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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.

25. And he builded an altar there. From other passages we are well aware that Moses here speaks of public worship; for inward invocation of God neither requires an altar; nor has any special choice of place; and it is certain that the saints, wherever they lived, worshipped. But because religion ought to maintain a testimony before men, Isaac, having erected and consecrated an altar, professes himself a worshipper of the true and only God, and by this method separates himself from the polluted rites of heathens. He also built the altar, not for himself alone, but for his whole family; that there, with all his household, he might offer sacrifices. Moreover, since the altar was built for the external exercises of faith, the expression, he called upon God, implies as much as if Moses had said that Isaac celebrated the name of God, and gave testimony of his own faith. The visible worship of God had also another use; namely, that men, according to their infirmity, may stimulate and exercise themselves in the fear of God. Besides, since we know that sacrifices were then commanded, we must observe that Isaac did not rashly trifle in worshipping God, but adhered to the rule of faith, that he might undertake nothing without the word of God. Whence also we infer how preposterous and erroneous a thing it is to imitate the fathers, unless the Lord join us with them by means of a similar command. Meanwhile, the words of Moses clearly signify, that whatever exercises of piety the faithful undertake are to be directed to this end, namely, that God may be worshipped and invoked. To this point, therefore, all rites and ceremonies ought to have reference. But although it was the custom of the holy fathers to build an altar in whatever place they pitched their tent, we yet gather, from the connection of the words, that after God appeared to his servant Isaac, this altar was built by him in token of his gratitude.

And there Isaac’s servants digged a well. It is remarkable that whereas this place had already received its name from the well which had been dug in it, Isaac should there again have to seek water, especially since Abraham had purchased, for himself and his posterity, the right to the well from the king. Moreover, the digging itself was difficult and labourious; for Moses had a design in saying, that afterwards the servants came and said to him, We have found water. I have, therefore, no doubt, that throughout the whole of that region a conspiracy had been entered into by the inhabitants, for the purpose of expelling the holy man, through want of water; so that this well of Sheba also had been fraudulently stopped up. The context also shows, that the first care of the holy patriarch concerned the worship of God, because Moses relates that an altar was erected, before he speaks of the well. Now it is of importance to observe with what great troubles these holy fathers continually had to contend; which they never would have been able to overcome or to endure, unless they had been far removed from our delicate course of living. For how severely should we feel the loss of water, seeing that we often rage against God if we have not abundance of wine? Therefore, by such examples, let the faithful learn to accustom themselves to patient endurance: and if at any time food and other necessaries of life fail them, let them turn their eyes to Isaac, who wandered, parched with thirst, in the inheritance which had been divinely promised him.4040     Qui siticulosus in haereditate sibi divinitus promissa erravit. Qui est errant en l’heritage qui Dieu lui avoit promis, et tarrissant de soif. — Fr. Tr.

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