The characteristics of the Samaritan woman have so so so many lessons for faith and life. The Bible character we know as woman at the well has one of the most freeing testimonies in the Word of God.
Let’s get into it.
The Samaritan woman summary
The story of the Samaritan woman is found in the gospels of the Scripture. To read it for yourself, see John 4.
In summary, Jesus was trying to avoid controversy with the religious leaders over his ministry.
So he decided to leave Judea and go to Galilee. But He took a shortcut through Samaria.
While on the way He got tired and thirsty. A woman came to the well where he sat down to rest.
He asked her for water and this opened a conversation about worship.
This woman had been living a sinful life but by the time she was finished talking to Jesus, she received salvation in fill.
She was so happy that she ran to tell the rest of her village and the whole town was saved.
Now, let’s get into the details!
Characteristics of the Samaritan woman
Who was she really? Why is her nationality important? Why did Jesus stop to talk to her?
For these next few points, we will look at the woman at the well more closely.
#1. She was a Samaritan
The woman at the well was a Samaritan. What is a Samaritan in the Bible? And why is this such an important detail in the story?
We have to do some historical time travel.
The Jews and Samaritans were related. Years earlier, Babylon had invaded Jewish territory and had taken the brightest and strongest in captivity.
Think Daniel and the three Hebrew boys in Babylon.
Only the poor were left. They intermarriage with people of the surrounding nations.
Meanwhile those who were taken to Babylon remained strict in Jewish practices. They only married each other.
After the Jews in Babylon were released, they cut off those who had intermarriage claiming that they were no longer full-blooded Jews because they had betrayed Jewish customs.
The Samaritans were mongrels in the eyes of Jews.
The Jews hated the Samaritans more than they hated the gentiles.
And this caused a bitter feud between the two groups.
This is why the Samaritan woman found it strange that Jesus, a Jew, was speaking to her.
#2. The Samaritan woman had a poor reputation
The second of the characteristics of the Samaritan woman has to do with her social status.
The Samaritan woman was an outcast.
A few things you should know….
Firstly, she was poor. Women of certain status and wealth never went to draw water for themselves.
They had servant girls for that kind of thing.
Next, the Samaritan woman went to draw water from the well at noon.
This was a strange time of day and she was all by herself.
Women usually drew water earlier in the day and in groups.
This fact suggests that she did not have any women friends which only happened if nobody wanted to be associated with her.
Finally, this was not the closest well to where she lived. Why would she walk to a farther distance at the hottest time of day?!
The Samaritan woman went to draw water at noon because she was not welcomed at the local well where the women in her community went for water.
#3. The Samaritan woman was spiritually blind
Another of the characteristics of the Samaritan woman is about her spiritual condition.
As Jesus talked with her, he tried to get her to understand the idea of living water.
When he offered her the water, she thought he meant literal water.
As he pressed the point, telling her that with this water she would never thirst again, her attitude became rotten.
She should have understood what Jesus was talking about.
The Jews used the analogy of thirst and water to represent how the coming Savior would save them and lift them up.
As a Samaritan, she had similar beliefs so she should have know what Jesus was saying.
When she asked for the water:
#1 She just wanted to not have to suffer the indignity of going to the well and having to interact with the very people who treated her badly.
#2 She just wanted an easier life, free from the inconvenience of having to walk in the heat of the day for water each day.
She was cynical and rude to Jesus.
As she referenced Jacob, she thought Jesus must be a crazy person to think that he could provide such a water that Jacob himself could not.
She did not perceive that Jesus was offering her eternal life.
#4. The Samaritan woman was living in shame
The next of the characteristics of the Samaritan woman is a little less obvious.
As she slighted Jesus for his apparent ridiculous offer, he decided to take things up a notch.
He asked her to go get her husband. His request was very appropriate.
Men did not usually speak to women alone in the absence of their husband or some other male from their family.
As quickly as she responded, Jesus exposed what she thought would be a secret to him.
In doing this, Jesus confronted her sin.
But she quickly changed the direction of the conversation to talking about his prophetic gift and worship.
The 5 husbands of the Samaritan woman remains a mystery because she never addressed it.
She was ashamed of her past and the way she was living at the time when she talked with Jesus.
#5. The Samaritan woman did not understand how to worship God
There was a teaching among the Samaritans that God could only be worshipped in one place.
And that was at the temple they had built for themselves at Mount Gerazim.
The Jews thought that God could only be worshipped at the temple in Jerusalem.
The other thing was that the Samaritans used only the first 5 books of the Hebrew holy book.
They did not acknowledge the rest. So their religion was built on half truths that were convenient to them.
Of all the characteristics of the Samaritan woman, this one helps us to understand the spiritual mindset of the entire community in which she lived
LEARN MORE: Women of faith in the Bible: Characteristics and lessons
Lessons from the Samaritan Woman
What can we learn from the Samaritan Woman at the well?
This interaction between Jesus and the woman at the well can teach us some truly deep lessons of confrontation, compassion and freedom.
