What Is A Cistern In The Bible

A cistern is a term found multiple times in the biblical scriptures as a part of a wider water system. In the Bible, a cistern was used as a large storage container for gathering and containing rainwater. Cisterns were very important in antiquity and played an undeniable role in the Middle East. In some cases, cisterns provided the only source of drinkable water.

What is interesting about cisterns is that they occur in many different contexts in the Bible. The word “cistern” first appears in Genesis 21:30, when Rebekah directed Eliezer in a search for water for her son Isaac. It is also recorded in the books of Kings as a place of captivity, where King Jehoiakim was placed in a “dungeon and put into the custody of Juab the captain of the guard.” Cisterns are also mentioned in Jeremiah, Psalms and even in the gospels.

Although the exact shape and size of a cistern varied, most cisterns were large and round. They were usually located near houses and villages so that they could be easily accessed. Cisterns generally contained between 200 and 10,000 liters of water, and were constructed from brick, stone, or clay. The surrounding soil was then sealed with a waterproof material such as tar, pitch or pitch.

Cisterns had to be regularly monitored and maintained as water levels fluctuated with each season. They had to be kept clean and mosquito-free to prevent the spread of disease. In some cases, cisterns were also connected to irrigation channels which allowed the efficient repurposing of collected water.

The importance of cisterns in biblical times is arguably the most overlooked aspect, but can be seen as an essential element of daily life and relies heavily on the idea of resource management. Cisterns were often described as a “fountain of life” in the scriptures and are mentioned multiple times as a symbol of strength and physical sustenance.

In later years, cisterns were commonly found in houses and were used to store rainwater from leaking roofs. In many parts of the world, domestic cisterns are still an integral part of life as such water tanks are used for a variety of uses, such as for drinking, gardening or for recharging land with aquifer water during the dry season.

Conservation of Water

In biblical times, having a cistern was often a sign of wealth and security. The most successful and wealthy had larger cisterns that allowed them to conserve more water and even trade with other villages. Cisterns also provided security during times of war and often acted as a safe place where people could retreat. Even today, there is a greater need to conserve our water resources, particularly as water scarcity is often seen as a global problem.

In terms of conservation, the “Cistern Code” is an initiative that promotes the use of rainwater harvesting and waste water recycling for residential buildings, schools and other communities. These approaches provide important ways to save water, energy and maintain healthy ecosystems. A key factor in the conservation of water through cisterns is the collection, storage and distribution of water. Therefore, governments should increase their efforts to ensure that such infrastructure is made available for all.

In addition to this, communities must also be educated about the importance of water conservation and the need to not just meet their own needs, but those of their neighbors. This can be done through water saving campaigns, which should include the promotion of the responsible and efficient use of our resources. Such campaigns should focus on the protection of water sources, managing the water cycle and ensuring their ecological integrity.

Economic Issues

Aside from conservation, cisterns also have an important socio-economic impact. Cisterns allow for greater access to water and can provide valuable benefits to communities, allowing them to build homes and grow food. Furthermore, having reliable access to water can provide additional job opportunities such as fishery and irrigation. In the case of irrigation, large cisterns can store water which can then be distributed in the dry season, thus supporting agricultural production which can further impact economic outcomes.

However, the construction and maintenance of cisterns can be costly. Depending on the size of the cistern, it can take weeks or even months to build, which is often not achievable for many people. As such, it is important to have initiatives which can provide financial assistance to those in need.

In some instances, it is possible to rent out the services of a cistern, making it available to those who cannot afford to make such a large investment. This not only provides greater access to water resources, but can generate additional economic opportunities for those renting out their cisterns.

Religious Context

The term “cistern” is also used in a variety of religious contexts. In the Old Testament, references to cisterns appear frequently in regards to both the Israelites and their enemies. In the New Testament, Jesus uses the image of a cistern to encourage those who are searching for life and living water.

In one famous instance, Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well and asks her to call her husband. When she replies that she has no husband, Jesus responds “you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.” The image of the cistern represented a place of false security in which Jesus revealed the truth to the woman and offered her a new life of spiritual abundance.

In other instances, cisterns have been symbols of rebellion against injustice. According to the Bible, the prophet Jeremiah railed against a society which put its faith in cisterns, rather than God’s provision. As a result, cisterns often take on a spiritual significance as a symbol of hope and a reminder to trust in God.

Ethical Implications

Having access to a reliable water source has important implications for the ethical aspect of both local and international development. Cisterns are an essential part of many cultures, providing a necessary source of water for those who need it.

On a local level, cisterns can have a significant impact on the daily lives of people. Without access to a reliable water source, communities are deprived of one of the most basic human necessities: water. Having cisterns can therefore, be seen as a means of providing basic human rights by providing greater access to water as a basic necessity.

At a global level, the impacts of water scarcity and poor water quality can be seen as an ethical issue. For example, in many parts of the world, people are forced to drink contaminated water due to the lack of access to clean water. This can lead to numerous health issues and even death. In such cases, having cisterns can provide a safe source of water for communities and help ensure better health outcomes.


In conclusion, cisterns are an essential part of life, both in the Bible and in the modern world. They provide essential access to water which is essential for sustenance and economic opportunities. Cisterns are therefore, a crucial part of resource management and conservation, which can provide important benefits for both communities and the environment. Cisterns also take on a spiritual significance, representing a place of safety, hope and trust in God. Finally, having access to a reliable water source can have important ethical implications, as communities are provided with basic human rights such as access to safe and clean water.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

Leave a Comment