On Genesis, Part 32: Digging Deeper

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On Genesis, Part 32: Digging Deeper

In this second half of Genesis chapter 21, Abraham is found digging wells, and he and his servants must have dug at least a few wells before they finally dug one which they would keep. So it is with Christians, that they should be digging wells, but they should not necessarily keep all of them. In other words, Christians should be digging into the scriptures, both Old Testament and New, rather than simply believing some pastor or priest, and as Paul had written in Romans chapter 12, the Christian should be “2 … transformed by the renewing of [his] mind, that [he] may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” If anything conflicts with the Word of God, it should certainly not be kept. Therefore, discussing the first half of Genesis chapter 21, which describes the birth of Isaac and the sending off of Ishmael for the benefit of Isaac, we sought to better understand the Christian Gospel of the New Testament by reviewing the manner in which Paul of Tarsus had explained the fulfillments of those promises to Abraham which are ultimately realized in Yahshua Christ. Doing that, we found that in Paul’s letters he upheld the exclusion of both Ishmael and Esau from The Seed of Inheritance as it is also described in Genesis, and that exclusion would naturally include all of their descendants, something which Paul had also explained in Romans chapter 9 and Galatians chapter 3.

Many modern Christian denominations dismiss the Old Testament as a Jewish book, imagining that it pertains to Jews and not to Christians. However that is not how the apostles of Christ had treated the scriptures which we now know as the Old Testament, and they frequently asserted that it pertained to Christians, but not to those who would remain in Judaism. The differences in these perspectives are resolved only in the understanding that the Old Testament truly pertains to all of the twelve tribes of Israel, not merely to Judaeans, and only small elements of two of those tribes were ever called by the name Judaean, which is the original source word for the modern words Jew and Judaism. Ten of those twelve tribes had long before been scattered abroad, along with a great portion of the remaining two, who were never called Jews. The word Jew is not directly from Judah, but from Judaea, which was a multiracial province of the Roman empire, and as Paul wrote in Romans chapter 9, “6 … For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel”, and therefore he prayed only for his “3 … kinsmen according to the flesh.” Likewise, Christ had told His adversaries “26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you”, as it is recorded in John chapter 10.

So the apostle Paul had also asserted in the 26th chapter of the Book of Acts that “6 … I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.” There, it is apparent that Paul did not count the Jews among the twelve tribes. Likewise, the apostle James had written his only surviving epistle “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” as it states in its opening salutation. Later, in 2 Corinthians chapter 3, using an event from the life of Moses as an allegory in order to illustrate how only Christians could understand the writings of Moses, Paul would explain that only in Christ was the vail lifted which had covered those writings. So his point is that one must understand the words of Christ first, and then one may gain understanding to the true meanings of the Torah, or Pentateuch, the five books which are attributed to Moses.

Such statements made by Paul and James are among the reasons why the earliest Christians rejected heretics such as Marcion, who would have disposed of the entire Old Testament, the letters of Paul and other portions of the Gospel. The modern Judaized Christians essentially follow Marcion, as they are doing what he would have liked to have done. So it was in this sense that the word “catholic” was first used to describe Christians, and this was the original and primary meaning of the term in that context. The word catholic comes from two Greek words, kata, which means down or according to, and holos, which means whole, of which one Genitive form is holikos. An elision occurs when the words are joined and kata holikos becomes katholikos. There is also a Greek adverb of similar meaning, katholou, which means on the whole, or in general.

The modern Roman Catholic Church uses the term catholic to describe the application of the faith, but that does not accord with scripture and it is not how the term was originally used by Christian writers. Instead, early Christians used the term to describe the reception and substance of their faith, and not its application. They used the term to signify that they received the whole faith, that they received the faith “down whole”, “according to the whole”, or completely. This distinguished early Christians from the Jews who rejected the Gospel and its apostles, and it also distinguished them from sects such as the followers of Marcion and some other more-or-less-Christian Gnostics who rejected the Old Testament. An original catholic was one who accepted the entire scripture, both Old and New Testaments, although in the early centuries there was never a single official canon that determined exactly what that scripture was composed of for each Testament, although most of the differences among them were only minor. Rather, they called their faith catholic – with a small “c” - because they accepted Moses, the Writings, the prophets, and the Gospel. Therefore if a Christian claims to be a “New Testament Christian”, he is instead only relinquishing the Truth in exchange for the lies of the Jews, or of the followers of Marcion, both of whom falsely claimed the Old Testament as being a Jewish book.