Lesson #1 – No matter what you experience in life, be kind to others
The woman at the well did not have a great life.
But one of her outstanding characteristics is that she was kind.
Although Jesus was a male, Jewish stranger, she was kind enough to grant his request for water.
She had every reason to ignore him. She could have chosen to carry on the tradition of hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans. But, she did not.
We also see her kindness when she runs to announce to the entire community that the Messiah had come.
She could have kept the good news to herself. (Like so many Christians like to do).
But she made a different choice.
To be kind is so rare nowadays with all the prejudice and racism painting our lives.
The Samaritan woman knew what it was like to be dealt some bad blows in life but she did not use that as an excuse to be rotten to others.
The Samaritan woman speaks to us about kindness and treating people like human beings, even when we ourselves get the rotten end of the stick.
Lesson #2 – Jesus broke the barriers against women
In Jewish culture, Rabbis did not speak to women in public.
Not even their own female relatives, including their wives, sisters and daughters.
In fact, they took this so seriously that they would close their eyes when a woman approached them.
As a result they would bump into things and suffer all kinds of bodily harm.
When Jesus chose to engage her in conversation this was new and different.
Plus, he was talking to her without anyone else around!
Jesus tackled the barriers against women by talking to her.
Jesus did it to set women free to access the gospel in full.
Throughout his ministry Jesus did these things, specifically to set women free from societal norms and expectations that did not fully allow them to serve God.
This was the case of the woman with the issue of blood.
Lesson #3 – Jesus wants us to see ourselves
When Jesus saw that the Samaritan woman wasn’t taking him seriously, he shocked her.
By asking her about her past 5 husbands and the current state of her life, he forced her to acknowledge that she was not living a life worthy of her worth.
She was ashamed of it but Jesus got her to pay attention.
Jesus needed her to realize that she needed to get out of that man’s bed!
Every now and then, God has to do that to us. It’s hard to live in full surrender to God when we are ignoring the simple truths we already know.
Are you a woman who desires more out of life? It starts right there where Jesus wants you to see yourself.
There is no moving forward until you can clean up the immediate mess around you. When that is gone, then you can see Jesus.
Then you can hear His voice.
Then you can get clean, clear direction to walk in light and life.
Lesson #4 – Jesus wants you, no matter what you have done or where you have been
The Samaritan woman had a past she was not proud of.
Jesus acknowledged her past but he did not define her by it.
He saw her potential to become a fully committed daughter of God.
And that’s what his mission was.
To get her to a place where she could be ready to receive eternal life and to call others to receive their freedom.
No matter who you are or what your past is, God is interested in you.
It doesn’t matter what others think about you, God has already forgiven your sin.
Will you accept his love for you?
Lesson #5 – God is ready to reveal himself to those who are ready
The Samaritan woman is perhaps the only person in all of the New Testament to whom Jesus directly says he is the Messiah.
Jesus took her through the process of seeing her need to change her life.
Then he helped her to understand what it meant to truly worship God.
She knew that the Messiah would know the secrets of everyone.
Actually, although she was not living her best life, she was living in expectation of Jesus’s coming.
All those details combined made her ready to receive Jesus.
And so Jesus revealed himself to her.
How ready are you for God to reveal himself to you in mighty ways?
Lesson #6 – There is freedom in meeting Jesus
The Samaritan woman was so ashamed of her lifestyle when she met Jesus.
She avoided the well close to home and she went to the well at noon just to avoid the mean women of her community.
But after meeting Jesus, she was soooo happy that she lost her shame.
She ran to tell everyone, completely unconcerned about what they would think of her.
What is for sure is this: nobody could contest her testimony.
If a stranger could reveal her own story to her, this has got to be the Messiah.
After all, anybody who knew her was not interested in the icky details of her life.
But by the time she was done talking to Jesus, the mess of her life became a mighty message that she was not afraid to run and tell other about.
Lesson #7 – God is always listening
One of the characteristics of the Samaritan woman was that she didn’t understand how to worship God.
She was probably not allowed to go to the temple to worship.
This must have affected her spiritual life since she believed that God was located in only one place.
Imagine how freeing it must have been for her to find out that although she wasn’t allowed in temple, she could still talk to God.
No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can worship God whenever or wherever.
God is not bound by time or place and he’s not turned off by our condition.
He’s always listening to our whispered prayers and our silent prayers.
The Samaritan woman represents everyone who needs Jesus
That means you and me.
And that means he’s always wanting to hear from us.
- Other women of faith you might like:
- Mary the Mother of Jesus
- The Widow of Zarephath
- The Canaanite Woman
Final words about the characteristics of the Samaritan woman in the Bible
The woman at the well seems to be a mysterious character in the Scriptures.
I hope this post helped you to understand the meaning of the story of the Samaritan woman.
In her story there is hope for everyone. God does not have favorites and he does not judge or condemn.
He’s especially interested in the ministry to save women. And boy, does he have a blessing for the ministry that women offer to help others.