What is Jacob's well? Why was it important?
Jacob's well was the setting in John 4 for Jesus' meeting with the Samaritan woman. The woman had come to the well to draw water and, in the process, discovered Jesus was the Messiah. She believed in Him, and then returned to her town to tell others who came to see for themselves. John 4:41-42 concludes, "And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.'"
For Christians, Jacob's well represents a place where a sinful person can come and encounter Jesus as Savior. As early as AD 380, the well has been a site of churches—a new one built after the previous was destroyed. The well now lies in the crypt of the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Jacob's Well in Nablus in the West Bank. The well is significant for Christians, Jews, and Muslims; in 1979, the abbot of the monastery was murdered and the church defiled by Zionist Jews who wished to claim the area as a Jewish holy site.
For Jews and Muslims, the importance of Jacob's well is due to its ancient connection to the patriarch Jacob, the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. After an altercation with his brother Esau, Jacob spent twenty years with his relative Laban. When he returned, "Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem's father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel" (Genesis 33:18-20). Although Genesis does not mention a well, tradition and the account in John's Gospel lend credibility to the claim that this well was either dug or purchased by Jacob.
In the New Testament, Jacob's well touches both physical and spiritual needs. The well provided fresh water for people to drink, which Jesus used as a metaphor for the spiritual living water He offered for those who accept Him: "whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14). It is rare for us to know the exact location of the events that are listed in the Gospels, but it is significant that this one is the place where Jesus offered salvation to those of mixed Jewish and Gentile descent.
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