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Jacob’s Well


On his way from Padanaram, Jacob and his family encamped at Shechem and bought that land “for a hundred pieces of money from the descendants of Hamor, the father of Shechem” (Gen 33:18-19). He might have dug a well there and the availability of water might have been a reason for that purchase. Since Jacob was a great patriarch of Israel who owned the property and dug the well, it was known in his name. Hence, the Samaritan woman asked Jesus, “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” (Jn 4:12).

This well was at the foot of Mount Gerizim, dug in solid rock of limestone with about nine feet in diameter and 100 feet deep. It contained several feet of water fed by abundant springs (Deut 8:7). That well is now dry, maybe because of natural reasons like deviation of the springs due to an earthquake.

During Biblical times, the well made for an informal gathering place for people because many came there to fetch water. According to the Bible, some historical turning points have indeed taken place at the well. Abraham’s senior servant met Rebekah at a well and chose her as wife for Isaac because she provided water for him and his camels (Gen 24:10-51). Rachel met Jacob, her future husband, when she went to water her father’s flock (Gen 29:1-14). Joseph’s brothers, who planned to kill him, changed their mind, threw him into a dried well and later sold him to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt (Gen 37:19-28). Moses met his future wife at a well in Midian (Ex 2:15-21). According to the Protoevangelium of Saint James, Mary was at a well with her pitcher when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. Because water is a life sustainer and the well is a source for it, the well is a symbol of new life events.

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