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In a country like Pal., which depends largely on rainfall for water, there are usually three sources from which it may be obtained: springs, wells, and cisterns. All three were used from the earliest recorded times, and the words listed above were used to describe them. Each has been tr. fountain as meaning a source of water.

1. בּוֹר, H1014, describes a cistern or well, a hole in which water may be found; but it may be used of any excavation in the earth. Bir (Jer 6:7) is prob. only a vocal variant of bor, and refers definitely to a well.

2. מַבּוּעַ, H4432, derived from נָבַע, H5580, to bubble or to spring, denotes a bubbling spring, prob. on the surface of the ground (Eccl 12:6; Isa 35:7; 49:10).

3. עַ֫יִן, H6525, which is the most common Heb. word for spring, occurs frequently in the OT, esp. in the prefix which denotes some particular spring; e.g. En [Ain] -gedi (1 Sam 24:1), or En [Ain] -rogel, near Jerusalem (2 Sam 17:17; 1 Kings 1:9). A cognate form is used both literally (Gen 7:11) and figuratively of a source of wisdom or learning (Prov 18:4).

4. מָקוֹר, H5227, derived from קוּר, H7769, to dig, originally denoted a well, but is used of a spring, frequently in a fig. sense (Prov 25:26).

5. There are only 12 uses of πηγή, G4380, in the NT, variously tr. by well and fountain.

Springs or fountains were essential to life, and the early settlements in Pal. usually clustered around a spring. Fortified cities grew up beside them, and often enclosed the spring in order to insure an ample supply of water in case of siege. In the war with the Philistines the Israelite army camped by the fountain in Jezreel, where there was abundant water for their forces (1 Sam 29:1), and the Samaritan woman encountered Jesus at the well of Jacob near Sychar (John 4:6) when she went to replenish the supply for her household. Fountain is used fig. of a source of wisdom (Prov 18:4) or of salvation (Jer 17:13) or of cleansing (Zech 13:1).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

foun’-tin, foun’-tan:

In a country where no rain falls for half of the year, springs sume an importance unknown in more favored lands. In both eastern and western Palestine and even in Lebanon there are many villages which depend entirely upon reservoirs or cisterns of rain water. Others are situated along the courses of the few perennial streams. But wherever a spring exists it is very apt to be the nucleus of a village. It may furnish sufficient water to be used in irrigation, in which case the gardens surrounding the village become an oasis in the midst of the parched land. Or there may be a tiny stream which barely suffices for drinking water, about which the village women and girls sit and talk waiting their turns to fill their jars, sometimes until far in the night. The water of the village fountain is often conveyed by a covered conduit for some distance from the source to a convenient spot in the village where an arch is built up, under which the water gushes out. See Cistern; Spring; WELL; EN-, and place-names compounded with EN-.


(1) of God (Ps 36:9; Jer 2:13; 17:13);

(2) of Divine pardon and purification, with an obvious Messianic reference (Zec 13:1);

(3) of wisdom and godliness (Pr 13:14; 14:27);

(4) of wives (Pr 5:18);

(5) of children (De 33:28; compare Ps 68:26; Pr 5:16);

(6) of prosperity (Ps 107:35; 114:8; Ho 13:15);

(7) of the heart (Ec 12:6; see Cistern);

(8) of life everlasting (Re 7:17; 21:6).