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

Abram’s call

Your son Canaan will bow to Shem.

From Shem’s family line, the Semites, a man named Abram emerged from Ur in Babylonia. He and his wife Sarai had lived with his father’s tribe north of Ur in Haran, but God told him to take his herds and head south and settle in an area he designated for the fulfillment of his promise to save humankind.

“You’ll become a great nation,” God told him, “blessed and renowned. Those who bless you will be blessed, and those who curse you will be cursed. Because of you, every family in the world will have reason to celebrate.”

Abram took God at his word. When he was seventy-five years old, he packed his bags and loaded up his wife, his nephew Lot, their livestock, and all the servants they had acquired in Haran and journeyed voluntarily into the unknown.

Traveling through Canaan, they stopped at Moreh Grove in Shechem. God said, “This will be the land of your children.”

Abram had no children and knew his wife was barren, but he built an altar anyway, willing to stretch himself beyond his personal bounderies, believing that God’s word was his bond.

From Shechem, he and his entourage continued south and lived off the land. All along the route, Abram would build one altar after another, fueled by a God who would show up indiscriminately to repeat his promise of wide, open spaces and endless descendants.

Inspiration: Genesis 10-12; I Chronicles 1