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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
( πηγὴ τοῦ Ἰακώβ ,
1. Position of Well
In John 4:3 we read that our Lord "left Judea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs pass through Samaria. So he cometh to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph: and Jacob's well was there." When Jacob came to Shechem on his return from Paddanaram he encamped "before," i.e. East of the city, and bought the land on which he had spread his tent ( Genesis 33:18 f). This is doubtless the "portion" (Hebrew
2. Why Dug
In the chapter quoted, it is said that Jacob dug the well (Genesis 48:12 ). The Old Testament says nothing of this. With the copious springs at
3. Consensus of Tradition
Jew, Samaritan, Moslem and Christian agree in associating this well with the patriarch Jacob. This creates a strong presumption in favor of the tradition: and there is no good reason to doubt its truth. Standing at the brink of the well, over-shadowed by the giant bulk of Gerizim, one feels how naturally it would be spoken of as "this mountain."
For long the well was unprotected, opening among the ruins of a vaulted chamber some feet below the surface of the ground. Major Anderson describes it ( Recovery of Jerusalem , 465) as having "a narrow opening, just wide enough to allow the body of a man to pass through with arms uplifted, and this narrow neck, which is about 4 ft. long, opens into the well itself, which is cylindrically shaped, and about 7 ft. 6 inches in diameter. The mouth and upper part of the well are built of masonry, and the well appears to have been sunk through a mixture of alluvial soil and limestone fragments, till a compact bed of mountain limestone was reached, having horizontal strata which could be easily worked; and the interior of the well presents the appearance of having been lined throughout with rough masonry." The depth was doubtless much greater in ancient times; but much rubbish has fallen into it, and now it is not more than 75 ft. deep. It is fed by no spring, nor is the water conducted to it along the surface, as to a cistern. Its supplies depend entirely upon rainfall and percolation. Possibly, therefore, the water may never have approached the brim. The woman says "the well is deep."
From the narratives of the pilgrims we learn that at different times churches have been built over the well. The Moslems probably demolished the last of them after the overthrow of the Crusaders in 1187. A description of the ruins with drawings, as they were 30 years ago, is given in
5. Present Condition
Some years ago the plot of ground containing the well was purchased by the authorities of the Greek church, and it has been surrounded by a wall. A chapel has been built over the well, and a large church building has also been erected beside it.
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Jacob's Well'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/j/jacobs-well.html. 1915.