I'm currently studying John 4:4-28. Jesus meeting with the woman at the well.

I am interested to know what is the significance of Jesus asking her to call her husband and drawing attention to her numerous partners after she asks for a drink of "living water" ?

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

I found a similar question asked previously but it did not seem to have any satisfactory answer.

In John 4:18 is Jesus accusing the woman at the well of fornication or of adultery?

  • Paula, Your question inspired me to look at this particular event in a much deeper way. Wanted to pass on a link to you to aid with your study. I found it most enlightening. It especially helps if you look up each scripture that the author mentions. Thanks for posting your question. At Jacob's Well, and at Sychar. Commentary - The Fourfold Gospel.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/the-fourfold-gospel/…
    – Sherrie
    Nov 19, 2021 at 16:58
  • Answers are going to be personal conjectures and opinion (midrashic interpretation).
    – Michael16
    Sep 3, 2022 at 4:00

8 Answers 8


John 4:

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but 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.”

Jesus was not talking about the physical water but the water of eternal life.

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

The woman didn't get the point and confused the two kinds of water. Instead of giving the woman a systematic theology to delineate the two concepts:

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

Perhaps, call your husband and bring him here. He might be able to help you understand. No, not really. Jesus didn't appeal to her intellect, but to her conscience.

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Right here, Jesus performed a miracle of supernatural knowledge.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

She didn't need more husbands. Jesus opened her conscience so that she could see her need for eternal water. That's the one true husband that she would ever need.

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.

Point taken. Now she was receptive and not defensive.

What is the significance of Jesus asking her to call her Husband (John 4:16)?

to appeal to her spiritual needs and to open her conscience for the living water which was what she needed.

Jeremiah 17:

13 they have abandoned the LORD,
the fountain of living water.

The husband request worked:

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

  • 1
    Whoa, that's a lot to unpack. So if I'm understanding correctly, Jesus and the woman are talking on two different levels. Jesus is talking on a spiritual level, and the woman on the physical level. So the woman naturally misunderstands what Jesus is telling her. Loosely speaking, it's kind of like a hypothetical conversation where I'm talking about geometrical planes, and you're talking about airplanes. We might use the same word, "plane," but we're using different definitions of the word. Nov 19, 2021 at 17:05
  • So Jesus, with his comment about husbands, tries to clarify to the woman what level he's speaking from, similar to how - in our hypothetical conversation about planes - I might say something to indicate I'm talking about a geometrical plane. Nov 19, 2021 at 17:12

The great thing about this story is that the conversation between the woman and Jesus takes place on two levels concurrently. First thing to understand is throughout the story the woman is speaking "literally" and Jesus is speaking "spiritually".

Like their conversation about water. The woman speaks about "physical" water in the well - Jesus talks about "spiritual" water from God. Its the exact same thing with the conversation about her Husband too. She speaks literally. Jesus speaks spiritually.

The second key to understanding the significance is to note the location of the meeting and ethnicity of the woman.

John 4:4 Now he had to go through Samaria.

John 4:7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water

Jesus was meeting a Samaritan woman in Samaria. This is the first time Jesus enters into that region in the Gospels and essentially the woman is being used as a "symbol" to represent all of Samaria. Her own relationships represent Samartians broken covenant relationship with God. Samaria consisted of the 10 lost tribes of Israels Northern Kingdom whos spiritual "husband" is meant to be the Israelite God YWHW :)

THat moves us on to the more specific location of the meeting. At a well. This is very very significant in the bible for "Husbands" meeting "wives". (Isaac + Rebecca, Moses + Ziphora) And this is Jakobs well no less. Jakob of course also meets his own wife Rachel at well (Gen 29:9-12) So straight away you are meant to make the connection that this is not a normal meeting. The meeting is "spiritually" symbolic of a "Husband meeting a wife". Jesus - The Husband - is meeting his wife - Samaria.

