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“He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”  So that place was called Beersheba,d because the two men swore an oath there.  After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God. And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.”  Gen. 21:30-33

The majority of narrative for this portion of scripture is over until we move on to Abraham’s next trial – the binding of Isaac.  Some final notes on the last few verses of Genesis 21:

Verses 30-31 – Beersheba seems to mean the “Well of Seven” (referring to the seven sheep) , or the “Well of Oath”. (Plaut)  Beersheba is at the edge of the desert, and here Abraham transitions from a nomadic lifestyle to a more settled lifestyle (Louis Isaac Rabinowitz, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 3 1969, pg. 13s)

Verse 32 – A reference is made to “the land of the Philistines”, however it appears the Philistines were not living there until the 12th century BC – long after our narrative takes place – even after the time of Moses, the purported writer of Genesis. Modern scholars have no problem with a theory of multiple authorship of the Torah, and as such see this as a later insertion into the text. (Plaut)

Verse 33 – Abraham plants a “Tamarisk” tree. Due to the Hebrew used, it is uncertain what kind of actual tree was planted.

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“At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do.  Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you.”  Abraham said, “I swear it.”  Then Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech’s servants had seized.  But Abimelech said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”  So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a treaty. Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, and Abimelech asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”  He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”  So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.” Gen. 21:22-31

Certainly Abimelech had no small impression of Abraham (and his God) in Genesis 20 when God threatened Abimelech’s life pending Abraham’s prayers (Gen. 20:7). And so Abimilech wanted a covenant with Abraham because ‘God was with Abraham’ (rabbi Sforno).  Even though Abimelech was a king, he had a healthy fear and respect for Abraham.  This is not the only time in the scriptures a man of God will hold a conversation with a king and have his words heeded though the man has no actual authority.  This shows us the power and influence of God in Abraham’s life.

Abimelech is coming to Abraham to make a pact; thus Abraham has the upper hand in negotiations – he can refuse to make the pact, or add stipulations to it.  Abimelech starts off by stating how Abraham was treated well in his land, when in fact there was at least one incident where he was not.  Unlike God, earthly kings simply cannot know all the happenings in their land – even things done by his own servants.

Abraham chooses to offer sheep to Abimelech to prove that the well that was seized was in fact his.  Abraham never told Abimelech about the well he dug that was taken from him when it happened.  Since Abraham did not, he now is able to get his well back.  If he had raised the issue prior, we cannot be sure how Abimelech would have reacted, for it has been some years since their encounter over Sarah (Isaac had since been born and was weaned.)

This shows us there is a time to hold our tongues from speaking against those whom we have grievances; The time may come when settlement may come about on our terms and in our favor.  God knows all and certainly has the ability to repay.

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