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Holman Bible Dictionary


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A source of water created by digging in the earth to find available water. In the semiarid climate of ancient Israel, the availability of water was a constant concern, the Bible contains many references to the sources used for obtaining it. Several Hebrew words are used in different contexts to denote these sources, making it sometimes difficult to know which English word to use in translation. See Cistern ; Fountain ; Pit ; Spring ; Water .

The Hebrew word most commonly translated “well” is beer ( Genesis 21:30-31 ; Numbers 21:16-18 ). Beer also occurs in several place names indicating the location of important wells: Beer ( Numbers 21:16 ); Beer-elim (Isaiah 15:8 ); Beeroth (Deuteronomy 10:6 ); Beer-lahai-roi (Genesis 16:14 ); Beer-sheba (Genesis 21:31 ).

The digging of a well could be a time for celebration (Numbers 21:17-18 ), but wells were also fought over as different people tried to control the precious resource (Genesis 21:25-26 ; Genesis 26:15-22 ; Exodus 2:16-17 ). Wells were located wherever a water source could be found. This included fields (Genesis 29:2 ), towns (2 Samuel 23:15 ), and the wilderness (Genesis 16:7 ,Genesis 16:7,16:14 ).

“Well” is also used figuratively of a harlot (Proverbs 23:27 NRSV) and of a wicked city ( Jeremiah 6:7 ). Elsewhere it is used as a metaphor for sexual pleasure (Proverbs 5:15 ; see Song of Song of Solomon 4:15 ).

John C. H. Laughlin

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Well'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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