Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.
Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. 2 And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
Returning the focus of the text to Isaac, the text echoes one of the difficulties faced by Abraham. A famine in the land forces Isaac to leave and sojourn elsewhere. God specifically advises Isaac to go to the king of the Philistines instead of to Egypt. You may remember that we have previously met Abimelech during the life of Abraham.
(1) Isaac went . . . unto Gerar.—Following the stream of Semitic migration (Genesis 12:15), Isaac had originally purposed going to Egypt, but is commanded by God to abide in the land, and upon so doing he receives the assurance that he will be confirmed in the inheritance of the promises made to his father. Isaac was now dwelling at the well Lahai-Roi, and though the exact site of this place is unknown, yet it lay too far to the south for Isaac to have gone to Gerar on his direct way to Egypt.
And also from The Pulpit Commentary:
Verse 1. – And there was a famine in the land (of Canaan), beside the first (i.e. first recorded) famine that was in the days of Abraham – at least a century previous (vide Genesis 12:10). And Isaac – who, since his father’s death, had been residing at Hagar’s well in the wilderness of Beersheba (Genesis 25:11) – went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar (cf. Genesis 20:1, 2; Genesis 21:22). Seventy or eighty years having elapsed since Abraham’s sojourn in Gerar, it is scarcely probable that this was the monarch who then reigned.
The Pulpit Commentary notes that the time elapsed since Abraham’s visit makes it unlikely that this is the same Abimelech. Looking at that specific point more closely… from Wiki:
Abimelech (also spelled Abimelek or Avimelech; Hebrew: אֲבִימֶלֶךְ / אֲבִימָלֶךְ, Modern Aviméleḵ / Avimáleḵ Tiberian ʼAḇîméleḵ / ʼAḇîmāleḵ, “father/leader of a king; my father/leader, a king”) was the name of multiple Philistine kings mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.
The name or title Abimelech is formed from Hebrew words for “father” and “king,” and may be interpreted in a variety of ways, including “Father-King”, “My father is king,” or “Father of a king.” In the Pentateuch, it is used as a title for kings in the land of Canaan.
At the time of the Amarna tablets (mid-14th century BC), there was an Egyptian governor of Tyre similarly named Abimilki, who is sometimes speculated to be connected with one or more of the biblical Abimelechs.
King Abimelech of Gerar also appears in an extra-biblical tradition recounted in texts such as the Kitab al-Magall, the Cave of Treasures and the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan, as one of 12 regional kings in Abraham’s time said to have built the city of Jerusalem for Melchizedek.
Given the translation of the name, in addition to its use across time, it is likely that Abimelech is a title rather than a name.
Returning to the text in verse 2 with Ellicott:
(2) The Lord appeared unto him.—Only once besides does Jehovah manifest himself to Isaac (Genesis 26:24), and sixty years had now passed since the revelations recorded in Genesis 22:0. Excepting to Abraham, it was only at rare and distant intervals that God spake to the patriarchs. The greater part of their lives was spent under the control of the same ordinary Providence as that which governs our actions now; but on special occasions God was pleased to confirm their faith in Him in a way not necessary now that we have had made known to us the whole counsel of God.
This note makes an interesting point. Of the patriarchs, only Abraham seems to be on semi-constant contact with God via direct communication. We see the distinction given to Abraham described later in the Bible:
Is. 41:8 But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
Abraham is unique among the patriarchs in that he is named by God as a friend. It is somewhat interesting to read this text thinking of Isaac as the son of God’s friend. He is a unique son, also, inasmuch as God promises him to Abraham for many long years and then helps him to miraculously come into being. Nevertheless, Isaac is not described as a friend of God (though he may have been one in truth.)
Isaac’s story becomes familiar again in verses 3 and 4. From The Pulpit Commentary:
Verse 3. – Sojourn in this land, – viz., Philistia (Murphy, Alford), though otherwise regarded as Canaan (Lange, Keil, Calvin) – and I will be with thee, and will bless thee. Of this comprehensive promise, the first part was enjoyed by, while the second was distinctly stated to, Abraham (cf. Genesis 12:2). God s presence with Isaac of higher significance than his presence with Ishmael (Genesis 21:20). For unto thee, and unto thy seed, will I give all these – הָאֶל, an archaism for הָאֵלֶּה (cf. Genesis 19:8, 25) – countries (i.e. Canaan and the surrounding lands), and I will perform the oath (videGenesis 22:16) which I aware unto Abraham thy father.
Verse 4. – And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven (videGenesis 15:1-6), and will give unto thy seed all these countries (i.e. the territories occupied by the Canaanitish tribes); and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (cf. Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18).