An early Christian bishop, Irenaeus, was a prolific Greek writer of the 2nd century who lived in what was known as Lugdunum in Gaul, but is now the city of Lyon in France. In his Against Heresies, Book III Chapter XI, we have one of the earliest uses of the term catholic by a Christian writer. This was written perhaps around a hundred and fifty years before the Council of Nicaea. This portion of his work is part of a continuing defense of the four canonical Gospels, and he is also arguing that there were only four gospels, because other false gospels were being produced by the Gnostics. In paragraph 8 of the chapter, in an obscure part of his argument discussing the perfection of the Word of God, he says the following, in part, where he is speaking of Christ and drawing analogies from the Old Testament:

Afterwards, being made man for us, He sent the gift of the celestial Spirit over all the earth, protecting us with His wings. Such, then, as was the course followed by the Son of God, so was also the form of the living creatures; and such as was the form of the living creatures, so was also the character of the Gospel. [Here he referred to the living creatures described in the opening chapter of Ezekiel, and similarly in chapter 5 of the Revelation.] For the living creatures are quadriform, and the Gospel is quadriform, as is also the course followed by the Lord. For this reason were four principal (καθολικαί) covenants given to the human race: one, prior to the deluge, under Adam; the second, that after the deluge, under Noah; the third, the giving of the law, under Moses; the fourth, that which renovates man, and sums up all things in itself by means of the Gospel, raising and bearing men upon heavenly kingdom.

Regardless of what we want to think of these words, or the precise manner in which Irenaeus perceived their meaning and application, or the choices of the translators, here it is clear that Irenaeus described both the New Covenant and the Levitical Covenant given through Moses as being among what he had considered to be the four “principal” or catholic (καθολικαί) covenants of scripture. The translator chose to translate καθολικαί, a plural form of the word καθολικός, as principal, because in Greek it is often interpreted to mean general. So originally, according to Irenaeus, one cannot truly be a catholic Christian without knowing and accepting both of the testaments, or covenants, the old and the new, because that is the true definition of catholic as it was used in the earliest writers, and it is upon that principal which the greater number of early Christian churches had developed.

The apostles of Christ drew many of their teachings from the Old Testament, as Christ had also done, where He is often portrayed in the Gospels as telling those who questioned Him to “search the scriptures" or “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures,” or something similar. In the King James translation, there are twenty-four general references to the scriptures in the Gospel accounts. There are seven more in the Book of Acts, and twenty-one in the epistles of Paul, Peter and James. Every one of these is a reference to the Old Testament writings, since there were not yet any New Testament writings. But not all references to the Old Testament contain the word scripture. The phrase “as it is written”, also referring to the Old Testament, is found in the New Testament on thirty-one occasions, nine of which are in the Gospels, two in the Book of Acts, and twenty in the epistles of Paul, fourteen of those in the epistle to the Romans. There are other references to the Old Testament scriptures, or to particular books such as Psalms, Isaiah or Jeremiah, which are not counted by this simple method of checking for the occurrences of general words and phrases. There are twenty-one references to Isaiah alone, thirteen in the Gospels, three in Acts, and five in Romans. So if the writers of the New Testament scriptures had relied so heavily on those of the Old Testament in order to teach the Gospel of Christ, then Christians also have an obligation to read and comprehend those Old Testament scriptures in the manner that the apostles had understood them, and wherever it is possible from their writings, they should also interpret them as the apostles had interpreted them.

