Welling up

Isaac farmed a piece of land in that country, reaping a hundredfold the very same year. His sheep and livestock were so great in number, and his household had multiplied such that the Philistines were once again jealous of a foreigner’s wealth and success. (In the days of Abraham, they had clogged all the wells dug by his father’s servants to deter him from success.)

So Abimelech said, “You’re too mighty. You have to leave.”

Isaac left Gerar proper and settled in the valley. Isaac dug out the wells that had been filled in by the Philistines in his father’s day, and he restored the names his father had given them.

Isaac’s servants discovered a particular well in the valley, and the shepherds contested its ownership. He named the well Esek, “Strife.” Isaac’s servants dug another well, and again the local herders fought with him. He named that one Sitnah, “Hatred.”

Finally, Isaac dug another one that wasn’t such a point of contention. “Now this area is big enough for the both of us,” he said. “We’ll be prosperous here.” He called the well Rehoboth, “Wide, Open.”

After this, he went to Beersheeba, where his father and Abimelech had made their promise to one another. The first night he arrived there, God appeared to him, saying, “I’m the God of your father. Don’t be afraid because I’m with you, and I’ll bless you. I’ll make your descendants multiply for your father’s sake.”

Isaac built an altar, called on the name of God, and settled there. Isaac’s servants dug a well at that spot.

Abimelech paid Isaac a visit with his adviser Ahuzzath and his army commander Phicol.

“Why are you here?” Isaac asked. “You’ve made it clear you hate me by sending me away.”

Abimelech said, “It’s obvious that God is with you, so let’s promise we won’t harm each other in any way. We’ve never touched you, and we sent you away in peace.”

Isaac prepared a great feast that night, and they dined. In the morning the king and his entourage left in peace. That same day, Isaac’s servants reported that they found water while digging yet another well.

Isaac called it Shibah, “Oath,” and that city was named Beersheba as well.

Inspiration: Genesis 26

Like father

Another food shortage occurred, but God told Isaac not to go to Egypt as his father had done. “Instead,” God said, “settle in the land I will show you.” And God echoed the details of the promise he had given to Abraham.

Isaac took his family and settled in Gerar. When the men noticed the alluring Rebekah, Isaac lied for the same reason his father had before him. “She’s my sister,” he’d say.

When Isaac had been living there for a long time as an alien, Abimelech, the Philistine king who had been deceived by Abraham in the past, was peering through his window when he saw Isaac caressing Rebekah. He called for Isaac and said, “Obviously, Rebekah is your wife. Why’d you tell everyone she was your sister?”

“I thought I’d be killed, so someone else could have her.”

“What have you done? One of my citizens could have easily taken her into his bed, and you would have forced guilt on us!”

Abimelech remembered the oath of loyalty he had made with Abraham, so he made a blanket decree: “Anyone who touches Isaac or his wife Rebekah, will be executed.”

Inspiration: Genesis 26

Loyalty points

King Abimelech and his army commander Phicol came to Abraham for a little chat.

“It’s obvious God is always watching over you,” the king said, then added, “Promise me, in the presence of your God, that you’ll never betray me or my family line. After all, I’ve been loyal friend.”

“I promise,” Abraham answered, “but I should make you aware of a dispute over one of my water wells. Your servants seem to think it’s yours.”

Abimelech answered, “This is the first I’m hearing of it. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It wasn’t a big deal.” Abraham brought Abimelech sheep and oxen, and they promised they’d be loyal to one another. Then Abraham took seven female lambs and set them apart from the rest of the fold.

“What are these for?” Abimelech asked.

“These seven lambs are given in exchange for your word that I dug the disputed well.”

They named that place “Beersheba,” Well of the Oath. After they sealed their promise, Abimelech and his commander went back to the land of the Philistines.

Abraham remained there awhile and planted a salt cedar near the well. There he spent some one-on-one time with God, and afterward, he surveyed the land of the Philistines.

Inspiration: Genesis 21

Sister wife

From Mamre Oaks, Abraham set out toward the Negev. He and his wife set tents in Gerar, between Kadesh and Shur. Since they were new to the area, Abraham feared for his life. Just as he did in Egypt, he told everyone, “Sarah’s my sister.”

Abimelech, King of Gerar, brought Sarah into his household to take as a wife, but God visited him in a dream.

“You’re going to die,” God said, “because Sarah is married already.”

Abimelech had not yet taken Sarah into his bed. Nevertheless, God had shut up the wombs of every female in Abimelech’s house. He reasoned with God, saying, “Master, will you punish the innocent? Both Abraham and Sarah lied to me. I had no idea they were married.”

“I know you’re innocent,” God answered in the dream, “and I alone prevented you from sin. Return Sarah to Abraham, because he’s a prophet. He’ll pray for you, and you’ll live. Otherwise, you and your family will all die.”

Abimelech got up early the next morning, and having not slept well, he brought his servants in for a meeting. Telling them about the vision, everyone was afraid for their lives. Then the king called Abraham and said, “What did I do to be treated so cruelly? You’ve sullied me and my domain. What were you thinking?”

Abraham confessed that he didn’t trust a kingdom who didn’t fear God. “Besides,” he added, “she actually is my half-sister. Sarah and I share the same father. When God called me out of our father’s house, we agreed that she would play the role of sister any time we settled in a new place.”

Abimelech brought Sarah back, along with sheep, oxen, slaves of both sexes, and a thousand silver pieces. He handed them all over to Abraham. He said, “Survey my land and settle wherever you like.” Then he turned to Sarah and said, “I have paid your brother with silver as a sign of your vindication.”

Abraham prayed to God, and as promised, Abimelech and his household were healed. The king’s wife and female slaves could bear children again.

Inspiration: Genesis 20