(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 Genesis 21:19 Genesis 21:25 Genesis 21:30 Genesis 21:31 ; 24:11 ; Genesis 26:15 Genesis 26:18-25 Genesis 26:32 , etc.). In the Pentateuch this word beer, so rendered, occurs twenty-five times.
Wells in Palestine are usually excavated from the solid limestone rock, sometimes with steps to descend into them. ( Genesis 24:16 ) 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, ( John 4:6 ) and it was this, the usual stone cover, which the woman placed on the mouth of the well at Bahurim, ( 2 Samuel 17:19 ) where the Authorized Version weakens the sense by omitting the article. The usual methods for raising water are the following:
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
(1) (be'er; compare Arabic bi'r, "well" or "cistern"; usually artificial:
"And Isaac's servants digged (dug) in the valley, and found there a well of springing (margin "living") water" (Genesis 26:19); some times covered: "Jacob .... rolled the stone from the well's mouth" (Genesis 29:10). Be'er may also be a pit: "The vale of Siddim was full of slime pits" (Genesis 14:10); "the pit of destruction" (Psalms 55:23).
(2) (bor), usually "pit":
(3) (pege), usually "running water," "fount," or "source":
(4) (phrear), usually "pit":
(5) (krene), "wells" (Sirach 48:17), Latin, fons, "spring" (2 Esdras 2:32).
(6) ayin), compare Arabic `ain "fountain," "spring":
"the fountain (English Versions of the Bible) which is in Jezreel" (1 Samuel 29:1); "In Elim were twelve springs (the King James Version "fountains"] of water" (Numbers 33:9); "She (Rebekah) went down to the fountain" (the King James Version "well") (Genesis 24:16); "the jackal's well" (the English Revised Version "the dragon's well," the King James Version "the dragon well") (Nehemiah 2:13).
(7) (ma`yan), same root as (6); "the fountain (the King James Version "well") of the waters of Nephtoah" (Joshua 18:15); "Passing through the valley of Weeping (the King James Version "Baca") they make it a place of springs" (the King James Version "well") (Psalms 84:6); "Ye shall draw water out of the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3).
(8) (maqor), usually figurative:
"With thee is the fountain of life" (Psalms 36:9); "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain (the King James Version "well") of life" (Proverbs 10:11); "make her (Babylon's) fountain (the King James Version "spring") dry" (Jeremiah 51:36); "a corrupted spring" (Proverbs 25:26).
(9) (mabbu`), (nabha`, "to flow," "spring," "bubble up"; compare Arabic (nab`, manba`, yanbu`) "fountain":
(10) (motsa'), "spring," (yatsa'), "to go out," "the dry land springs of water" (Isaiah 41:18); "a dry land into watersprings" (Psalms 107:35); "the upper spring of the waters of Gihon" (2 Chronicles 32:30).
(11) (nebhekh), root uncertain, reading doubtful; only in Job 38:16, "Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?"
(14) (gullah), "bowl," "basin," "pool," same root:
"Give me also springs of water. And he gave her the upper sprigs and the nether springs" (Joshua 15:19); compare Arabic (kullat), pronounced gullat, "a marble," "a cannon-ball."
As is clear from references cited above, wells and springs were not sharply distinguished in name, though be'er, and phrear are used mainly of wells, and `ayin, ma`yan, motsa', mabbua` and (poetically) maqor are chiefly used of fountains. The Arabic bi'r, the equivalent of the Hebrew be'er, usually denotes a cistern for rain-water, though it may be qualified as bi'r jam`, "well of gathering," i.e. for rain-water, or as bi'r nab`, "well of springing water." A spring or natural fountain is called in Arabic `ain or nab` (compare Hebrew `ayin and mabbua`). These Arabic and Hebrew words for "well" and "spring" figure largely in place-names, modern and ancient:
(a) on the northeast boundary of Palestine (Numbers 34:11),
Modern Arabic names with `ain are very numerous, e.g. `Ainul-fashkhah, `Ain-ul-chajleh, `Ain-karim, etc.
See CISTERN; FOUNTAIN; PIT; POOL.
Alfred Ely Day
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