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American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
Wells and Springs
By those living in a temperate climate, where the well or the aqueduct furnishes to every house a supply of water practically inexhaustible, no idea can be formed of the extreme distress caused by thirst, and of the luxury of relieving it by drinking pure watera luxury which is said to excel all other pleasures of sense. One must reside or travel in a Syrian climate to realize the beauty and force of the allusions of Scripture to "water out of the wells of salvation," "cold water to a thirsty soul," "the fountain of living waters," and many others. The digging of a permanent well or the discovery of a spring was a public benefaction, and its possession was a matter of great importance. Its existence at a given spot decided the nightly resting-place of caravans, the encampment of armies, and the location of towns, 1 Samuel 29:1 2 Samuel 2:13 . Hence BEER , the Hebrew name for a well or spring, forms a part of many names of places, as Beeroth, Beer-sheba. See also EN .
So valuable was a supply of water, that a field containing a spring was a princely dowry, Judges 1:13-15 , and a well was a matter of strife and negotiation between different tribes. Thus we read that Abraham, in making a treaty with king Abimelech, "reproved him because of a well of water which Abimelich's servants had violently taken away," and the ownership of the well was sealed to Abraham by a special oath and covenant, Genesis 21:25-31 . A similar transaction occurred during the life of Isaac, Genesis 26:14-33 . In negotiating with the king of Edom for a passage through his territory, the Israelites said, "We will go by the highway; and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it," Numbers 20:17-19 . Still stronger is the expression in Lamentations 5:4 : "We have drunk our own water for money:" that is, we bought it of our foreign rulers, though we are the natural proprietors of the wells that furnished it. The custom of demanding pay for water of the traveler is still found in some parts of the East; while in many other towns a place is provided where cold water and sometimes bread are offered gratuitously to the stranger, at the expense of the village, or as an act of charity by the benevolent, Mark 9:41 . In case of a hostile invasion, nothing could more effectually harass an advancing army or the besiegers of a city, than to fill with stones the wells on which they relied, 2 Kings 3:25 2 Chronicles 32:3 .
Wells are sometimes found in Palestine furnished with a well-sweep and bucket, or a windlass; and in some cases there were steps leading down to the water, Genesis 24:15,16; but usually the water is drawn with pitchers and ropes; and the stone curbs of ancient wells bear the marks of long use. They were often covered with a large flat stone, to exclude the flying sand and secure the water to its owners, and also for the security of strangers, who were liable to fall into them unawares- a mischance which very often occurs in modern Syria, and against which the beneficent law of Moses made provision, Exodus 21:33-34 . This stone was removed about sunset, when the females of the vicinity drew their supply of water for domestic use, and the flocks and herds drank from the stone troughs which are still found beside almost every well. At this hour, the well was a favorite place of resort, and presented a scene of life and gayety greatly in contrast with its ordinary loneliness, Genesis 24:11-28 29:1-10 Exodus 2:16-19 1 Samuel 9:11 . Wells, however, were sometimes infested by robbers, Judges 5:11; and Dr. Shaw mentions a beautiful spring in Barbary, the Arabic name of which means, "Drink, and away!" a motto which may well be inscribed over even the best springs of earthly delight. See CISTERN.
The cut above given presents a view of "The Fountain of the Virgin" at Nazareth, so called from the strong probability that the mother of our Lord was wont to draw water from it, as the women of Nazareth do at this day. It is a copious spring, just out of the village; and the path that leads to it is well worn, as by the feet of many generations. All travelers in Palestine mention the throngs of females that resort to it, with their pitchers or goat-skins on the shoulder or head and loitering to gossip or gaily returning in companies of two or three. Every day witnesses there what might almost be described in the very words of Genesis 24:11 : "And he made his camels to kneel down without the city, by a well of water, at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water. And behold, Rebekah came out, with her pitcher upon her shoulder; and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up." It is an uncommon sight to see "a man bearing a pitcher of water," Mark 14:13 .
Jacob's well, at the eastern entrance of the charming valley of Shechem, is still in existence, though now little used and often nearly dry. It is covered by a vaulted roof, with a narrow entrance closed by a heavy rock. Around it is a platform, and the remains of a church built over the spot by the empress Gelena. Close at hand is mount Gerizim, which the woman of Sychar no doubt glanced at as she said, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain." On the west is the broad and fertile plain of Mukna, where the fields were "white already to the harvest." The woman intimated that the well was "deep," and had no steps. Actual measurement shows it to be seventyfive feet deep, and about nine feet in diameter. Dr. Wilson, in 1842, sent down with ropes a Jew named Jacob, to explore the well and recover a Bible dropped into it by Rev. Mr. Bonar three years before. This was found, almost destroyed by lying in water. As the traveler stands by this venerated well and thinks of the long series of men of a hundred nations and generations who have drunk of its waters, thirsted again, and died, he is most forcibly affected by the truth of Christ's words to the Samaritan woman, and made to feel his own perishing need of the water "springing up into everlasting life," John 4:1-54 .
These files are public domain and are a derivative of the topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859.
Rand, W. W. Entry for 'Wells and Springs'. American Tract Society Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ats/w/wells-and-springs.html. 1859.