Design By Humans

Genesis 26. Well oh well oh well oh well.

Genesis 26.

1 And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.

    So another famine. It seems so soon since the last one but one generation in this case is over 100 years so there's been good harvests for a good while. Either way Isaac has escaped the the famine by going to visit with the old acquaintance of his father, King Abimelech.

2 And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:

    OK so during this famine the LORD instructs not to go to Egypt, I'm guessing after Abraham's visit that the pharaoh isn't likely to be very welcoming.

3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;

    Same old, same old. Why does God need to keep reiterating this promise and how does sojourning in the land of the philistines relate to the delivery of this promise? Surely the covenant that God made with Abraham is fixed. Why are there conditions?

4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;

    Blah, blah, blah. We've heard it all before God, I'm sure Abraham will have explained to Isaac the extent of his birth-right.

5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

    But what did Abraham get from it? Sure he got this promise from god but it was an entirely unverifiable promise. What possible reason could Abraham have had for following the crazy penis-cutting law for example? Isaac nearly got killed by the LORD's tom-foolery, I'd imagine he'd have even less cause to trust the LORD's promises.

6 And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:

    Right you are.

7 And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.

    What is the actual deal with this 'She is my sister' bit? I guess we don't have all the facts of the period but was it really that commonplace for men to kill visitors in order to take their wives? The thing is, as we have seen, this technique doesn't save the wife from getting taken and only prevents the man involved from being killed. I suppose that so far it has come with the added benefit of swindling riches from the local king with the aid of the supposedly just LORD but the practise shows absolutely no respect for the wife and more than a little cowardice.

8 And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.

    Right. It seems this trick has been entirely unnecessary and that Isaac and Rebekah have managed to live for a long time among the Philistines without incident but right now Abimelech has noticed Isaac and Rebekah 'sporting' with each other, this reads like a poor euphemism for something that would give away Rebekah's status as Isaac's wife. Let's see how he reacts.

9 And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.

    Good man Abimelech. Once again he has spotted the deceptive nature of the males from Abraham's people.

10 And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.

    Although Abimelech has again spotted the fraud of the visitor he seems to be mistaken yet again that the blame would have rested with anyone who was taken in by the con and not the con-artist. I have no idea why this would be.

11 And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.

    I really don't understand this reaction, Isaac surely should be the one who is punished, in fact, rather than threatening his own subjects the death penalty would it not be prudent just to throw Isaac and his family out of his kingdom?

12 Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him.

    Really? Again a natural process is attributed to the LORD! Isaac sowed the seed, it grew, no mystery.   

13 And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:

    OK. Isaac became great. Nice! Was this because of his clearly superior farming methods?

14 For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him.

    Yup! Seems his greatness has a lot to do with his farming prowess...

15 For all the wells which his father's servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth.

    ...which has made the philistines jealous enough to fill in the wells dug by his father's servants.

16 And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.

    I think perhaps this is the first sensible thing that Abimelech has done since he met Abraham.

17 And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.

    Okey dokey.

18 And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.

    Seems like a thing someone might do if they were setting up camp.

19 And Isaac's servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water.
    Good, good.

20 And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac's herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him.

    Unsurprising really, they were the original inhabitants after all. What gave Abraham and Isaac this odd sense of entitlement? What is it the gives them the impression that they can move into any area they want and do what they like? Is it the promise from God? if so, why hasn't God gone and told everyone else to get out of the way of his chosen people? Why is it only Abraham's people that are aware of this covenant? Doesn't the LORD talk to anyone else? If not, why not?

21 And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah.

    More fighting over another well...

22 And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.

    But this latest well, they did not fight over. For some reason Isaac sees this as a sign from the LORD, if it were actually a message from the LORD why hasn't he come and said so himself?

23 And he went up from thence to Beer–sheba.


24 And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake.

    See! That's what I was talking about, actually appearing in actual person. I think that if I were a follower of this particular God, I'd be very careful as to what I attributed to him, probably only crediting him with the things he says and does in person. Anyway, does the requirement for the LORD to tell Isaac that he is 'the God of Abraham thy father' hint at another admission by the LORD that there are other gods, and not just imaginary gods that some people might make up but real gods that could potentially be talking to Isaac in his place.

25 And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac's servants digged a well.

    More wells?

26 Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army.
    Abimelech comes to visit Isaac at his new camp.

27 And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?
    How very passive aggressive of Isaac. He caused the upset in Abimelech's land and all Abimelech asked him to do was leave but now, according to Isaac, Abimelech 'hates' him. Oh poor, poor, enormously rich and privileged Isaac, boo-hoo!

28 And they said, We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee;

    OK, So Abimelech and his entourage have seen that the LORD had been with Isaac and so have come to make some sort of agreement.

29 That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the Lord.

    OK. It's basically a non-aggression pact.

30 And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink.

    The deal is sealed with a meal.

31 And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.

    Good, good.

32 And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac's servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water.

    Bonus, it might just be me but I thought that it wasn't a well until you find water, it's more of a hole, never-the-less congratulations to Isaac's servant for striking water.

33 And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beer–sheba unto this day.

    Again, this 'unto this day' appears. Who wrote this and when?

34 And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:

    Apparently Esau's orangutan-like looks haven't prevented him from marrying. He's taken two wives, both of them Hittites which I imagine would be an enormous concern to his racist grandfather however given that he's sold his birth-right to his brother Jacob, it might not matter who he breeds with.

35 Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.

    I suspected as much.

So what can be gleaned from this chapter?

  • It very much appears that Isaac, Like his father, thinks that it's appropriate to lie about whether the woman you are travelling with is your wife or not. He didn't profit as much as his father from this endeavour but is every bit as much as cowardly and has just as much of an unearned sense of entitlement as Abraham did.
  • Abimelech is only half way to recognising how dangerous Abraham was and Isaac is. He was wise to kick Isaac out.
  • A lot of wells have been dug.
  • Polygamy is practised, I'm not certain if it's OK or not though. The text only says that Isaac and Rebekah are aggrieved by Esau's marriages but it doesn't say if it is the fact that there are two wives or if that the wives are Hittite is the problem.

I was really hoping for a new story from these new characters but instead we have a slightly adjusted version of a story we've heard twice already, let's see if Genesis 27 has more to tell us.

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