The passive expression contained in the clause what was being said may be rendered as active in such a form as “When Jesus heard what people were saying about him.” In Greek this clause appears in verse 1; see there.
Actually the geography of the country did not require that Jesus had to go through Samaria in order to get to Galilee from Judea. The verb had to translates the same verb that appears in 3.14,30, where it denotes a divine necessity. The intimation is that it was God’s will or purpose that Jesus should pass through Samaria.
The name Samaria goes back to the 9th century B.C., when King Omri gave this name to his capital city (1 Kgs 16.24). Later the use of the name was extended to the entire northern kingdom. In 721 B.C. the Assyrians captured Samaria and deported the Israelites, bringing in foreigners to take their place. When the Jews returned from exile, a definite break occurred between them and the Samaritans. This breach continued, and the people of Samaria developed their own distinctive religious customs. In New Testament times Samaria was part of the same political unit as Judea and was ruled by a Roman governor.
It is possible to introduce classifiers with Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, for example, “the province of Judea,” “the province of Galilee,” and “the province of Samaria.” Or instead of “province” one may use a more general designation, such as “region” or “territory.” However, after such classifiers have been used once or twice at the beginning of the book, it is better not to continue their use, unless demanded by the receptor language. Further information about these regions may be included in a glossary.
Quoted with permission from Newman, Barclay M. and Nida, Eugene A. A Handbook on the Gospel of John. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1980. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .