When I was 18, I was working at a manufacturing plant, and I stuck around there for over 2 years, and then went and worked a summer there after my freshmen year at NBC. It was a great job, I loved it. But like any secular workplace – there was politics.
Someone who was friends with the owner started, just as a labourer on the rotary ovens. But it became pretty clear, pretty fast to everyone that, because of his relationship with the boss, he was going to move up in the business quite fast.
Lots of guys, after noticing this, did what they could to get in his “good books” so that when he inevitably reached a position of authority, they’d be more secure in their position.
It wasn’t a bad move, because it went exactly how we all expected. He became manager of the department, and all the people in his good books were dealt with more favorably.
Lots of you have probably noticed that pattern at your job. For better or for worse, today we’re going to see that it’s actually an ancient pattern, as we look at Abimelech recognizing how God is prospering Abraham, and trying to make peace with him, or get in his “good books” ahead of time.
Abimelech, a pagan king, sees how large the household and authority of Abraham is growing, and makes a peace treaty with him, so that he can continue to live peaceably alongside Abraham.
Before we get into the text, let me provide you with some context that will put this event in it’s place, and bring some clarity as we walk through.
Our text starts with the words “at that time”… Some believe this happened almost simultaneously with our last text, when Ishmael and Hagar were cast out. Within the same month. Some believe that this event happens directly after our last text, maybe within a year.
Either way, it happens very close to the feast for Isaac, and the banishing of Ishmael. During the time of our text today, Abraham is still reveling in the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son. Isaacs just barely weened, probably walking. Abraham and Sarah are basking in some of the most precious years of raising children together, for the first time, at 90-something, and 100 years old (imagine trying to keep up with a toddler at 100 years old)!
God in many ways is growing Abrahams household, and Abimelech takes notice.
You’ll remember Abimelech from Genesis 20, where Abraham, not for the first time, pretends that Sarah is only his sister, which lead Abimelech to take her into his household, until God intervened to protect Sarah.
Soon after, Abimelech told Abraham and Sarah that they could dwell anywhere they wanted in the land (Genesis 20:15). Obviously at the time, Abimelech wasn’t too threatened by Abraham’s presence in the land. He’s just a wandering shepherd… what’s he going to do?
But after a little while, Abimelech seems to have changed his tune… There’s probably still some awkward tension between the two from what happened back in Genesis 20, when Sarah ended up in Abimelech’s house, and now he see’s Abraham’s authority and power growing, and growing fast, and thinks to himself “that’s happening in my back yard… I’d better go and make good with that guy” – and so he goes to make a peace treaty with Abraham.
So, Abraham and Abimelech act as our two big main characters today. Abraham’s our man of God, and Abimelech plays a neutral role. He doesn’t follow YHWH, and he’s a Pagan king – but he’s not a bad guy.
He’s only out to make peace with Abraham –. And as we’re about to see, just to be safe he brings the leader & commander of his army, Phicol to negotiate.
One more side note before we get into our text: There are a couple times where our text says “the land of the Philistines”. There are no Philistines in the land at the time of this passage. But when Moses was writing Genesis later, there were Philistines in the land. So he’s using that as a reference point for his audience, but this all takes place in the promised land.
So, with all of that in mind, let’s move to our first observation – “Abimelech recognizes Abraham”.
Abimelech Recognizes Abraham
22 At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do.
We can’t just graze over the fact that these Pagan authorities recognize that God is with Abraham in everything. They see (and rightly so) that God is the one blessing Abraham.
God is responsible for every member added to the house, every animal accumulated, every inch of influence and power, and most recently, for Abraham’s son Isaac.
Abimelech has probably heard of Isaac by now, confirming the supernatural help Abraham is receiving. It’s not ever day – or ever really – that a 100-year-old has a son.
So they see this all as God’s work – which helps lead us to the understanding, that they’re not only intimidated by Abraham, and his power. They have a healthy fear of the God of Abraham who’s working on his behalf.
Fair enough! As great an army as Phicol and Abimelech probably lead, you don’t want to be at odds with the God who brings babies from 100-year-olds. You don’t want to be at odds with the God who takes a wandering Hebrew, and builds him into a nation.
They admit that God is with Abraham – and so they ask to make a covenant with Abraham.
23 Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity, but as I have dealt kindly with you, so you will deal with me and with the land where you have sojourned.”
Abimelech recognizes here that Abraham has the upper hand.
The party asking for a favor is almost always the lesser party, and Abimelech has used his time, and his resources to travel to Abraham, and ask for this favor. Abraham is at least as powerful as Abimelech by now, and probably more powerful. And what does Abimelech as of Abraham?
That he wouldn’t be dishonest, or scheme-ish with Abimelech.
As good as Abrahams reputation is – as clear as it is that God is with him – it seems like Abimelech recalls Abrahams tendency for dishonesty from Genesis 20, and he’s saying “look Abraham… If we’re going to live in this land together, would you please deal honestly with me? No more schemes, or half truths. Would you please be kind to me, since I’ve been kind to you?”
