5. History

Short Meditations in John 4:  5. History

Jn 4:5    So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

There is always a sense of mystery about divine providence. Do things just happen or is the divine planning that knew what would happen if Jesus was in a certain place at a certain time?  For us, do things just happen by chance or how much does the divine hand intervene to bring things about? This side of heaven we will not know. All we are left to do is observe the circumstances and watch the way they pan out, and wonder.

The overall plan at the moment is to leave Judea and go north to Galilee and, as we’ve seen, that necessitates going through Samaria. Eventually they come near to Sychar, which was more of a small village, which was near Shechem. There is nothing special about it but it is just a place John remembers that they stopped near. But this area has history. Indeed in one way or another most parts of the land had history because the whole thing about the Jews was that their history went back some two thousand years, it being thought Abraham had lived about 2000BC. With two thousand years of history recorded in what we call the Old Testament (less that last four hundred years or so) Israel were possibly more conscious of their history than most nations.

Thus it is now that John identifies this present location as having been bought by Jacob (who became Israel) and passed on to his son, Joseph. In Genesis we read, After Jacob came from Paddan Aram,  he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 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,” (Gen 33:18,19) and in later chapters there is reference to him passing on this land to Joseph, although possibly after dispute with the Amorites who he had forcibly had to eject from it after he bought is (Gen 48:21,22)

Now we might wonder why John should bother to even mention this, but what was behind it was the fact that, before Israel invaded and took over Canaan after the forty year wilderness wandering after the Exodus, Jacob had actually bought and owned a portion of that land and, although it is now in the possession of these mixed background Samaritans, it is like the nationalistic side of John is making the point that this piece of land goes right back to antiquity to their father Jacob and so whatever apparent possession rights exists today, it is still well and truly part of Israel, almost more than any other part of the land! Oh yes, this land has history!

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