Friday, June 5, 2009

Abimelech and Abraham make a treaty, even two

Hello Izzy, it is good to see you. This afternoon we are going to have an interesting event, Abimelech, as pagan a king as ever, has noticed that Abraham has the call of God on his life. So, Abimelech came with Phicol, his army commander, to visit Abraham. "It is clear that God helps you in everything you do," Abimelech said. "Swear to me in God's name that you won't deceive me, my children, or my grandchildren. I have been loyal to you, so now swear that you will be loyal to me and to this country in which you are living."

Abraham replied, "All right, I swear to it!"

Then Abraham took the opportunity and complained to Abimelech about a well that Abimelech's servants had taken violently from Abraham's servants. "This is the first I've heard of it," Abimelech said. "And I have no idea who is responsible. Why didn't you say something about this before?" Then Abraham gave sheep and oxen to Abimelech, and they made a treaty.

But when Abraham took seven additional ewe lambs and set them off by themselves, Abimelech asked, "Why are you doing that?" Abraham replied, "They are my gift to you as a public confirmation that I dug this well."

<= = = Sir, you said that Abraham was a great warrior, why didn't he just take the well back?

The scriptural record is clear that Abraham was a great warrior and partly because he never, ever picked a fight. He avoided conflict with Lot, with Pharaoh and with Abimelech. He even tried to avoid conflict between Sarah and Hagar, but that wasn't on the table. If you fight every battle that comes your way, you end up exhausted and unable to fight the battles that matter.

God had told Abraham to come to this place. His descendants would one day own it all if they kept God's commandments. Abraham could dig another well, but this was a godless, lawless place and Abraham used the opportunity to tell Abimelech that. If he had to fight he would. And he would win decisively, Abraham knew that. But after the battle, every third cousin of a fallen Gerarian would slip back in under cover of darkness to avenge family and make off with spoils for their trouble. Abraham gives Issac a special inheritance, in addition to servants and livestock, he gives him a good reputation in the land.

So ever since, that place has been known as Beersheba--"well of the oath"--because that was where they had sworn an oath. After making their covenant, Abimelech left with Phicol, the commander of his army, and they returned home to the land of the Philistines. Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and he worshiped the LORD, El Owlam, the Eternal or everlasting God, at that place. And Abraham lived in Philistine country for a long time.

< = = = Could planting that tree lead to idolatry sir, you said the Philistines worshipped their gods in groves of trees?

"I suppose if you bow down to the tree and call it your god it could be idolatry", Mr. Comfort said with a gentle smile. But planting trees is one thing that sets the people of Israel apart from the rest of the world. You take an American or worse, a South American and show them a tree and they start itching for their chain saw or bulldozer. Show an African a tree and they start breaking off limbs for their cooking fire. Show an Israeli land without a tree and they try to find a way to plant a tree there.

<= = = I guess that is true, sir, when I was born my father planted ten trees in Israel with the Jewish National Fund. I have the certificate in my life scrapbook. And I learned about the importance of trees in school, the roots help prevent erosion and they bring water and minerals to the surface. Abraham set a good example for all of us.

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