Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”
So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.
Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”
From there he went up to Beersheba. That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”
Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.
Meanwhile, Abimelek had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?”
They answered, “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the Lord.”
Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully.
That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, “We’ve found water!” He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.
- Genesis 26:16-33
Yesterday, I gave a book report on Bruce Feiler’s book, Abraham. I wasn’t very complimentary. In the book, the author is far from complimentary about Isaac, hinting that Isaac wasn’t a chosen patriarch as his father Abraham had been, maybe with a motive to placate the Muslims that would read the book. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that Genesis 26 starts with Isaac getting the same covenant with God as had his father Abraham. This idea of a lesser man should be put to rest at that point alone. Anyone receiving a sacred covenant with God is far from ordinary.
Yet, let’s dig further, literally. Genesis 26 goes on to have the same bizarre story with Isaac as with his father Abraham. Like father, like son, Isaac passes his wife off as being his sister, worried that his neighbors, the Philistines, would kill him to take his wife, Rebekah. But the Scripture above follows. Abimelek, king of the Philistines, asks Isaac to depart from his territory, because Isaac was too strong. Hmmmm. For those who think Isaac is simply the sandwich meat between the other two patriarchs, did they catch the part about the king of the Philistines fearing Isaac’s strength? Yes, there is great detail written in the Bible about Abraham and Jacob, but Isaac is no slouch. If we dig further, we’ll hit water, as Isaac did on numerous occasions. It seems that the Philistines feared Isaac’s strength, but they feared a lack of water even more. They challenged Isaac to take over each well Isaac dug. Isaac stood his ground at Beersheba, a name meaning either ‘well of the oath’ or ‘the well of seven.’
I think that Isaac is also given the ‘man in the middle’ moniker for ‘screwing up’ on the blessing. This is the story that follows the quoted Scripture above. It is a story of deceit and treachery, but is it not a method for Jacob, God’s chosen, to receive the blessing? The birthright is the earthly right to most of the land or possessions, but the blessing was a spiritual thing. Jacob ended up with both. Some may think that Esau was innocent, while Jacob conniving, but Esau had already disappointed his father by marrying a local girl, that act causing trouble – worshiping local gods. The enmity between Esau and Jacob forced Jacob to flee to Laban, where he married two of Laban’s daughters, his cousins and not local girls.
The concept of the patriarchy is assumed in Scripture, but is it dictated by God that the oldest gets the lion’s share? It seems that patriarchy was established in the world, and God stepped in to make exceptions. Jacob was given the blessing. Jacob (Israel) reversed his hands, giving Joseph’s younger son the greater blessing. Jacob (Israel) blessed Judah with words that would not become fully true until David became king. Judah was the fourth-born son.
Yet, patriarchy is important in the world. Why else, in the tenth plague of the plagues of Egypt, would the angel of death only kill first-born? Patriarchy is important in worldly terms, the fallen world.
Patriarchy is at the heart of Carolyn Custis James’ book, Malestrom. She discusses the historical context of patriarchy and how this traditional construct affects alpha males, non-alpha males and women, both alpha and not. If you are interested in that sort of thing, I highly recommend the book. Being a non-alpha male in the worldview, second-born son (third child), but a commissioned leader of men – but at times reluctantly so, I could identify with a lot of what the author was talking about, good and bad.
Patriarchy was mentioned in a recent rant by Mona Eltawahay that Rev. David Robertson has written about. In the post (linked here), he talks of this rant, made by an American feminist, who is totally against ‘violence’, against capital punishment, but for vigilante justice by advocating all women to go out and murder anyone suspected of rape or wife abuse. Without judge and jury, this could be anyone who identifies as male, with an “Ooops” added if they were innocent, I suppose. In her rant, she mentions patriarchy as being the primary ‘evil’ behind the idea of rapists going free.
So, back to Isaac. In his physical blindness, he was tricked into giving Jacob the blessing instead of Esau. Isaac was going to give the blessing to Esau, since, of the twins, Esau came out first. As a second-born son, I ask, “How arbitrary?” But God would have none of this arbitrary worldly concept of patriarchy. It was God’s will to give the blessing to Jacob. Let’s not denigrate Isaac for being an instrument in carrying out God’s will.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.