“He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there.”
What’s so special about Jacob’s well? The biggest part of this story is hidden to the casual observer. However, by careful analysis of the Scripture it becomes apparent that something of great spiritual moment happened here at Jacob’s well, and it didn’t begin with the narrative in John chapter 4.
Sychar—the site of Jacob’s well—is the New Testament name for Shechem of the Old Testament. It was here at Shechem (Sichem) that Abram built his first altar after leaving Ur of the Chaldees. (Gen. 12:6-7) And it was here that he first called upon the name of the Lord. Imagine, if you will, what kind of worship service it was! This was the first time he truly had the spiritual freedom to build an altar and call upon the Lord. As far as we can tell, he never made it to this point spiritually while he dwelt in Chaldea. We understand that God called him out of the land he was in, but it is not until he arrives at this place that he learns what it means to truly worship God.
Next we see Abram traveling south, where things were a little dry. And a famine came upon the land. Whether it was fear or desperation, we cannot say; what we do know is that at this point his steps were not “of faith,” because he traveled into Egypt and stayed there a while. During this period of his life he built no altars and did not call upon the name of the Lord.
It was not until he left Egypt and returned to Shechem—that wonderful, blessed place—that he again built an altar and called upon the name of the Lord. (Gen. 13:1-4) And it was at this time that strife arose between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen, and Lot looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah and left the calling and promises of God behind. Here is the very place where Abram turns his back on Sodom and her sisters and chooses to maintain his worship and walk with God.
Years later, the grandsons of Abraham—Esau and Jacob—parted ways at this very spot. And Jacob, realizing the awesome presence of God in this place, built an altar right here where his grandfather had built his altar. And he called the name of the place EleloheIsrael—God, the God of Israel. What a great time of worship he had once he was rid of the profane influence and grim specter of Esau in his life! He was so moved that he actually went to Shechem, the man for whom the town was named, and bought the plot of ground where he and his grandfather had been praying and worshipping. We are told that he paid one-hundred pieces of money for this sacred piece of property. (Gen. 33:16-20)
Years later, when Jacob is about to die, he bequeaths this plot of ground to his beloved son, Joseph. In doing so, he relates how he had to fight the natives (Amorites) with sword and bow to maintain possession of this land. (Gen. 48:21-22) We are not told who dug it or when it was dug, but somewhere along the line this parcel of land came to be known as the place of Jacob’s well. It was not sufficient to have purchased the land; Jacob found it necessary to actually do battle with those who had moved in and apparently tried to take over. And this he gave to Joseph above what he had given his brethren, because he loved him, and discerned his special relationship with God.
Apparently, Joseph died in Egypt without ever getting to claim his inheritance. Yet, we find that his bones were brought up out of Egypt at his request, and buried in this special place where his father and his father’s grandfather had been so close to God. (Josh. 24:32)
And so we come to the life of our Lord, a time when ordinary Jews, we are told by scholars, would go three days out of their way to avoid traveling through Samaria. But Jesus, the very one who said “Before Abraham was, I AM,” needed to go through Samaria. Because Jacob’s well was there. And somebody that not many people would even care about was making regular trips to this well, thirsting for more than just water that would quench her natural thirst. Say what you will, but there can be no other explanation for what happened in John chapter 4. Jesus admits to being the Messiah to very few people, yet He very plainly told her that He was indeed the Christ. A great pre-Pentecost revival ensues. All because somebody wanted to meet the God of Abraham and the God of Jacob at the same place where they had met him.
Now, we are living in the age where “neither in this mountain (at Jacob’s well) nor yet at Jerusalem” do men have to go to worship the Lord. But every individual has equal access and opportunity to build an altar on their knees, call upon the name of the Lord, and worship God in Spirit and in Truth. For, Jesus said, the Father seeketh such to worship Him.
What’s so special about Jacob’s well? It’s all about a personal altar—a place where we worship God in Spirit and in Truth. This is where we first felt him when we came out of the land of our fathers; this is where we felt him when we returned after having gone too far south in dry times when there was a famine in our lives; this is where we said goodbye to Lot, as well as to Esau; and this is where we invested our money to obtain God’s blessings and fought spiritual battles to retain them. This is a hallowed, sanctified place—a place of personal encounters with the God of Jacob’s Well. We would do well to never get too far from our own personal altar, lest we find ourselves out of contact with God.
–Rev. Tim D. Cormier
Reprinted from the September, 2000 issue of the Apostolic Standard.
(C) Copyright held by Tim D. Cormier. This document may not be reproduced in whole or in part, except for personal use, without the express written permission of the author.