Genesis 29:2
And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, see, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was on the well's mouth.
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(2) Behold a well in the field.—This was not the well whence Rebekah drew the water; for it was in the field, the open pasture ground, whereas Rebekah’s well was just outside the city (Genesis 24:11), and she obtained the water by going down the steps which led to it (Genesis 24:16).

A great stone was upon the well’s mouth.—The region round Haran, though fertile, is very dry, and the chief use of the stone was to prevent the well from being choked with sand. As the proper translation is the stone upon the well’s mouth was great, it would also serve to prevent the well from being used, except at fixed times; for it probably required the strength of two or three men (comp. Robinson, Bibl. Res. ii. 180) to remove it; nor does the language of Genesis 29:10 necessarily imply that Jacob rolled it away without the aid of others. Besides this, the stone may have marked that the well was private property: for, as we have seen in the account of the covenants of Abraham and Isaac with Abimelech, no possession was morevalued than that of wells. And as we find the shepherds all waiting for Rachel, and that immediately on her arrival the stone is rolled away, and her sheep watered first, while the rest, though they had been there long before her, yet have to bide their time till her wants are supplied, it is probable that Laban had at least a first claim upon its enjoyment. No such courtesy was shown to the daughters of Jethro (Exodus 2:17).

Genesis 29:2. Behold a well in the field — Providence brought him to the very field where his uncle’s flocks were to be watered, and there he met with Rachel, who was to be his wife. The Divine Providence is to be acknowledged in all the little circumstances which concur to make a journey or other undertaking comfortable and successful. If, when we are at a loss, we meet with those seasonably that can direct us; if we meet with a disaster, and those are at hand that will help us; we must not impute it to chance, but to the providence of God. Our ways are ways of pleasantness, if we continually acknowledge God in them. A great stone was on the well’s mouth — This might be intended either to prevent the lambs of the flock from being drowned in it; or to secure the water, which was and still is scarce in that country; or to save the well from receiving damage from the heat of the sun, or the sand put into motion by the winds, which, probably, would soon have filled and stopped it up. This last we know is the reason why they cover their wells in Arabia, and several other parts of the East.29:1-8 Jacob proceeded cheerfully in his journey, after the sweet communion he had with God at Beth-el. Providence brought him to the field where his uncle's flocks were to be watered. What is said of the care of the shepherds for their sheep, may remind us of the tender concern which our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, has for his flock the church; for he is the good Shepherd, that knows his sheep, and is known of them. The stone at the well's mouth was to secure it; water was scarce, it was not there for every one's use: but separate interests should not take us from helping one another. When all the shepherds came together with their flocks, then, like loving neighbours, they watered their flocks together. The law of kindness in the tongue has a commanding power, Pr 31:26. Jacob was civil to these strangers, and he found them civil to him.Jacob arrives at the well of Haran. "The land of the sons of the east." The points of the heavens were defined by the usage of practical life, and not by the standard of a science yet unknown. Hence, the east means any quarter toward the sunrising. Haran was about four degrees east of Beer-sheba, and five and a half degrees north. The distance was about four hundred and fifty miles, and therefore it would take Jacob fifteen days to perform the journey at thirty miles a day. If he reached Bethel the first night, he must have travelled about fifty miles the first day. After this he proceeds on his journey without any memorable incident. In the neighborhood of Haran he comes upon a well, by which lay three flocks. This is not the well near Haran where Abraham's servant met Rebekah. It is in the pasture grounds at some distance from the town. On its mouth was a large stone, indicating that water was precious, and that the well was the common property of the surrounding natives. The custom was to gather the flocks, roll away the stone, which was too great to be moved by a boy or a female, water the flocks, and replace the stone. Jacob, on making inquiry, learns that Haran is at hand, that Laban is well, and that Rachel is drawing nigh with her father's flocks. Laban is called by Jacob the son of Nahor, that is, his grandson, with the usual latitude of relative names in Scripture Genesis 28:13. "The day is great." A great part of it yet remains. It is not yet the time to shut up the cattle for the night; "water the sheep and go feed them." Jacob may have wished to meet with Rachel without presence of the shepherds. "We cannot." There was a rule or custom that the flocks must be all assembled before the stone was rolled away for the purpose of watering the cattle. This may have been required to insure a fair distribution of the water to all parties, and especially to those who were too weak to roll away the stone.2. And he looked, &c.—As he approached the place of his destination, he, according to custom, repaired to the well adjoining the town where he would obtain an easy introduction to his relatives. They, i.e. the people belonging to that place, watered; or, the flocks were watered; it is an impersonal speech.

