Cisterns

Concise Bible Dictionary:

Roman Cisterns at Carthage – Malga—Tunisia
These were extensively used in Palestine for the collection of rain water. In Jerusalem every house has its cistern, and some have more than one. Solomon also brought water from long distances to be stored in cisterns, of which there are many under the Temple area. Some were really pits, for we read of the “wheel” being broken (Eccl. 12:66Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. (Ecclesiastes 12:6)). There were also many cisterns in fields or by the road side as reservoirs for the irrigation of the land. For every man to be able to drink water out of his own cistern, was held out as a boon (2 Kings 18:3131Hearken 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: (2 Kings 18:31); Isa. 36:1616Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make an agreement with me by a present, and come out to me: and eat ye every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern; (Isaiah 36:16)). This is also used as a symbol not to indulge in illicit desires (Prov. 5:1515Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. (Proverbs 5:15)). Israel is charged with forsaking God, the fountain of blessing, and making for themselves cisterns which could hold no water (Jer. 2:1313For 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 2:13)).

“68. Cisterns” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

Genesis 37:2424And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. (Genesis 37:24). They took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
There are numerous pits or cisterns still to be found in Palestine. They are often hewn out of the solid rock, and, being narrower at the mouth than at the bottom, it is not an easy thing to get out unaided, if one should he so unfortunate as to get in. Dr. Thomson mentions the case of an acquaintance who fell into one of these pits, or empty cisterns, and, being unable to extricate himself, passed two dreadful days and nights before he was discovered and drawn out, more dead than alive.
These cisterns, when dry, were sometimes used as dungeons for prisoners, and thus Joseph’s brethren put him into one. The prophet Jeremiah was also imprisoned in a cistern which had been dug in the courtyard of the prison. See Jeremiah 38:66Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire. (Jeremiah 38:6), where the word bor is translated “dungeon.” This is the same word that in the text is rendered “pit,” and in some other places “cistern.”

“281. Cistern in the Court Yard” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

The well (beer) here spoken of was not a living fountain, but simply a cistern or reservoir dug in the courtyard, as is often the case in the East at the present day. Such cisterns sometimes become dry, and then make excellent hiding-places for fugitives. The mouth being on a level with the ground, could be easily covered by a mat or some other article, and the corn being spread over this, suspicion would be disarmed. For description of the “court,” see note on Esther 1:55And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace; (Esther 1:5) (#387).

“536. Cisterns” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

The dryness of the summer months in Palestine, and the absence of large rivers, together with the scarcity of springs in many places, make it necessary to collect into cisterns the rains which fall, and the waters which fill the small streams in the rainy season. This has been the custom in that laud from very early times. These cisterns are either dug in the earth or cut out of the soft limestone rock, and are of several kinds. Sometimes a shaft is sunk like a well, and the bottom widened into the shape of a jug. Excavations of this sort combine the characters of cisterns and wells, since they not only receive the rain which is conducted into them, but the water which percolates through the limestone. Another kind consists of chambers excavated out of the rock, with a hole in the roof. Again, an excavation is made perpendicularly, and the roof arched with masonry. Some are lined with wood or cement, while others are left in their natural state.
They are sometimes entirely open at the top, and are then entered by steps, or, in the case of large ones, (and some are very large,) by flights of stairs. Where they are roofed, a circular opening with a curb is at the top, and a wheel, with a rope and bucket, is provided. This is referred to in Ecclesiastes 12:66Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. (Ecclesiastes 12:6), “The wheel broken at the cistern.” Jerusalem is abundantly supplied with water by means of cisterns, and during all its long and terrible sieges has never suffered for want of a supply.

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