An Empty Well: A Comparison of Genesis 29 & John 4

Olivia Greubel | February 28, 2020

Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east. As he looked, he saw a well in the field . . .
Genesis 29:1-2

So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well.
John 4:5-6

Hundreds of years before the Son of God asked for a drink of water from the well, there was Jacob encountering Rachel in the same place. It is almost as if time was stacked on top of itself like a deck of cards; the well led Jacob to Rachel, Rachel led to Leah, Leah led to Judah, Judah led to David, David led to Mary, and Mary carried the Christ. The Christ who was back at that very well, encountering a woman of his own. 

He did not kiss her, he did not weep aloud, and she did not become his wife, contrary to most biblical encounters at the well. After all, if you wanted to meet a beautiful, godly woman who had not known a man, you could find her at a well. But not the woman from Samaria. She hid from others at the sixth hour, going to the well alone, hoping to slide away from peering eyes. Of course, she was found by God; and of course, she could not hide from Him. The parallels of these stories reveal how far the grace of God has extended. How he came better than Jacob, better than any father of faith, better than any man could ever be. 

Jacob was so clearly not perfect in his love in the way that he allowed himself to be married to both sisters, Rachel and Leah. Though he clearly loved Rachel and was deceived into marrying Leah, he did not honor Leah as his first wife when he kept her. We see that Jacob indulges in the same favoritism that his parents displayed between him and his own brother, except now between Jacob and his own wives. This is a patriarch of the faith, carrying the promise of the Lord, getting his heart tangled between a marriage between sisters. This fault of his leads to enmity between the two women, competition, and a complete lack of leadership on Jacob’s own part. Jacob has fallen far, though not so far from the reach of God. 

Knowing this, it almost makes it laughable that the Samaritan woman would ask Jesus, “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” (John 4:12)

Of course, He is. He entered into the narrative of the world, met a broken woman where she was at, expecting hardly anything in return. It is safe to assume that this Samaritan woman felt hated by the world, perhaps judged or even ridiculed. But Christ knew, and He was waiting anyway. Despite the cultural divide between Jew and Gentile, he asks to share a drink with her. She is not unclean in his sight, she is not less than anything. Jacob loved Rachel to a certain selfless extent by working seven years for her; Christ loves this woman infinitely more by revealing the eternity he has waiting for her. 

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 
John 4:13-14

Jacob, on his best days, can only offer the earthly comforts of a loving husband. Christ brings His eternal best daily by his sacrificial love, His cross, His resurrection, by His dwelling with us. Jacob’s love brought Rachel grief at times; for a child, for his sole attention, for the warmth of his value of her. The Samaritan woman knew the emptiness of relationships well. She had been married five times; she was slowly learning that the cure to loneliness was not through companions. It was the acceptance of her by Christ that led her to fearlessly proclaim to the town she once shied away from: “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did (John 4:29).” There is nowhere left for shame to hide when the nakedness of sin is exposed at the feet of Christ– and what true love is waiting there when the layers are finally peeled away. 

Yes, Rachel proclaimed Jacob to her home when she met him at the well. But Jacob wasn’t her Savior. The Samaritan woman proclaimed not a man, but the Savior of the world to her community who heard her testimony and chose to chase after Christ as well. It was there that the fullness of life and love was found, by tasting the true living water.

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
John 4:39-42