Genesis: Isaac and Abimelech

Genesis 26:1-35

Famine has struck the land where Isaac lives. He goes to see the Abimelech, the King of the Philistines. The Lord tells Isaac not to go to Egypt, but to stay in the land that He had commanded Isaac to live in. When Isaac reaches Gerar, where Abimelech lives, the men ask Isaac about his wife. Isaac, like his father Abraham, is a liar. Isaac tells them that she is his sister. You would think that after Isaac’s father pulled this trick the men of Gerar wouldn’t trust any of the descendants of Abraham. Abimelech discovered that Isaac had lied when Abimelech looked out a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife. Abimelech summons Isaac and exposes Isaac for the liar that he is. He asks why Isaac had claimed she was his sister. Isaac’s reply is similar to the one his father would often give. Abimelech decrees that no man shall molest either Isaac or his wife; if so they will be put to death. Isaac plants crops in the land of Gerar. His harvest is bountiful. He continues to be prosperous and amasses great wealth. The Philistines grew envious of him and King Abimelech orders him to leave peacefully from their lands. Isaac settles in the Valley of Gerar. He and his people conflict with local herdsmen over wells. One day King Abimelech sends his advisor and commander of his forces, Phicol, to speak with Isaac. Phicol tells Isaac that the Philistines want to make an agreement of peace with Isaac and his people. They can see that Isaac is in league with the Lord and they do not want trouble with him. Isaac prepared a feast for them. The next morning the two men swore an oath to each other–I wonder if each had to place their hands behind the others thigh–and they parted ways. Esau marries two Hittite women (another instance of polygamy in the Bible), Judith the daughter of Berri and Basemath daughter of Elon. These two women were a source of grief for Rebekah and Isaac.

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Genesis: The Birth of Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away, & The Treaty of Beersheba

Genesis 21:1-34

The Birth of Isaac

As the Lord promised, Sarah gives birth to a son when Abraham is a hundred years old. They name the son Isaac as they said they would. Abraham circumcised the boy after eight days like his covenant with God commands.

Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away

By the time Isaac had been weaned, Sarah had noticed that the son of Abraham’s other wife was beginning to mock Isaac. Sarah commands Abraham to “ ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’ ” (If you remember, Sarah told Abraham to take Hagar and have a son with her.) Abraham was concerned with sending his son and his other wife out into the desert, but God tells him to do as Sarah commanded because he will make a nation out of Ishmael. Abraham packs them food and water, and sent her off with their son. The two wander into the desert of Beersheba. They run out of water and Hagar sets the boy under one of the bushes. She sits away from the child under the shade of a tree. She says to herself, “ ‘I cannot watch the boy die.’ ” God, hearing the helpless cries of the child, comes to Hagar and asks what is wrong. She tells the Lord that they are out of water. God tells her not to be afraid and pick up her child, and that He will make a nation out of her son. Then Hagar spots a well of water, and refills her skin (a pouch to carry water) and gives the child a drink. The boy grows up and becomes an archer. He lives his life in the Desert of Paran, and his mother finds him a wife from Egypt.

This is the first passage (that I find evidence of) where God shows true signs of compassion. For me, this doesn’t excuse the further and past atrocities He commits, but it is pleasant to read a passage that isn’t all about animal sacrifice and genocide. I’m sure even Genghis Khan had his good days.

The Treaty of Beersheba

The king that Abraham swindles, Abimelech, and Phicol, the commander of his forces, come to Abraham. Abimelech asks if Abraham will swear that he will no longer deal falsely with him, his children, or his descendants, and that Abraham will show him and the country he is living in as an alien with the same kindness as the king had shown him.  Abraham agrees to do so. Abraham complains about a well Abimelech’s people had seized. The king claims to not be aware of this, and to have only just heard this. Abraham brings to the king some sheep and cattle to make a treaty. Abraham sets apart seven ewe lambs (young female sheep, also the first time we see the number seven). The king asks why he has set these lambs apart, and Abraham replies, “ ‘Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.’ ” The treaty was made, and the king and his commander left. Abraham continued to live in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

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