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Genesis 26: Foreigners, go home!

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Here's a map, in case you're having as much trouble following these people around as I am.

Isaac had a dream.  In it, God told him he shouldn’t go to Egypt or to anywhere else, and that he should stick around.  If he did, God would tell him where he should go, and what he should do so that he would be heaped with blessings, and that his descendents would be, as well, and any country where they would choose to live in the future would be happy to have them.  God told him to go to Gerar, where the Philistines were.  Gerar wasn’t a great option—it was no better, in fact, than where he’d been living before.  There was a drought everywhere, so moving on was tempting.

The king of the Philistines at Gerar was, of course, Abimelech.  This might have been the same King Abimelech whom Abraham ran into; this might have been a different one.  Since the name Abimelech translates roughly as “my father was the king,” it’s possible that this Abimelech was just another one in a long royal line of Abimelechs.  Like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah decided to settle in to Gerar.  And like Abraham, Isaac told everyone that Rebekah was his sister, not his wife, because he figured everyone would kill him for her if they knew he was her husband, because of course they would.  Once it was well established that Rebekah and Isaac were siblings, they started acting like siblings by groping each other in public.  Abimelech himself looked out his window and saw this and called Isaac in to talk to him.

“That has got to be your wife!” said Abimelech.  “I saw you two in the clench!”

“Yeah, okay,” said Isaac, “you got me.”

“Why did you lie to us about that?  And why did you do such a poor job of covering up your lie?”

“Well, I didn’t want anyone to kill me for her,” confessed Isaac.

“But what a terrible thing for you to do to us!” admonished the king.  “One of our men could easily have slept with her, and then the guilt would have been on his head!”

“Well, no,” Isaac pointed out.  “See, we’re married, so she isn’t sleeping with anyone else.”

“How do you figure that’s any of her business?  Who sleeps with whom is a man’s department.  Trust me on this; I’m a king.”

“But isn’t that rape?” asked Isaac.

“That’s enough of your elitist liberal backtalk.  Look, just to make sure we’re all safe, no one is allowed to touch you or your wife, or they risk penalty of death.  That’s a royal decree.  Now go in peace.  And,” added Abimelech with a wink, “remember to notice which females are wives and which are… not.”

Isaac set up his farm, which did extremely well that year, despite the drought.  The Philistines were a bit envious of this, so they started to fill in the wells that Abraham’s servants had dug years ago, because too much water might spoil the drought.  They told Isaac that he was doing too well, so he’d better get out of town.  Isaac found a nice tax shelter in the Valley of Gerar, where Abraham had farmed.  He opened the wells up (a secret to farming that the Philistines didn’t seem to understand).  As he reopened the wells, the local herdsmen fought him for them, and he gave them names to commemorate these quarrels.  When he found one that the herdsmen didn’t fight him over, he called it Rehoboth, because he liked the name, and no one could stop him from calling it what he wanted.

The competition with the herdsmen must have gotten too hot, because Isaac decided to pull up stake again and head up to Beersheba.  When he got there, God showed up and said,

“I am the God, the God of your dad,
Don’t be afraid, things aren’t bad.
You’ll do well, so will every last kid
Of yours, because of what Abraham did.”

Isaac then made an altar and said God’s name, which you’re not supposed to ever do, except sometimes.

Abimelech went to Gerar to meet with Isaac.  Since it was just a friendly social call, he brought his army with him.

“Why are you paying me a call, even though you hate me?” asked Isaac.

“We think God likes you, so we decided to like you, too,” explained Abimelech.  They decided this was reason enough to sign a treaty and have a party to celebrate it, because why not?  The next morning, they promised to keep on being nice to each other, and Abimelech and his army left.  Afterward, Isaac’s servants struck water while digging a well.

“Let’s call the well Sheba,” said Isaac.

“Why?” asked the servants.

“Because if we don’t, it won’t make any sense when we call the town Beersheba, now will it?” snapped Isaac.  Too afraid to get on Isaac’s nerves any further, the servants let the matter drop, and accepted the town’s new name.

A bit later, when Esau turned forty, he married Judith, daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath, daughter of Elon the Hittite.  Isaac and Rebekah were not happy about their new daughters-in-law, and were probably content that he’d handed his birthright over to his brother Jacob for a bowl of soup.  For a guy who’s not so bright, Esau sure had a certain something that the ladies liked.

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