The denominational churches often only cite verses from the Old Testament where they contain Messianic references or prophesies of Christ. However as we have already explained in our discussion of The Seed of Inheritance in relation to the promises concerning Isaac, often the references of the apostles to the Old Testament do not concern Christ Himself, but rather, they concern the entire body of the people of Israel and the fact that the New Covenant assured in Christ was made exclusively for them in fulfillment of the promises to their fathers. As we also explained, this is how Paul interpreted those same promises in his epistles to the Romans, Corinthians and Galatians. That is how Luke had also recorded the purpose of the Gospel in his opening chapter, presenting the words of both Mary the mother of Christ and Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, each of whom made similar professions that the purpose for the coming of the Christ was for the fulfillment of the promises which Yahweh had made to the fathers. With this alone, Christians should recognize their obligation not merely to believe the priests and the pastors and the superficial soundbites which they hear in church hymns and sermons, but to open their Bibles and dig deeper into what actually had been said in the Word of God. If Christ Himself told those who had questioned Him to “search the scriptures”, then that is clearly the example which men should follow. Yahshua Christ had never told anyone to simply believe their priests or pastors, and He never gave to priests or pastors any such authority. The ministers of Christ only had authority from Him to preach the Gospel and teach what is in the scriptures, the same Old Testament scriptures.

Today, only Identity Christians are actually catholic Christians according to the manner in which Irenaeus had used the term catholic. That is because only Identity Christians interpret and apply the covenants and promises of God as well as the instructions and precepts of Christ in the original context in which they were made, “just as it is written”. The Roman Catholic Church, and all of the other denominations, neglect and even negate the promises and covenants of God where they shifted the application of the meaning of the word catholic from being a description of the reception of the faith, to being a term describing the application of the faith, and now it is insisted by them that catholic means “universal” where it describes Christianity, which is not at all true. The Levitical covenant was made only with the children of Israel, with explicit instructions to exclude all other people, and the New Covenant, as it is prophesied in Jeremiah chapter 31 and Ezekiel chapter 37, was also explicitly promised to those same children of Israel exclusive of all others. Yet Irenaeus had considered both of those covenants to be catholic, and according to the covenants themselves, they certainly cannot be universal. Now we can dig even deeper than that, and to further exhibit the need to dig deeper, we shall offer a few other examples here.

In Romans chapter 3, Paul wrote comparing what the King James Version has as “Jews and Gentiles”, where we read: “9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.” In many Bibles, these verses are cross-referenced to scattered passages, mainly throughout the Psalms, but an examination of the Greek text of Paul demonstrates clearly that his primary source for citations was the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, although at times he followed Hebrew manuscripts, or merely paraphrased from memory.

So first, where the King James Version has “Jews and Gentiles”, in Greek Paul had written “Judaeans and Greeks”, so he was not comparing Jews with non-Jews, but rather, he was comparing Judaeans who had presumed to keep the law with Greeks who had been pagans. Then verses 10 and 11 are phrases which Paul took from the Septuagint version of Psalm 13:1-2, which is Psalm 14:1-2 in the in the Masoretic Text and the King James Version, and verses 12 through 18 are a verbatim quote from the Greek of Psalm 13:3 from the Septuagint, which is much longer than the corresponding text at Psalm 14:3 in the Masoretic Text, and therefore in the King James version. So Paul was not choosing random passages to apply to random people, but rather, he chose a specific passage which David had written to describe the children of Adam, in a manner which is only applicable to the children of Israel since only Israel ever had the law and only Israel was expected to call upon Yahweh and keep the way, as he wrote in subsequent verses. Then at the end of the Psalm, David went on in four more verses to praise Yahweh God for the salvation of Israel, writing, in part: “7 Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.”

So Paul’s words necessitate the fact that both the Judaeans and Greeks whom he had compared in Romans chapter 3 must have all been of Israel, and it can be established in history that the Danaan and Dorian tribes of the Greeks were indeed descended from Israel. So Paul said to the Corinthians, who were Dorian Greeks, in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 that “1 … all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea”. Once again, Paul was not saying that to flatter the Corinthians, or because it was a convenient analogy, but rather, he made that statement because it was a historical fact. There is no place in his epistles where Paul ever encouraged men to ignore the portions of the scriptures that exalt Israel, and instead, he professed that his ministry was on behalf of Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel which are the same tribes as those of the Old Testament over which David had rejoiced.

