The account of the woman at the well is one of the most treasured and beloved in the Gospels--one with which I am sure all of you are very familiar, so I am not going to go into the usual elements one encounters when studying the passage in John, such as the time of day, the shocking fact that a Jewish rabbi would speak to a women in public, or the revelation of his Messiahship. For the purpose of this article, I wanted to relate some of the obstacles I had to overcome in writing this little novella.
First of all, when I started doing the research on the Samaritans, I found there is very little available. They are a very isolated and private people, even today. And very few official records were kept, especially concerning the women. Simple little things like what they wore, their customs, especially their weddings, the culture of the people and their families--items that are grist for the historical fiction writer's mill--were not to be found. I uncovered one--ONE--image of a Samaritan woman in her wedding attire. With five husbands, I had to write about at least one wedding. What I finally had to do was draw upon Jewish customs, as the Samaritans are half-Jewish, and integrate what little information I could find about this reclusive people with Jewish customs.
Then I had the issue of having to make up stories about five husbands without becoming redundant, unbelievable, or vague. How does one end up with five husbands, especially in this era? I surmised that she had to have been widowed at least a couple of times, divorced ... what else? It proved to be quite a challenge.
I finally came up with having her marry her childhood sweetheart very young. He was the love of her life, but he was killed in a fire of their vineyard after just two years of marriage. The next marriage, arranged by her family to a much older man, lasted only a year, ending when he died in his sleep. The third marriage to the overseer of their property proved to be an abusive situation which ended when he never came home one night. Marah always suspected that her brother had "taken care" of the situation. The fourth marriage was to a kindly, older priest who loved her well and took good care of her, but died simply of old age after a few years. The last marriage was to a wealthy merchant who married her so she would bear him children, but when she never became pregnant, she put her away, divorced her. Forced to beg after that, a benevolent man, who truly loved her, took her in and wanted to marry her, but she refused. This is the point at which she met Jesus at Jacob's well.
Of course, although the stories in my novella of the woman's five marriages are fictitious, the historical setting and scenarios are derived from fact. We don't know whether she was widowed all of those marriages of divorced from all five of her husbands, but it just seemed to me that it probably was a bit of both.
What do you think? Tell me your idea of what might have happened to put her in the circumstances in which she found herself when Jesus offered acceptance and redemption to her on that hot dusty day in Samaria. Leave your email address and be entered for a chance to win a copy of my novella, Alone, The Woman at the Well.
Although a multi-published fiction author, Golden Keyes Parsons’ first published non-fiction work,Spiritual Spring Cleaning, (BoldVision Books) just released in April 2015. Her series, Darkness to Light, (Thomas Nelson) chronicled the journey of her ancestors in 17th century France and was a finalist for ACFW’s Debut Author of the Year in 2008. Her fourth novel, His Steadfast Love, a Civil War novel, was a National Readers Choice finalist. Parsons has also written a biblical fiction series entitled Hidden Faces, Portraits of Nameless Women in the Gospels (WhiteFire Publishing). Golden lives in Waco, TX, with her husband, Blaine. www.goldenkeyesparsons.com