The wells at Gerar and Beer-sheba (Gen 26:15-26:25)

“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.  Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘Go away from us.  You have become too powerful for us.’  So Isaac departed from there, and camped in the valley of Gerar and settled there.  Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham. The Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham.  He gave them the names which his father had given them.  But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, the herders of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herders, saying, ‘The water is ours.’ So he called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him.  Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also.  So he called its name Sitnah.  He moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it.  So he called it Rehoboth, saying, ‘For now Yahweh has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.’”

King Abimelech said that Isaac was becoming too powerful so that he must leave.  Isaac departed and settled in the valley of Gerar.  There he and his servants again dug all the wells that had been built by Abraham and his servants earlier because the Philistines had stopped these wells and filled them with earth.  He gave them the same name as his father had done.   Now the herders of Gerar said that the water from the wells was theirs.  Finally, Isaac’s servants dug three new wells, Esek, or contention, Sitnah, or quarrels, and Rehoboth, no argument.  This is the only mention of these three wells in the biblical literature.

 “From there he went up to Beer-sheba.  That very night Yahweh 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.’  So he built an altar there and called on the name of Yahweh, and pitched his tent there. There Isaac’s servants dug a well.”

Then he went up to Beer-sheba, where Yahweh said not to be afraid because your offspring will be great as promised to your father Abraham.  Isaac built an altar there and dug another well.  Wells were important in this arid area.  Beer-sheba is the place where Abraham had lived and King Abimelech made a treaty with him.   It also was the place that Hagar and Ishmael went when they were cast out of Abraham’s house.

 

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