Women and Wells in the Hebrew Bible
Almost every aspect of daily life in ancient Israel involved water: agriculture, animal husbandry, cooking, personal hygiene, and of course drinking. People would have collected water from natural sources such as free-running streams, fountains, or springs or from artificial sources such as wells, water systems, reservoirs, and cisterns. Though the Bible lacks specific descriptions of wells, they seem often to have been placed in centralized locations, especially in rural areas. They had some sort of cover (
Young women typically had the daily chore of drawing water from wells to supply the family household.
Although the primary function of wells in ancient Israel was to supply water for the household, the centralized, open location of wells allowed them to serve as social gathering places. Travelers stopped to water their camels there (
Wells were also places of betrothal scenes. As the young women likely went out together to collect water, young men of the village realized that this event gave them a perfect opportunity to socialize with the women away from the watchful eyes of the girls’ fathers and male relatives. The Hebrew Bible recounts several women meeting their future spouses at wells. The narratives follow a similar literary pattern: A man travels to a foreign land, where he meets a young woman who draws water for him. After meeting with the girl’s family a marriage is arranged. Abraham’s servant stopped at a well and met Rebekah there (
Divine revelation occurred at wells, too. As water is life giving and symbolizes creation and new beginnings, it is noteworthy that God would choose water sources for places for revelation. In the Song of Songs, the woman is praised as a “garden fountain, a well of living water” (