When all the background information is not given to us in the stories which we read in the Bible, it is sometimes left up to us to speculate based on the societal norms of the day. We can form differing opinions to illustrate a point, and neither one is necessarily correct or incorrect. I say this not to discount a recent view emphasizing that the woman at the well was a sinner in need of a Savior, as all of us are.
Instead, I simply want to consider and present another viewpoint which I was impressed with when looking at her background. This woman grew up in a society where woman had few rights, and were often treated as little more than property or household servants. Many may have been the product of “arranged” marriages. She lived in a society in which it was a perfectly normal question to ask Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wide for just any reason?” (Matt. 19:3).
We see in this passage that this woman had been married five times, and was currently living with a man she was not married to, which was a sinful practice she needed to repent of.
I want to consider rejection in this woman’s life, and the ongoing emptiness which she must have experienced. She grew up among a people, the Samaritans, who had experienced rejection throughout their time. Samaritans, due to no fault of their own, or little fault, were not “pure” Jews. They were a product of inter-marriage with foreigners during previous captivities and conquests. We could compare their rejection as a people to some of the prejudices against minorities in our culture today. Nevertheless this is the society she grew up in as illustrated in John 4:9.
So, besides the societal rejection, this woman had been rejected by five previous men that just maybe, she thought, could love her and bring fulfillment to her life. Now, I am not going to claim to understand all the hopes and dreams a young lady has when she entered her first relationship with a man. But, having life experience, being married fifty years, and having raised three daughters, I think I have some understanding of this matter.
She must have been crushed when she was cast aside by her first husband. All her dreams dashed. But, she eventually would find another man, or he found her. Maybe he could bring emotional healing and fill that inner longing to be loved. But, once again, she is cast aside. Over and over, five times this happens in her life. How much rejection can one woman take? By now, even the women of the town would not associate with her as illustrated by her going to the well alone in the middle of the day.
This woman had no one. Oh yes, there was a man she was living with, probably just using her. Was this another last ditch effort to have a relationship that just might bring her fulfillment?
Enter Jesus: John 4:4 says, “He needed to go through Samaria.” Jesus engages her in conversation, leading to the living water which satisfies. A water which would result in “a fountain… springing up everlasting life.” As the conversation progressed, it would lead to Jesus telling her He was the promised Messiah she has been looking for (vv.25-26).
The end result is her salvation and fulfillment as she enters into a relationship with Jesus that truly satisfies and meets all the longings of her soul. Not only that, but the salvation of man others who realize, “that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (v.42).