Well [S]

(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.

These dictionary topics are from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Well". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .

Well. [E]

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:

  1. The rope and bucket, or waterskin. ( Genesis 24:14-20 ; John 4:11 )
  2. The sakiyeh , or Persian wheel. This consists of a vertical wheel furnished with a set of buckets or earthen jars attached to a cord passing over the wheel. which descend empty and return full as the wheel revolves.
  3. A modification of the last method, by which a man, sitting opposite to a wheel furnished with buckets, turns it by drawing with his hands one set of spokes prolonged beyond its circumference, and pushing another set from him with his feet.
  4. A method very common in both ancient and modern Egypt is the shadoof , a simple contrivance consisting of a lever moving on a pivot, which is loaded at one end with a lump of clay or some other weight, and has at the other a bowl or bucket. Wells are usually furnished with troughs of wood or stone into which the water is emptied for the use of persons or animals coming to the wells. Unless machinery is used, which is commonly worked by men, women are usually the water-carriers.
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Well'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.


(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":

"Let us slay him, and cast him into one of the pits" (Genesis 37:20); may be "well": "drew water out of the well of Beth-lehem" (2 Samuel 23:16).

(3) (pege), usually "running water," "fount," or "source":

"Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter?" (James 3:11); may be "well"; compare "Jacob's well" (John 4:6).

(4) (phrear), usually "pit":

"the pit of the abyss" (Revelation 9:1); but "well"; compare "Jacob's well" (John 4:11,12): "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a well" (the King James Version "pit") (Luke 14:5).

(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":

"or the pitcher is broken at the fountain" (Ecclesiastes 12:6); "the thirsty ground springs of water" (Isaiah 35:7).

(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?"

(12) (tehom), "deep," "abyss"; compare Genesis 1:2; translated "springs," the King James Version "depths" (Deuteronomy 8:7).

(13) (gal), (galal), "to roll"; compare Gilgal (Joshua 5:9); "a spring shut up" (Song of Solomon 4:12).

(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:

Beer (Numbers 21:16); Beer-elim (Isaiah 15:8), etc.; `Ain

(a) on the northeast boundary of Palestine (Numbers 34:11),

(b) in the South of Judah, perhaps = En-rimmon (Joshua 15:32); Enaim (Genesis 38:14); Enam (Joshua 15:34), etc.

Modern Arabic names with `ain are very numerous, e.g. `Ainul-fashkhah, `Ain-ul-chajleh, `Ain-karim, etc.


Alfred Ely Day

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'WELL'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.