Yes Jesus IS the Husband he is telling her to go and bring back. He is literally talking about himself. :)

Her responding to that question by answering that "She has no husband" and Jesus responding that she has actually had 5 husbands again is working on 2 levels. The woman is talking about her physical relationships - Jesus is using her personal situation as a symbolic parrallel for the "spiritual relationships" Samaria/Northern Kingdom formed with "other gods".

This meeting the conclusion of a long running story for Samaria started in the old testament that begins in the book of Kings - carries on through the book of Hosea.

When the Northern Kingdom of Israel separated from the Southern Kingdom of Judah in 1 Kings 12 they were later cutoff and conquered by the Assyrian empire in 722BC. The reason for their being conquered is covered in 2 Kings 17. It is for the sin of Idolatory and worship of other Gods.

This is "Spiritually Adultery". Having many "spiritual" husbands and breaking the covenant with YWHW. This is made explicitly clear in the book of Hosea where the prophet is instructed to "act this out" with his own marriage.

Hosea 1:2

When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous(I) woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness(J) to the Lord.”

Rebuke your mother,(B) rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband. Let her remove the adulterous(C) look from her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts. 3 Otherwise I will strip(D) her naked and make her as bare as on the day she was born;(E) I will make her like a desert,(F) turn her into a parched land, and slay her with thirst. 4 I will not show my love to her children,(G) because they are the children of adultery.(H) 5 Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace. She said, ‘I will go after my lovers,(I) who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my olive oil and my drink.’(J) 6 Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.(K)

Thus in the story the womans own personal relationships, adultery and multiple husbands are used to represent Sarmaria and the Northern Kingdoms past spiritual Adultery against YWHW - her first Husband. Jesus by meeting with the woman at the well is essentially "symbolically" offering to "redeem" and remarry "Samaraia" and restore her to her original place as his wife.

2 Kings 17

As a result, during the ninth year of the reign of[a] Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and took the Israelis off to Assyria, placing them in Halah, along the Habor River in Gozan, and in cities ruled by the Medes.

The Idolatry of the Northern Kingdom 7

This happened because the Israelis had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt and from the domination[b] of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, because they were fearing other gods, 8 and because they were following the rules of the nations whom the Lord had expelled before the Israelis and that the kings of Israel had practiced.

The Israelis practiced secret things that were not right, offending the Lord their God. In addition, they built high places for use by all their towns, watchtowers, and fortified cities.

  • 2
    Oh wow that's great. Thankyou for the additional information regarding Samaria and the Northern Kingdom Nov 19, 2021 at 8:58

Thus far in the conversation a solitary male and a solitary female were on opposite sides of a well in a public place - all decorous to that point.

To engage more closely - that one give water to another - she needs to call her husband, so that proper propriety should be recognised.

She needs to be chaperoned.

But with that request, the woman must now admit to her real condition.

  • @RevelationLad No, I do not see that in the text, nor in concept. A wife is not 'taken from her husband' in the new creation. In the new heavens and earth they neither take in marriage nor are given in marriage. But on earth, husbands and wives dwell together peaceably, not 'taken away' at all. I stand by my answer. There is a hint of sarcasm in the woman's reply. This is soon wiped away as she must needs confess to her true condition.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 13, 2023 at 18:54
  • What I should have said is your answer has correct logic but the reason, the need to be chaperoned, does not agree with Scripture. Unmarried virgins do not require chaperones (eg. Rebekah and Rachel also at a well) so older women (married or not) would not require chaperoning. That is also evident from the Gospel. If a chaperone was needed, Jesus erred by getting involved before one was present. My answer to a similar question addresses the request for her husband: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/16883/… Oct 16, 2023 at 18:43

Woman at the well: What is the significance of Jesus asking her to call her Husband (John 4:16)

This is yet another beautiful example of Jesus' teaching methods. As the narrative states, Jesus begins the conversation about "living water" with the Samaritan woman. She then asks for some of this water.

