Dwelling places of the Simeonites (1 Chr 4:28-4:33)

“The Simeonites lived in Beersheba, Moladah, Hazar-shual, Bilhah, Ezem, Tolad, Bethuel, Hormah, Ziklag, Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susim, Beth-biri, and Shaaraim. These were their towns until David became king. Their villages were Etam, Ain, Rimmon, Tochen, and Ashan, five towns, along with all their villages which were around about these towns as far as Baal. These were their settlements. They kept a genealogical record.”

This list is almost the same as Joshua, chapter 19. Simeon got many of these towns in the partition of the Promised Land, because Judah had too much land. These towns lay within the inheritance of the tribe of Judah. They got the towns of Beersheba, Moladah, Hazar-shual, Ezem, Eltolad or Tolad, Bethul or Bethuel, Hormah, Ziklag, Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susah, Beth-biri or Beth-lebaoth, and Sharuhen or Shaaraim. They also got villages of Ain, Rimmon, Ether or Tochen, and Ashan. They also got all the villages all around these towns as far as Baal or Baalath-beer. Only 2 towns are mentioned here that were in Joshua, Bilhah and Etam. Bilhah was the name of the slave girl of Rachel in Genesis, chapter 30. Etam was a town in Judah. Most of these towns were in part of the territory of Judah. Thus the tribe of Simeon literally got no land, much like the Levites. However, it is not clear why. Perhaps they were too small of a tribe. Remember that the tribe of Simeon did not get a blessing from Moses in Deuteronomy, chapter 33. They were really at the bottom of the totem pole. What land they had was on the southern border of Judah, just before the wilderness. Of the 17 towns mentioned here, 12 towns were also mentioned as belonging to Judah in Joshua, chapter 15.

Jacob’s dream (Gen 28:10-28:22)

“Jacob left Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.  He came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.  He dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven.  The angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  Yahweh stood beside him and said, ‘I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.  The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.  Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south.  All the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land.  For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’”

On his way to Haran, Jacob spent one night sleeping on a stone, where he had a dream about a ladder that reached to heaven, with angels going up and down on this ladder.  This Yahweh story is often referred to as Jacob’s ladder.  Once again, Yahweh appeared to tell Jacob, that he is the God of Abraham and Isaac and will give him all this land with many offspring.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely Yahweh is in this place.  I did not know it.’  He was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’  So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.  He called the name of that place Bethel.  But the name of the city formerly was called Luz.  Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I can come again to my father’s house in peace, then Yahweh shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house.  Of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.’”

When Jacob woke up, he was afraid because he felt that Yahweh was in this place.  So he took the stone he had slept on and built a pillar, pouring oil on it and called this a holy place, God’s house, Bethel, a stairway or ramp.  Abraham also had been in Bethel in chapter 12, one of the first places he stopped at.  In fact Abram built an altar there also.  Luz and Bethel may have been the same place or at least near each other.  This idea of a sacred place with stones and oil was common among the Canaanites and other Middle Eastern inhabitants.  This is somewhat like a conversion experience for Jacob as he feels that God will be with him wherever he goes. This is the first instance of tithing, giving one-tenth to God.  Obviously, this idea of tithing, like the story itself, represents the biblical author’s beliefs.


The alliance with Abimelech (Gen 26:26-26:30)

“Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army.  Isaac said to them, ‘Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?’  They said, ‘We see plainly that Yahweh has been with you.  So we say, let there be an oath between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you so 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 Yahweh.’  So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank.”

Then King Abimelech with his army advisor Phicol came to Isaac.  This is the only mention of Ahuzzath.  Isaac wanted to know why they had come to him since they hated him and had asked him to leave. Now Abimelech, who said that God was with Isaac, concluded an alliance with Isaac, like the one between his father Abraham and himself in chapter 21, so that they ate and drank together.

“In the morning they rose early and exchanged oaths with one another.  Isaac set them on their way and they departed from him in peace.  That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they had dug, and said to him, ‘We have found water!’  He called it Shibah.  Therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba to this day.”

The next day Isaac’s servants came to tell him that they had found water at a well called Shibah.  Thus the name of that place became Beer-sheba, as if that was not the name of the place already. This is the only place in biblical literature it is called Shibah.  The more common name of Beer-sheba appears over 33 times.


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.


The sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22:1-22:19)

“After these things God tested Abraham.  He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’  He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains that I will show you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and his son Isaac.  He cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him.  On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.  Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey.  The boy and I will go over there.  We will worship, and then we will come back to you.’  Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. The two of them walked on together.   Then Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ Then he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ Isaac said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’  Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’  Then the two of them walked on together.”

This Elohist story has God testing Abraham.  God tells him to go to take his only son and go to the land of Moriah.  Could this be Mount Moriah near Jerusalem?  He is to offer a burnt offering of his son to God on a mountain that God will show him. The next morning, Abraham set out on his donkey with his son and two other young men   Notice that it is always ‘early in the morning.’  He cut the wood for the burnt offering and traveled three days before he got to the place for the sacrifice. Abraham told the two young men to stay with the donkey as Abraham and his son would go and worship.  Isaac took the wood, while Abraham carried the knife.  Isaac wanted to know where the lamb for the burnt offering was.  Abraham replied that God would provide the lamb for the burnt offering.

“When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order.  He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.  But the angel of Yahweh called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’  He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him.  For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’  And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns.  Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called that place ‘Yahweh will provide.’ as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of Yahweh it shall be provided.’”

Finally when they got to the place where God had shown them, Abraham built an altar and put the wood on it.  Then he bound up his son and put him on top of the wood.  Then Abraham took out his knife to kill his son. But the angel of Yahweh called to him from heaven and told him not to do anything to the boy. Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son to God. Abraham saw a ram stuck in a ticket.  So he took the ram and offered him up.  He called this place, ‘Yahweh will provide.’

“The angel of Yahweh called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, says Yahweh, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.  Your offspring shall possess the gates of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.’  So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beer-sheba.  Abraham lived at Beer-sheba.”

Now the angel of Yahweh called to Abraham a second time.  Since he had not withheld his son, he would be blessed with many descendants ‘as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sand that is on the seashore.’  Abraham’s offspring would possess the gates of their enemies.  All the nations of the world would receive blessings through him.  So Abraham got the young men and went back to Beer-sheba, where Abraham lives.

Of all the incredible stories in this book of Genesis, this one takes the cake.  After struggling so long to have an heir with an almost miraculous birth, now Abraham is asked to kill him.  Perhaps it foreshadows the Christian event of Jesus the son, asking the Father to let the crucifixion pass. Notice that the Mount Moriah is a three day journey away.  This infanticide episode is saved by the angel of Yahweh.  Incidentally this may be the same angel of Yahweh that saved Ishmael at the well.  Not Yahweh, but his angel saves both sons of Abraham.  However, it is considered the great act of faith of Abraham that has been portrayed in various art works with Abraham holding the knife over his son.