Why the Local Well Was the Facebook of Biblical Villages

Water was of vital importance in the Bible. Not only for drinking, irrigation, washing, and cooking, but also for religious ritual and as spiritual metaphor. From the great flood, to the parting of the Red Sea, to Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee—water had huge significance.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the well was the most important place in the ancient village. We see plenty of important happenings at village wells in both the Old Testament and the New:

Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, was found at a well.

Moses and Zipporah met at a well, as did Jacob and Rachel.

Jesus stopped at a well in Samaria and proclaimed himself the Messiah to a lone woman.

In fact, the well was the center of a village’s social and economic life. Early every morning, before the heat of the day, women would go to the well to fetch water in heavy clay jars, sometimes carrying it long distances back to their homes.

Using just a little imagination, we can surmise that friends used the well to check in with each other before starting their day of work —much as many of us do with our social media sites today. They reported good news—who was betrothed, who with child. They asked for prayers for aging parents or sick children. They mourned with each other or rejoiced.

Just like Facebook, there was no doubt some vice at the well—gossip, snubbing, some not-so-subtle bragging.  Probably some unfriending happened on the long walk home after the water was drawn. We can be certain that information was passed along from house to house until the whole village had had a chance to like, comment, or share each bit of news.

As we log on to our favorite social media site to check in with friends and family, think about it: we aren’t so very different from those ancient women, are we?
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