Old Rags, Joseph’s Bones, Jacobs Well, and a Samaritan woman


Most of us have pictured the woman at the well—tired, hot, greying dark hair, etched lines around her mouth and eyes, back stooping over to draw water. We’ve heard the story told in many ways and often without much detail. We’ve heard it told in err. Accusing her of being a harlot who had five husbands. Adding to the fictional tale, a backdrop, implying her time of the day for fetching water was so that no one could see her face because the other women whispered about her tainted condition. It’s time to erase all the stories about this woman and start anew. And I would suggest you erase all the wrong words spoken or written about you in error.

Mainly in the story, our primary focus has been on the woman, but the well or cisterns is crucial as they are often focal points throughout the Bible. Yeshua is sitting at Jacobs’s well, and a woman comes to the well to draw water. We later hear the woman tell the Messiah that she wants to drink the water he has so she will never thirst again. The woman says Give me this water, so I don’t have to come here every day and carry this heavy waterpot. The woman at the well is parched—empty, like a cistern in a desert wasteland. Have you ever? She needs a drink from the wellspring of life.

But does she process the spiritual water, or is she like Nicodemus, who wonders how he can be born again and return to his mother’s womb–a second time? Life and living water are both inside the womb.

In Jeremiah 38, the humble prophet is thrown into a cistern/well and sinks. Picture a thin, frail man with collarbones jutting out. Jeremiah is deep inside a well full of mud and muck. He’s traveled down a set of winding stairs said to be at least 25 feet into a darkened hole. He has been beaten, mocked, and now, he is sinking into the sludge. Where is His God?

While the king was sitting at the Gate of Benjamin (Son of my right hand), Ebed-Melech (counselor/bondservant to the king) went out from the king’s palace and said to the king, “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have dropped him into the cistern, where he will starve to death, for there is no more bread in the city.”

They thought the cistern was full of water and Jeremiah would drown—be gone—die a death, but instead of water, it was full of mud. 

The prophet feels and experiences what Adonai has spoken concerning His people, Israel. 

In Jeremiah 2, Jeremiah says something that he will experience firsthand. This is usually what Prophets endure. ““For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and they have dug their own cisterns—broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13). 

It takes thirty men to bring Jeremiah up out of a dry well.

Thirty shloshim (n) Represents the life cycle in miniature. Perfect order (3 x10), maturity for official ministry or service, price of a bondservant, time of mourning a life. (Grace in Torah, Numbers).

Then Ebed-Melech took the men with him and went to the king’s palace, to a place below the storehouse. From there, he took old rags and worn-out clothes and lowered them with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern.

The man Eded-melech whose name means servant to the king tells Jeremiah to put worn-out rags and clothes under his arms to pad the ropes. If he doesn’t have the padding, the ropes will cut his underarms to shred. He is bones—3o men using discarded rags– 30 the price of a bondservant. These rags are none other than those of the men who have died in this cistern.

Previously, Jeremiah had pled for his life and reminded the king what the false prophets had told him.

Jeremiah says, “Where now are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying: ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you or against this land?’”

back to the Samaritan woman:

Can you imagine traveling to a well after a drought or during the dust bowl—you’re daily watching the sky, waiting and praying for a drop of rain— a cool drink of water? You’re weary and long to gulp water until your belly pooches out, but there has been a scarce supply each week. Now, take this imagery and connect it to possibly your spirit man and the one who is able to restore our souls. Water is worth more than gold. And yet, our tongues can be as parched as a cardboard box.

“Now Jacob’s well was there. So Yeshua, exhausted from the journey, was sitting by the well. It was midday. A Samaritan woman comes to draw water. “Give me a drink,” Yeshua tells her, 8 for His disciples had gone away to the town to buy food.” (John 4:7-8, TLV).

Yeshua has bread his disciples do not know about—it’s spiritual bread. The Bread of Life is sitting by a well exhausted —Jacob’s/Israel. He’s weary, and he is in Shechem. Remember another weary woman whose father dug the well? Dinah, daughter of Leah. Shechem took Dinah’s beauty and virginity. He loved her and longed to marry her, but his lust got in the way, and Shechem took Dinah by force.


There is a long history of people sitting by wells in the Bible or in need of water. Moses sat by a well, watered Jethro’s sheep, and drove away the cruel shepherds from Jethro’s seven daughters.

Abraham’s servant goes to a well searching for a bride for his master and sees Rebecca:

So the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please let me have a little water from your jar. “Drink, my lord,” she replied, and she quickly lowered her jar to her hands and gave him a drink.”

In Genesis 21, Hagar has been sent away with her son, and after a while, she runs out of water and can’t bear to watch her son die of thirst, but God directs her to a well. Yahweh knows where all the water on the earth is. He has an unlimited supply, regardless of how bleak it looks.

“Then God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, “What is wrong, Hagar? Do not be afraid, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he lies.  Get up, lift up the boy, and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”  Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.”

But back to the Samaritan:

The story begins with Yeshua telling his disciples that he must go to Samaria, and everyone knows that Jews hate the Samaritans.

