Today’s reading is Genesis 46:1-47:31, Matthew 15:1-28, Psalm 19:1-14, Proverbs 4:14-19.
In Genesis 46 we find a short account with a significant meaning. Jacob set out for Egypt to be reunited with Joseph. This was a permanent move for him. He came to Beersheba and offered sacrifices to God and during the night he had a vision from the Lord. I believe he stopped there for a reason. This place, Beersheba, had a family history that Jacob would have been familiar with. In fact, scripture says Jacob offered the sacrifice to “the God of his father, Isaac.” And God spoke to him, calling him by name and identifying Himself in this way: “I am God, the God of your father…Don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation.”
Jacob was missing his dad. Surely, it would have been good to have his father Isaac’s wisdom as he headed to a new land permanently. So he stopped at Beersheba.
Beersheba was where Abraham had dug many wells. He had a conflict with Abimelech there and they made a covenant that the well would forever be known as Abraham’s well.
Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock. And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?” He said, “These seven ewe lambs you shall accept from my hand, in order that you may be a witness for me that I dug this well.” Therefore that place was called Beer-sheba; because there both of them swore an oath. When they had made a covenant at Beer-sheba, Abimelech, with Phicol the commander of his army, left and returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.
Genesis 21: 28-33
Notice the offering of the seven lambs. It was a holy interaction. Years later, Isaac, also dug wells at Beersheba. According to Elizabeth Fletcher,
Jacob’s father, Isaac–Abraham’s son–“had made a similar pact about water with the same king (or his son, the meaning in the Bible is not clear). But there was trouble ahead. Isaac was extraordinarily successful at whatever he did. His crops flourished, his flocks grew, and he began to amass considerable wealth. But his success proved his downfall, since the local herdsmen thought he was using more than his fair share of available water resources. He was asked to leave, presumably with the threat of violence if he did not go. He went. Later on he returned. When he did, he found that the wells dug by his father had been filled with stones and earth, and thereby made useless. Undeterred, he set about restoring them, and in the process restored his own fortunes as well.”
This family history drew Jacob to pause and reconnect with his history and with his God before proceeding to Egypt for the last leg of his life. He probably drew water from those wells that night and remembered the faithfulness of God throughout the generations. And he was refreshed physically and spiritually.
Beersheba was located at the southern tip of ancient Israel. It was the last bit of fertile land before the Negev Desert. Here, desert travellers watered their animals before heading into the heat of the desert. The name, Beersheba, meant “Well of Seven” or “Well of the Oath”. Even in modern times, the ancient site of Beersheba has been counted as strategically important because of its crossroads location and reliable water supply.
In his vision from God, Jacob was given a glimpse into the future. God told him plainly that he would die in Egypt. But there were three words of great conciliation and comfort that God gave to Jacob:
I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. You will die in Egypt, but Joseph will be with you to close your eyes.”
God promised to be with him. God promised that he would not only see Joseph again, but that he would be with Joseph for the remainder of his days. God also promised that He would bring Jacob back again.
Jacob would not have wanted to be buried in the foreign land of Egypt. And God made sure that this happened at the end of Jacob’s life as we see in Genesis 50. Jacob was buried in the land of Canaan, the land promised to his people.
Though Beersheba is not mentioned in the New Testament, areas of land which were accessible to water continued to be very important in Biblical times. One such area was bought by Jacob after he reconciled with his brother Esau. It must have had great significance to Jacob as a place of refreshment–not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. He was finally free of a 20-year burden. He was finally reconciled with his brother, and the pain which impacted the whole family was finally gone. It must have been in this understanding–in this common bond he shared with Joseph, who also was finally at peace with his family–that Jacob offered that land to his son, Joseph.
And beyond what I have given your brothers, I am giving you an extra portion of the land that I took from the Amorites with my sword and bow.”
And hundreds of years later we see Jesus at that same spot offering understanding and reconciliation to the woman at the well.
5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
We all dig wells. We all find sources of refreshment, sources to ease our thirsty souls. But there is only one source of Living Water. There is only one way to be truly satisfied. And that source is Jesus Christ, the One who knows us better than we know ourselves; the One who perfectly understands our past, present, and future; the only One who can satisfy our every need.
It is precious to see how faithfully God led Jacob throughout his life despite his sin, despite his hardships. God kept his promises to Jacob–every single one. Genesis 46:26 tells us that the total number of Jacob’s direct descendants who went with him to Egypt was sixty-six. This was an incomplete number for Jacob. It was not the complete picture of God’s faithfulness. The total fulfillment of God’s promise would not be found until he got to Egypt. When the process of reconciliation was complete, the number rose to 70 members of Jacob’s family in the land of Egypt, including Joseph and his sons. Ten multiples of seven. A perfect and complete picture of the faithfulness of God.
Scripture tells us the God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His faithfulness to you is equal to his faithfulness to Jacob. But like Jacob, it may take us a lifetime to see the complete picture.