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152 Abraham's Covenant With Abimelech Genesis 21 Part 2

In this second part to Genesis 21 Abraham is confronted by Abimelech, who has been generous to allow Abraham and his tribe to live on his land, and asks him for a covenant that he will not turn on the Philistine people and overpower them. We suspect that Abraham's tribe and flocks have become rather large and could become a substantial threat to the people who live in the land.

152 Genesis 21 Part 2 The Birth of Isaac
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Abraham’s Covenant with Abimelech

22 About this time, Abimelech (title, like pharaoh.) came with Phicol, his army commander, to visit Abraham. “God is obviously with you, helping you in everything you do,” Abimelechsaid. 23 “Swear to me in God’s name that you will never deceive me, my children, or any of my descendants. I have been loyal to you, so now swear that you will be loyal to me and to this country where you are living as a foreigner.”

Abraham has deceived this group of people before when he introduced his wife as his sister (Genesis 20). He had also deceived Pharoah in the same way (Genesis 12). Abraham has an unsavoury reputation as a deceiver. It is a trait he passed onto his children as will demonstrated in subsequent chapters.

24 Abraham replied, “Yes, I swear to it!” 25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well that Abimelech’s servants had taken by force from Abraham’s servants. Abraham has his fault as a deceiver and now he finds a fault with his covenant friend Abimelech. It is a common way to level the playing field. It is uncommon when this is not done in a relationship. To agree to a fault and make no attempt to show the other they also have fault is a characteristic of Jesus who was “dumb” before his shearers.

26 “This is the first I’ve heard of it,” Abimelech answered. “I have no idea who is responsible. You have never complained about this before.”

Abraham’s play did not succeed so he takes another route.

27 Abraham then gave some of his sheep, goats, and cattle to Abimelech, and they made a treaty. 28 But Abraham also took seven additional female lambs and set them off by themselves. 29 Abimelech asked, “Why have you set these seven apart from the others?”

30 Abraham replied, “Please accept these seven lambs to show your agreement that I dug this well.” 31 Then he named the place Beersheba (which means “well of the oath”), because that was where they had sworn the oath.

Wells are a great asset in this wilderness (16:14; 21:19). During the Exodus water will miraculously gush from the rock for the encampment (15:22-27; 17:1-7; Numbers 20:1-13). The oath was to ensure that this well was to be available to Abraham in the future.

32 After making their covenant at Beersheba, Abimelech left with Phicol, the commander of his army, and they returned home to the land of the Philistines. 33 Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he worshiped the LORD, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham lived as a foreigner in Philistine country for a long time.

The presence of Phicol means Abimelech was prepared to go to war if the situation turned sour. The planting of a Tamarisk tree meant that there was plenty of water as these trees need to survive. It also means that he plans to be there a long time.

“for a very long time” Abraham’s life is full of waiting. He waited for the promised son for 25 years. He waited for the land God had promised but it never materialized for him. He waited for the city God promised him, it also never materialized (Hebrews 11:8-10).

Revelation 14:12 NLT This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus

It takes time for the consequences of our choices to play out in a cosmos where freedom and love are the foundation of life.

Ian Hartley, June 2023.

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