The Jeremiah narrative happens upon a well on two occasions. In the sixth chapter, as Jeremiah verbally depicts the destruction that is going to come upon Jerusalem due to its idolatry, he shares some of the Lord’s thoughts concerning the city. The God of Israel can be heard to say “Cut down the trees around Jerusalem and build up a siege ramp against its walls. This is the city which is to be punished. Nothing but oppression happens in it. As a well continually pours out fresh water so it continually pours out wicked deeds. Sounds of violence and destruction echo throughout it. All I see are sick and wounded people” (6:6-7).
This is, of course, a reflection upon Israel’s covenant failures. For this, the Creator God brings His curse against His covenant people. Death is coming to them. It is against this that Jesus can be heard speaking, when He says “whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become a fountain of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). This eternal life is so much more than a one-way ticket to heaven upon death. Rather, it is an entrance into the covenant people of the Creator God, in which one shares in the covenant blessings promised by the God of Israel (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28), and presumably the resurrection of the righteous at the end of the age.
Not long thereafter, the Samaritan woman questions Jesus about whether Jerusalem is the appropriate place to offer worship. Might this be a reflection on what the Creator God says about Jerusalem in Jeremiah (a well that pours out wicked deeds rather than fresh water)? Jesus responds by telling her “a time is coming… when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (4:23a). Further on in Jeremiah, the prophet laments over that which he speaks, saying “I wish that my head were a well full of water and my eyes were a fountain full of tears! If they were, I could cry day and night for those of my dear people who have been killed” (9:1).
Hosea is the next prophet to be heard, as he spoke to the situation of the northern kingdom of Israel. Referring to the judgment of the Creator God that was coming upon that portion of His people, Hosea says “Even though he flourishes like a reed plant, a scorching east wind will come, a wind from the Lord rising up from the desert. As a result, his spring will dry up; his well will become dry. That wind will spoil all his delightful foods in the containers in his storehouse” (13:15). Beyond the natural fact that water is necessary for life for all peoples everywhere, wells had been a source of life for Israel, stretching back to Abraham as a place of marriage and ultimately offspring that continued their God’s covenant purposes. Here, their God speaks of a well that would become dry. Specifically, this is directed against Samaria (13:16), which is the setting for Jesus well meeting. This provides added color to Jesus’ talk of “living water” (4:10) and “a fountain of water springing up to eternal life, as well as Jesus’ directing of the woman’s attention away from either Samaria or Jerusalem as the center of worship.
In a similar instance, to round out and wrap up this study, is to be found in the prophetic work of Micah. Here, it is possible to readily identify informative points of contact with the Johannine well story, as Micah speaks of the Creator God’s judgment that comes “because of Jacob’s rebellion and the sins of the nation of Israel” (1:15a). Not unlike the woman’s question to Jesus about the proper place of worship, and being mindful of Jesus’ response, Micah can be heard to rhetorically inquire “How has Jacob rebelled, you ask? Samaria epitomizes their rebellion! Where are Judah’s pagan worship centers, you ask? They are right in Jerusalem!” (1:15b). As Micah goes on to describe the tribulation that will come their way, he is heard saying “Therefore you will have to say farewell to Moresheth Gath. The residents of Achzib will be as disappointing as a dried up well to the kings of Israel” (1:14).