Note the observation pointed out in chapter 19 "Teaching a Samaritan Woman" in the book Jesus—The Way, the Truth, the Life:

The woman then says: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may neither thirst nor keep coming over to this place to draw water.” Jesus now seems to change the subject and says to her: “Go, call your husband and come to this place.” She replies: “I do not have a husband.” But how shocked she must be at what Jesus knows when he tells her: “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”​—John 4:15-18.

The significance of his statement is clear to her, and she says in amazement: “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.” She then shows that she has an interest in spiritual things. How? She continues: “Our forefathers [the Samaritans] worshipped on this mountain [Mt. Gerizim, which is close by], but you people [the Jews] say that in Jerusalem is the place where people must worship.”​—John 4:19, 20.

At this point, Jesus has the woman's attention and has piqued her interest in spiritual matters. Jesus' teaching culminates in verses 25 and 26

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (NIV)

So Jesus' question about the woman's husband is a stepping stone in his teaching methods to show himself as the foretold Messiah.

[Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]


Words can open wounds. The way Jesus brought the word "husband" into his conversation with the Samaritan woman was his way of gently opening her wound. Jesus had a tendency to touch the wounds of those he healed (e.g., Mt 8:3, Mt 20:34, Mk 7:33, Jn 9:6).

Though the woman did not have any physical wound, Jesus used the word “husband” to call up her spiritual and emotional wounds. It was a sensitive word for the Samaritan woman for a number of reasons:

  • It touched on her guilt and shame

  • It touched on the cause of her social isolation (as evident by her going to the well alone at that late time of day)

  • It touched on her unmet need, her thirst for true and lasting love and relationship

Jesus opened her wound, not to hurt but to heal it. It was both his prophetic insight into her life as well as the way he spoke of her situation without judgment that inspired her to believe in him. This encounter recalls the one with the woman who was caught in adultery (Jn 8:1-11), the one to whom Jesus said, “I do not condemn you.” In both these instances, the wounds of the women were healed when they came into contact with Christ’s mercy.


The woman at the well certainly was a catalyst for so many things!!! Hard to know which one to focus on. Each person here has made great comments to different parts of the story.

Jesus speaking the truth in love to this woman transformed her into a vessel of living water that she brought to others in her town. The truth had set her free and others must've seen it in her face. Can it be that this is the Christ ? Her sin of having five men in her life was used by the Master Potter in bringing others out to him. God truly works everything out for good! Once again we see a glimpse of God's ways that are so beyond man's ways.


We interpret the Samaritan woman's culture too much in the light of Western Christian culture. Monogamy wasn't the standard. Only men could divorce. Women weren't allowed. The word husband also meant man. If the culture then was like modern Middle Eastern culture, women weren't allowed to be alone, but would have a close relative as a guardian. The five men may not have been all husbands. The man not her own may have been a close relative as a guardian. The first man may have been her father's family, and she may have seen the death of four men; some being husbands. However, her going to the well alone seems strange for that culture. Bringing her husband or guardian into the conversation was the proper thing to do.

John 4:29 is the verse that explains why Jesus asked, "Go, call your husband, and come here.” (in John 4:16, ESV) Of course it is literally, "Go, call your man..." ὕπαγε φώνησον ⸉τὸν ἄνδρα σου (NA28).

Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him. (John 4:29–30, ESV)

What the following question, previous asked, tells us is we don't really know the details of what five men meant, but she did and was preoccupied enough with it to describe it as telling all she ever did. The town was also convinced.

See John 4:18 What is the woman's reputation in town?

Many see the woman's questions as trying to sidetrack Jesus, but she was not. Those questions were central in Jesus reaching the Samaritans. The Samaritans expected the prophet Moses foretold to break down the barriers between the Jews and Samaritans, and what a barrier between a Jewish rabbi and Samaritan woman.


Here is a wide variety of interpretations.

