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Isaac and Abimelech


Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar, to King Abimelech of the Philistines. 2The L ord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; settle in the land that I shall show you. 3Reside in this land as an alien, and I will be with you, and will bless you; for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will fulfill the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. 4I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and will give to your offspring all these lands; and all the nations of the earth shall gain blessing for themselves through your offspring, 5because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

6 So Isaac settled in Gerar. 7When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “My wife,” thinking, “or else the men of the place might kill me for the sake of Rebekah, because she is attractive in appearance.” 8When Isaac had been there a long time, King Abimelech of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw him fondling his wife Rebekah. 9So Abimelech called for Isaac, and said, “So she is your wife! Why then did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought I might die because of her.” 10Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” 11So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall be put to death.”

12 Isaac sowed seed in that land, and in the same year reaped a hundredfold. The L ord blessed him, 13and the man became rich; he prospered more and more until he became very wealthy. 14He had possessions of flocks and herds, and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him. 15(Now the Philistines had stopped up and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of his father Abraham.) 16And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”

17 So Isaac departed from there and camped in the valley of Gerar and settled there. 18Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of his father Abraham; for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the names that his father had given them. 19But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, 20the herders of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herders, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the well Esek, because they contended with him. 21Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also; so he called it Sitnah. 22He moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he called it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the L ord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

23 From there he went up to Beer-sheba. 24And that very night the L ord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you and make your offspring numerous for my servant Abraham’s sake.” 25So he built an altar there, called on the name of the L ord, and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.

26 Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army. 27Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?” 28They said, “We see plainly that the L ord has been with you; so we say, let there be an oath between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you 29so that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the L ord.” 30So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. 31In the morning they rose early and exchanged oaths; and Isaac set them on their way, and they departed from him in peace. 32That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water!” 33He called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba to this day.

Esau’s Hittite Wives

34 When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite; 35and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.

24. And the Lord appeared unto him. This vision (as I have elsewhere said) was to prepare him to listen more attentively to God, and to convince him that it was God with whom he had to deal; for a voice alone would have had less energy. Therefore God appears, in order to produce confidence in and reverence towards his word. In short, visions were a kind of symbols of the Divine presence, designed to remove all doubt from the minds of the holy fathers respecting him who was about to speak. Should it be objected, that such evidence was not sufficiently sure, since Satan often deceives men by similar manifestations, being, as it were, the ape of God; — we must keep in mind what has been said before, that a clear and unambiguous mark was engraven on the visions of God, by which the faithful might certainly distinguish them from those which were fallacious, so that their faith should not be kept in suspense: and certainly, since Satan can only delude us in the dark, God exempts his children from this danger, by illuminating their eyes with the brightness of his countenance. Yet God did not fully manifest his glory to the holy fathers, but assumed a form by means of which they might apprehend him according to the measure of their capacities; for, as the majesty of God is infinite, it cannot be comprehended by the human mind, and by its magnitude it absorbs the whole world. Besides, it follows of necessity that men, on account of their infirmity, must not only faint, but be altogether annihilated in the presence of God. Wherefore, Moses does not mean that God was seen in his true nature and greatness, but in such a manner as Isaac was able to bear the sight. But what we have said, namely, that the vision was a testimony of Deity, for the purpose of giving credibility to the oracle, will more fully appear from the context; for this appearance was not a mute spectre; but the word immediately followed, which confirmed, in the mind of Isaac, faith in gratuitous adoption and salvation.

I am the God of Abraham. This preface is intended to renew the memory of all the promises before given, and to direct the mind of Isaac to the perpetual covenant which had been made with Abraham, and which was to be transmitted, as by tradition, to his posterity. The Lord therefore begins by declaring himself to be the God who had spoken at the first to Abraham, in order that Isaac might not sever the present from the former oracles: for as often as he repeated the testimony of his grace to the faithful, he sustained their faith with fresh supports. Yet he would have that very faith to remain based upon the first covenant by which he had adopted them to himself: and we must always keep this method in mind, in order that we may learn to gather together the promises of God, as they are combined in an inseparable bond. Let this also ever occur to us, as a first principle, that God thus kindly promises us his grace because he has freely adopted us.

Fear not. Since these words are elsewhere expounded, I shall now be the more brief. In the first place, we must observe, that God thus addresses the faithful for the purpose of tranquillizing their minds; for, if his word be withdrawn, they necessarily become torpid through stupidity, or are tormented with disquietude. Whence it follows, that we can receive peace from no other source than from the mouth of the Lord, when he declares himself the author of our salvation; not that we are then free from all fear, but because the confidence of faith is sufficiently efficacious to assuage our perturbations. Afterwards the Lord gives proofs of his love, by its effect, when he promises that he will bless Isaac.

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