Later in his epistle to the Romans, in chapter 8, Paul asked a rhetorical question, for which he also provided an answer where he wrote: “35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” So even when they are slaughtered, the children of Israel are not separated from Christ. There Paul had made a verbatim citation from Psalm 43:23 in the Septuagint, which is found at Psalm 44:22 in the King James Version. The context of the Psalm was the defeat and suffering of Israel in the captivity, and that is also the context of Paul’s epistle, since the Romans were also descended from the ancient Israelites. That is why Paul told the Romans of “Abraham our forefather” where the King James Version has only father in Romans 4:1, and he also told them of “Isaac our father” in Romans 9:10. These and many other statements elucidate the fact that Paul was making many connections to the Romans as being descended from the ancient children of Israel.

In Romans chapter 11 Paul used the phrase “as it is written” once again, where he wrote: “25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles [or Nations] be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”

Where we read “all Israel shall be saved”, Paul was referencing Isaiah chapter 45 where we read “17 But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.” Then in this passage he also cited Isaiah 59:20, which is somewhat different in the King James Version where we read “20 And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.” However the Septuagint version is closer to Paul’s words, where it reads in Brenton’s translation: “20 And the deliverer shall come for Sion's sake, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” The primary difference is a preposition preceding the word for Sion, or Zion. But more importantly, where Paul wrote “as it is written” between these two citations, referring to the first it can only refer to the children of Israel where it is found in the Old Testament, and referring to the second it can only refer to Jacob, the name of the patriarch which was also often used to describe the children of Israel of the Old Testament. Saying “as it is written”, these words cannot refer to any mystical or spiritual church, since, as the words were written, they could only have applied to the literal, genetic children of Jacob Israel.

Then, in Romans 11:27 where Paul had written “For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins”, he must have been referencing Jeremiah chapter 31 where we read: “31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah”, and then a couple of verses later, in part: “34 … for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Wherever Paul used terms such as “as it is written”, he was informing his readers that the promises of Christ would be fulfilled as they were written in the Old Testament, and that his readers were the product of those promises, the scattered Israelites who were being reconciled to Yahweh God in Christ. Paul spoke to the Romans concerning sin and the law, especially in chapters 7 and 8 of his epistle, Paul had told the Romans that they had the truth of God and changed it into a lie in chapter 1 of the epistle, and later in that same chapter explained that the people committing certain sins were liable to death, as well as those who were approving of them, which is according to the law. However in Romans chapter 5 Paul also wrote that sin was not accounted where there was no law. So in Romans chapter 3, in the passage we have just discussed, where had Paul concluded that Greeks were under sin, those Greeks must have also been descendants of Israel who had once had the law, and the Romans also must have at one time been under the law, or Paul could never have imputed to them their sins, since according to his own words, sin is only imputed if one is under the law. Paul had further asserted that concept in Romans chapter 7, where he professed in verse 7 that “I had not known sin, but by the law”, and in verse 8 “For without the law sin was dead.”

The need to examine the Old Testament in order to realize the connections which Paul had made for his readers, that they were the children of Israel and for that reason they were fulfilling the ancient prophecies which concerned the children of Israel, is revealed again in a statement found in Romans chapter 15 where he wrote: “4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” The Romans could only have hope in the Old Testament scriptures if they were truly of the children of scattered Israel, as the promises throughout scripture, “as it is written”, were only promised to them, and all others were purposely excluded. Therefore Paul finished his epistle by stating: “25 Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Paul was not perpetuating a mystery, but rather, he revealed the mystery which he said is “now is made manifest”, and that mystery was the identification of the blind children of Israel in the time of their captivity, as Yahweh had proclaimed in Isaiah chapter 42: “19 Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD'S servant?”