A great stone was upon the well’s mouth, to preserve the water, which was scarce in those parts, and to keep it pure. And he looked, and behold a well in the field,.... Near Haran; he might purposely look out for a well, as knowing that there people frequently came for water for their families, or shepherds to water their flocks, of whom he might get intelligence concerning Laban's family, and where they dwelt; or he might lookout for this particular well, where his grandfather's servant had met with his mother Rebekah, of which he had been informed, and very probably had some directions how to find it: of this well; see Gill on Genesis 24:11; to which may be added what another traveller says (z), there is in this city (Orpha, the same with Haran) a fountain, which both Jews, Armenians, and Turks, reported unto us was Jacob's well, and that here he served his uncle Laban: near Alexandretta is a fine well, called Jacob's well, and its water is excellent; not far from which the Greeks say are the remains of Laban's house (a):

and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; in order to be watered, when it should be opened:

for out of that well they watered the flocks; the shepherds:

and a great stone was upon the well's mouth; so that until that was rolled off, they could not be watered, which was the reason of their lying by it: this stone was laid upon it, partly to keep the water from flowing out, and being wasted, that there might be a sufficiency for the flocks; and partly to keep the water pure and clean, that it might be wholesome for the flocks, as well as entire for the use of those that had a property in it.

(z) Cartwright's Preacher's Travels, p. 15. (a) Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 2. p. 329.

And he looked, and behold a well in the field, {b} and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well's mouth.

(b) Thus he was directed by the providence of God, who brought him to Laban's house.

2. in the field] There is no exact description of the place where this well was. It was not, apparently, the same as “the well of water,” “without the city,” in Genesis 24:11.

for out of that well] This clause and Genesis 29:3 are parenthetical, describing the custom of the country, i.e. “they were wont to water”: “were wont to roll and put the stone again.”

the stone upon the well’s mouth] A well was a cistern or tank, often covered with a large stone requiring two or three men to remove it. This stone protected the water from the rays of the sun and from mischief or pollution. In the present instance the well seems to have belonged to the community, and was not opened for use, until all the herdsmen and shepherds had come.Verse 2. - And he looked (either to discover where he was, or in search of water), and behold a well in the field, - not the well at which Eliezer's caravan halted, which was a well for the village maidens, situated in front of the town, and approached by steps (vide Genesis 14.), but a well in the open field for the use of flocks, and covered at the time of Jacob's arrival with a huge stone - and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it. A frequent Oriental scene (cf. Genesis 14:11; Exodus 2:16). "Who that has traveled much in this country has not often arrived at a well in the heat of the day which was surrounded with numerous flocks of sheep waiting to be watered? I once saw such a scene in the burning plains of Northern Syria. Half-naked, fierce-looking men were drawing up water in leather buckets; flock after flock was brought up, watered, and sent away; and after all the men had ended their work, then several women and girls brought up their flocks, and drew water for them. Thus it was with Jethro's daughters; and thus, no doubt, it would have been with Rachel if Jacob had not rolled away the stone and watered her sheep" ('Land and Book,' p. 589). For out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well's mouth. "Most of the cisterns are covered with a large thick, flat stone, in the center of which a hole is cut, which forms the mouth of the cistern. This hole, in many instances, we found covered with a heavy stone, to the removal of which two or three men were requisite" (Robinson, 2. p. 180). In the morning Jacob set up the stone at his head, as a monument (מצּבה) to commemorate the revelation he had received from God; and poured oil upon the top, to consecrate it as a memorial of the mercy that had been shown him there (visionis insigne μνημόσυνον, Calvin), not as an idol or an object or divine worship (vid., Exodus 30:26.). - He then gave the place the name of Bethel, i.e., House of God, whereas (ואוּלם) the town had been called Luz before. This antithesis shows that Jacob gave the name, not to the place where the pillar was set up, but to the town, in the neighbourhood of which he had received the divine revelation. He renewed it on his return from Mesopotamia (Genesis 35:15). This is confirmed by Genesis 48:3, where Jacob, like the historian in Genesis 35:6-7, speaks of Luz as the place of this revelation. There is nothing at variance with this in Joshua 16:2; Joshua 18:13; for it is not Bethel as a city, but the mountains of Bethel, that are there distinguished from Luz (see my Commentary on Joshua 16:2).

(Note: The fact mentioned here has often been cited as the origin of the anointed stones (βαίτυλοι) of the heathen, and this heathen custom has been regarded as a degeneration of the patriarchal. But apart from this essential difference, that the Baetulian worship was chiefly connected with meteoric stones (cf. F. von Dalberg, @fcb. d. Meteor-cultus d. Alten), which were supposed to have come down from some god, and were looked upon as deified, this opinion is at variance with the circumstance, that Jacob himself, in consecrating the stone by pouring oil upon it, only followed a custom already established, and still more with the fact, that the name βαίτυλοι, Βαιτόλια, notwithstanding its sounding like Bethel, can hardly have arisen from the name Beth-El, Gr. Βαιθήλ, since the τ for θ would be perfectly inexplicable. Dietrich derives βαιτύλιον from בּטּל, to render inoperative, and interprets it amulet.)

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