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Reference: Jacob's Well




(Joh 4:5-6). This is one of the few sites in Palestine about which there is no dispute. It was dug by Jacob, and hence its name, in the "parcel of ground" which he purchased from the sons of Hamor (Ge 33:19). It still exists, but although after copious rains it contains a little water, it is now usually quite dry. It is at the entrance to the valley between Ebal and Gerizim, about 2 miles south-east of Shechem. It is about 9 feet in diameter and about 75 feet in depth, though in ancient times it was no doubt much deeper, probably twice as deep. The digging of such a well must have been a very laborious and costly undertaking.

Unfortunately, the well of Jacob has not escaped that misplaced religious veneration which cannot be satisfied with leaving the object of it as it is, but must build over it a shrine to protect and make it sacred. A series of buildings of various styles, and of different ages, have cumbered the ground, choked up the well, and disfigured the natural beauty and simplicity of the spot. At present the rubbish in the well has been cleared out; but there is still a domed structure over it, and you gaze down the shaft cut in the living rock and see at a depth of 70 feet the surface of the water glimmering with a pale blue light in the darkness, while you notice how the limestone blocks that form its curb have been worn smooth, or else furrowed by the ropes of centuries (Hugh Macmillan).

At the entrance of the enclosure round the well is planted in the ground one of the wooden poles that hold the telegraph wires between Jerusalem and Haifa.

Illustration: Jacob's Well

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On a low slope of Mount Gerizim, at the opening of the valley of Shechem, from which it is one mile and a half distant eastward, with the grainfields of the plain of El Mukna in front. Hence, appears the appropriateness of the allusions "our fathers worshipped in this mountain," namely, Gerizim, whereon the Samaritan temple stood (Joh 4:20); "lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest" (Joh 4:25). The distance from Shechem (Sychar) is no objection; for even if the Samaritan woman's coming to the well was not the result of a providential accident, the sacredness of Jacob's well and the excellence of its deep drawn water would account for her coming so far. It was not the public city well, otherwise it would have been furnished with some means of drawing the water (Joh 4:11). The sinking of so deep a well would only be undertaken by some one who had not access to the neighbouring streams and fountains.

The patriarchs had never want of pasture in Canaan, but often difficulties as to water (Ge 21:25-30; 26:13-15,18-22). Jacob therefore naturally provided himself with a well in his field just purchased (Ge 33:17-19). With characteristic prudence he secured on his own property, by great labour, a perennial supply at a time when the surrounding watersprings, which abound on the surface, were in the hands of unfriendly neighbours. Formerly there was a a square hole opening into a vaulted chamber 15 feet square, in the floor of which was the well's mouth. The vault has fallen, so that stones have fallen in and much reduced its original depth, in Maundrell's time it was 105 feet deep; now it is often dry, at other times it has a few feet of water.

Caspari (Chronicles and Geog. Introd. to Life of Christ) says Sychar originally extended further to the S., and consequently a large part of it lay nearer to Jacob's well than to the fountain Ain el Askar at the N. side of the opening of the valley of Nablus toward the E. Those at the S. of Sychar would repair to Jacob's well rather than to Ain el Askar, which is ten minutes' walk from Jacob's well. The true mouth of the well is but four feet long, and opens into the well itself, which is seven and a half feet in diameter, and now owing to rubbish only 75 ft. deep. The vaulted chamber was possibly the crypt of the church built over the well in the 4th century. Dr. Rogers and Miss Peache have contributed 150 British pounds for clearing the well and protecting it with stonework (Palestine Exploration Quarterly Statement, April 1877).

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In the valley of Shechem, near to a city called Sychar, was the well where the Lord rested, and conversed with the woman of Samaria. Joh 4:5-12. It is identified with Bir Yakub, at the base of Gerizim, 32 12' N, 35 16' E, and is one of the few spots in Palestine the identification of which has not been disputed.

The well is cut out of the solid limestone, 7ft. 6in. in diameter, and is 115 feet deep. The well's mouth is below the surface of the ground and is covered with a stone with a hole in the centre. A traveller, John of Wurzburg (A.D. 1160-1170), says that when he visited the well a church was then being erected over it; but that has long since been destroyed and a Russian Orthodox Church built over it, though unfinished due to the Communist Revolution of 1917. See SYCHAR.

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