In this same regard, Yahshua Christ Himself had announced the purpose of His ministry, as it is written in Luke chapter 4: “18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” There, Christ had cited Isaiah 61:1-2 verbatim from the Greek texts of the Septuagint, as Luke has recorded it, except that one phrase, where it says “to set at liberty them that are bruised”, is found only in Isaiah 58:6 and therefore Christ must have purposely interpolated it in order to complete His statement of purpose. Then, upon inspecting the contents of those passages as they appear in Isaiah, they refer exclusively to the children of Israel in their captivity, and they cannot honestly apply or be applied to anyone else. He also must have purposely stopped short of completing what we now know as Isaiah 61:2, as the balance of the verse adds “and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;” as it was not His purpose at His first incarnation to execute that task. Later, His Revelation, He would reveal that fact more fully, especially in chapter 19. Then, as it is written in Revelation chapters 20 and 21, only the twelve tribes of the children of Israel enter into the City of God.

If each of the promises of God for Old Testament Israel are fulfilled “as it is written”, when they were explicitly written for the benefit of the genetic children of Israel, then the appropriate default position for Christians should be to assume that the apostles themselves were fully aware of that fact, as their own epistles certainly reveal, and that they were laboring on behalf of the same children of Israel, as Paul said in Acts chapter 28, “20 … for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.” So to understand how that could be, the Christian certainly is obligated to dig deeper, as he should be of the same understanding as the apostles. The handful of passages which the advocates of so-called “replacement theology” twist to support their awkward position cannot be used to deny the plain words of Christ and His apostles, or those of the Old Testament prophets which were and which also shall be fulfilled “as it is written”. For Identity Christians, the deeper we dig, the more support we find to uphold the truth of our profession.

Now as we continue our commentary on Genesis chapter 21, the context changes from the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael to subsequent events in the life of Abraham, where the Philistines had been forcibly taking from him the wells that were dug by his servants:

22 And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest: 23 Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.

We are not told explicitly why Abraham had moved to the land of Gerar as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 20, however it apparently had something to do with the destruction of Sodom and the other cities of the plain, since his move seems to have been in reaction to that event. Neither are we told here whether Abraham had come to Abimelech, or if he petitioned him in any way, however the context of this account seems to indicate that Abimelech had come to Abraham, as the closing verses of the chapter reveal that they were in a place which from this time had been called Beersheba. It is also ambiguous, as to whether this is the same Beersheba later named by Isaac, as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 26. But if Abraham had come to Abimelech, it is much more likely that their meeting would have occurred at his residence in the city where the king had conducted his business.

Here once again, Abimelech seems to have been a relatively honest man, according to the standards of the time, as he appeals to Abraham to deal justly with him. However Abimelech must still remember the vision of the God who had come to him concerning Sarah, who warned him that Abraham was a prophet, which he as it is also recorded in Genesis chapter 20. So Abimelech must have believed that he would be punished by that God if he caused harm to Abraham, here he acknowledged that God is with Abraham, and while that fear is his apparent motive, it nevertheless demonstrates that Abimelech was a God-fearing, humble man, and therefore also a man who sought to be honest.

As we had noted of Abimelech where he first appeared in this narrative in Genesis chapter 20, the name is actually a title which means “father of (the) king” in Strong’s original Concordance (# 40), but in later sources, “my father is king”. The Hebrew word פיכל, phikal or, as it is here, phichol, is said in some sources to mean strong, but in Strong’s original Concordance (# 6369) it is defined as “mouth of all” citing two shorter Hebrew words which are similar in spelling when they are joined, and which do convey that precise meaning. The word translated as “chief Captain”, שר or sar (Strong’s # 8269), is a word for a leader or ruler, and has a broad range of other applications, such as official or overseer. So here this phichol is a title, and not a proper name, and this Phichol may be the captain or general leading Abimelech’s army, or he may be just an official who is designated to serve as its spokesman.

In the Septuagint version of verse 22, there is a third individual in the company of Abimelech, who must have travelled with a large retinue accompanied by soldiers, and we read in part: “And it came to pass at that time that Abimelech spoke, and Ochozath his friend, and Phichol the chief captain of his host…” In the corresponding Greek, Phichol has a high military rank, and Ochozath is actually called a νυμφαγωγός or nymphagōgos, which is the leader of a bride who takes her to her husband’s house. Perhaps the same man had brought Sarah to Abimelech, as Abimelech thought she was a maiden. It seems that to ancient kings, who had often taken many wives, the position of the νυμφαγωγός may have been just as important as that of the cup bearer.

