Who was the woman at the well in the Bible?

Written by Tom Ehrich

This incident recorded in John 4.1-42 was a pivotal moment for Jesus. By interacting with this “Samaritan woman” (never named) as he did, Jesus revealed several critical dimensions of his messiahship.

  • First, he interacted with a woman, a clear message that his circle didn't respect the ancient traditions concerning roles assigned to women.
  • Second, he interacted with a Samaritan, whom Jews normally shunned, a clear message that his gospel was for all humankind.
  • Third, he explained the difference between water from this well (known as “Jacob's well”) and the “living water” that he offered as Messiah, “aspring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
  • Fourth, he loved and accepted the woman and also told her the truth about herself, a sign, as Paul said separately, that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
  • Fifth, when she asked him if he was Messiah, he said, “I am he.”
  • Sixth, the disciples were astonished that Jesus was speaking to a woman, but she went to her people and said, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!” The contrast between those two reactions revealed how Jesus confounded traditional expectations.

Finally, many of the Samaritan villagers came to believe in Jesus, at first because of the woman's testimony, but then because “we have heard for ourselves.” Thus it happens that people come to believe, as the Samaritans said, “this is truly the Savior of the world.”