In this episode of APD we look at the question: In Proverbs, who is the “she” referring to?
As we finish this passage, I want to go back to James Smith. He asks: “Are you now the blessed of the Lord? Or, are you accursed of God? One or the other you must be — get the matter decided if it is not. Live not in a state of uncertainty, much less in a state of unconcern. To be blessed of God is to have eternal life, plenty, and glory — but to be accursed of God is eternal death, destitution, and everlasting punishment.” That is pretty straightforward. There is no in between state. Either you are blessed or cursed. If your not sure than cry out to God for mercy right now. Don’t let another moment go by. His mercy and blessing he freely gives for those who turn from their sin. If you are blessed of God then I point you to Abraham. Abimelech knew that Abraham was blessed of God. The question for you is: Is it obvious to others that you are blessed of God? Do people notice that there is something different about you? Have you ever had anyone walk up to and say, “You are a Christian, aren’t you?” Have you ever have anyone remark, “Things seem to always work out for you”? If not, then examine your heart. Are you seeing the blessings that God has on you or has the cares of this life robbed you of your sight? Has the pandemic and the election and the civil unrest made you forget that if you are a friend of God he has and is blessing you? This week, spend some time confessing your ignorance of and refusal to see God’s blessings. Think on how God blessed those of Scripture, how he blessed Abraham. Then begin to see how he has blessed you. Plant your tamerisk tree and call upon his name. Praise your Lord.
There are three last things that this story ends with. a. A memorial tree. First, Abraham plants a tamarisk tree or a grove of trees (the root word being the same for both). The tamarisk tree is well suited for the land near Beersheba. It draws salt from the ground water and secrets it through its leaves at night. In the morning the salt collects moisture which then drips to the ground. It creates a natural cooling effect which would be nice to place your tent near. Abraham plants this tree in memorial of the event that happened and in honor of his God. b. Yahweh El Olam. Moses tells us that Abraham called upon the name of the LORD, Yahweh El Olam, or the Evelasting God. Again we see Abraham sojourning in a foreign land pubically worshipping God. He is not afraid to display his faith in God in a pagan land. Olam is a fairly common word in Scripture but there is one other place where God is called the Everlasting God. In Isaiah 40 we read this, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” You can almost picture Abraham saying this to his descendants. Haven’t you heard about when I called God the Everlasting God? Of course your way isn’t hidden from God. Look at what he did for me. Learn from my story. c. In the land of the Philistines. Finally, Moses returns to the fact that Abraham was sojourning in the land of the Philistines. Why is this important? Abraham brings the child of promise into the world in the land of the Philistines. Abraham worships in the land of the Philistines. God was with Abraham blessing him even in the land of the uncircumcised Philistines. God blesses his people no matter where they go and his people will praise him no matter where they go. This is a lesson that the Israelites needed to learn from Father Abraham as they traveled in the wilderness and as they entered into the Promised Land.
a. A potential problem. After Abimelech and Abraham make this verbal contract to show kindness toward each other, Abraham brings up something that might threaten that devotion to each other. Abraham explains that one of the wells that he has dug has been seized by Abimelech’s servants. Abimelech assures Abraham that he didn’t know how had seized the well which clearly means that he did not ask his servants to do this. He also points out that this is the first time that Abraham has mentioned this which means that Abimelech is not guilty of refusing to do anything about the situation. Abimelech also says that this is the first he has heard of it and so he is not guilty of allowing this to happen. Basically, what Abimelech is saying is that this situation with the well is not a point of contention because I had nothing to do with and if I knew about I would have corrected it. b. Cutting the covenant. Next we see Abraham bringing out some sheep and oxen and give them to Abimelech but there are seven ewe lambs that he sets aside. Now, what do you suppose happened to the other sheep and oxen? Do remember what happened in chapter 15? That is when God made the covenant with Abraham. Here we have another example of a covenant being cut. Abimelech would take the animals, cut them in half and the two men would walk between them. This agreement of mutual kindness is now more than a verbal oath but a covenant in blood. Violation of this would result in death. c. The earnest money. Abimelech notices the seven lambs that were set apart from the animals to be sacrificed. He asks Abraham, what’s with these other animals? What are those for? Abraham says that they are a gift to him as a witness that he dug the well. The seven lambs are a payment to Abimelech for the rights to use the well. Abimelech’s acceptance of the lambs is his acknowledgment of this contract. It was like earnest money. d. Naming the well. The scene ends with the naming of the location, Beersheba. Moses says that it was called this because both of them swore and oath. The name Beersheba is a play on words. The wrote word in Hebrew is the same for oath and the word seven. So this it could mean the well of oath or swearing or the well of seven, referring to the seven ewe lambs. Abraham probably had both ideas in mind when the name was chosen. Beersheba is mentioned many times in the Old Testament. It becomes the reference point for the south of Israel. That’s why you find the phrase, “From Dan to Beersheba,” meaning the whole land of Israel. Isaac would have a similar dispute over water years later at Beersheba. And it was a stop on Jacob’s journey into Egypt. At Beersheba, as he was leaving Canaan, he offered sacrifices to God. After the covenant was cut and the place named Abimelech and Phicol return back home.
