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John 4:11

ESV The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?
NIV Sir,' the woman said, 'you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?
NASB She *said to Him, 'Sir, You have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do You get this living water?
CSB "Sir," said the woman, "you don't even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do you get this 'living water'?
NLT But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,' she said, 'and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water?
KJV The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?

What does John 4:11 mean?

The gospel of John often uses contrasts as it moves from scene to scene. In this case, chapter three involved Nicodemus, a well-educated, well-respected, and highly moral man. The woman Jesus is currently speaking to is not only a Samaritan woman, but a lonely outcast, not well educated in the Scriptures. And yet, as this verse shows, she had both a certain level of courage, and a certain volume of wit.

Her answer suggests something very similar to Nicodemus' response to Jesus' in John 3:3–4. There, Nicodemus grasped that there was symbolism in Jesus' comment, but did not fully understand it. Here, the woman seems to recognize that Jesus is speaking of something other than literal water. As verse 12 will show, she also recognizes that, whatever Jesus means, He's making some sort of grand claim about Himself.

This comment also reminds us of two mistakes people commonly make when confronted with spiritual truths. One is to assume a physical, worldly interpretation of a spiritual point. This is a frequent mistake made by the Pharisees as they debate with Jesus in later chapters. The other mistake is responding with disbelief, instead of asking for more information directly. The woman's response suggests that she knows Jesus has some other meaning in mind. And yet, looking at the rest of her comments in verse 12, she seems dismissive. She's not really seeking an answer, at least not yet. This helps to explain why Jesus responds to her as he does in verses 17 and 18, by exposing her sin.
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