Just the other day I was having lunch with one of my dearest friends. Between the burgers and the giggles, I shared with her my recent interest in the woman of Samaria in the Bible. For some reason, her journey was on my mind and I couldn’t shake it. Think about it. She had so many husbands and such a jagged life. I’ll bet many of us can relate to some of her life experiences. I’ll share about that later. Either way, despite how prickly and bumpy her life was, God deployed her on an extraordinary evangelistic mission that would change the lives of those around her. But, oh what she had to go through to get to a place of love and divine purpose. Before we discuss the answer to the question of how many husbands did the Samaritan woman have, please allow me to share my own experience with her and how her story changed my life.
I’m not using hyperbole here; I mean she literally changed my life.
As a famous little, gray-haired elderly character from one of my favorite 80s sitcoms used to say, “picture this”: a young, mother from an exceedingly legalistic church background finds herself newly divorced.
The details of the divorce do not matter but suffice it to say she was broken by the trauma of a marriage that was not healthy and incredibly toxic for both involved.
Still, the pain of the divorce pummeled her along with the reality of being a brand-new mother.
She felt like a failure and a sad, pitiful statistic because she was now an African American single mother in America.
Church Hurt and Bad Doctrine
What you learn in church as a child certainly stays with you…
With a three-month-old little baby boy to raise, she battled the memories of all those damning teachings from her legalistic childhood church.
Those messages seemed to resurface in her mind constantly throughout every day, tormenting and accusing her because of that failed marriage.
She feared she would live a life of loneliness because no one would ever want her with her scarlet letter of divorce.
One day, her spiritual mom encouraged her to go to church with her. The church was well known because the senior pastor was a kind man of great integrity. He was also known for his theological acumen. The young mother hesitantly agreed to go to this church where women wore pants and makeup.
After she entered the church, clutching her baby tight, she slowly walked to her seat. Diaper bag on her shoulder, she settled into the chair and looked around the all-White congregation careful not to make direct eye contact with anyone. Some of the motivation for appearing aloof was because of shame.
Some was because she had never been in a church of that size.
But, most of the reasons she avoided making a connection with anyone visually or verbally was because she felt desperately scared and she felt frightfully alone – not only alone in the church, but also alone in the world.
The pastor preached about the woman of Samaria.
Anguished and wounded, the sermon barely penetrated her shattered heart until the pastor, Dr. George Westlake, said something to the effect of “and you don’t think God can use you? During a brutally judgmental time, He used a divorced woman with five ex-husbands and an imperfect life to lead an entire village to Christ!”
The young woman looked up as salty tears stung her eyes and slid rapidly down her cheeks.
How many “second chances” does God have and whom are they reserved for?
“Could God do something with my life too?” she wondered.
At that moment, hope was born in her spirit. The condemnation she had carried melted from her being like an icicle after the weather begins to warm.
She came to the realization God was not going to hold her divorced status against her because if He could use the woman of Samaria, He could resurrect her life too.
I guess you know that young woman was me.
To this day, it amazes me how a woman with a checkered past and no name could have changed my life so immensely. Yet, she did.
That poor woman.
Surely, she had to have been crushed by all she went through … or caused in the lives of others.
At any rate, the ideals of love and commitment had failed her time and time again. That takes a toll after a while I would think.
Hey, she had been married five (yes, five) times!
No one marries that many times with the desire, hope, or intention that each and every union would end eventually in shambles. Get out of here. Few things bring about hope more than a wedding.
Certainly, with every marriage, she had hoped for something beautiful and lasting. She did not get it.
Think about what she went through…
1. Marriage number one – likely the most innocent of unions. Then, it collapses.
2. “Maybe this time it will be different” she probably thought at the beginning of her second marriage – only to end up alone again.
3. Then, there was number three. *sigh*
4. After that, marriage number four. In the pooper too.
5. Finally, she tried again with a new man but got the same sad result.
Then, likely embittered and cynical, she was with a man whom she shacked up with. She settled.
I can’t help but wonder if the reason so many women choose less than they deserve in life is that they are either bitter, horribly wounded emotionally, or have just been let down too many times to get their hopes up again for love.
Another thought: I wonder if the previous marriages might have been the reason the others failed. That is a lot of emotional baggage to carry. I’m sure the past seeped into the present somehow.
The woman with 5 husbands in the bible
Wounds hurt us in more ways than one…
Don’t you think she had to have wounds and scars on her heart that would make her hard and defensive? It would be difficult to be trusting and optimistic after all she had been through.
That is why she likely threw shade at Jesus at the well.
The disciples had gone to town. Jesus was at the well in a strange town and made a request. All He asked her in John 4:8, was “Will you give me a drink?” and she clapped back with a sharp attitude.
Have you ever snapped at someone you’re not really even mad with? I have before. I think that was a little of what she was doing. But, there were other issues amiss – I’ll share those later.
As scripture denotes, “the Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans)”. See John 4:9.
Two women at the well?
For the purpose of giving you some contrast in comparison, let me share another water well experience with you
The woman of Samaria’s reply was very different from the story in Genesis 25: 16-18. Let me set it up for you.
There was a well.
There was a woman.
But, the outcomes were completely different.
