Bible study 26 – Genesis 26

Isaac moves from the Negeb to Gerar, where the Philistines live. This is where his father Abraham told everyone that his wife was his sister about a century earlier. Abraham must have told this story to his son, because Isaac employs the exact same tactic to squeeze stuff out of them: He tells everyone that Rebekah is his sister. But good old King Abimelech is suspicious this time, and personally watches the siblings from his window until he sees Isaac “fondling his wife Rebekah.” He gets pretty upset, since things like this easily lead to reprisals from God, but he doesn’t give Isaac anything. He just says that anyone who touches Isaac or Rebekah will be killed.

Nevertheless, Isaac somehow turns really wealthy in the land (almost as if he had abused the royal command to execute anyone who touches him), and Abimelech asks him to leave. He moves to some places where other people already live, but moves on every time he causes trouble. He finally settles in Beer-sheba, south of Hebron, in the northern Negeb, and makes a promise with Abimelech that they won’t be mean to each other again.

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Keep in mind that most of the locations are guesswork. Many place names cannot with certainty be linked with modern locations, and a lot of the time the story is ambiguous as to where the characters actually are. This is the kind of thing Rabbi commentators have been discussing for millennia, and archaeologists for centuries. But most of the events probably never happened anyway, so this should be as good a presentation as any.

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