“The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.” Charles Spurgeon www.trainforeternity.com
a. Abraham sojourns. The story opens with Abraham no longer living in Gerar but he has moved about 25 miles to the southeast. At some point after the first encounter with Abimelech, Abraham thought it wise to move from that area. We have to remember that it’s not just Abraham, Sarah and Isaac traveling about. Abraham is a very wealthy man and has a lot of possessions. He has a massive amount of animals that need pasture land. He also has a large amount of servants as well. Remember way back when Lot was living with Abraham their two households could not successful operate as one and so they had to separate. Also, remember that back in chapter 14 Abraham had 318 trained men in his house. By now, that number could have grown. So when Abraham came to town, he literally brought a town with him. You can imagine what kind of issues this might bring when you are a sojourner on someone else land. As we will see, 25 miles is not much space between two wealthy men at that time. b. God is with you. And so we find the pagan king of Gerar, along with the commander of his army, Phicol, traveling the 25 miles to find Abraham. What is the first thing we read Abimelech saying? “God is with you in all you do.” The blessing of God upon Abraham is apparent. It is obvious even to this pagan king. What is interesting is that the same is said of Isaac and Jacob as well. James Smith points out that, “God sometimes blesses his people so visibly, following their efforts and crowning their labors, that their very enemies see it.” God was with Abraham and his family and it was apparent to people around them. c. Act kindly. After acknowledging God’s blessing upon Abraham, Abimelech asks Abraham to swear that he would act kindly. This word translated as kindly is a word that you find many times throughout the Old Testament. It is the word ches-ed. It is translated as kindness, lovingkindness, mercy, goodness, favor, loyalty, devoted, and unchanging love. It is all of those ideas wrapped up in one. It is a word often used of God and his disposition toward the people in which he has made a covenant. It is a merciful, loyal, loving kindness. Often with God, his che-sed is described as being everlasting as in 1 Chronicles 16:34 where David says, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” So this is the kind of agreement Abimelech is looking for. He wants a mutual kindness based on a covenantal agreement. No matter what, we have each other’s backs. To which Abraham swears.
We saw in the previous chapter that Abraham had moved his household to Gerar. Abimelech, the king of that area, took Sarah into his household because he believed that Sarah was an unmarried woman. Why did he think that? Because Abraham and Sarah used the line that they had come up with in Ur; Sarah was Abraham’s sister. They chose to not mention that she was also his wife. And as the story went, God intervened, corrected Abraham and restored Sarah back to him. Then we read of the birth of Isaac. Sarah rejoices over the miraculous birth and Abraham is once again obedient to God as he circumcises his son on the eighth day and gives him the name Isaac as God had told him. A about 5 years pass and the time for Isaac to wean from Sarah came. Abraham threw a great party for the occasion which brought the mockery and scorn from Abraham’s firstborn, Ishmael. Sarah witnessing this tells Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away because Ishmael was not a part of the covenant. God confirms this and tells Abraham it is right for him to break cultural norms and send Ishmael away. Abraham didn’t have to worry though, because God promised to take care of him. That brings us to our text today where we find Abimelech coming back into the scene. The previous stories I just mentioned are more well known but I feel that our text today is probably unfamiliar to most people. When you think of Abraham, I’m guessing your mind doesn’t go immediately to this story of Abraham’s treaty with Abimelech. Before we get into the story, I want to make a side note about Abimelech. This is not the only Abimelech recorded in the Bible. There are several Abimelech mentioned and so it is assumed that the name is either a common name, a royal name that is passed on to the different generations or it is a title like the name Pharaoh. We see a Abimelech here, with Isaac several chapters later, which is the same guy but he would probably be an old man. There is one in the time of the judges and there is one in David’s day. In the text we have before us I want to point out three main ideas to you. First, we are going to see the obviousness of God’s blessing upon Abraham’s life. Second, we find Abraham entering into a covenant with Abimelech and an offering of earnest money for the rights to a well and we’ll finish up by see Abraham publicly worshipping God again and calls God the El Olam or the Everlasting God. www.trainforeternity.com
There is a clear warning against the mocking of God’s people in this passage. This is not the only warning that the world is given. Thomas Brooks points out, “The old world scoffed and scorned at righteousness—and God sweeps them away with a flood. Ham mocked and scoffed at righteous Noah—and what did he get by it, but a curse? Ishmael scoffed at holy Isaac—and what did he get by his scoffing and mocking, but ejection out of Abraham’s family? And what became of those forty-two young scoffers that scoffed and mocked at holy Elisha? Were they not cursed in the name of the Lord, and torn in pieces by two she-bears which were more fierce and cruel than others? The Jews were given up to scoffing and mocking of the messengers of the Lord until there was no remedy: until old and young were destroyed by the sword of the Chaldeans; until their temple and city were burned and sacked, and thirty of them sold for a penny, etc., and those who escaped the sword were captivated and enslaved. Sennacherib scoffed and mocked at the virgin daughter of Zion—but his scoffs resulted in the destruction of his army by the hand of an angel, and in his own destruction by the hands of his two sons.” The warning is clear. God has put the world on notice: Mock his children and destruction will be your end. That is the bad news but the good news is that all those born of the spirit, all regenerated Christians, are children of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And because of that, we are free. We are from free the curse of sin. We are free from the condemnation of the law. We are not slaves, but free. We should not want the things of this world which are only chains to our souls. We are free from sin let us not run back to it. We must strive to kill sin and to love righteousness.www.trainforeternity.com
