Gershon Hepner

Not Offering Water Led to a Well of Loneliness

Isaac could not draw water from two wells which he had ordered

his slave to dig, and only got it from Rehoboth, name he gave the third,

which he dug with his own hands. This well filled – the only one God watered,

perhaps to show him God saw that to dig the well himself he had been stirred.

When the slave of Abraham, who’d travelled to Mesopotamia, Aram-Naharayim,

met Rebekkah, she gave water to him and his camels, but when she

met Isaac after making this long journey in reverse he gave no water, mayim,

to her or to her camels.  I suggest that this delinquency

explains why when she asked, “Who is this man?” she used a word that’s very rare,

halazeh,” seen in the Bible only twice again, describing Joseph, who

was thrown by his ten jealous brothers into a pit where

there was no water and was – referencing fasts – described with this word too.

The reason that when wondering “Who is this?” Rebekkah used this rare word

implies she saw he would not offer her some water to relieve her thirst.

That the only well from which the patriarch could draw some water was the third:

was a punishment for failing to enable his fiancée to be water-nursed.

Isaac’s marriage was itself a well of loneliness, where neither he

nor Rebekkah communicated well with one another quite as clearly

as spouses should, becoming a mixed blessing like one which would be

a cause of conflict between their two sons who did not love each other dearly.

Gen. 26:18-22 states:

יח  וַיָּשָׁב יִצְחָק וַיַּחְפֹּר אֶת-בְּאֵרֹת הַמַּיִם, אֲשֶׁר חָפְרוּ בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיו, וַיְסַתְּמוּם פְּלִשְׁתִּים, אַחֲרֵי מוֹת אַבְרָהָם; וַיִּקְרָא לָהֶן, שֵׁמוֹת, כַּשֵּׁמֹת, אֲשֶׁר-קָרָא לָהֶן אָבִיו.    18 And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham; and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.

יט  וַיַּחְפְּרוּ עַבְדֵי-יִצְחָק, בַּנָּחַל; וַיִּמְצְאוּ-שָׁם–בְּאֵר, מַיִם חַיִּים.      19 And Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of living water.

כ  וַיָּרִיבוּ רֹעֵי גְרָר, עִם-רֹעֵי יִצְחָק לֵאמֹר–לָנוּ הַמָּיִם; וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם-הַבְּאֵר עֵשֶׂק, כִּי הִתְעַשְּׂקוּ עִמּוֹ.            20 And the herdmen of Gerar strove with Isaac’s herdmen, saying: ‘The water is ours.’ And he called the name of the well Esek; because they contended with him.

כא  וַיַּחְפְּרוּ בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת, וַיָּרִיבוּ גַּם-עָלֶיהָ; וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ, שִׂטְנָה.    21 And they digged another well, and they strove for that also. And he called the name of it Sitnah.

כב  וַיַּעְתֵּק מִשָּׁם, וַיַּחְפֹּר בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת, וְלֹא רָבוּ, עָלֶיהָ; וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ, רְחֹבוֹת, וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי-עַתָּה הִרְחִיב יְהוָה לָנוּ, וּפָרִינוּ בָאָרֶץ.     22 And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not. And he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said: ‘For now the LORD hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.’

When Abraham’s slave went to Mesopotamia to find a wife for Isaac Rebekkah, greeting him, provided water for him and his camels. Gen. 24:17-20 states:

יז  וַיָּרָץ הָעֶבֶד, לִקְרָאתָהּ; וַיֹּאמֶר, הַגְמִיאִינִי נָא מְעַט-מַיִם מִכַּדֵּךְ.  17 And the servant ran to meet her, and said: ‘Give me to drink, I pray thee, a little water of thy pitcher.’

יח  וַתֹּאמֶר, שְׁתֵה אֲדֹנִי; וַתְּמַהֵר, וַתֹּרֶד כַּדָּהּ עַל-יָדָהּ–וַתַּשְׁקֵהוּ.    18 And she said: ‘Drink, my lord’; and she hastened, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.

