Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Tradition Of Wells (part 5)

Because the woman at the well mentions Jacob, one quite naturally expects to find Jacob connected to wells.  This expectation is not disappointed.  Indeed, having seen Abraham and Isaac in connection with such, with wells proving to be an important piece of Israel’s historical narrative, it would indeed be astonishing not to find similar stories concerning Jacob.  Like Abraham’s servant, who had found Isaac’s wife (Jacob’s mother) through an event at a well, so too does Jacob find a wife for himself in much the same way.  In light of that, it’s almost surprising that the story of Jesus’ encounter with a woman at a well did not end up with Jesus finding Himself a wife.  

In Genesis twenty-nine, Jacob, having fled from his father’s house because of the ruse and fraud he had perpetrated upon his father and his brother (the source of a none-too-minor dispute between Jacob and his brother), “saw in the field a well with three flocks of sheep lying beside it, because the flocks were watered from that well” (Genesis 29:2a).  Providentially, Jacob, even though this is the place to which he has been directed by his mother, presumably comes to the same well to which the servant of Abraham had come and at which he is able to make inquiries concerning his mother’s brother, Laban.  It is in concert with this inquiry that one of his future wives, Rachel, is introduced into the narrative, as she was coming towards the well with her father’s sheep (29:6). 

In contrast to what was seen with Abraham’s servant, whose plea to his Lord was answered with Rebekah watering his animals, Jacob “went over and rolled the stone off the mouth of the well and watered the sheep of his uncle Laban” (29:10b).  Similar to what was seen previously from Laban, when Rachel informs her father about Jacob’s presence, “he rushed out to meet him.  He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house” (29:13b). 

Fascinatingly, this is the only well to be seen in connection with Jacob as part of the Scriptural narrative.  Never is there a report of anything referred to as “Jacob’s well,” as alluded to by the Johnannine author and the Samaritan woman.  Now, this is not to say that there was no such thing as Jacob’s well, as it is most likely, due to its location, a well located within the territory of the promised land that was bequeathed to Joseph before Jacob’s death. 

With such knowledge, one can surmise that a well there came to be known as “Jacob’s well,” even if there was no overt connection to Jacob within the shared historical memory of Israel.  This piece of information, however, does nothing to change the nature of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  The fact remains that a tradition of wells would underscore Jesus way of thinking, along with that of His disciples, the woman at the well, the townsfolk that would come to hear the woman and her story, and the author of the narrative. 

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