Welling up

Isaac farmed a piece of land in that country, reaping a hundredfold the very same year. His sheep and livestock were so numerous that the Philistines raged with jealousy.

This wasn’t the first time a Hebrew and his wealth caused the Philistines to misbehave. 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.”

Without argument, 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.

One particular well discovered by Isaac’s servants in the valley caught the attention of the local shepherds, and they contested its ownership. Isaac 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 without contention. “Now this area is big enough for all of us,” he said. “We’ll be prosperous here.” He called the well “Rehoboth,” Wide Open.

After this, he went to Beersheba, 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. 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 too.

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

“Well, this is a surprise,” Isaac said, inviting them into his tent. “You made it pretty clear you despise me. What can I do for you?”

Abimelech said, “It’s obvious that God is with you, so let’s promise we’ll leave each other alone. We’ve never touched you, and we sent you away in peace.”

Isaac prepared a bunch of food, and they all partied into the night. 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.

“Let’s call it “Shibah,” Isaac said, naming it Oath. “And let’s name this city 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 He 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 told everyone.

After Isaac had been living there for a while as an alien, Abimelech, the Philistine king who had been deceived by Abraham in the past, was peering through his window and 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 to 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

Sister wife

From Mamre Oaks, Abraham set out toward the Negev. He and his wife established 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 from a sleepless night and 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 deceived in my own house? You’ve disrespected 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 and 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