Isaac, Jacob, and Moses all find their wives through interactions at a well. The parallels are fascinating:
- So that Isaac does not marry one of “the daughters of the Canaanites, (Gen. 24:3), Abraham sends out his servant to find Isaac a wife, and the servant prays that he would recognize the right woman by her offering to water not only him, but his camels as well. Rebekah does just that, and so she becomes Isaac’s wife.
- So that Jacob will not marry one of the Hittite women, over whom Rebekah “loathes her life” (Gen. 27:46), Rebekah pleads with Isaac to send Jacob to her own family for a wife, instead of marrying one of the pagan women in the land. (This is convenient, since Esau is seeking to kill Jacob at this time.) Jacob, then, upon learning that Rachel is the daughter of his mother’s brother (his cousin), voluntarily waters Rachel’s animals. Only fourteen short years later, Rachel becomes Jacob’s wife.
- When Moses is fleeing Egypt after killing an Egyptian (Ex. 2), he saves the seven daughters of a Midianite priest from shepherds who try to drive them from a well. Jethro, the priest, gives Zipporah to Moses as a wife. Based on Ex. 19, it seems that Jethro is a priest of Yahweh, not a pagan priest.
In all of these cases, God ordained that these great men should meet their wives (none of whom were foreigners, or at least not pagan foreigners) at a well.
Imagine, then, that Jesus meets a foreigner, apostate Samaritan at the well. Moreover, she is not a candidate for marriage, since “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband” (John 4:17-18).
While the brides of the patriarchs were necessarily pure, in order to establish a holy nation through their offspring, the bride of Jesus is a whore whom he makes pure by the washing of water with the word. Jesus does go to the well to seek a bride, but goes to the well also to offer his bride better waters: the living waters of which he himself is the fount.