In Jesus’ dialogue with the Samaritan woman, he tells her, “Salvation (σωτηρία; sotería) is from the Jews” (4:22). This Jewish-Samaritan exchange also contains a veiled reference to the number seven, which symbolizes perfection or completeness in Hebrew thought. In Israel’s Scriptures, the number appears in the context of healing and salvation, and John also uses “seven” to highlight the salvation of the world through Jesus. 

Immediately after Yeshua speaks of giving the Samaritan woman “living water,” he tells her, “You have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband” (4:18). Scholars tend to focus on the possible symbolism of the woman’s “five” prior husbands—perhaps as a reference to the five Books of Moses or the five pagan deities that Samaritans worshiped in the time of Israel’s kings (see 1 Kgs 17:30-31). However, many have missed that the ultimate number is not five, but seven: the woman has five husbands, is living with another man presently, and the seventh man in her life is Jesus! John’s numerical allusion positions Yeshua as the perfect source of the Samaritan woman’s salvation. In fact, John underscores this relationship between “seven” and “salvation” when, just after Jesus leaves Samaria, he heals a Galilean’s son “in the seventh hour” (4:52). The Gospel includes these references to “seven,” the Hebrew number of completeness, to emphasize Jesus’ ability to completely save humanity. 

John’s reference to seven coheres with Jesus’ gift of living water, since Israel’s priests used “living water” alongside a seven-fold blood ritual for healing skin ailments: “The priest… shall take… the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the living water (מים חיים; mayim hayim). And he shall sprinkle it seven times (שׁבע פעמים; sheva pa’amim) on him who is to be cleansed” (Lev 14:6-7). In John, “living water” (ὕδωρ τὸ ζῶν; hudor to zon) comes through a Jewish Messiah whose appearance marks the seventh time that a man has come into the Samaritan woman’s life—this time to offer her the “salvation” that is “from the Jews” (4:22).

John’s association between “seven” and salvation” also recalls Israel’s victory the days of Saul. Before the Ammonites engage them in battle, the elders of Israel ask, ‘Give us seven days’ (שׁבעת ימים; shivat yamim) respite that we might send messengers throughout all Israel. Then, if there is no one to save us, we will give ourselves to you’” (1 Sam 11:3). Within this seven-day period, the messengers find Saul and he defeats the Ammonites, declaring, “Today the Lord has worked salvation in Israel” (תשׁועה בישׂראל; teshuah b’Yisrael; 11:13). Israel’s Scriptures link “seven” with “salvation,” and John’s Gospel follows the biblical precedent in presenting Jesus as the Savior of the world.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Dr. Schaser,

    In this dialogue and portion of Scripture, Jesus was not talking in metaphors or parables. He was talking in plain language, and we should take him at his word, and not try to "read into" some additional meaning of his words, which are nothing more than our own ideas.

    Let's be practical: If I say "every square has four equal 90 degree angles..." and then I say "my friend has a square jaw..." it would be wrong to conclude that "my friend has four 90 degree angles on his jaw..." This borders on "delusional". And to draw a conclusion with the "square" illustration is simply nothing more than basic equivocation: Its a matter of changing the rules of word meaning in the middle of a discussion.

    There is no cross Scriptural evidence that Jesus was talking in a "veiled reference to the number seven..." in John 4:22. A person has to "read into" the Scripture to see that there is a veiled reference to the number seven.

    We have to be more careful about doing such things because we are making the Scripture "say" what we want it to say, rather than taking it for exactly what it really says. This is called "torturing the Scripture", (which I suspect you already know) no matter how lovely we make the new meaning of a Scripture sound: It is still a torture to make the Scripture say what we want it to say.

    Let's be practical, rather than over-spiritualize something or "Allegorizing" a Scripture, because to do so is nothing more than a private interpretation, which in turn causes a delusional understanding of any particular doctrine which we are interpreting in this manner.
    • Gerald, nowhere does the article claim that "Jesus was talking in a 'veiled reference [about] the number seven'" -- the article doesn't comment on how Jesus himself understands the number or its meaning. The point is that the writer of John's Gospel refers to "seven" -- both implicitly (4:18) and explicitly (4:52) -- in the context of salvation. This is based on the data on the page, rather than an "allegorizing" or eisegesis of the text. More, Israel's Scriptures associate 7 with healing and/or salvation (per the article), and John -- not Jesus -- follows this biblical precedent.
  2. Interesting! Thank you Dr. Nicholas, Is there any hints for using the numbers in Gen. 7 I see for instance the following numbers are repeated. 7 pairs of all clean animals, 7 pairs of the birds (Gen. 7:2,3) In 7 days God will send rain (Gen. 7:4)
    • Yes, 7 is the number of perfection or completeness (hence a "perfect" number of animals board the boat and God sends a "complete" flood); 40 is the number of proper judgment (i.e., God fully judges the earth with the duration of the flood). For more on this, see https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/jewish-time-meaning-forty/
  3. For 40 days and 40 nights (Gen. 7:4,12,17; 8:6 [at the end of 40 day])
    600 years of Noah’s age (Gen. 7:6,11)
    2 and 2 male and female of birds and clean animals (Gen. 7:9,15)
  4. After 7 days the waters of the flood came upon the earth (Gen. 7:10; 8:10 [Noah waiting another 7 days], 12 [waiting another 7 days])
    In the 2nd month, on the 17th day of the month (Gen. 7:11)
    15 cubits deep (Gen. 7:20)
  5. 150 days-waters prevailed on the earth, then receded (Gen. 7:24; 8:3)
    In the 7th month, on the 17th day the ark rested on the mountains of Ararat (Gen. 8:4)
    In the 10th month, on the 1st day of the month waters continued to abate (Gen. 8:5)
    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!
  6. i am so moved with this story, 7 yes it is completeness, 7th day God rested from all what he created. and when Jesus appeared at the well where the Samaritan lady was, she had 5 prior husbands, 6th with the present one, Jesus appeared just on time, where the lady has to let go of all these 6 men but let Yeshua, the living water complete her life, the same day she accepted the living water, she went out and spread the good news that there is a man at the well that told about her life. Jesus appeared as the 7th man, the very last man to complete her life, and accepts no one else after Yeshua.
    thank you for such an amazing teaching. i did not have any deep thinking about this. love it. amen Lord bless
  7. If nothing less, we are looking and studying God word. Let the Holy spirit speek to each heart as He so chooses.

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