The woman is issued three commands. She is to go, call and bring. These commands require that she, a woman, become a witness to a man. In her world, is that possible? Jesus assumes it is and challenges her to believe that with him a woman’s witness can be judged reliable. In John’s Gospel the next time Jesus makes this type of request is in a garden outside a tomb where he says to Mary Magdalene, “Go to my brethren and say to them …” (Jn 20:17). You, a woman, go and tell the men. If she is to become a spring for others, her family should be the first to benefit from the water of life that he offers her. As he creates a spring in her, Jesus challenges her to allow its waters to flow to those around her. -- Bailey, K. E. (2008). Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (p. 208). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Jesus stated that she lived with a man who was not her husband. Many assume this meant the woman lived with her boyfriend, but that is not stated. Perhaps she needed help and lived with a distant relative, or in some other undesirable arrangement, in order to survive. Jesus was not nailing her to the cross of justice, but instead was letting her know that he knew everything about the pain she endured. This is certainly more in keeping with the Jesus we know from other instances in his life. -- Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Eli. The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel (p. 49). Jewish Studies for Christians. Kindle Edition.

Go, call thy husband (ὑπαγε φωνησον σου τον ἀνδρα [Hupage phōnēson sou ton andra]). Two imperatives (present active, first aorist active). Had she started to leave after her perplexed reply? Her frequent trips to the well were partly for her husband. We may not have all the conversation preserved, but clearly Jesus by this sudden sharp turn gives the woman a conviction of sin and guilt without which she cannot understand his use of water as a metaphor for eternal life. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (John 4:16). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

4:16–17. In view of the ambiguity of the situation (see comment on 4:7), her statement, “I have no husband,” could mean “I am available.” Jesus removes the ambiguity, which stems from his refusal to observe customs that reflected ethnic and gender prejudice, not from any actual flirtation on his part. -- Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Jn 4:16–17). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Ver. 16. Call thy husband.—(1) The husband was to have part in the saving gift, and so she was to be brought indirectly to confession of sin (Chrysostom, etc.; Lücke). (2) Christ would in this way lead her indirectly to a consciousness of her guilt (Calov., Neander, Tholuck, Stier, Luthardt). (3) He intended to give her a sign of His prophetic knowledge in the lower sphere of life, to gain her confidence for disclosures from the higher (Cyril, Schweizer; similarly Meyer). (4) Conformity to custom and to the idea of the law. Hitherto Jesus had influenced her after the manner of a missionary, as man with man. In her last request, expressing spiritual susceptibility, the woman came to the position of a catechumen. But, as a proselyte, she must not act without the knowledge of her husband. Meyer objects: The husband was in truth a paramour. True, they were not legally united. But the highest, most delicate social law lies somewhat deeper; she had given that man the rights of husband. If there was still a moral spark in the immoral connection, Christ had an eye to detect it. Even Stier and Tholuck have not been able to appropriate this interpretation. But it is connected on the one hand with the moral principle, Matth. 3:15; on the other with the principles in Matth. 10:12; 1 Cor. 7:15; 11:10, and with all those principles which distinguish the Evangelical church from the Roman Catholic in the manner of making proselytes.

[I must dissent from this interpretation as assuming a relation and a duty which did not exist. The words of Christ: Call thy husband, opened the wound at the tender spot where the cure was to begin, and were the first step in granting the woman’s request: Give me to drink. By a prophetic glance into her private life of shame, which, after five successive marriages, culminated in her present illegitimate relation, He at once effectually touched her conscience and challenged her faith in Him. Conviction of sin is the first indispensable condition of forgiveness, and is the beginning of conversion. She at once understood the intention, and her next word is a half confession of guilt, quickly followed by faith in the prophetic character of Christ.—P. S.] -- Lange, J. P., & Schaff, P. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: John (p. 158). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.


Glad to meet you all brothers and sisters,

To understand more, join me to read below articles I found on the questino, Thank God the artiles helped me to know the truth about the situation.



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