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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.

29. As we have not touched thee. An accusing conscience urges them to desire to hold him closely bound unto them; and therefore they require an oath from him that he will not hurt them. For they knew that he might rightfully avenge himself on them for the sufferings he had endured: but they dissemble on this point, and even make a wonderful boast of their own acts of kindness. At first, indeed, the humanity of the king was remarkable, for he not only entertained Isaac with hospitality, but treated him with peculiar honor; yet he by no means continued to act thus to the end. It accords, however, with the common custom of men, to disguise their own faults by whatever artifice or color they can invent. But if we have committed any offense, it rather becomes us ingenuously to confess our fault, than by denying it, to wound still more deeply the minds of those whom we have injured. Nevertheless Isaac, since he had already sufficiently pierced their consciences, does not press them any further. For strangers are not to be treated by us as domestics; but if they do not receive profit, they are to be left to the judgment of God. Therefore, although Isaac does not extort from them a just confession; yet, that he may not be thought inwardly to cherish any hostility towards them, he does not refuse to strike a covenant with them. Thus we learn from his example, that if any have estranged themselves from us, they are not to be repelled when they again offer themselves to us. For if we are commanded to follow after peace, even when it seems to fly from us, it behoves us far less to be repulsive, when our enemies voluntarily seek reconciliation; especially if there be any hope of amendment in future, although true repentance may not yet appear. And he receives them to a feast, not only for the sake of promoting peace, but also for the sake of showing that he, having laid aside all offense, has become their friend.

Thou art now the blessed of the Lord. This is commonly explained to mean that they court his favor by flatteries, just as persons are accustomed to flatter when they ask favor; but I rather think this expression to have been added in a different sense. Isaac had complained of their injuries in having expelled him through envy: they answer, that there was no reason why any particle of grief should remain in his mind, since the Lord had treated him so kindly and so exactly according to his own wish; as if they had said, What dost thou want? Art thou not content with thy present success? Let us grant that we have not discharged the duty of hospitality towards thee; yet the blessing of God abundantly suffices to obliterate the memory of that time. Perhaps, however, by these words, they again assert that they are acting towards him with good faith, because he is under the guardianship of God.

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