Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Tradition Of Wells (part 3)

It is not at all difficult to see this idea at play in the fourth chapter of John, as Jesus said to the Samaritan woman “Give me some water to drink” (John 4:7b).  Of course, in the story of Abraham’s servant, his request is precisely met, thus a wife, Rebekah, is found for Isaac.  When the servant reveals his identity to Rebekah, “the young woman ran and told her mother’s household all about these things” (Genesis 24:28), much like the Samaritan woman runs off to tell the townspeople about her strange encounter at the well.  Rebekah’s action, in turn, prompts her brother Laban to rush out to meet the man at the spring (24:29). 

It can be said of Rebekah that she will be the vehicle through which the Creator God brings Jacob to birth, from whom will come the Creator God’s covenant people, that being the twelve tribes of Israel.  In the same light, what is seen and heard in the encounter with the woman at the well with Jesus?  Though the reader is left to guess at whether or not this woman provides Jesus with any water, such becomes a secondary issue in the wake of her conversation with Jesus.  In recounting the story of Rebekah, an allusion has just been made to the fact that “the woman left her water jar, went off into the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.  Surely He can’t be the Messiah, can He?’  So they left the town and began coming to Him” (4:28-30).  Obviously, this becomes a major divergence in the stories, though the end result will be the same. 

The action of Laban aside, Abraham’s servant is taken to Abraham’s relatives, whereas the people to whom this woman speaks come out to meet Jesus.  However, as said, the result is somewhat identical, in that the Creator God’s covenant purposes are advanced and His kingdom is broadened, “as many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the report of the woman who testified…So when the Samaritans came to Him, they began asking Him to stay with them” (4:39a,40a). 

Abraham’s servant experiences much the same, in that after securing the bride for Isaac, he stayed overnight (24:54).  The next morning, upon indicating his intentions to return to Abraham, he was pressed to stay “a few more days, perhaps ten” (24:55b).  The text, however, would lead the reader to believe that he left that day.  At the same time, it would not be unreasonable to presume that at least one more night was spent at that place, in preparation for the journey home (for Abraham’s servant), and the journey from home (for Rebekah and her attendants/servants).  Returning to John, Jesus, and that particular well story, it is reported that “He stayed there two days” (4:40b).  There is a reiteration of this point a few verses later, as it is reported that “After two days He departed from there to Galilee” (4:43). 

Before going any further, the reader should be reminded that this study is not merely looking for points of contact between the story of the woman at the well and stories from the Biblical tradition by which it is preceded.  Rather, this is an attempt to allow the Scriptural narrative---that which provided self-definition and cosmic understanding to the people of Israel, to Jesus, and to those that provided their remembrances of Him, to inform an approach to the Jesus of the Gospels. 

It is to be reiterated that what is being attempted with this study is not an interpretation and application of Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman and that which resulted from it, but rather an attempt to put an observer in a position to come to the well, with Jesus, with the woman, and with the disciples of Jesus, with shared sensibilities that will allow one to hear Jesus, and to better determine the purpose and movement of the kingdom of the Creator God that stands behind this encounter along with understanding the purposes of His biographer.

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