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Wells and Cisterns

A well may be defined as "a deep hole or shaft dug or drilled to obtain water" while a cistern is generally defined as an underground storage tank, or reservoir, for holding water i.e. wells are generally a source of ground water, while cisterns were a means of holding water that was obtained by rainfall or diversion. Known since ancient times, cisterns are still very widely used today in areas where a consistent natural water supply is lacking, thereby requiring that rainfall, or spring water, be stored for use during times when rainfall or flow of spring water is unavailable. Both wells and cisterns were well-known and used throughout Bible History.

"Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well"

When the Israelites entered their Promised Land, along with many other things (see also "Land On Which You Had Not Labored"), wells and cisterns were already available for their use:


"And it shall be, when The Lord [see YHVH, Adonai, Jehovah, LORD] thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not" (Deuteronomy 6:10-11 KJV)

The Israelites did however thereafter construct many cisterns of their own:

"Moreover Uzziah [see also Kings of Israel and Judah] built towers in Jerusalem at the corner gate, and at the valley gate [see also Physical and Spiritual Gates], and at the turning of the wall, and fortified them. Also he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells: for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: husbandmen also, and vine dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry." (2 Chronicles 26:9-10 KJV)

The invading Assyrians promised the people of Judah many things, including cisterns, if they surrendered without a fight - promises that surely would not have been kept even if The Lord didn't thereafter annihilate the entire Assyrian army in response to the blasphemous arrogance of their leader (see The Day Sennacherib Challenged God):

"Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern: Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey, that ye may live, and not die: and hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he persuadeth you, saying, The Lord will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?" (2 Kings 18:31-33 KJV)

A cistern was used in a proverb that advised against the foolishness of adultery:

"Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets. Let them be only thine own, and not strangers' with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth." (Proverbs 5:15-18 KJV)

While the Proverb quoted above spoke primarily of physical adultery, a "broken cistern" was also used as an analogy for spiritual adultery (see also The Seventh Commandment for how it applies to both):

"Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith The Lord. For My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." (Jeremiah 2:12-13 KJV)

Fact Finder: What is meant by the "living waters" in the verses quoted above?
See Living Waters

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