around revealing people’s sins. That is not something that can be found in the Bible. The only people Jesus spoke out against or spoke out about were the religious people who were plotting to kill him and the merchants in the temple when he turned over the tables. He did not make it a practice to expose people’s sins. Jesus never condemned anyone but the Pharisees and hypocrites.
He did not even condemn the woman caught in adultery but merely said to go and sin no more. It was very difficult for a woman to survive alone in that day and age, so most women had to have a husband, but if she burned the food he could divorce her almost instantly. So the fact that she had five husbands was not a point of revealing any sin. This woman was not a sinful person, she was NOT!! After five husbands she probably moved into another man’s home to cook his food and wash his clothes in exchange for a place to live and food, and clothing. There is no evidence she was sinful, but there is lots of evidence she was a good, God-fearing woman.
* “Some of the Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” (Matthew 19:3)