יט  וַתְּכַל, לְהַשְׁקֹתוֹ; וַתֹּאמֶר, גַּם לִגְמַלֶּיךָ אֶשְׁאָב, עַד אִם-כִּלּוּ, לִשְׁתֹּת.        19 And when she had done giving him drink, she said: ‘I will draw for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.’

כ  וַתְּמַהֵר, וַתְּעַר כַּדָּהּ אֶל-הַשֹּׁקֶת, וַתָּרָץ עוֹד אֶל-הַבְּאֵר, לִשְׁאֹב; וַתִּשְׁאַב, לְכָל-גְּמַלָּיו.            20 And she hastened, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw, and drew for all his camels.

When Isaac met Rebekkah, who was traveling from Mesopotamia to meet him, he did not offer her—or her camels— any water. Gen. 24:62-65  states:

סב  וְיִצְחָק בָּא מִבּוֹא, בְּאֵר לַחַי רֹאִי; וְהוּא יוֹשֵׁב, בְּאֶרֶץ הַנֶּגֶב.     62 And Isaac came from the way of Beer-lahai-roi, the Well of Lahi-Roi, for he dwelt in the land of the South.

סג  וַיֵּצֵא יִצְחָק לָשׂוּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶה, לִפְנוֹת עָרֶב; וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא, וְהִנֵּה גְמַלִּים בָּאִים.       63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide; and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, there were camels coming.

סד  וַתִּשָּׂא רִבְקָה אֶת-עֵינֶיהָ, וַתֵּרֶא אֶת-יִצְחָק; וַתִּפֹּל, מֵעַל הַגָּמָל.  64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she alighted from the camel.

סה  וַתֹּאמֶר אֶל-הָעֶבֶד, מִי-הָאִישׁ הַלָּזֶה הַהֹלֵךְ בַּשָּׂדֶה לִקְרָאתֵנוּ, וַיֹּאמֶר הָעֶבֶד, הוּא אֲדֹנִי; וַתִּקַּח הַצָּעִיף, וַתִּתְכָּס.    65 And she said unto the servant: ‘What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us?’ And the servant said: ‘It is my master.’ And she took her veil, and covered herself.

Isaac’s failure to obtain water from his first two wells may have been a measure for measure punishment for his failure to offer water to Rebekkah and her camels when he  met her, after her long journey from Mesopotamia. The failure is underscored by the fact that the place he came from when he went to meet her was a well. This was, ironically, the very well whose water had saved the lives of Ishmael and Hagar.

The word הֲלָזֶה is twice associated with lack of water in other verses of the Bible.

Gen. 37:19 uses the word הַלָּזֶה, halazeh, to denote Joseph, when his brothers see him from a distance:

יט  וַיֹּאמְרוּ, אִישׁ אֶל-אָחִיו:  הִנֵּה, בַּעַל הַחֲלֹמוֹת הַלָּזֶה–בָּא.        19 And they said one to another: ‘Behold, this dreamer cometh.

Joseph’s brothers cast him into pit that lacks water, in Gen. 37:24:

כד  וַיִּקָּחֻהוּ–וַיַּשְׁלִכוּ אֹתוֹ, הַבֹּרָה; וְהַבּוֹר רֵק, אֵין בּוֹ מָיִם.          24 and they took him, and cast him into the pit–and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.

Isa. 58:5 states:

ה  הֲכָזֶה, יִהְיֶה צוֹם אֶבְחָרֵהוּ–יוֹם עַנּוֹת אָדָם, נַפְשׁוֹ; הֲלָכֹף כְּאַגְמֹן רֹאשׁוֹ, וְשַׂק וָאֵפֶר יַצִּיעַ–הֲלָזֶה תִּקְרָא-צוֹם, וְיוֹם רָצוֹן לַיהוָה.          5 Is such the fast that I have chosen? the day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?.”

In this verse, הַלָּזֶה denotes a צוֹם, a fast, which is a day in which no water may be drunk.

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at