Abimelech and Abraham
“So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a covenant” (Gen. 21:27).
Abimelech, the king of Gerar, appears in today’s passage in order to seal a covenant that will prove to be very significant in the Lord’s plan of redemption. Isaac’s birth progresses Yahweh’s promise toward its goal: a holy nation through which the world would be blessed (Gen. 22:18). This covenant with Abimelech in 21:22–34 is a substantial step forward regarding God’s pledge of land (15:7–21).
Seeing that Abraham is blessed by the Lord, the king of Gerar seeks to make a pact with him. It is not clear how Abimelech knows the one, true God is with Abraham in all that he does; most likely he has witnessed the patriarch’s general pattern of success, including the miraculous birth of Isaac. In any case, the king is evidently unnerved at Abraham’s ascendancy. Abimelech seems to know this fortune will continue for the patriarch’s children, and he assumes they might supplant his own kingdom (21:22–23).
Abraham agrees to make the proposed covenant, but not before scolding Abimelech about his servants’ seizure of the patriarch’s well (v. 25). Protesting his innocence, Abimelech receives a tribute of seven female sheep from Abraham, which signifies that the patriarch had indeed dug the well and had legal right to it (vv. 26–32). After all this time, Abraham finally has physical proof that the Lord is going to give His family the land of Canaan. Access to water was necessary for life in the land, and so the well enables Abraham to set up permanent residence there (vv. 33–34). His days as a nomad are over. Moreover, the name of the place Beersheba means “well of the oath,” reminding everyone that Abraham’s family has a just claim to the region.
Besides teaching the later generations of Israel that God gave Canaan into their hands, today’s passage also reminded Moses’ original audience they could make peace with certain inhabitants of the land. As with Rahab (Josh. 2; 6:22–25), Abraham’s bond with Abimelech showed the Israelites they were to make peace with those who desired to embrace the blessings Yahweh had for the sons of Jacob. New covenant believers are also called to be peacemakers (Rom. 12:18), in order that many might enter the kingdom of Christ.
Christians are called first and foremost to be peacemakers in the church. Every time we refuse to repent when we sin, we threaten the peace of God’s people. If we continually bring up the offenses of those who we claim to have forgiven, then we are not making peace with those who desire to share in the blessings of the covenant. With whom do you need to make peace today? Be reconciled through forgiveness of or repentance toward the person with whom you are not getting along.
Passages for Further Study
- Josh. 9
- Prov. 16:7
- Isa. 52:7
- Matt. 5:9
- James 3:13–18
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