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Genesis 33:18-20 1
18 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel

Background

And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem – Or rather he came safe, or in peace, to the city of Shechem. After a perilous journey, in which he had met with many difficulties, he came safe at last, into Canaan.

Shalem–that is, “peace”; and the meaning may be that Jacob came into Canaan, arriving safe and sound at the city Shechem–a tribute to Him who had promised such a return (compare Genesis 28:15 ). But most writers take Shalem as a proper name–a city of Shechem, and the site is marked by one of the little villages about two miles to the northeast. A little farther in the valley below Shechem “he bought a parcel of a field,” thus being the first of the patriarchs who became a proprietor of land in Canaan. One hundred pieces of money-Literally, “Iambs”; probably a coin with the figure of a lamb on it.

He erected an altar -tn thankfulness to God for the good hand of his providence over him. So that he might keep up religion, and the worship of God in his family. He dedicated this altar to the honor of EI­ Elohe-Israel, God – the God of Israel: to the honor of God in general, the only living and true God, the Best of beings, the First of causes: and to the honor of the God of Israel, as a God in covenant with him. God had lately called him by the name of Israel; and now he calls God the God of Israel; though he be called a prince with God, God shall still be a prince with him, his Lord and his God.

A beautiful proof of his personal piety, a most suitable conclusion to his journey, and a lasting memorial of a distinguished favor in the name “God, the God of IsraeL” Wherever we pitch a tent, God shall have an altar. El-Elohe-lsrael=That is God, the God of Israel

Items for Discussion

  • Jacob was on a journey to Canaan the promised land. Why was this journey important to him?
  • Is it important to us?
  • When he got there, he bought some land. What does this tell us about Jacob?
  • Jacob built an altar there. Why?

It is said Jacob also built a well there. The well appears in our New Testament lesson.

John 4:4-26
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but 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.” 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.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “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.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 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.”

Background

Jesus has been in Judea, ministering with his disciples. But the Pharisees in Jerusalem have been closely monitoring the revival meetings taking place near the Judean capital. More and more people are flocking to Jesus, so the religious protectors of the status quo are making it more dangerous for Jesus in Judea. It is time to return to his native Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria.

There were three routes between Galilee and Jerusalem. (1) Along the coast, (2) along the Jordan valley, or (3) along the central ridge road that wound north through the passes in the mountains. The latter was the fastest and most direct, though it required travelling through Samaria. Antagonism between the Jews and Samaritans sometimes caused tension along this route.

Sychar, probably on the site of the present-day town of Aschar, is near the ancient ruins of Shechem. (See our Old Testament lesson). Jacob’s well still exists there, fed by springs and dug out to a depth of more than 100 feet. It was doubtless dug on the land Jacob purchased from the leader of the nearby city of Shechem. As it was right alongside the main road, Jesus stopped there to rest at noon (lithe sixth
hour”) while his disciples went into town to buy some food.

Jesus is “tired from the journey” This reminds us that Jesus is fully human, as well as fully divine. A tired Jesus is sitting at the well, waiting for the disciples, when a woman appears. Jesus’ request for a drink of water was strange at several levels. 1. Gender difference. In that culture men didn’t usually initiate a conversation with women they didn’t know. 2. Religious difference, as the woman herself observes (4:9). Jews considered Samaritans to be unclean. 3. The Woman’s Status. As the story develops, we find that the woman had had five men and was living with a sixth.

She doesn’t refuse Jesus’ request but she wonders aloud why he would go against the social norms to ask her for a drink. Jesus ignores her lack of understanding, but continues to explain the gift he is talking about. He compares literal water with spiritual water.

Jesus makes to statements about this water: They will never thirst. They will have eternal life.

Items for Discussion

  • Why do you think Jesus went against the social norms to communicate with the woman?
  • Why do we hesitate to go against social norms to share the good news?
  • How do we balance our need to obey God and our need to live peaceably in our culture?
  • Jesus’ words to the woman in verses 10-13 seem to imply that all people are spiritually thirsty.
  • Does the woman seem spiritually thirsty at this point?
  • What caused her deep thirst to surface?
  • What does this teach us about our own witness?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do we recognize when someone is “Spiritually Dehydrated?”

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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