River water sources The River Litani and the River Jordan are the only rivers of any size; perennial brooks are very scarce and the wadis, while numerous and impetuous in the rainy season, are dry during the rest of the year. Job (6:16-17) compares faithless friends to these torrent-beds, swollen in the spring, but vanishing in the hot weather. The Son of Sirach twice enumerates water as the first among the "principal things necessary for the life of man" (Sirach [Apocrypha], 29:21; 39:26).
The Wells of the Bible
by Moses Hsu
Wells have played a very important role in Hebrew culture. In Palestine, the rainy season is very short and the rain fall is low. The whole region is very dry. However, water is almost as important as air for nomadic people. It is said that if sheep go without water for three days, they will become ill; and in five days they die. In Genesis we read the story about Abraham and how he built altars to the Lord as the first thing he would do when he moved from place to place in the land of Canaan. Secondly, he would dig wells for his household and his cattle. Isaac, his son, followed his steps to Gerar, and also dug many wells. Because of those wells he quarreled many times with the Philistines. (Genesis 26)
Several beautiful stories about marriages recorded in the Bible had something to do with wells, including some leaders of Israelites. For instance in Genesis 24, we read the story about Isaac and Rebekah. When the faithful servant of Abraham arrived at Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor, he prayed at the well. He prayed that God would lead him to find the one He had in mind for Isaac. Before he finished praying, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder. She did just as the servant had prayed; she gave the servant a drink and drew water for all his camels. The old servant knew in his heart that she was the one God had prepared for Isaac. Right there beside the well, he took out a gold nose ring and two gold bracelets and gave them to Rebekah. When he returned to his master with Rebekah, the Bible says "Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death." (Genesis 24)
One more story in the Old Testament was about Moses and his wife, Zipporah. Fleeing from Pharaoh who wanted to kill him, Moses fled to live in Midian where he sat down by a well. Just then, the seven daughters of a priest in Midian went to draw water for their father's flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock. Later Moses was invited to stayed with them and the father gave Moses his oldest daughter Zipporah, as his wife. (Exodus 2)
In the New Testament we do not find similar stories. However in the gospel of John chapter four, we read the story about Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob. To that woman, Jesus not only told the eternal truth but also revealed to her his status as the Messiah. The dialogue at the well and its meaning have become an important part of the core faith of Christianity. Jesus proclaimed there, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14) Indeed, the water from the well is important to us, but whoever drinks the water shall be thirsty again. Better yet, the water given by God will quench our thirst for ever. Amen! *
**** Abridged from pg. 40-41, April 1996 issue of Overseas Campus Magazine
A spring, (pede, fons) is the "eye of the landscape", the natural burst of living water, flowing all year or drying up at certain seasons. In contrast to the "troubled waters" of wells and rivers (Jer. 2:18), there gushes forth from it "living water", to which Jesus alikened the grace of the Holy Spirit (John 4:10; 7:38; cf. Isaiah 12:3; 44:3).
Towns and hamlets bear names compounded with the word Ain (En) -- for example, Endor (spring of Dor), Engannin (spring of gardens), Engaddi (spring of the kid), Rogel or En-rogel (spring of the foot), Ensemes (spring of the sun), etc. But springs were comparatively rare; biblical language distinguishes the natural springs from the wells (psrear, puteus), which are water pits bored under the rocky surface and having no outlet. They belonged to and were named by the person who dug them. Many names of places, too, are compounded with B'er, such as Bersable, Beroth, Beer Elim, etc.
Manners & Customs: Wells
Wells in the Ancient World
CISTERNS The word "well" to the average native of Israel has meant "spring" or "fountain," but in the Bible account it often means "cistern." Actually the cistern has been a more common source of Israel's water supply than has the well. To drink water out of the family cistern was the proverbial wish of every Israelite, and such was the promise that King Sennacherib of Assyria used to try and tempt the Israelites into making peace with him. He said to them: "Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern" (II Kings 18:31; cf. Isaiah 36:16).
These family cisterns were often dug in the open courtyard of houses as was the case of "the man which had a well [cistern] in his court." At the time of year referred to this cistern was dry and so two men could easily be hidden therein (II Samuel 17:18-19). During the rainy season the rain water is conducted from the houseroofs to these cisterns by means of troughs. Usually the water is drawn up by means of a rope that runs over a wheel, and a bucket made of animal skins is fastened to the rope. Jeremiah used the picture of a cistern that leaked water, to illustrate one of his sermons: "For my people have committed two evils"; the prophet said of the LORD, "They have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13). . . continue reading . . . [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]