a. The laugh of mockery. Remember that it was fourteen years between the birth of Ishmael and the birth of Isaac. In those fourteen years, Hagar has submitted herself as a maidservant to Sarah. Over these years, the family has held together. Ishmael grew up in his father’s house and, even if there were tensions, it was not enough to cause a division. But after the birth of Isaac, emotions begin to get strained. Ishmael and Hagar both know what the birth of Isaac means. Ishmael will not be the heir to Abraham. After the birth of Isaac, the story jumps a few years into the future. Ishmael is around 16 or 17 years old as Isaac has been weaned from his mother. Abraham throws a great feast for his son. At this point we see laughter enter the story again but this time it is in the form of mockery from Ishmael toward Isaac. Sarah sees this happening and tells Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” b. The Separation from the World. What is going on here? Paul helps us with that in the book of Galatians chapter 4. 28 Now you,[f] brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.” Henry Law further explains, “In the sons we have the diverse seeds which separate mankind. Isaac images the heaven-born family—the sons of grace—the heirs of eternal righteousness in Christ. Ishmael is dark as the type of that sad progeny, the sons of nature, whose only hope centers in self and self’s performances. The parallel exhibits the black features of poor nature’s seed. They hate the light and would extinguish it. They persecute the lowly followers of the Lamb, and sincerely would chase them from the earth.” The promise was that Isaac was the chosen one. God had said that Ishmael would live against his relatives. Sarah, no matter what her motive for saying this was, is stating what God had already commanded Abraham. He had to be separate from all but God’s chosen. That brings us to the end of the story. Hagar and Ishmael are banned from Abraham’s tents. The pair head out into the wilderness. Soon the water is gone and they begin to feel life slipping from them. Hagar takes Ishmael and pulls him up under some shade and then she leaves him there for she cannot bear to watch him die. God sees (remember that’s Ishmael’s name) and he hears and acts. Hagar sees a well and fills her water skin and they are revived. And God is with Ishmael and he survives. God helps Ishmael physically and makes him into a great nation. He is the father of princes but spiritually, he is lost. His line would be the enemy of God’s people. Psalm 83:5-7 says, “For they conspire with one accord; against you, they make a covenant—the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites,Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre.” In the end, Lot’s descendants and Ishmael’s descendants join together to oppose Isaac and his descendants. Abraham’s separation from his family is complete. There is no possibility that Ishmael could be his heir. He has been weaned from his own plans and is now experiencing what God wants. www.trainforeternity.com
The text tells us how the birth of Isaac came about. He was born just as God had promised. Abraham was obedient to God and circumcised his son on the eighth day, naming him Isaac, or laughter, as God had said. Sarah declares that God had made laughter for her and that all that would hear that she had a baby in her old age would laugh as well. Who would have thought this could happen? The birth of Isaac not only fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham but taught Abraham many great spiritual truths. a. The Nature of God. First, we see that God is not in a rush to get things done like we are. For a timeless being, time does not constrain him or cause him concern. We need to think this way too. Isaiah 28:16 says, “therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ Second, God is omnipotent. Abraham was old and Sarah was past the age of childbearing and was barren. The actions of pagan kings and Abraham and Sarah themselves could not stop God. Nothing is too difficult for God and with him all things are possible. Third, God is faithful to his word. God said that Sarah would have a son at a certain time. What happened? Sarah had a son at a certain time. Fourth, God has made everything for a specific time. There is no such thing as chance. God’s plans are not contingent on the actions of people. We see God saying in chapters 17, 18, and 21 that Sarah would have Isaac at a set or appointed time. You can never go outside the plan of God. You might rebel against his character, but even the rebellious acts of men are in the plan of God. b. The Coming of Christ. Let’s take a moment and think about how the birth of Isaac foreshadowed the birth of Christ. God created this whole scenario to teach God’s people and prepare them for the coming of the Son. First, Isaac and Jesus were children of God’s promise. Remember Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Second, there was a long passage of time between the promise and its fulfillment. The people were to wait to see the promise come true. Third, both births were miraculous. Isaac came from a woman that was too old to have children. Jesus was born of a virgin. Fourth, both Sarah and Mary asked a question of “how could this be?” when they were told of their impending births. Both received and answer confirming the almighty power of God. Fifth, we go back to the idea of time. Isaac was born at the set time and Jesus was born in the fullness of time as Paul says in Galatians 4:4. Sixth, both of their names, their gender, and some of who they would be were announced before their conception. Seventh, Isaac was the laughter, the joy of Abraham. God the Father said of his Son, “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”