Like Father Like Son

There came a famine to the land where Isaac lived. So he went to the town of Gerar (near today’s Beersheba) to visit with the Philistine King Abimelech who ruled there. God thought Isaac’s going there a good idea. God seemed so anxious that Isaac stay in Gerar that He said to him, “Don’t go to Egypt to escape this famine as your father Abraham had once done *to escape a previous famine*. If you stay in Gerar I will be with you and will bless you. Not only that, I will give all these lands to you and your descendants.”

“This is very good of You” said Isaac.

“It’s not particularly for you that I’m doing this”, said God, “I had sworn to your father, Abraham, that he would have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky. It is to them, as well as to you, that I will give these lands. You see, Isaac, Abraham had always obeyed me, my commandments, my statutes, my laws. How could I not reward him for his obedience?”

“You had also told my father, Abraham” said Isaac, “that his descendants would number as many as the particles of dust that cover the earth. Are You implying that the particles of dust that cover the earth, number the same as the stars in the sky?”

“Are you playing the Smart Aleck with me, Isaac?”

“No, Sire.”

“My good nature does have its limits. Just watch it.”

“Of course, Sire.”

“And you will stay in Gerar as I’d asked?”

“Absolutely, Sire. And thank You, Sire.”

Isaac and Rebekah settled in at Gerar. However, Isaac told everyone there, including King Abimelech, that Rebekah was his sister. Because Rebekah was so beautiful, Isaac was afraid that other men in Gerar would kill him in order to steal Rebekah if they thought she was his wife.


This subterfuge went on a long time, until one day when King Abimelech saw Isaac and Rebekah behaving intimately in a way that a brother and sister normally wouldn’t. The king knew immediately that they must be husband and wife.

King Abimelech summoned Isaac and said, “Come on, admit it, Isaac, Rebekah’s not your sister, but your wife, is that not it?”

“Well, alright, yes.”

“You should know, Isaac, that your father, Abraham, told a similar story to me about your mother, Sarah, when he and she visited me here *in Gerar many years ago* before you were born. He told me your mother was his sister because he was afraid other men would kill him in order to steal her. Now you, Abraham’s son, have told me the same lie about Rebekah. You are a real chip off the old block, I must say.”

“That’s a compliment. Father was a great man.”

“Well, if you call great a man who, fearing for his own safety, allowed another man to take his wife into his harem, then I suppose you could call your father a great man. I would call him something else.”

“Please do not talk of Father this way, O King. I’ll not have it.”

“You need to hear this, Isaac. You need to hear that, with your father’s knowledge, your mother Sarah willingly became one of my wives. However, I assure you, she never, for reasons I wish not to go into, came into my bed. But, I desired Sarah as I did no other women then, nor have since. She was of a beauty indescribable. I lay in bed at night, torturing myself with thoughts that she was in it with me, naked, and crying out, ‘O Kingy Kingy, O Your Majesty, make love to me now’. Even as I’m saying this to you, I’m hearing those entreaties from her that never were. Sarah was the one who got away.”

“Please, O King, I wish not to hear any more.”

“But you must, Isaac, because you’ve deceived me with Rebekah just as your father deceived me with Sarah. What if I, or some other man here in Gerar, bedded Rebekah? Your God would punish us as grievously as I hear He did the *Pharaoh of Egypt* whom your father had similarly deceived with Sarah. I’m now put in a position that I must issue an edict to my people that anyone so much as touching Rebekah will be put to death.”

Source: Genesis 26, 1-11

This entry was posted in Abimelech, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Sarah and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Like Father Like Son

  1. Richard says:

    What were the prohibited degrees in those days? Was a man prohibited from marrying his sister? It would be one smart way of increasing numbers as promised by God.

    Unlike you and me, the offspring would have had only two grandparents. A useful piece of advice for anyone tracing their ancestry. The Bible is quite into that, I note, but you have hitherto diplomatically omitted a detailed examination of those passages. Is there something I should know?

  2. Philippe says:

    I’d automatically thought that brother-sister couplings were outlawed. But, of course, there are such couplings in the Old Testament.

    I can only assume that they had become outlawed by the time Isaac met Abimelech.

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