See, Abraham’s servant went to seek a bride for Isaac.
He ends up at a well and saw what the Bible describes as a “beautiful, untouched woman”.
As she returned from drawing water from the well, Abraham’s servant said to her:
“Please give me a little water from your jar” (See verse 17).
Her reply was in verse 18:
“Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.
Not only that, but she “hurried” and drew water for his animals too.
Again, I share this story of Rebecca to demonstrate contrast.
The Bible makes it abundantly clear she was a virgin and untouched.
“Oh, maybe that’s why she said that!”
Life was fresh for Rebecca and unlike the unnamed Samaritan woman, she had not met the heartbreaks life’s failures and sin can bring.
Maybe this is why the two women’s responses were significantly different.
When your heart is bruised, you see the world – and the people in it – totally different from someone who’s never been hurt. Let’s remember that when we deal with difficult people in our lives. I pray I remember it and that I respond with compassion.
Back to the Woman and Jesus
Jesus is never intimidated by our questions or our stinky attitudes. He is rich in mercy. So, here is what happened in John 4: 10-15:
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
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?
Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,
but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.
The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
After she made her request, Jesus told her to go get her husband. Wild, right?
Verses 17 – 26 share what happens next:
The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;
for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”
Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Just like our beautiful Savior…
The beautiful thing about all of this is God picked someone with the emotional tatters of multiple divorces to reveal Himself to. He could have selected a man of good reputation, but He didn’t.
He knew her history and saw in her an opportunity to use her for something so big and wonderful a “nobody” pastor’s wife in Missouri would blog about it more than 2,000 years later.
Whether we are covered with life’s bruises and disappointments or just beginning our journey in life, like Rebecca, God has a plan to make us useful to the kingdom.
Here is how that happened in John 4:28-30:
So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people,
“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”
They went out of the town and were coming to him.
She led them directly to Jesus!
King Solomon’s son Rehoboam created a divide between the “northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, each with its own king” (Who Were the Samaritans? Their Meaning in the Bible, 2023).
When the northern kingdom was conquered, the Israelites who didn’t become slaves to Assyria, stayed and were somehow able to intermarry with people who were not God’s people.
Their offspring were the Samaritans. It reminds me of the challenges biracial children have to endure to this day. Ignorant.
To be clear: the problem they had with intermingling was not due to race, however. It was about spiritual dissonance. God doesn’t care what color marries what color – but He doesn’t want us unequally yoked spiritually. Christians must marry Christians.
2 Corinthians 6:14
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
I like the way John D. Barry states it (the source is listed below):
“that we should not associate with believers who don’t actually live for Jesus, and second, that engaging in any sort of intimate relationship or partnership with someone who does not let Jesus be the center of their lives will ultimately lead to our demise.” (Barry, 2021)
Anyway, in addition to the intermingling They created their own religion (Who Were the Samaritans? Their Meaning in the Bible, 2023) which the Jews deemed unorthodoxy and just plain wrong. Wild, right? I think that was what Jesus was talking about, don’t you?
The reason Samaritans didn’t talk to Jews – as the woman at the well plainly told Jesus – was because of racism, religious difference, and just plain old bad blood.
Sooo..how many husbands did the Samaritan woman have?
The answer is she was married five times. You likely caught it above.
The purpose of this blog post about the Samaritan woman is to add a bit more dimension to her.
We get so caught up in the fact that she had a lot of husbands and a lot of failed marriages.
But that’s not nearly as meaningful as her transformation from being snippy, bitter, and hard-hearted to being a passionate evangelist for Jesus.
Unfortunately, her identity to so many of us is closely linked to her failures. I don’t think that’s right, do you?
A happy ending to the story.
You know, I’m grateful the woman of Samaria’s story didn’t end with cynicism.
It ends in bountiful destiny and merciful promise.
While her entire life was peppered with pain and rejection.
She met Jesus at a well. She learned God was all-knowing and very kind. He was kind enough to talk to a woman – which shocked the disciples a bit.
“Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” (verse 27)
Clearly, it was inappropriate for Jesus to be speaking to a woman – much less a Samaritan woman. But, Jesus didn’t care. As Trillia Newbell titled her article, on the Gospel Coalition website, it was Jesus being “a Barrier-Smashing Savior.” You can read her article here: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/samaritan-woman-savior/
The lesson for us and me…
By reaching out and seeing past her attitude, He made a life-changing impression on the woman of Samaria. That impression delivered redemption to many others. So awesome!
That really should be how we remember her. Sure, she has some relationship issues, but, that is such a small part of her identity. I’m so glad my bad times are not so etched into my reputation. You know, I’m glad I had them they were beneficial. I write about that here.
Like many of us, she was a survivor because she came through so many discouraging situations and landed at the feet of Jesus. And, not only did she land there, but she bought people with her.
Isn’t that what we all should do?
Barry, J. D. (2021, February 5). What Does It Mean to Be Unequally Yoked with Unbelievers? Word by Word. https://www.logos.com/grow/what-does-it-mean-to-be-unequally-yoked-with-unbelievers/
Who Were the Samaritans? Their Meaning in the Bible. (2023, February 23). biblestudytools.com. https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/the-samaritans-hope-from-the-history-of-a-hated-people.html