“When a man’s ways please YAHWEH,
HE makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
– Proverbs 16:7
I couldn’t set this off without the above quotation, because it kept ringing in my head as I read through the words that will form the body of this blog post. As you peruse through, I am certain that you’d also come to the same conclusions. After enduring several attacks on his person, as well as on his business and interests, by xenophobic Philistines in Gerar, and coming out of it all unfazed, and in fact prosperous amidst an unfriendly climate and hostile environment; Isaac’s chief host opted to seek the path of conciliation. King Abimelech, with his friend Ahuzzath, and the captain of his host Phicol went to see Isaac, who didn’t mince words concerning their treatment of him, in saying “… Why have you come unto me, since you hate me, and have sent me away from you?” (Genesis 26:27).
Their response was quite interesting, as they said, “… We saw plainly that YAHWEH was with you…”. Let’s apply the brakes here and put this in its proper perspectives. Now, they were the aggressors, they it was who inflicted upon Isaac all manner of abuse, physical and otherwise. The person who suffered, and kept on moving from one place to the other (re)digging wells (that would sooner than later be filled by envious Philistines) for his animals. Yet, above all of that suffering, amongst other acts of xenophobia perpetrated against him, his family and holdings, he was still considered by his jealous hosts, as one whose presence YAHWEH delights in. This is because, as I’d stated in the last installment of this series, Isaac’s faith in YAHWEH remained undiminished despite his trials, in fact he went on to offer sacrifices to YAHWEH (as was customary in his day to do) after his ordeal, who in turn blessed him.
“… Let there now be an oath between us… and let us make a covenant with you, that you will do us no hurt” (Genesis 26:28). Again, let’s consider this. Isaac couldn’t possibly outnumber his hosts, yet their experience from antagonizing Isaac, and the fact that the latter still managed to pull through enough to even blossom under very stringent circumstances, must’ve informed them that there must be something special in and about him. Many times, you’d find people who are objects of envy, by people who they are apparently not better than. In such cases, there’s usually more to the story that meets the eye. The sort of situation that Christians today, love to refer to as GRACE. It was such that though physically Isaac and his household were outnumbered and at the mercy of their hosts, in actual fact, they were in awe of Isaac because of the manifestations around Isaac which suggested to them in the first place that YAHWEH was with him, and you know “One with G-d is a majority”, as succinctly put by Martin Luther, from instances several of which abound in the Bible, as well as in our daily lives. It must be in recognition of this, that Abimelech and members of his entourage sought to make a covenant with Isaac (just like he did with Abraham), for their own protection, from Isaac, or whatever props him.
Allow me to digress a bit, to talk about this King Abimelech, whom if you manage to read between the lines wasn’t always that “BAD GUY”, as viewed by some who read through these passages. He like every man, had his failings, but he would always pick himself up to tow the path of honour, after every misstep. Remember, how in the days of Abraham, he mistakenly took Sarah because Abraham had told him “… She is my sister” (Genesis 20:2), but once the truth was revealed to him, he immediately restored her to Abraham, berating him for lying and making him commit a sin. In those days when kings (like in some places to this day) ruled absolutely, it was unusual for a king to come down from his high horse to deal kindly and respectfully with Abraham, a stranger in his land. And like we considered before now, with Isaac, when what happened with Abraham was to be repeated with Isaac, he with wisdom nipped the situation in the bud before it became a crisis. Granted that eventually, he allowed greed (and possibly wrong advice) and envy to take the better of him, once he was sober, he sought immediately to make amends, making him in my eyes, somewhat worthy of emulation.
In justifying their plea before Isaac for a covenant between them, they reminded Isaac, that despite all their acts towards him, “… we have not touched you (which was true in the physical aspect), and as we have done unto you nothing but good (which is if you consider their version of events as the truth without hearing the other side), and have sent you away in peace (that is if sending him away acrimoniously would mean with loss of lives and limbs, and therefore they could also be right, but again only to some extent): you are now the blessed of YAHWEH” (Genesis 26:29). After hearing this, we were not told that Isaac gloated over his hosts, or decided to play them by making them work harder to earn his forgiveness, despite the inconsistencies in their account of events that led to the imbroglio they found themselves. He instead, “… made them a feast, and they ate and drank” (Genesis 26:30).
The next day, Isaac and Abimelech and his entourage, “… swore one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace” (Genesis 26:31). Coincidentally, Isaac’s servants “.. came and told him concerning the well which they had dug, and said unto him, We have found water. And he called it Shibah: therefore the name of the city is Beer-Shebah (reminiscent of the one, if not same, that Abraham dug – Genesis 21:31 – when he was alive and named the city Beersheba, making this look like Isaac was reestablishing the claim, especially if that well was one of those filled by the Philistines while the impasse lasted) unto this day (which is one of the verses I refer to when people tell me that returning Jews have no right to Palestine from which they were exiled since 70AD, the second time – third, if you considered the ten tribes of Israel, at the hands of the Assyrians -) v.32-33. Just like Abraham, Isaac established himself as a man of peace, who would go to great lengths, sometimes to his own disadvantage to encourage peace, and it’s no wonder his ways pleased YAHWEH. Selah
– Genesis Chapter 26 Verses 26 – 33, THE SACRED SCRIPTURES (Bethel Edition), An Assemblies of Yahweh ®, Publication, © 1981 (Fourth Printing, 1993).