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.

 

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.