Friday, October 17, 2008

Genesis 21:25-34 True Greatness

Genesis 21:25-34: But Abraham complained to Abimelech because of the well of water which the servants of Abimelech had seized. And Abimelech said, "I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, nor did I hear of it until today." Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two of them made a covenant. Then Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. Abimelech said to Abraham, "What do these seven ewe lambs mean, which you have set by themselves?" He said, "You shall take these seven ewe lambs from my hand so that it may be a witness to me, that I dug this well." Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because there the two of them took an oath. So they made a covenant at Beersheba; and Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, arose and returned to the land of the Philistines. {Abraham} planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines for many days.

So based on this relationship, Abraham feels free to complain to Abimelech. It seems that Abraham had been using a well of water – perhaps his family and servants had dug it – that Abimelech’s servants had now seized. The king says this was a surprise to him and based on Abimelech’s track record, we have no reason to doubt his word. Now you would think that given this knowledge and their newly re-established relationship, Abimelech would make amends. Instead, it is Abraham, exhibiting true wisdom and a desire for peace, that gave the king sheep and oxen and together they made a covenant, the exact wording and intention of which we do not know.

Abraham then takes another seven she lambs from his own flock and sets them off by themselves. Curious, Abimelech asks him what this is all about and Abraham explains. Abimelech was to take the seven ewe lambs from Abraham as a testimonial that indeed Abimelech recognized Abraham had dug the well in question. This act clearly established the ownership of the well and that would take care of any dispute in future with the king’s servants. Abraham had raised the matter of the well dispute and accepted the king’s reply. He then took action that would prevent further arguments. He even gave the location of the well a new name – Beersheba. The Hebrew word itself means “the well of the sevenfold oath”. It was so named because of the seven ewe lambs that Abimelech took for it in order to establish Abraham’s ownership of it. With these lambs, they made a covenant between them and after that, Abimelech and Phicol returned to the land of the Philistines.

When the Lord says He will use someone mightily and make him into a great nation, He starts blessing him accordingly. First, Abimelech recognized Abraham’s relationship to God, and then God gave Abraham wisdom and humility in order to deal with difficult issues and disputes. Those that are leaders today must pray for God to give them wisdom and humility in dealing with people. True greatness requires that others think greatly of one and such feelings are best induced on the basis of how well one manages his/her relationships with others.

Beersheba was indeed the very area that Hagar and Ishmael had gone to as we read in Genesis 21:14, when she had been banished from Abraham’s home at the request of Sarah. And in verse 19 she had found this very well. The well had not actually been named until verse 31 when Abraham and Abimelech made their covenant, but Moses, the author would know that and thus the earlier reference to Beersheba in verse 14.

So what does Abraham do right after his first diplomatic success? He plants a tamarisk tree at Beersheba and there he prays to God, praising Him as the everlasting one. [A tamarisk tree is a type of salt cedar, often with flowers, that is native to Israel, as well as throughout Euroasia and Africa. With every success we experience in our daily lives, we must recognize and give the glory to the real Source behind it. True men and women of God can do nothing of significance of themselves – they are, I believe, even more dependent on God then those that may not recognize Him for Who He is. While the yet unsaved soul may be left alone to arrive at his own destiny by himself, sometimes with temporary success, the man or woman that has tasted the spiritual life knows that God won’t allow him/her easily out of His grasp and care.

One can very clearly notice a simple sequence here: Abraham is told God will make him into a great nation; God starts blessing him; Abraham gives God the praise; and then Scripture says that “Abraham lived in the land of the Philistines for many days.” Obedience and reliance on God have their own reward. But as we’ll see in the next chapter of Genesis, God still had more in store for Abraham.

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