Isaac receives from God the promise made to his father, Abraham. God promises to be with him, to give him the land, and to multiply his offspring “as the stars of heaven.” God also tells Isaac that through his offspring all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
Verse 5 is interesting to me at least. God tells Isaac that his promises are due to the obedience of Isaac’s father. Again from The Pulpit Commentary at verse 5:
Verse 5. – Because that Abraham obeyed (literally, hearkened to) my voice (a general description of the patriarch’s obedience, which the next clause further particularizes), and kept my charge, custodierit custodiam (Calvin); observed my observances (Kalisch); the charge being that which is intended to be kept – my commandments, – i.e. particular injunctions, specific enactments, express or occasional orders (cf. 2 Chronicles 35:16) – my statutes, – or permanent ordinances, such as the Passover; literally, that which is graven on tables or monuments (compare Exodus 12:14) – and my laws – which refer to the great doctrines of moral obligation. The three terms express the contents of the Divine observances which Abraham observed.
Looking at verse 5, and some definitions of the underlying Hebrew:
Obeyed = שָׁמַע shâmaʻ, shaw-mah’; a primitive root; to hear intelligently (often with implication of attention, obedience, etc.; causatively, to tell, etc.):—× attentively, call (gather) together, × carefully, × certainly, consent, consider, be content, declare, × diligently, discern, give ear, (cause to, let, make to) hear(-ken, tell), × indeed, listen, make (a) noise, (be) obedient, obey, perceive, (make a) proclaim(-ation), publish, regard, report, shew (forth), (make a) sound, × surely, tell, understand, whosoever (heareth), witness.
my voice = קוֹל qôwl, kole; or קֹל qôl; from an unused root meaning to call aloud; a voice or sound:—+ aloud, bleating, crackling, cry (+ out), fame, lightness, lowing, noise, + hold peace, (pro-) claim, proclamation, + sing, sound, + spark, thunder(-ing), voice, + yell.
kept = שָׁמַר shâmar, shaw-mar’; a primitive root; properly, to hedge about (as with thorns), i.e. guard; generally, to protect, attend to, etc.:—beward, be circumspect, take heed (to self), keep(-er, self), mark, look narrowly, observe, preserve, regard, reserve, save (self), sure, (that lay) wait (for), watch(-man).
my charge = מִשְׁמֶרֶת mishmereth, mish-mer’-reth; feminine of H4929; watch, i.e. the act (custody), or (concretely) the sentry, the post; objectively preservation, or (concretely) safe; figuratively observance, i.e. (abstractly) duty or (objectively) a usage or party:—charge, keep, or to be kept, office, ordinace, safeguard, ward, watch.
my commandments = מִצְוָה mitsvâh, mits-vaw’; from H6680; a command, whether human or divine (collectively, the Law):—(which was) commanded(-ment), law, ordinance, precept.
my statutes = חֻקָּה chuqqâh, khook-kaw’; feminine of H2706, and meaning substantially the same:—appointed, custom, manner, ordinance, site, statute.
my laws = תּוֹרָה tôwrâh, to-raw’; or תֹּרָה tôrâh; from H3384; a precept or statute, especially the Decalogue or Pentateuch:—law.
It is fascinating to hear of God’s laws and statutes BEFORE we read about God giving those things to Moses. The implication here is not insignificant. God’s laws predate Moses.
There are numerous articles written on this topic. A common belief is that the laws referred to here by God are the same as the terms of the covenant with Noah made in Genesis Chapter 9.
- Populate the Earth (v. 1)
- Take command of plants and animals (v. 2-3)
- Do not eat meat with the blood still in it (v. 4)
- Do no murder (v. 5)
- Shed the blood of those who shed blood (v. 6)
- As a result – God will never destroy all life again with a Flood (v. 11)
- A Rainbow represents the sign of this covenant (v. 12-17)
These are sometimes also listed differently as “The Seven Laws of Noah.”
- Not to worship idols.
- Not to curse God.
- Not to commit murder.
- Not to commit adultery, bestiality, or sexual immorality.
- Not to steal.
- Not to eat flesh torn from a living animal.
- To establish courts of justice.
According to the Talmud, the seven laws were given first to Adam and subsequently to Noah. However, the Tannaitic and Amoraitic rabbinic sages (1st-6th centuries CE) disagreed on the exact number of Noahide laws that were originally given to Adam. Six of the seven laws were exegetically derived from passages in the Book of Genesis, with the seventh being the establishment of courts of justice.
Seven commandments were commanded of the sons of Noah:
- concerning adjudication (dinim)
- concerning idolatry (avodah zarah)
- concerning blasphemy (qilelat ha-Shem)
- concerning sexual immorality (gilui arayot)
- concerning blood-shed (shefikhut damim)
- concerning robbery (gezel)
- concerning a limb torn from a living animal (ever min ha-hay)
And in the twenty-eighth jubilee Noah began to enjoin upon his sons’ sons the ordinances and commandments, and all the judgments that he knew, and he exhorted his sons to observe righteousness, and to cover the shame of their flesh, and to bless their Creator, and honour father and mother, and love their neighbour, and guard their souls from fornication and uncleanness and all iniquity. For owing to these three things came the flood upon the earth … For whoso sheddeth man’s blood, and whoso eateth the blood of any flesh, shall all be destroyed from the earth.
The next section of the text will again be familiar. Isaac will refer to his wife as his sister (unlike his father, there is no truth in it when Isaac makes the claim.) Also like his father, Isaac prospers while sojourning.