A. The "woman at the well" episode is grounded in the Johannine hermeneutic I would like to call the "Loss of the Temple" hermeneutic which associates the authorship of John being written in a post-destruction of the third temple [Herod's temple] after its dismay by Roman general Titus in AD 70. Therefore, John's audience most likely would have read his gospel with cope, sensitivity, and OT Jewish expectations for God to rebuild the Jerusalem temple once again as the Prophets declared in Ezekiel 40-48. The interesting factor in John's Gospel is the usage of "temple" and the body of Jesus and his resurrection.
This text is so key to understanding the background to John 4-5 as Jesus has two encounters where he mentions "temple" language. John 2:18-22, So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
God's glory [his manifested presence] was revealed at Mount Sinai in the OT and "dwelt" there as in Exodus 24:16, "The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud." (and in the tabernacle, as recalled by Ps. 78:60). Once the temple was built, God's glory dwelt there as in Psalm 74:2, "Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt." It is no coincidence John references God's glory now dwelt not on a mountain, tabernacle, or temple, but dwells in the person of Jesus Christ. John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Therefore, we must understand in the Gospel of John, there are a series of episodes that address an audience who is facing a real spiritual crisis since the loss of the temple occurred and their Jewish faith is in disarray because of the catastrophic destruction.
B. 4:4-9, Jesus enters "Samaria" where the Samaritans lived. They were viewed with illegitimacy, hostility, and partiality because they inter-married with Gentiles during the exilic years of Israel's captivity, so they were perceived as not "true Jews" or "people of God." This history is well documented in the OT (Ezra 4:1-24) 1 Kings 16:24, 17:1-6, 22; Nehemiah 4:1-6)
C. 4:5, "Jacob's Well" was an active spring where Jewish sojourners would go get water from biblical and historical location that was meaningful to the people of God (cf. Genesis 33:19; 48:22; Joshua 24:32). It is possible that Samaritans thought this well was of spiritual significance because it was a well of their fathers (just as they applied to Mount Gerizim in 4:20).
D. 4:10, Jesus says the "gift of God" is "living water" that would replenish the woman not just physically, but spiritually. This is remarkable statement, because it alludes to key OT references. Isaiah 12:3 praises God from where all blessings flow, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." Isaiah 41:18 states what the Messiah will do, "I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water." Therefore, it is clear that Jesus is claiming to be the living water who brings salvation to the not just the woman, but the Samaritans.
E. 4:14-15, Jesus answers the woman who asked if he was greater than Jacob from the OT who created the well she was drawing water from. Jesus' answer is a direct fulfillment of Ezekiel 47:1-12, "Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
God is called the "fountain of living waters" and "the fountain of living water" in Jeremiah 2:13, 17:13. Other references predict God will rise up "a fountain" who will bring water as a life source to his people in Joel 3:18, "And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the Valley of Shittim." And this fountain will bring spiritual life as in Zechariah 13:1, "On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness." The nature of this living water will be stabilizing and nourishing through all seasons of life as indicated in Zechariah 14:8, "On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter."
John also mentions he is the "water of life" later in John 7:37-39, "On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
Since Jesus is considered the new temple, the "fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" flows from faith in him. The exclusivity of Christ is apparent in this message! The Bible is full of stuff like this from the OT in order to prove the correct identity and purpose of Jesus, but more importantly to authenticate the truth of Scripture. Amazing!
(1 John 2:6)