Notice here that Abimelech didn’t just ask Abraham to deal kindly with him, but with his offspring and posterity (which is future generations of his family) also. What’s Abimelech recognizing here? Not only is Abraham blessed by God, but Abimelech realizes that Abraham’s lineage is secure.
“Abraham, your linniage is secure and blessed by God… It’s obviously going to be around for a long time in the region, so I need you to promise me – to swear by God – that your kids and grandkids are going to treat my kids and grandkids right after we’re gone”.
It’s just obvious to Abimelech that Abraham’s presence through himself, and through his offspring are going to be prominent in the land.
So, much like a co worker who clings to the new guy moving up – Abimelech sees Abraham moving up, and wants to do what he can to secure himself.
So, we have here Abraham, who a few chapters ago was just a wandering Hebrew – with a promise from God… And now kings are coming to him to ask him to be kind to them.
This should cause us to well up an “amen” to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29;
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
If you’re a feel like boasting because you’re Christian today – because you have a good ol’ upbringing – because you know your bible – or even if you feel like boasting because you had an awful upbringing, and you’re still a Christian – don’t.
Boast only in the Lord. Because the only reason you’re here today – the only reason I’m staring at fulfilled promises – at grains of sand, and at stars – is because God took a lowly Hebrew who was nothing, and used him to shame the powerful.
You – just like Abraham – are here because of grace.
And so, because of God’s faithfulness Abimelech is at Abrahams whim. And what does Abraham say to him?
24 And Abraham said “I will swear”.
Abimelech was kind to Abraham in Genesis 20, and so Abraham, like a true follower of his God shows kindness, and does unto others as he would have done unto himself.
But before they finalize this agreement with a covenant, Abraham has a bone to pick with Abimelech. There’s something to clear up before they proceed – an axe to burry. So, lets look at that in our next section;
Abraham Confronts Abimelech.
What was Abrahams issue? Verse 25 tells us that he “reproved (or complained to) Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech's servants had seized”.
So apparently Abraham had built a well on his land, and some of Abimelech’s servants took it from Abraham. The KJV accurately translates that Abimelech’s servants had “seized it violently.”
This doesn’t mean they dug it out of the ground and hauled it away, but his servants started treating Abraham’s land like it was their land. They took charge of the territory, and violently guarded the well, which in that land. A well that had water precious for the survival of Abraham, his household, and all of his animals.
So to put it in a modern context, imagine Abimelech hands Abraham a proposition, a contract – and just as Abraham goes to sign it, he looks over the paper across the table, and says “you know that well is mine, right? Because your servants took it.
I’ll deal kindly with you Abimelech, but you need to answer to me about my well, and deal honestly with me also”. Note that Abraham is finally growing a spine here! In chapter 12 and 20, rebuked by kings, and in chapter 21, rebuking kings himself.
But it looks like Abimelech didn’t even know about this incident!
26 Abimelech said, “I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, and I have not heard of it until today.”
In other words “Abraham, I didn’t even know about this – I just found out now through you!”
Isn’t this how it goes so often? You have an issue with someone – it’s been burning in your chest, and you finally work up the courage to go and talk with them. And as soon as you sit down and get it all out, they look at you and say “I wish you told me sooner. I had no idea!”
So Abraham and Abimelech have here is not so much of a conflict, but more of a misunderstanding. They’re going to have to work this misunderstanding out to move on, so let’s see how they do this:
27 So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a covenant.
They cut a covenant here, and as we’ve noted before, covenants were common in the ancient world, so that’s exactly what they did.
And Abraham, the greater party, gives a gift to Abimelech to seal the deal. To bury the hatchet, make peace and move on.
Abraham knows this land, through God, is his land, and he’s finally walking with his chin up like that’s true! And still, at the same time, he’s not too full of himself to make peace. He’s walking in a humble confidence. A confidence in God’s working on his behalf, and that allows him to be peaceable.
But he’s still not totally satisfied about their discussion over the well, so look what he does about it in verses 28-30 in section C.
An Issue Well Settled.
28 Abraham set seven ewe lambs (The Hebrew word for seven here is “Sheba”, hold onto that thought) of the flock apart.
29 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?”
30 He said, “These seven ewe lambs you will take from my hand, that this may be a witness for me that I dug this well.”
Abraham is using these ewe lambs, (young female lambs, that would be valuable for propagating herds) to buy the well from Abimelech.
You might be thinking “buy it from him?... Isn’t it already his?” Yes it is. And Abraham and Abimelech both know that. But just in case there is ever any future confusion on who owns the well, these ewe lambs will serve as a testimony, as a representation that Abraham owns this well.
Abraham is settling the misunderstanding, and making peace – and it’s coming from his own pockets. He’s making peace at his own expense, when the well is already rightfully his.
A note we can take from our patriarch today is that for followers of God, peace is paramount to our rights. Abraham gladly gives a gift for what’s already his, to clear confusion, and bring peace to the land.
