Gerar and the Peacemakers

Although pusillanimous in his approach to his personal safety, Isaac was intrepid in his approach to creating wealth. Hence he had become one-hundred times richer than he been when the Philistine King Abimelech upbraided him in the matter of Isaac’s *deception about Rebekah*.

Isaac, through sowing seed and cultivating livestock and acquiring slaves, had become so wealthy that the Philistines, whom he lived among, became resentful.  In their resentment they re-filled with earth all the wells which the slaves of Isaac’s father Abraham had dug many years before – the very wells that Isaac was now hoping to use. Furious at the sabotaging of these life-giving wells, Isaac not only got his slaves to dig the earth out of the wells again, he also referred to the wells by the names which Abraham had originally given them.

The Philistine King Abimelech, observing Isaac’s growing power from all that wealth, felt afraid. The King said to Isaac, “You’ve got so much wealth compared to us Philistines that you soon won’t help but become more philistine than us.”

“Ha ha ha, how witty you are, O King” said Isaac.

“I’m not speaking with you just to be witty” said the King, “I’m speaking with you because I want you to go away from here, for you have become too strong for us Philistines. Please leave now and go elsewhere, there’s a good chap.”

“Aren’t you being rash, O King, and also self-destructive? The wealth I’ve made will eventually filter through to you Philistines. Have you heard of trickle-down economics?”

“No. I’m a King not an economist. As a King I’m ordering you to leave now with all your livestock, slaves and whatnot.”

Isaac, with his huge entourage, left and re-settled in the valley of Gerar. The first thing he did there was look for water, for water in that whole area was then, as it still is today, scarce. Isaac’s slaves dug around in the valley and eventually found a spring of running water. However, the local shepherds claimed this running water as theirs. Isaac being, as mentioned before, pusillanimous in matters of his personal safety, he decided not to fight the shepherds. Instead he tried to find water elsewhere, but not before calling the place of the disputed running water, Esek, which means “Difficulty”.

Isaac’s slaves dug another well. Again the local shepherds disputed the ownership of this well. Again, Isaac didn’t fight with the shepherds but continued his search for water elsewhere, but not before giving the disputed well a name – this time, Sitnah, which means “Enmity”.

Isaac’s slaves dug yet another well in another place. This time the locals didn’t object. So Isaac called this new well, Rehoboth, which means “Plenty of Room”.

Isaac then went to the place now known as as Beersheba, where God appeared to him and said, “I’m God in case you’d forgotten. Although I sometimes scare people, I want you not to fear Me, for, not only am I in your corner, I will also bless you with yet more descendants, many more than just the two you have now, Jacob and Esau.”

After hearing this, Isaac felt the least he could do was build an altar there to God. Then Isaac pitched his tent near the altar, and got his slaves to dig a well – another one – for digging wells was what one reflexively did there in those days.


Word got to King Abimelech that Isaac was in Beersheba. The King, suspicious about what Isaac was Up To, summoned his friend Ahuzzath, and his army commander Phicol, and set off for Beersheba. On seeing the King arrive, Isaac said, “What are you doing here, O King? You hate me and sent me away. I didn’t think I’d see you again. Now you’re here. You surely didn’t come all this way to  indulge in another of your witticisms. I’m confused.”

“I’ve come because I can see plainly that God is in your corner” said the King, “so I’d like for us to make a treaty that will bind us never to attack one other.”

“That would be nice” said Isaac, “But how can I trust you? You arbitrarily sent me away from Gerar. This inconvenienced me terribly. Is it not true, O King, that you have an inferiority complex, and that your comparing my wealth to yours exacerbated this inferiority complex? I have to tell you, O King, that I find men with inferiority complexes to be dangerous. They are out of control, being  at the affect of this complex instead of responsible for it.”

“This is an insult” said the King, “I’ve a good mind to order my army commander, Phicol here, to take out his sword and run it through you.”

“God wouldn’t at all like this” said Isaac. “You know as well as I, O King, that God would quickly put paid to you and your kingdom were you to carry out your threat.”

“No doubt” said the King, “Look Isaac, although I ordered you to leave my kingdom, I didn’t order an attack upon you, which I could easily have done. Were I not so good-natured you’d be dead. Instead, you flourished when in my kingdom, and you left peaceably. I’m not such a bad King am I? Come on, Isaac, let’s you and I swear an oath that we’ll do each other no harm for as long as we shall live.”

Isaac agreed to what King Abimelech proposed. The oath sworn, Isaac gave a feast at which much was eaten and drunk, and which lasted throughout the night. The next morning Isaac bade farewell to King Abimelech, who departed home to his kingdom at Gerar. That same day, Isaac’s slaves came to him to say that they’d just dug yet one more well, and that it had water. Isaac named the well, Shebah. This is how the city of Beersheba (Beer-Shibah) got its name.

Source: Genesis 26, 12-33

This entry was posted in Abimelech, Ahuzzath, Isaac, Phicol and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Gerar and the Peacemakers

  1. Richard says:


    Obviously. A good place to eat and drink much.

  2. Philippe says:

    According to the New English Bible “Shibah” means “oath”, and “Beersheba” means “well of an oath”. One assumes, then, that “beer” used to mean “well”. Since a “well” contains water (a liquid), one can see the connection to today’s “beer” – also a liquid.

    Could “shibah” (or “sheba”) have been the origin of the Irish word, “sibín”, which became “shebeen”? A “shebeen” is an illicit bar or club where alcohol is sold without a licence.

  3. Richard says:

    A very interesting thought, Philippe.

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