One other aspect of this account which we do not know precisely, is how long it has been at this point since the birth of Isaac. All we know is “it came to pass at that time”, which seems to be the time when Hagar was sent away, so perhaps Isaac is no older than three years of age. With that, we should deduce that the Abimelech and the Phichol of Genesis chapter 26, with whom an older Isaac had dealt, must have been different men than these men here, who later held the offices which these same titles had described. The Philistines are known to have used a dialect which is said to be very much like Hebrew [1], but as we have asserted here earlier, and especially in part 18 of this commentary which is titled The Hebrews, all of the nations who were once subject to or under the influence of the ancient Akkadian empire had spoken Akkadian, as that language had become the lingua franca of the ancient world and continued in that use for at least a fifteen hundred years. Therefore, as we have asserted, the so-called “Semitic languages” were all merely dialects of Akkadian.

On a personal note concerning our methodology, we can make assertions such as this with confidence, not because we believe we are smarter than everyone else, but rather, only because we believe the Word of God, and we reject the lies of the Jews, whom Christ Himself had said were the children of history’s first liar. So we dig deeper than what is found in all of the standard modern academic sources, which encyclopedias such as Wikipedia or Britannica reflect, and digging deeper, we often come to different conclusions than what they present. In turn, those conclusions happen to agree with scripture rather than contradicting it, because we put the scripture first, which is the Word of God, and our conclusions do not force contradictions in that Word in favor of Jewish lies and subterfuge.

[1 Philistine language, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philistine_language, accessed October 6th, 2023]

24 And Abraham said, I will swear.

This request and this oath reveal that Abimelech already knew that Abraham had some grievance. So now he voices his grievance:

25 And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away.

As we have said, this also indicates that Abimelech was petitioned to come to Abraham in some way, but perhaps his own officers made the petition, rather than Abraham himself. This happened not long after Isaac was weaned, and therefore it could not have been more than a few years, five at the most, since Abraham had departed from Sodom to come to Gerar. While no details of the events which troubled Abraham are supplied here, Abraham had a large household with many servants, at least several hundred of them, and therefore having used violence, it must have been Abimelech’s own troops who had forcibly taken away the well which Abraham’s servants had dug. So now Abimelech responds to the charges:

26 And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to day.

Abimelech’s apparent honesty and his fear of God preclude the possibility that he had lied here, and because he was king, if he wanted to destroy Abraham and take all that he had then he also had that authority, except for his fear of God. So if he did know who caused harm to Abraham, he would not have had to come to Abraham himself, by which he risked his own well-being, just to hear Abraham’s side of whatever account Abimelech may have received which had caused him to come. If he knew who harmed him, he would not have had to inquire at all.

So here Abimelech honestly attests that he did not even know that Abraham had been caused any harm. This is possible, if Abraham’s servants had been compelled to defend themselves, and Abimelech had only received reports of the violence from his own troops. Furthermore, it is plausible that on account of those reports, thinking that Abraham had been the catalyst for the trouble while remembering that Abraham was a prophet of the God whom he had feared, that Abimelech wanted to investigate the reasons for the trouble for himself rather than simply sending even more troops to dispose of the matter. Therefore his appearance here in Beersheba is further evidence that he was a God-fearing man, and desired to deal justly with Abraham.

27 And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant. 28 And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.

The sheep and oxen must have been intended for the making of the covenant, in which the animals were divided and both Abimelech and Abraham would pass through them, attesting by that ritual that if either of them failed to keep the conditions of their agreement, they themselves should be rent in two as the animals which they had rent. Customarily, the name of a god was invoked during the making of such a covenant. This is the same process which we witnessed in Genesis chapter 15, where Abraham had divided animals for a covenant, but only Yahweh Himself had passed through the pieces, because there were no conditions placed on Abraham in the promises for which Yahweh had made the oath. This time, however, both Abraham and Abimelech would pass through the pieces, as they have mutual obligations in their agreement. The covenant was very likely spelled out on similar clay tablets, and each man would apply his seal as a signature to the tablet possessed by the other before they were baked to harden. [That is how the descendants of Cain started out as smiths and went on to become lawyers, as they were equipped with the tools for engraving and the kilns for baking the clay.]

