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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.

8. Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out at a window. Truly admirable is the kind forbearance of God, in not only condescending to pardon the twofold fault of his servant, but in stretching forth his hand, and in wonderfully averting, by the application of a speedy remedy, the evil which he would have brought upon himself. God did not suffer — what twice had occurred to Abraham — that his wife should be torn from his bosom; but stirred up a heathen king, mildly, and without occasioning him any trouble, to correct his folly. But although God sets before us such an example of his kindness, that the faithful, if at any time they may have fallen, may confidently hope to find him gentle and propitious; yet we must beware of self-security, when we observe, that the holy woman who was, at that time, the only mother of the Church on earth, was exempted from dishonor, by a special privilege. Meanwhile, we may conjecture, from the judgment of Abimelech, how holy and pure had been the conduct of Isaac, on whom not even a suspicion of evil could fall; and further, how much greater integrity flourished in that age than in our own. For why does he not condemn Isaac as one guilty of fornication, since it was probable that some crime was concealed, when he disingenuously obtruded the name of sister, and tacitly denied her to be his wife? And therefore I have no doubt that his religion, and the integrity of his life, availed to defend his character. By this example we are taught so to cultivate righteousness in our whole life, that men may not be able to suspect anything wicked or dishonorable respecting us; for there is nothing which will more completely vindicate us from every mark of infamy than a life passed in modesty and temperance. We must, however, add, what I have also before alluded to, that lusts were not, at that time, so commonly and so profusely indulged, as to cause an unfavourable suspicion to enter into the mind of the king concerning a sojourner of honest character. Wherefore, he easily persuades himself that Rebekah was a wife and not a harlot. The chastity of that age is further proved from this, that Abimelech takes the familiar sporting of Isaac with Rebekah as an evidence of their marriage.3737     The following passage is here omitted in the translation: — “Non enim de coitu loquitur Moses, sed de aliquo liberiore gestu, qui vel dissolute lasciviae, vel conjugalis amoris testis esset.” For Moses does not speak about marital intercourse, but about some too free movement, which was a proof of either dissolute exuberance or conjugal love. But now licentiousness has so broken through all bounds, that husbands are compelled to hear in silence of the dissolute conduct of their wives with strangers.

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