However, Shechem was one of the cities of refuge. If a man who had killed someone by accident needed safety, Shechem provided a safe heaven. (Joshua 21:20-). Shechem is also where Joshua made a covenant with the people. He warned them to forsake all other gods and declare that they would serve Adonai only. Then he set up a pillar stone and wrote down the events in the Book of the Torah.

Yeshua is at a sacred place and knows all about the woman at the well. He knows everything she has suffered, where her feet have traveled, her tears, and her journey. Her womb that has never filled with life or water. In John 4, the woman tells her townspeople, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” The Messiah touched a deep place in the well of her soul.

In Genesis 37:23-28, Joseph is thrown into a dry well, now his bones rest by Yeshua and this woman.

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the robe of many colors he was wearing— and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, with no water in it. And as they sat down to eat a meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were carrying spices, balm, and myrrh on their way down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?  Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay a hand on him; for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And they agreed.  So when the Midianite traders passed by, his brothers pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.”

It took 30 men with old rags to bring forth Jeremiah. It took 20 shekels of silver for the Ishmaelites (Ishmael)to purchase Joseph. His royal robes have been removed, dipped in blood, and used deceitfully.

The Ishmaelite’s are the descendants of the young boy Ishmael who was in the desert. His mother, Hagar, with an empty water skin, scared and alone, cries giving up hope. If we look closely, all the stories here are woven together in rich tapestry. Water and thirst for life!

The woman at the well does not tell Yeshua her story–He tells her. he knows her. And He found her worthy of living water and salvation.

“So He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Since Jacob’s well was there, Jesus, weary from His journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. (noon) (john 4:4-6).

The woman has suffered dramatically. Possibly, she has had five husbands because none wanted her due to her barrenness, age, or perhaps several died. Women at that time could not write a divorce certificate to divorce their husbands. Remember Tamar? Her first husband was wicked and died. Her second husband did not want to be a kinsmen redeemer and carry on his brothers’ seed. He, too, died because Adonai was not pleased. Now she was to be given the 3rd son. See how easily a woman could have had many husbands back then? And the person, the woman at the well is living with is not her husband but possibly family that has taken her in—a kinsman redeemer.

The time of day when the woman went to the well is not due to her being an outcast. She was the opposite. In order to get many in your town to listen to your words or prophetic declaration that the Messiah has come, you would have to be a woman of valor and, possibly, a prophetess.

Lynn Cohick comments on the idea that going to a well in the middle of the day was suspect.

Many expositors focus on the woman’s presence at the well at noon as a signal that she is a social outcast. But this conclusion is not based on any parallel description or implication within the Greco-Roman world that moral women went to the village at certain times and degenerate women visited at other times. … From the story’s standpoint, it makes sense that Jesus is thirsty at noon, as opposed to, for example, 7:30 in the morning.
Women in the World of the Earliest Christians: Illuminating Ancient Ways of Life” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 123.

When the disciples see Yeshua speaking with the woman, they are shocked. Men did not carry on conversations with women and especially a Samaritan who was alone.

Just then His disciples returned and were surprised that He was speaking with a woman. But no one asked Him, “What do You want from her?” or “Why are You talking with her?”

Then the woman left her water jar, went back into the town, and said to the people,  “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  So they left the town and made their way toward Jesus/Yeshua. (John 4:28-30).

We now read the story of the first apostle. The people left the town to search for living water. They listened to the woman because A. she was not a harlot. B. she had a voice in her community. C. she knew the Torah and was familiar with the Jewish Messiah that was to come. She also, said to Yeshua as he told her all about her personal life, “I see, you are a prophet.” Although her people had thrown out the prophets, she knew what a prophet was.

I leave you with light, water, ayin (eye) flowing water, and the light of Messiah Yeshua. May we have the mind of Messiah. May we be quick to listen and accept Yeshua’s water, living water. May we shed our old rags and dirty clothes and sit at a well with Jacob, Joseph, Joshua, and Yeshua Messiah and watch a woman so full of joy, so unconcerned about the physical well or her water pot, that she runs to tell her people, her town. All who will bend their ear, stop and listen closely about a man who told her everything she ever did!

The noun φρεαρ (phrear) describes a manmade well or cistern, or perhaps more precise: the upper parts of it that sits atop the ground, the circular mantel of bricks, usually with a roof over the actual mouth and a bucket hanging from a rope. If wells and springs are natural formations, then the φρεαρ (phrear) is its artificial counterpart. The Hebrew equivalent of this word, namely עין (‘ayin), both means well or fountain and eye, which indicates that the ancients understood that light comes from one’s surroundings and enters the eye like water that comes up from a well and becomes incorporated into the dry land of one’s mind. That means that the “lamp” that is one’s eye shines inwardly into the mind, not outwardly into the surroundings (also see the verb נהר, nahar, meaning to flow, which is used to describe both the flowing of water in a river and light from a lamp; meaning that the ancients had a sense of what later would be called Relativity Theory). ( Abarim Publications).

[1] Samaria | The amazing name Samaria: meaning and etymology (abarim-publications.com)


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