Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
John 4:10 (KJV)
Living water – Any New Testament reader would recognize this phrase immediately. It’s a term also mentioned in chapter 7 when John makes a comparison between it and the Spirit. But the question begs itself, IF she had asked for the living water, would Yeshua have given her the Spirit right then and there? Chapter 7 tells us:
38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
So if Yeshua hadn’t yet been glorified, how could He offer the Spirit to her at this point? Maybe it wasn’t the Spirit which He was offering to the Samaritan woman? I’m not entirely sure. So let’s just dig into the words themselves.
Doing a search in the King James version would lead us to believe that the term “living water” only appears in the New Testament. But we can always dig deeper, right?
But why do we dig? Can’t we just accept the living water to be a term indicating something spiritual from the NT? The answer is, NO. We need to understand that Yeshua’s teachings are all rooted in the Tanakh. He’s not going to just make things up that hold no significance to the simple people with which he conversed.
So after some reading in Leviticus, I found this term spring up (pun intended). In the Tanakh, it’s translated as running water. Concerning the ritual practice for the return of a leper back to the community, this was written.
And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:
The word “running” above is the Hebrew word chay which means “living”. Could this be a relation? I believe so. The Hebrews would have recognized the relation Yeshua was making, even the Samaritan woman would have understood a Jew’s reference to living water. And notice the reason she seems confused is that Yeshua has nothing with which to draw from the well. She’s not confused by the term living water which doesn’t hold real understandable meaning.
If Yeshua is pulling from the reference in the Tanakh regarding running water, why? What’s the comparison He’s trying to make between running water and the Spirit… or the belief in Him? Well let’s take a look at what running (living) water was used for in the Tanakh.
Our observation above is pulled from Leviticus 14 regarding the ritual for acceptance back into the community of Israel after a leper has been considered clean. Do you see any correlations here? Yeshua is speaking to a Samaritan woman. Samaritans were the outcasts of the Jewish society. The woman, by all intents and purposes, was considered dead among the Jews. And here comes Yeshua offering her living water which is involved in the process of bringing someone considered dead back into the community of Israel.
Water and Spirit go hand-in-hand in many instances throughout the Tanakh.
For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:
Judges 15:19, 1 Samuel 30:12, Nehemiah 9:20
And finally from John again…
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
This correlation is repeated often throughout the Bible. It’s almost always about bringing life back into man – or returning man to his community. What Yeshua is offering to this Samaritan woman is a return to Israel… through Him. Yeshua’s purpose was to come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel (the 10 lost tribes). He’s reuniting His kingdom. Are you a part of this? Do you accept the Messiah’s invitation to join with Israel?