Dating in Antiquity

I’m in the middle of a study on the book of Exodus for a teaching I hope to give at a kids camp in July. I discovered this fascinating book called The Pentateuch As Narrative. Although my roommate informs me that it’s not a universally intriguing title, I was drawn in by it. Here’s why- I love stories. I love stories of all kinds: true, fiction, short, long, funny, disturbing or serious. I came to discover, last year while doing the School of Biblical Studies, that the Bible is chalked FULL of true and interesting stories.

I see that yawn/eye roll. But don’t give up yet. In studying about Moses, I found a treasure that I want to investigate with you. All throughout the Bible (from cover to cover) are themes and connections. The connections are sometimes too big picture for us to catch and certainly too subtle for a cursory reading.

Here’s what jumped out today: this book about the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible, written by Moses) points out that Moses met his wife by a well (Ex. 2:15-22). Not only that, but she was not a Hebrew (not so shocking for us, but for the original reader, this would have been noteworthy). This is a pattern with many of God’s chosen men preceding Moses. Isaac (Gen. 24), Jacob (Gen. 29) and Judah (Gen. 38) also met the mother of their children (all foreigners) at a well. These are not just men, these men are the ones through whom God promised to get the whole world blessed (ancestors of Jesus).  Although Moses is not an ancestor of Jesus, he is a foreshadow of Jesus in that he delivers God’s people from slavery into the land of promise (The book of Matthew shows the parallels between Moses/Israel and Jesus in detail)….

Because the book uses the phrase, “woman at a well,” I immediately thought of the story of The Woman At The Well in John 4. This is an encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman.

What I wanted to investigate were parallels between these stories of men meeting women at various wells, parallels which would give me a better picture of God (when there are so many details within each story that connect, it jumps out that there is something deeper being communicated). What sticks out to me as I look at the stories is that, while the four OT men were finding the mothers of their sons at a well (sons being the way a man carries his name forward), Jesus offers the foreign woman he meets eternal life (John 4:14). He doesn’t offer a physical heir, but a spiritual inheritance.

Jesus always points people to the kingdom of God as a spiritual reality instead of a physical one. Even in this conversation with the woman, he says,But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Last year I wrestled with this question: If God wanted this kind of worship, why did he go through all that stuff about the tabernacle and the sacrifices, the incense, the priests, etc? What I realized as I made my way through the Old Testament was that all of the physical things that God instituted with his people were pointing to a spiritual reality. He didn’t need the religious trappings, but humans constantly struggle to understand or perceive the spiritual. We usually need the physical to lead us to the spiritual. But what God wanted from the very beginning was the dwell with man and when that desire was thwarted by sin, he made a way for the physical temple (where man could dwell with God) to become each person that would believe him (through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit).

Also significant in the story with Jesus is that, like the OT men whose encounters lead to the birth of sons, this story ends with a ton of people from the Samaritan woman’s village seeing and believing in Jesus for themselves. More children born of God, through the Spirit and because of Jesus.

What about you? What do you see?

P.S. I just discovered I have written a post involving this story of the woman at the well for each year I’ve had this blog (2011, 2012). The progression is interesting to me… and maybe you? One more thing- this video based on the story of the woman at the well. It’s beautiful but I couldn’t figure out where to link it above 🙂

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