Lysias defends the peace treaty in Ptolemais (2 Macc 13:24-13:26)

“The king received Judas Maccabeus. He left Hegemonides as the governor from Ptolemais to Gerar. Then the king went to Ptolemais. The people of Ptolemais were indignant over the treaty. In fact, they were so angry that they wanted to annul its terms. Lysias took the public platform, made the best possible defense. He convinced them, appeased them, gained their good will, and then set out for Antioch. This is how the king’s attack and withdrawal turned out.”

Once again, this is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 6. There Lysias convinced the king and the commanders that the peace treaty with the Jews was a good idea. Here he must convince the people of Ptolemais, who did not like the Jews. The Syrian Hegemonides remained the governor of the seacoast area. However, the people of Ptolemais were upset about the treaty with the Jews. Only the eloquent speaking of Lysias convinced and appeased them. Thus with good will, they set out for Antioch. This then is the peace treaty that took place when King Antiochus V and Lysias attacked and then withdrew.

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.


Isaac goes to Gerar (Gen 26:1-26:14)

“Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham.  Isaac went to Gerar, to King Abimelech of the Philistines.  Yahweh appeared to Isaac and said, ‘Do not go down to Egypt.  Settle in the land that I will show you.  Reside 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 which I swore to your father Abraham.  I will multiply your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and will give to your offspring all these lands.   All the nations of the earth shall gain blessing for themselves through your offspring because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

Now a famine came upon the land, apparently this happened quite a bit. So Isaac went to Gerar where King Abimelech of the Philistines, had concluded an alliance with Abraham in chapter 21.  Anyway, this is friendly territory, south of Gaza.  Yahweh told Isaac not to go to Egypt, but to go to the Philistines so that he could be an alien resident with lots of great land and people as was promised to Abraham, his father.

“Then Isaac dwelt in Gerar.  When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister.’  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.’  When Isaac had been there a long time, King Abimelech of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw him fondling his wife Rebekah.  So 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.’  Abimelech 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.’  So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, ‘Whoever touches this man or his wife shall be put to death.’ Isaac sowed seed in that land, and in the same year reaped a hundredfold. Yahweh blessed him, and he became rich.  He prospered more and more, until he became very wealthy.  He had possessions of flocks and herds, and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him.”

Isaac told the same lie as his father, when he said that Rebekah was his sister and not his wife, fearing for his own life.  However, one day King Abimelech saw Isaac foundling Rebekah and called him in to find out what was going on.  He admonished Isaac by saying you could have brought great guilt to us if one of my people had slept with her.  Finally, Abimelech issued a decree that no one should touch Isaac or his wife Rebekah.  Isaac sowed seed that rendered a hundredfold.  As he became rich and prospered with flocks, herds, and a great household,  the Philistines began to envy him.

Abraham and Abimelech at Beer-sheba (Gen 21:22-21:34)

“At that time Abimelech, with Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, ‘God is with you in all that you do.  Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my offspring or with my posterity, but as I have dealt loyally with you, you will deal with me and with the land where you have resided as an alien.’  Abraham said, I swear it.’”

Meanwhile Abraham had settled in Gerar.  So King Abimelech asked him to swear that he would not treat him or his descendants falsely, because he had dealt with him loyally.  Abraham said yes and continued as an alien resident.

“When Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized, Abimelech said, ‘I do not know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I have not heard of it until today.’  So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a covenant.  Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock.  Abimelech said to Abraham, ‘What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?’  He said, ‘these seven ewe lambs you shall accept from my hand, in order that you may be a witness for me that I dug this well.’  Therefore that place was called Beer-sheba.  There both of them swore an oath. When they made a covenant at Beer-sheba, Abimelech, with Phicol the commander of his army, left and returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of Yahweh, the Everlasting God.  Abraham resided as an alien many days in the land of the Philistines.”

Wells in a dry area are a big deal. So Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized.  Abimelech was upset that no one had told him about this.  Then Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave it to Abimelech and they made a covenant. Abraham then set apart seven ewe lambs for Abimelech so that he could be a witness that he had dug this well.  This almost sounds like a bribe.  The place was called Beer-sheba, the same well that Hagar had found in the preceding story.  So this became the covenant of Beer-sheba. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba and called on the everlasting Lord (El Olam) and remained in the land of the Philistines as an alien.

Abraham at Gerar (Gen 20:1-20:20:18)

“From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb, and lived between Kadesh and Shur.  While residing in Gerar as an alien, Abraham said of his wife Sarah, ‘She is my sister.’ King Abimelech of Gerar sent and took Sarah.  But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, ‘you are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken.  She is a married woman.’  Now Abimelech had not approached her.  So he said, ‘Lord, will you destroy an innocent people?  Did he not himself say to me, `She is my sister’? And she herself said, `He is my brother.’ I did this in the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands.’  Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart.  Furthermore it was I who kept you from sinning against me.  Therefore I did not let you touch her.  Now then, restore the man’s wife.  He is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.’”

Abraham went into the region of the Negeb, which is almost the wilderness, south of Canaan on the way to Egypt.  He stayed between Kadesh, which will become the southeastern border of Palestine, and Shur, which is closer to Egypt.  In this area of Gerar, south of Gaza, they resided as aliens.  Once again Abraham pretended that Sarah was his sister, the second time he has used this lie. Now why would King Abimelech of Gerar think that this 90 year old pregnant woman was attractive?  Obviously this is an Elohist repeat of what happened in Egypt, when she was younger. King Abimelech wants to take Sarah as his wife. However, in a dream, God told him that she was a married woman. Abimelech pleaded that he was innocent since he had been told by her and Abraham that she was Abraham’s sister.  God said that Abimelech had integrity of the heart.  This is strange that it would have been okay to have sex with her if she was not married. He told him to return Sarah to Abraham, since he is a prophet and will pray for you to live.  But if you do not return her, you will die.

“So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told them all these things.  The men were very much afraid.  Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said to him, ‘What have you done to us? How have I sinned against you, that you have brought such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that ought not to be done.’ Abimelech said to Abraham, ‘what were you thinking of, that you did this thing?’  Abraham said, ‘I did it because I thought, there is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.  Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother.  She became my wife.  When God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, `This is the kindness you must do me. At every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.'”

The next morning Abimelech told his servants and they were afraid.  Then he called Abraham and asked him why he had done this to him.  Abraham responded that he did this trick because there was no fear of God in this place and he feared that they would kill him.  This is the second time he justified this lie.  He pulled out his trump card by saying that Sarah is his half-sister, since they have different mothers but the same father.  This might explain the sterility of Abraham and Sarah. Terah, who had three sons, Abram, Nahor, and Haran, also had a daughter from a different woman, but that is not mentioned in the genealogy of Terah.  Clearly the father of Abram had multiple wives or concubines.

“Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him.  Abimelech said, ‘My land is before you.  Settle where it pleases you.’  To Sarah he said, ‘Look, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver.  It is your exoneration before all who are with you.  You are completely vindicated.’  Then Abraham prayed to God.  Then God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.  For Yahweh had closed fast all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.”

King Abimelech said okay and gave Abraham his wife back with slaves, sheep and oxen, and a 1000 pieces of silver.  He told him that he can settle anywhere he wanted to live in Gerar.  Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech as well as his wife and all the female slaves so that they were able to bear children, because their wombs had been closed.