One of the most common exegetical mistakes we tend to make when studying the Bible is the mistake of judging the people of the ancient Eastern text by our modern Western standards. I believe we have done this with the woman of Samaria in John 4.
Every time I have heard this text preached or taught, this woman is betrayed as being the “Samaritan Nymphomaniac!” Yes! Jesus did say to her: “You have had five husbands and the one you are with now is not yours!” But was the fact that she had been through five husbands really her choice? I really don’t think it was! Let me show you what I am talking about: Although the Samaritans were considered “half-bred” Jews, they governed themselves according to the Jewish law. And according to the Jewish law at that time, a woman did not have a legal right to get a divorce! Only the husband had the right of divorce! So, if this woman had been with five husbands, it was more than likely that it was not because she had left them; but rather because they had left her! And beside the issue of a woman not being legally able to get a divorce, there was the matter of support. Women were not “liberated” in that day and culture, therefore the only way a woman was supported was by her father, until she was married, and then she was supported by her husband and finally, when her husband died, she was supported by her sons. If there were no sons, she usually went back to her father’s house. That is one of the reasons Jesus momentarily “stopped dying” on the cross. Apparently, Joseph had died prior to this time. Therefore, with him being the oldest son, it had been his responsibility to take care of his mother. So, with his death soon approaching, he wanted to make sure that his mother Mary was taken care of! So, the Bible says: “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:26-27 ESV) So, I doubt very seriously, given the context of the time, that this woman was really just simply running from man to man. I think she had had five husbands because they had either left her through divorce and/or death and she had no sons.
So, by the time she met Jesus, she was tired! Tired of being disappointed by divorce and/or death! She was tired of men making commitments, only to be disappointed time, after time, after time! She was tired of being lied to by men who said they would be with her forever! Maybe she was tired of following caskets to the cemetery! I think that she was so tired of being disappointed that by the time she met Jesus, she had resigned herself to accepting “shacking” or “sharing!” Now, this is by no means an attempt to excuse her sin, but I think it is a more reasonable explanation of it! I think we have been unfair to her! I think we need to take another look at this text and give the “lady” a break!