Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
I have always wondered about the purpose of the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman. I notice that following Jesus’ request to call the Samaritan’s woman’s husband, she responds by saying that she has no husband. Jesus agrees and says that she has spoken the truth. He then goes on to say that she has had five husbands and the one she is with is not hers.
But how can she have married five husbands, yet according to Jesus, have no husband? Surely, according to traditional views, Jesus would say that she has at least one husband, with the first marriage (where there is no death) being the only spiritually acceptable one? Furthermore, how could she have gotten to her fifth husband without being stoned for adultery because she remarried four times?
Or did all of her husbands die? It seems unlikely, even so, what Jesus said would then be correct, she has no husband for they are all dead. But why mention her dead husbands? All He could have said is, that the man she is with now is not her husband. Why would it be relevant to raise her past? After all, Jesus says everything for a reason.
Another explanation is that she ‘had’ – meaning had sexual intercourse with five men who are another woman’s husband. However, the term generally used in the Bible for sexual intercourse is ‘to lay’ or ‘to know’.
Lastly, could she have had five husbands and was legally and spiritually divorced from them, hence she really had no husband. As a consequence of her five failed relationships, she decided to live with the last man so that she would not have to go through the humiliation of another divorce? If so, was Jesus accepting the validity of a legal and spiritual divorce by stating she has no husband?
While I believe and fully support the ideal for a marriage partnership to be life-long, we know that Moses allowed divorce due to the hardness of man’s heart. However, according to some studies, the word divorce has been wrongly translated. The original Hebrew word used for ‘divorce’ actually refers to an old practice of men who ‘put away’ their wives (separated or left them with no legal divorce). For her survival and that of her children, the ‘put away’ wife would remarry rather than prostitute herself. But because she was not legally divorced, she committed adultery and this is why God hates ‘divorce’ that is the practice of ‘putting away’. Moses requested that a legal document be produced to protect women who were often oppressed, impoverished and unjustly stoned, (Deuteronomy 24:1-3). A legal document allowed the woman the freedom to remarry without condemnation of adultery. It has been suggested that the word ‘divorce’ in the Bible should be read using the words ‘to put away’. (For a general read on Divorce and Remarriage – http://www.bethelministries.com/divorce.htm). Let us not forget that God legally divorced Himself from Israel, also issuing them a certificate of divorce (Jeremiah 3:8).
What was the purpose of this conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman such that He raised her past and present? I think that Jesus gently brought her into the awareness of her failed relationships and her current actions living with another man, but I think it was the reason behind her failed relationships that Jesus was asking her to explore. Before He mentioned her husbands, Jesus told her that He has living water, and if she drinks His water, she will never thirst again. I believe Jesus was saying to the Samaritan woman – whatever you are seeking in these men, can be found in Me. He was stipulating that He (Jesus) is the love that she has been searching for and once she accepts God’s love, she will never search for this love in another man or earthly relationship again. I know this is a lesson I need to hear and accept.
Thank You for another day enjoying this miracle called life. I thank You for the institution of marriage which ideally should be a life-long commitment. I thank You for the opportunity to look at divorce from a different perspective. Help us in this day and age to learn to treat people who are divorced with more compassion and care, rather than with judgment and failing. I know that You understand because You Lord were also divorced from Israel and You bear no shame. I thank You for the example of love and empathy that You showed to the Samaritan woman while explaining to her that we need to find love in You first. Without the knowledge of Your love it will be difficult for any of us to truly know what love looks like and this may eventually lead to failed relationships.
Help us all to be grounded in Your wonderful gift of true unconditional love.
In Jesus’ Name
Note: Your comments are welcome, but please note that this a controversial and sensitive topic. I ask that all words are written respectfully and with love.