Summary: Abraham plants a grove
September 28, 2008
God promised to give Abraham a son and land. Last week we saw how He delivered on the promise of a son; this week we’ll see how He starts to deliver on the promise of the land.
And it came to pass at that time,
After Abraham sent Ishmael into the desert…
You’ll remember from chapter 20 that he’s the king of the Philistine city of Gerar. Abraham had traveled down to there and lied saying that Sarah was his sister, so Abimelech took her as his wife until God came to him in a dream and demanded her release. Abimelech rebuked Abraham, but let him live anywhere in the land he wanted.
and Phichol the chief captain of his host
That is, the general of his army,
spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest:
So, they go to see Abraham because they realize that God has blessed him, and they know from first-hand experience that He protects him, so they have this little peace conference with him saying:
“Since God is with you in all you do,”
swear unto me here by God
In other words, “make a promise to me, and swear by the God you serve…” He knows that if Abraham swears by his God then he’ll most likely keep his promise. Swear,
that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son:
To “deal falsely” is to cheat or deceive. Abimelech’s already seen that Abraham will lie if he feels the need (even if it gets other people into trouble), but he also knows that Abraham fears the Lord. So, he asks for this treaty. Basically he wants a promise of honesty and kindness between the two families for three generations.
It’s interesting to me that the king would be worried about this one guy who doesn’t even own any land (remember, he’s living in tents on Mamre’s land; 14:13). But Abraham does have a small army (he took 318 fighting men to fight the kings; 14:14), and he’s shown himself capable when he fought the kings who took Lot, so Abimelech wants to secure peace.
It’s possible he knows about the promise that Abraham will inherit the land, and He knows Abraham’s sons will live there with his own sons, so he asks for peace saying, “Don’t deceive us.”
but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.
Remember that even when Abraham lied to Abimelech, Abimelech let him live wherever he wanted. He’s shown him kindness, and now he’s calling for the same. “Do to me what I did to you.”
24And Abraham said, I will swear.
Now, the Israelites didn’t come to possess the land and drive out the inhabitants for another 400 years, so Abraham’s promise wasn’t broken. This was a covenant of peace for these three generations.
But the covenant hasn’t been ratified yet. Before they seal the deal, Abraham brings up something that’s very important to him:
25And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away.
Now, we might have a hard time understanding the value of a well, but remember, this is in a desert, and there are no city water works. Abraham dug the well himself (and there wasn’t a Lowes or Home Depot down the street where you could just go buy some tools), and without the well his flocks won’t live—he can’t prosper and there’s no use even living here.
It might be like telling a trucking company they can’t use the roads anymore—they’ll definitely go out of business.
And besides, Abraham has no land (he’s a foreigner), and he has no water rights. The men who worked for the king forced Abraham’s men off their own well, and there’s no real legal discourse.
I mean, what’s he going to do? Start a war? Sue the king?
So Abraham’s saying, “I’ll swear to peace, but we need to do something about my rights to use the land first.”
26And Abimelech said, I wot (know) not who hath done this thing; neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to day.
Abimelech seems to always be getting into trouble for stuff he doesn’t do! He says, “I didn’t know anything about it, and this is the first I’ve heard of it.”
27And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.
The actual Hebrew says that they “cut a covenant.” Remember back in chapter 15 when Abraham cut all the animals in half and made a pathway with their bodies? It’s called the Blood Path. God walked down the path to say, “May what happened to these animals happen to Me if I break my word.”