M’qohr Khayim Mayim: Fountain of Living Water

Living Water (mayim khayim); Fountain of Life (m’qohr khayim); Fountain of Living Water (m’qohr mayim khayim)… based on the Hebrew words maqohr (Strong’s 4726), mayim (Strong’s 4325), and khayim (Strong’s 2416).

Sounds like: m’kohr my’eem khai’eem

Today is the 225th posting in HebrewWordLessons! I like that this week we are looking at two common phrases found in the Bible. It’s wonderful to be able to look at individual words but it’s more important to understand the Bible as a collective whole, and how words work together to complete the narrative. We can’t just look at individual words without respectfully looking at the whole story and subsequently see how they weave their way through the adventure, eventually driving the story to it’s (yet to be fulfilled) conclusion.

Living Water/Fountain of Life are both wonderful expressions that carry through the entire Bible and they do bring with them a continuity that carries the epic Biblical narrative full circle… from the moment water is mentioned in Genesis 1 to its impact in the vision of the new heaven and new earth in Revelation 22.

We will look at two phrases:

  • Living Water: Mayim Khayim
  • Fountain of Life: M’qohr Khayim

…and a combination of the two preceding phrases:

  • Fountain of Living Water: M’qohr Mayim Khayim

It’s worth mentioning (if you haven’t already noticed) that the two Hebrew words representing water and living rhyme in Hebrew: mayim (water) & khayim (living). Not surprisingly, these words worked well in poetry. For example, in Solomon’s Song of Songs he said this of his beloved:

Song of Songs 4:15

“You are a garden spring, a well of fresh water [living water: mayim khayim], and flowing streams from Lebanon.”

Mayim khayim was a perfectly poetic combination and made an impactful statement when read aloud. Living water has sometimes been translated as fresh or flowing water. This was water that did not sit still; it was not stagnant, it was full of life and vitality.

Living Water: Mayim Khayim

Water was there in the beginning. In Genesis 1 water showed up eleven times, starting with:

Genesis 1:1-3

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was a formless and desolate emptiness, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters [al p’ney ha-mayim]. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Water and light were the building blocks that God used to shape creation. Without water and light there was no life to spring up.

In the Hebrew mindset, flowing water was living water; it was active and encouraged life.

Isaac knew the importance of water and worked hard digging wells:

Genesis 26:18-22

Then Isaac dug again the wells of water [et b’eroht ha-mayim] which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the same names which his father had given them. But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing water [living water: mayim khayim], the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac, saying, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek [meaning: contention], because they argued with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over it too, so he named it Sitnah [meaning: adversarial]. 

Then he moved away from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rehoboth [meaning: made room, extended], for he said, “At last YHWH has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.”

Flowing/living water was all over the place, but they needed to harness it. To be fruitful they needed water! But the idea that YHWH would make room for them to be fruitful can be interpreted in a few different ways. He would make room for them here on earth, and He would make room for them in His heavenly garden Kingdom.

Yeshua (Jesus) used the historical well of Jacob to explain the power of living water to a woman from Samaria. This kind of water would make room for her, a sinful Samarian, in YHWH’s Kingdom:

John 4:7-14

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away to the city to buy food. 

So the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, though You are a Jew, are asking me for a drink, though I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 

Jesus replied to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water [Greek: hydor zon].” 

She said to Him, “Sir, You have no bucket and the well is deep; where then do You get this living water [hydor to zon]? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well and drank of it himself, and his sons and his cattle?” 

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty; but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.”

Yeshua knew His Tanakh (Old Testament) and all the stories and rituals that encompassed water. Running/Living water was used in leprosy cleansing rituals (Leviticus 14:6, 51, 52). It was for physical healing and spiritual healing. The water that Yeshua offered was for both and it lead to eternal life.

In the book of Numbers we read about the ritual for cleansing someone who has come into contact with something dead:

Numbers 19:16-19

Also, anyone who in the open field touches one who has been killed with a sword or one who has died naturally, or touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days. Then for the unclean person they shall take some of the ashes of the burnt purification from sin and running water [living water: mayim khayim] shall be added to them in a container. And a clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it on the tent, on all the furnishings, on the persons who were there, and on the one who touched the bone or the one who was killed or the one who died naturally, or the grave. Then the clean person shall sprinkle on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day; and on the seventh day he shall purify him, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and will be clean by evening.

Death and life were not to be mixed together. You needed to be cleansed from death when you crossed its path. It is interesting that the ritual involved the unclean person taking ashes from a dead sacrifice and mixing it with living water. Then a clean person would sprinkle the unclean, his house and his furnishings, with the ash and water mixture on the third day and again on the seventh day. On the seventh day the unclean would bathe their body and clothes and be clean by sunset.

This chapter is striking in comparison to the life and death of Yeshua. Yeshua died as a sacrifice to cleanse the people of their sin that barred them from entering YHWH’s Kingdom. By dying and returning to life on the third day, Yeshua conquered death and paid our entrance fee back into the Garden of Eden to walk and talk with God. Yeshua began His ministry being baptised in living water and ended His ministry by walking, voluntarily into snares of death. But on the third day after His death He rose up from the grave, proving that living water is more powerful than the dust of death.