Now, Abimelech notices the additional lambs, which were evidently unnecessary in the customary making of a covenant:

29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves? 30 And he said, For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.

Apparently, Abimelech accepted the gift of the lambs, and that was further security for Abraham, as they served as an exchange for the well, and Abimelech could not allow the well to be taken from Abraham and maintain a clear conscience. The lambs may also have been written into the covenant along with an acknowledgement that Abraham had dug the well. That is evident where, while they were mentioned at this point, we next read that the covenant is completed:

31 Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.

The name באר־שבע or Beersheba is a compound Hebrew word, formed from the word באר, which is bar or as it is popularly transliterated, beer (# 875), which means pit or well, and שבע or sheba, which means seven. So the place was named after the seven ewe lambs, and that also suggests that both they and the acknowledgement were a part of the covenant between the two men. The Septuagint version has “Well of the Oath”, as Brenton had literally translated the corresponding Greek phrase.

32 Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.

Here the actual terms of the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech have not been revealed, beyond what Abimelech had Abraham swear to at the first, that Abraham would treat him and his sons and successors as he treated Abraham. The seven ewe lambs and the acknowledgement that Abraham had dug the well at Beersheba were clearly a supplemental addition to the covenant, as it is portrayed here, and that alone was not its primary purpose. So whatever the purpose, since in the ancient world the household of a king is actually the entire nation, over which the king is shepherd, if any man of Gerar harmed Abraham, on account of this oath Abimelech would have to defend and avenge him.

33 And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the L ord, the everlasting God. 34 And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines’ land many days.

The Hebrew text informs us that Abraham had planted a lone tamarisk tree, but not an entire grove. The tamarisk may have had a place in some ancient pagan sacred rituals, which is apparent in an ancient Assyrian fable, the Dispute Between the Tamarisk and the Date Palm, which dates to as early as the 3rd millennium BC. [2] Abraham, now being 103 or as old as 105 years, would live in this land for at least another 70 years, and evidently he would die in Gerar at the age of 175 years, as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 25.

[2 Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament 3rd edition, James Pritchard, editor, 1969, Harvard University Press, p. 592.]

Abraham, the man of God, had stood up for himself in the face of an honest king, and in exchange for a few lambs he was able to keep his well and serve out his days seeking to please his God. We may quip that Abraham had given Caesar what was Caesar’s, the lambs for a well, and by that he was able to give Yahweh what was His, as Christ had also taught, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 22 (22:21) and Mark chapter 12 (12:17), and also in Luke chapter 20 (20:25).

Having evidently been thankful for that, he “called upon the name of the Lord”, who was only known to Abraham as the Almighty God, as we find in Genesis 17:1 and in Exodus 6:3. In the first of those scriptures we read: “1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” Then, in the second, where we shall make a minor correction: “3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Yahweh was I not known to them.” Therefore it is also evident here, that even a man who is ignorant of the particular Name of Yahweh may nevertheless call upon Yahweh, since Yahweh being God hears all, and He knows what a man has in his heart.

Digging deep, and finding water in the wilderness must have been quite a rewarding experience, since once Abraham was able to hold onto his well, he could water his flocks, have water for his house, even plant trees, and thrive. As it is recorded in Genesis chapter 26, Isaac would have to dig more numerous wells, and also have trouble holding onto them on account of the Philistines, who had broken this oath by those actions. That too is a warning for Christians, since just as the Philistines plugged the wells of Isaac, we should not let the pagan idolaters, or even the so-called Roman Catholics, plug the wells we dig through scripture. Instead, the Christian must always continue to dig, and even dig deeper, and then hope to find “a well of water springing up into everlasting life”, as Christ Himself had said to the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4 (4:14).

This concludes our commentary on Genesis chapter 21, which I had mistakenly said was concluded at the end of our last presentation, although we were only halfway through the chapter at that time.


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