In Old Testament (and, even today, in some parts of the world), a well was an extremely valuable commodity. It was a necessity for human survival and for the well-being of livestock. It’s not surprising, then, that a well was often a source of contention as people argued about who owned the well.
For example, “Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father…and he gave them the names that his father had given them. But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, ‘The water is ours.’”… Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also.” (Genesis 26:18-21).
I recently read a humorous story about a conflict over a well:
An Arab bought a well from a Jew. The next day, while on his way to market, he met the Jew who told him, “Brother Patel, I sold the well to you, but I did not sell the water, so if you use the water, you will have to pay extra for it.”
The Arab replied, “I was just planning to come over to your place and ask you to empty the water, and if you don’t, then you will have to pay me rent for your water staying in my well.”
Sounds like someone could have used the peacemaking spirit of Isaac! When the herdsmen of Gerar wanted to argue about the two wells he had just dug, Isaac simply “moved from there and dug another well.” (Genesis 26:22).
There’s a part of us that wants to say that wasn’t right. Isaac should have insisted on keeping his first two wells. He dug them. They belonged to him. They were his by right. But Isaac understood something that we are sometimes slow to understand – that God often expects us to give up our “rights” in the name of peace.
As a result, we have trouble understanding how to apply Jesus’s command, “If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5:40). That goes against our human nature. We want to fight for what is rightfully ours. And the more precious the item is to us, the harder we will fight. We don’t want to be seen as a “doormat” and we feel the need to stand up for ourselves if we are not being treated fairly.
Meanwhile, Isaac simply “moved from there and dug another well.” (Genesis 26:22). No fighting, no arguing. He said, “It’s mine, but you can have it.” And, in the process, Isaac lived out one of the Beatitudes of Jesus, setting a great example for us:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)