Updated: Feb 3
I have posted a full article that draws a parallel to two Biblical events where a woman meets an important person at a well. Here is the first part of that article:
In the Gospel of John, Christians read about the Samaritan woman that Jesus met at a well in Sychar, Samaria. This is seen as an important meeting, since the woman and those of her village felt strongly about Jesus, asking him to stay with them. Still, much of the significance of this story is missed, simply because it is a Samaritan woman Jesus encountered, rather than a male; and this is not the only episode in the Holy Bible that tells of a ‘chance’ meeting of a woman at a well.
In the Book of Genesis, after Isaac has grown to manhood, Abraham sends his servant, Laban, to his homeland (Ur), seeking a woman of his own blood to be Isaac’s wife. Abraham does not want one of the local Canaanite women to marry his son. When Laban reaches the city of Nahor (Abraham’s brother), he encounters Rebekah, who is a stranger to him. This is a parallel encounter to the one Jesus would much later have with the Samaritan woman.
To better understand the initial meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, one can find guidance from understanding the setting at the well in Ur, prior to Laban meeting Rebekah. The translation tells us that Laban prayed to the Lord for a woman to come to the well and offer him a drink, then offer to water his camels. This is exactly what happened, so it seems Laban’s prayers were answered. However, there is another way of reading Laban’s “prayer.”
Prior to going to Ur, Abraham had given Laban some instructions to follow. One said, “[The Lord] will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.” (Genesis 24:7c – NIV) In order to see the truth of Abraham’s words, one has to understand that Laban is not visualizing things the way he would like them to unfold, and then the Lord is making things happen exactly as Laban envisioned. Laban’s “prayer” is actually preceding an episode of prophecy (Genesis 24:12), where the angel of the Lord (i.e.: the Holy Spirit) then comes, showing Laban the future as it will unfold (Genesis 24:13-14). This then came to pass (Genesis 24:15).
This must be seen as the true power of prayer. Laban asked that he be led by God, so that Abraham’s wish would be granted. Laban’s faith, as a servant to Abraham, was what made him receptive to the Holy Spirit. He had acted on instructions from Abraham, faithfully, and once at the place where the work was to be done, Laban told the Lord he was ready to receive the instructions from God’s angel. The result was his ability to prophesy.
The prophecy shown to Laban was a woman coming to the well and being welcoming to a stranger. She offered to draw him water, which presumably means she saw Laban was at a well, dusty from travel, and without a bucket. A similar look would have surrounded Jesus, as the Samaritan woman saw that he had no bucket from which to draw water. This means ancient wells were only equipped with a rope (and maybe some pulley system), so you had to supply the bucket or wait to be asked, “Would you like me to give you a drink?”
The angel of the Lord allowed Laban to foresee a woman whose helpfulness would allow he the option of being the bride of someone she had never met. Laban proposed to Rebekah and she accepted. She was given rings of gold; but she then had to ask the permission of her family. They asked her, “Will you go with this man [Laban]?” Her reply was, “I will.”
This understanding is key to seeing Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. Jesus was the servant of his master (God), searching for a bride for the master’s son (the Son of God). When Jesus first sees the Samaritan woman, we read, “Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?” This is not a clear view of what went down. This is the same as reading Laban prayed to the Lord for a woman to give him a drink. It misses the point of the initial encounter.