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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Jacob's Well

or fountain, a well near Shechem, at which our Saviour conversed with the woman of Samaria, John 4:12 . Jacob dwelt near this place, before his sons slew the inhabitants of Shechem. If any thing, says Dr. E. D. Clarke, connected with the remembrance of past ages be calculated to awaken local enthusiasm, the land around this city is preeminently entitled to consideration. The sacred story of events transacted in the fields of Sichem, Genesis 37, from our earliest years, is remembered with delight; but with the territory before our eyes, where those events took place, and in the view of objects existing as they were described above three thousand years ago, the grateful impression kindles into ecstacy. Along the valley may still be seen, as in the days of Reuben and Judah, "a company of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing spicery, and balm, and myrrh," who would gladly purchase another Joseph of his brethren, and convey him as a slave to some Potiphar in Egypt. Upon the hills around, flocks and herds are seen feeding as of old; nor in the simple garb of the shepherds of Samaria, at this day, is there any thing repugnant to the notions we may entertain of the appearance formerly presented by the sons of Jacob. In the time of Alexander the Great, Sichem, or Napolose, as it is now called, was considered as the capital of Samaria. Its inhabitants were called Samaritans, not merely as people of Samaria, but as a sect at variance with the Jews; and they have continued to maintain their peculiar tenets to this day. The inhabitants, according to Procopius, were much favoured by the Emperor Justinian, who restored their sanctuaries, and added largely to the edifices of the city. The principal object of veneration among them is Jacob's well, over which a church was formerly erected. This is situated at a small distance from the town in the road to Jerusalem, and has been visited by pilgrims of all ages, but particularly since the Christian era, as the place where Christ revealed himself to the woman of Samaria. The spot is so distinctly marked by the evangelist, John iv, and so little liable to uncertainty from the circumstance of the well itself, and the features of the country, that, if no tradition existed to identify it, the site of it could scarcely be mistaken. Perhaps no Christian scholar ever read the fourth chapter of St. John's Gospel attentively, without being struck with the numerous internal evidences of truth which crowd upon the mind in its perusal. Within so small a compass, it is impossible to find in other writings so many sources of reflection and of interest. Independently of its importance as a theological document, it concentrates so much information, that a volume might be filled with the illustration it reflects upon the history of the Jews, and upon the geography of their country. All that can be gathered from Josephus on these subjects seems to be as a comment to illustrate this chapter. The journey of our Lord from Judea into Galilee; the cause of it; his passage through the territory of Samaria; his approach to the metropolis of that country; its name; his arrival at the Amorite field, which terminates the narrow valley of Sichem; the ancient custom of halting at a well; the female employment of drawing water; the disciples sent into the city for food, by which its situation out of the town is so obviously implied; the question of the woman referring to existing prejudices which separated the Jews from the Samaritans; the depth of the well; the oriental allusion contained in the expression, "living water;" the history of the well, and the customs illustrated by it; the worship upon Mount Gerizim:—all these occur within the space of twenty verses; and if to these be added that remarkable circumstance mentioned in the fifty-first verse of the chapter, where it is stated that as he was now going down, his servants met him," his whole route from Cana being a continual descent toward Capernaum, we may consider it as a record, signally confirmed in its veracity by circumstances, which remain in indelible character, to give them evidence, to this day.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Jacob's Well'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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