Summary: How we as adults reflect on our past sin influences the children in our lives, to expect censure or approval when they sin in similar ways.
What my dad should not have taught me
My father has told me many stories. Most of them took place before he became a Christian, because I can remember his life since then. Some of these stories have elements of sin in them. My father and all fathers must ask this question:
Does the way I describe the sin in my past glorify it or show it in its true dirty, disagreeable light?
Or put another way?
When my children sin, will they expect me to be disappointed or to approve?
As a man, I look for approval from my father. There is no way around it. All children do. Boys and Men look for validation of their strength and masculinity, girls and women look for validation of their beauty and value.
The story begins with a reiteration of the promise that God made to Abraham. It is the covenant of the Hebrew people. Contingent upon obedience, God promised them three things:
• The land of the Canaanites
• Many descendants
• A blessing that would extend through them to the whole world
Abraham’s faith and obedience is legendary. God granted him all of these things. Obedience of his people was hit and miss, so their possession of the land was also sporadic. At this early date, though, things are still working themselves out. God promised that Isaac would be the son of promise, and Isaac is here receiving the promise.
Isaac is obedient too. His first impulse when a famine strikes is to move down to Egypt. This isn’t unusual. Abraham did it. Later Jacob would follow Joseph to Egypt for the same reason. However, God told Isaac not to go, and Isaac didn’t.
Instead he set up housekeeping near the coast in Gerar, not too far from Gaza, the land of the Philistines. Abimelek is the honorary name given to hereditary kings at that place and time. It meant, "My father is the king". Just as Judah’s kings were often referred to as "Son of David," so the kings of Philistia, in these early years, were referred to as "Son of the King." This is important because decades earlier, Abraham had encountered Abimelek too, and it was not likely to have been the same man, but he was the local king.
Oddly enough, when Abraham encountered him, he did the same thing Isaac did. When Isaac moved into the area, he spread the word around that Rebekah was not his wife. This is odd.
Apparently both Rebekah and Sarah were knock-outs. What some people today would call a trophy wife. They were so beautiful that their husbands were not just worried about other men looking at them. They were worried about being killed so their wives would be free for other men.
Imagine. Isaac was not just jealous. He was certain that Rebekah would attract attention. Not just the attention of a few men, but the attention of men aggressive enough to become an irresistible threat. So he told everyone that she was his sister.
Way to step up and protect your wife Isaac.
So, imagine Abimelek’s surprise when he looked out his window one day and saw Isaac and Rebekah with their heads together. I tried hard to figure out more clearly what they were doing, but it is still vague. The clearest thing I could find said they were laughing and having fun.
Now on its own, this isn’t a big deal. But the fun they were having made it clear to Abimelek that there was more than a brother – sister thing going on. There was something about their demeanor that said:
I think this is recognizable. When married people think they are in private, they laugh and behave differently than they would if they were with a brother or sister, or even with a close friend or lover. The Bible says this happened after they had been there "a long time." Apparently they had let down their guard. I don’t think they were doing anything overtly sexual, certainly they would have avoided that if there was any chance that they would be seen. But whatever they were doing, it was intimate.
The king was justifiably angry. He was an honest man, and he knew that there were consequences for dishonorable behavior. He had no designs on Rebekah himself, but he was aware that some others might have. I still don’t understand what Isaac and Rebekah were thinking. They were mingling in a culture where it was assumed that with a beautiful, unmarried woman, "one of the men might well have slept with" her. It was understood and accepted that this was a possibility. But Abimelek was trying to avoid bringing guilt on his people.
So, Isaac was forced to come clean. He admitted his fear and cowardice. As a result, Abimelek put out a protective order on them. This was necessary, because who knows what was in people’s intentions. One of the men might have been planning something. After everything was straightened out, Isaac settled there with more integrity and God blessed him.