The ritual cleansing of Numbers 19 was juxtaposed by the following chapter. It’s an odd transition. Numbers 19 is a list of rituals and expectations, but Numbers 20 is a story chapter. Moses and the people were wandering in the desert and they were hungry and thirsty. The book transitioned from rituals about death to a story about life. In Numbers 20, God provided water so the people would not die:

Numbers 20:8, 11

[YHWH to Moses:] “Take the staff; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it shall yield its water. So you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and have the congregation and their livestock drink”…

…Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank.

Although Moses did not follow YHWH’s instruction to the letter (he hit the rock instead of speaking to it), YHWH still gave abundant water to the people. Regardless of our mistakes, YHWH wants to give us living water. 

YHWH’s cosmic plan was always to bring us home to Him, to the flourishing water-filled Garden of Eden.  The prophet Zechariah outlined the beautiful vision of YHWH’s day of redemption:

Zechariah 14:6-8

On that day there will be no light; the luminaries will die out. For it will be a unique day which is known to YHWH, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at the time of evening there will be light.

And on that day living waters [mayim khayim] will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter.

About 600 years later, this vision was repeated in the apostle John’s vision:

Revelation 22:1-5, 17b

And he showed me a river of the water of life [Greek: hydatos zoes], clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illuminate them; and they will reign forever and ever…

…And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires, take the water of life [Greek: hydor zoes] without cost.

This was the promise… anyone can drink from YHWH’s fountain… anyone who is thirsty for life has abundant water to drink from… and death has no power over those who drink freely from YHWH’s fountain of life.

Seljalandsfoss, Iceland. Image by Robert Lukeman (unsplash.com)

Fountain of Life

The book of John’s Revelation also used the imagery of the Fountain of Life:

Revelation 7:14b-17

“These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will no longer hunger nor thirst, nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to living fountains of water [Greek: zoes pegas hydaton]; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

You can read an earlier posting on the Hebrew word for fountain (m’qohr) here. Fountain has a far greater footprint in the Bible than just the fountain of life, but the fountain of life may be it’s most celebrated use. Certainly it was poetic and (perhaps predictably) it is found in the Hebrew Bible almost exclusively in the Proverbs and Psalms (with the exception of the poetic prophet, Jeremiah).

The proverbial “fountain of life” was evident in the lives of the righteous and the discerning:

Proverbs 10:11

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life [m’qohr khayim], but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Proverbs 16:22

Understanding is a fountain of life [m’qohr khayim] to those who have it, but the discipline of fools is foolishness.

The “fountain of life”, as its name suggests, was a life-bringer and it turned one away from the ever-ready trap of death:

Proverbs 13:14

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life [m’qohr khayim], turning one from the snares of death.

Proverbs 14:27

The fear of YHWH is a fountain of life [m’qohr khayim], turning one away from the snares of death.

If water was life, death was a parched barren landscape… nothing could live there. Water, on the other hand, brought life in abundance.

Yeshua made it clear. He was the bringer of abundant life:

John 10:10

[Jesus:] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.

Life, light, and delight came from the Creator. Death was not assigned to humans by God, it was God’s Adversary that killed. YHWH brought life, light and delight to all who called on His mercy and grace to save them:

Psalm 36:7-9

How precious is Your mercy, God! And the sons of mankind take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.

They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You allow them to drink from the river of Your delights.

For the fountain of life [m’qohr khayim] is with You; in Your light we see light.

Life and light would be abundantly available to all who sought YHWH!

Fountain of Living Water

Jeremiah took both popular phrases, living water and fountain of life, and blended them into one. He recognized that living water was a gift from God, and all who turned away from the gift could not hold water:

Jeremiah 2:13

[YHWH:] For My people have committed two evils:

They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living waters [m’qohr mayim khayim], to carve out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that do not hold water.”

But Jeremiah also recognized that those who turned away from the fountain of living water could still be saved… they just had to turn back to YHWH:

Jeremiah 17:12-14

A glorious throne on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.

YHWH, the hope of Israel, all who abandon You will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water [m’qohr mayim khayim], that is YHWH.

Heal me, YHWH, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for You are my praise.

There is always a chance to turn back, be healed, and be saved. Death is at the door… but you can live beyond the door and into the Presence of YHWH.

Water in the Desert

In the Gospel of John it was recorded that Yeshua went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Booths (John 7:2). This was a memorial feast recalling the years that Moses and the Hebrew people wandered, hungry and thirsty, in the desert.

During the 7 day festival, the people lived in tents/booths for the week to understand what it might have been like to live nomadically in the time of Moses. They would remember the stories of how hungry and thirsty the people were, and how God provided water in the wilderness for them to drink. They would recall that Moses hit the rock twice (instead of shouting the words) and the water flowed.

On the last day of the festival (the seventh day), Yeshua stood amidst the thousands gathered in Jerusalem and (unlike Moses) shouted out words… words that offered of living water:

John 7:37-38

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water [Greek: hydatos zontos].’”

It’s a simple theme. We need water to survive… the physical water of the God’s created earth and the spiritual water of God’s Kingdom. YHWH freely offers living waters, physical and spiritual, for His people to drink abundantly.

For many of us life is hardly like a well-watered garden. This world seems like a parched desert, a harsh wilderness.  If you’re feeling thirsty in this discordant world, let the water of YHWH revive and save you. Put your trust in your Creator… it’s time to dive into the water and see how refreshed and clean your life can become!

Next week: Land of the Living

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