(Heb beer), to be distinguished from a fountain (Heb 'ain). A "beer" was a deep shaft, bored far under the rocky surface by the art of man, which contained water which percolated through the strata in its sides. Such wells were those of Jacob and Beersheba, etc. (see Ge 21:19,25,30-31; 24:11; 26:15,18-25,32, etc.). In the Pentateuch this word beer, so rendered, occurs twenty-five times.
(See FOUNTAIN.) As ''Ayin, "fount," literally, "eye", refers to the water springing up to us, so beer, "well," from a root "to bore," refers to our finding our way down to it. The Bir- and the En- are always distinct. The rarity of wells in the Sinaitic region explains the national rejoicings over Beer or the well, afterward Beer-Elim, "well of heroes" (Nu 21:16-18,22). God commanded Moses to cause the well to be dug; princes, nobles, and people, all heartily, believingly, and joyfully cooperated in the work. Naming a well marked right of property in it. To destroy it denoted conquest or denial of right of property (Ge 21:30-31; 26:15-33; 2Ki 3:19; De 6:11; Nu 20:17,19; Pr 5:15). "Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well," i.e. enjoy the love of thine own wife alone.
Wells and cisterns are the two sources of oriental supply, each house had its own cistern (2Ki 18:31); to thirst for filthy waters is suicidal. Song 4:12; in Palestine wells are excavated in the limestone, with steps descending to them (Ge 24:16). A low stone wall for protection (Ex 21:33) surrounds the brim; on it sat our Lord in conversing with the Samaritan woman (Joh 4:6,11). A stone cover was above; this the woman placed on the well at Bahurim (2Sa 17:19), translated "the woman spread the covering over the well's mouth." A rope and bucket or water skin raised the water; the marks of the rope are still visible in the furrows worn in the low wall. See Nu 24:7, "he shall stream with water out of his two buckets," namely, suspended from the two ends of a pole, the usual way of fetching water from the Euphrates in Balaam's neighbourhood.
Wells are often contended for and are places of Bedouin attacks on those drawing water (Ex 2:16-17; Jg 5:11; 2Sa 23:15-16). Oboth (Nu 21:10-11) means holes dug in the ground for water. Beerlahairoi is the first well mentioned (Ge 16:14). Beersheba, Rehoboth, and Jacob's well are leading instances of wells (Ge 21:19; 26:22). They are sunk much deeper than ours, to prevent drying up. Jacob's well is 75 ft. deep, seven feet six inches in diameter, and lined with rough masonry; a pitcher unbroken at the bottom evidenced that there was water at some seasons, otherwise the fall would have broken the pitcher.
Wells in Palestine are usually excavated from the solid limestone rock, sometimes with steps to descend into them.
The brims are furnished with a curb or low wall of stone, bearing marks of high antiquity in the furrows worn by the ropes used in drawing water. It was on a curb of this sort that our Lord sat when he conversed with the woman of Samaria,
and it was this, the usual stone cover, which the woman placed on the mouth of the well at Bahurim,
where the Authorized Version weakens the sense by omitting the article. The usual methods for raising water are the following:
1. The rope and bucket, or waterskin.
Ge 24:14-20; Joh 4:11
2. The sakiyeh, or Persian wheel. This consists of a vertical wheel furnished with a set of buckets or earthen jars attached to a cord passing over the wheel. which descend empty and return full as the wheel revolves.
3. A modification of the last method, by which a man, sitting opposite to a wheel furnished with buckets, turns it by drawing with his hands one set of spokes prolonged beyond its circumference, and pushing another set from him with his feet.
4. A method very common in both ancient and modern Egypt is the shadoof, a simple contrivance consisting of a lever moving on a pivot, which is loaded at one end with a lump of clay or some other weight, and has at the other a bowl or bucket. Wells are usually furnished with troughs of wood or stone into which the water is emptied for the use of persons or animals coming to the wells. Unless machinery is used, which is commonly worked by men, women are usually the water-carriers.