Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wells and Brides

Alice C. Linsley

"Therefore blessed Jacob, as you have heard, went into Mesopotamia to take a wife. When he had come to a certain well, he saw Rachel coming with her father's sheep - after he recognized her as his cousin, he kissed her as soon as the flock was supplied with water. If you notice carefully, brothers, you can recognize that it was not without reason that the holy patriarchs found their wives at wells or fountains. If this had happened only once, someone might say it was accidental and not for some definite reason. Blessed Rebekah who was to be united to blessed Isaac was found at the well; Rachel whom blessed Jacob was to marry was recognized at the well; Zipporah who was joined to Moses was found at the well." - Caesarius of Arles (Sermon 88:1)

To this list, we must add Keturah who resided at the Well of Sheba where Abraham went to take her as his second wife. And there is the Samaritan Woman at the well to whom Jesus spoke. Her name, according to Tradition, is Photini and she symbolizes the Church, the "Bride of Christ."

In addition to the pattern of meeting brides at wells, we recognize that Rebekah and Zipporah were drawing water for their father's sheep. This is highly suggestive, since Zipporah was the daughter of the "Priest of Midian", Jethro. Mary's father was Joachim and tradition tells us that he was both a priest and a shepherd. Was Rebekah the daughter of a priest? Very likely.

Rebekah's father was Bethuel, which means "House of God" and probably refers to a shrine. Bethuel was a son of Nahor and Milka, a "brother" of the tribal unit designated by Huz, Uz, Buz, and a nephew of Abraham (Genesis 22:20-22).

The well also represents refreshment, neutral ground for strangers to meet, and a place of ritual cleansing. Caesarius of Arles explains that since Isaac, Jacob and Moses are all types of Jesus Christ, "for this reason they found their wives at wells, because Christ was to find His church at the waters of baptism."

The ancient shrines were built at wells, rivers, oases and springs which sustained the flocks of the priests who tended those shrines. It was here that Horite ruler-priests often met their future wives.

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