Seizing wells

Seizing wells July 27, 2010

In  Genesis 20, Abimelech takes Sarah.  In chapter 21, Isaac is born and Hagar is sent away.  At the end of chapter 21, though, Abimelech is back, and Abraham brings up a complaint against Abimelech about the seizure of his wells.

As Larry Lyke notes, “Following the events of chapter 20, it is hard to miss the significance of Abraham’s complaint that Abimelech has taken his ‘well.’  The juxtaposition of these texts is as close as our text comes to making explicit the association of women and wells in our narratives.”  Reinforcing this is the fact that the well is named Beer-sheba, the well of the oath or the well of seven – a reference to the seven ewes that Abraham gives to Abimelech: “The association of the well of Beer-sheba with sheep connects this passage to the betrothal scenes.  This all suggests that the cultural and literary competence that informs these texts strongly links women, wells, and sheep – all symbols of fertility.”

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