But one day Abraham is going to die. And Abimelech. And the little ewe lambs too. So, Abraham names the area of the well after the oath they swore over it that day.
31 Therefore that place was called Beersheba, because there both of them swore an oath.
“Beersheba” is actually two Hebrew words.
“Beer” means “well.”
And, like we looked at before the word for seven is “Sheba”, representing the seven lambs given to Abimelech.
The word for “oath” is “Shibu”, and uses the same Hebrew letters as the word for “seven”
Some of you probably see a footnote that translates it “well”, and some probably see a footnote translating it “seven”
So, is it “well of the seven”, or “well of the oath”? Its both, it’s a play on words.
And now, the name of the land will always represent the oath that Abimelech and Abraham made over this well, so that their children, and grand children don’t war over this well once their gone.
Does that seem like a lot of hassle over a well? It’s not – for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, like we’ve looked at, the well is a precious source of water in the southlands where water is scarce. But why else would this well be so important to Abraham?
Think of this – this well, as far as we know, is the first permanent landmark that Abraham has put on the land.
He and his people live in tents, and move around. But a well can’t go anywhere. It’s a sign of permanence. It represents long term commitment to stay in the land.
This well is a landmark of Abrahams faith strengthening, as he stops his wondering and begins to settle in the land. You think he’s going to let it go so easily? No way.
This well represents more for Abraham than water. It represents the land God’s giving him. It represents his faith. It represents God’s promises to him. And so, they’ve ironed out an agreement, and Abraham, for a pretty penny, keeps his well.
32 So they made a covenant at Beersheba. Then Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army rose up and returned to the land of the Philistines.
It seems this covenant was good enough for both parties, so everyone goes home. They have a peace treaty, and they’ve buried the hatchet. And for now, there is peace in the land.
To see how Abraham takes advantage of the peace in the land, let’s look at verses 33-34 in section D.
Dedication & Worship
33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.
How does Abraham take advantage of the current peace? He calls on the name of the everlasting God. He prays. He worships.
Now what about this tamarisk tree? What’s that got to do with anything? I believe that it’s symbolic of 2 things – 1) Abraham’s resolve, and 2) devotion to the everlasting God.
A tamarisk tree can grow up to 30 feet tall. Their shade has a way bigger reach, and is way cooler than many other trees. They’re extremely durable. They can withstand drought, heat, flood.
A tamarisk tree can live well over 100 years. So basically, they make a presence, and they’re not going anywhere for a long time, no matter what comes their way.
As for Abrahams resolve, this tree is a symbol of him “putting his roots down” so to speak. Him planting this long-lasting tree represents his resolve to stay in the land for a long time.
Abraham’s finally starting to settle down. A man who was in and out of the land in tents is now installing permanent wells, and planting trees.
He’s resolving to remain in the land, come flood, come drought, come trial. It’s a sign of commitment – “no more wandering around God. I’m in the land you called me to, and I’m staying.” It’s a sign of faith-based commitment – a sign of tethering himself to what God has called him to.
Scholars also agree, that Abraham is saying something about God here by planting the tree. – it represents something of his everlastingness:
When Abraham dies, and Isaac is a grown man – the Tamarisk tree will still be there overcasting a shade. When Isaac has Jacob, the tree will still be there.
This tree is a testimony from Abraham that his God is everlasting, and no matter what comes, God will be there with Abraham, and not only Abraham, but his offspring after him, until the nations are blessed!
The tree will wither and die. It’s just a symbol – but our God is the same God that was with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, the apostles, the early church, the God who was with Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and who is still with us.
He really has seen this plan through generation after generation, managing and ensuring every step to every promise. He is God everlasting.
And lastly, verse 34 ends us with Abraham staying put in the land;
34 And Abraham sojourned many days in the land of the Philistines.
So that’s our passage today. This is not the same Abraham we’ve been seeing up until now, and next week we’ll see his faith grow even more, as God grows him.
Through God’s faithfulness, kings are recognizing Abraham’s power, and influence, and Abraham is walking and talking like the land is his. And not only is he acting like the land is his – he does so in a spirit of peacemaking. Making peace at his own expense, and attempting to make sure that peace lasts.
So, on the note of Abrahams peacemaking, let’s look at our truths for today.
Truth for Today.
Making Pilgrim Peace
Proverbs 16:7 – “When a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
Bruce Waltke translates the end of this verse as “his enemies sue for peace with him”, meaning when a man of God walks with God, his enemies approach Him to ensure that they’re at peace with him.
And we’ve seen that today with Abimelech coming all the way to Abraham to make a covenant. The people of God have peacemaking follow them! They attract peace!
As we looked at Abraham and Abimelech negotiate today, we seen a more confident Abraham pursuing peace! And when we look at the New Testaments instruction to believers, God expects nothing less from us!
Matthew 5:9 - “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
You want to be a son of your father in heaven? Go out of your way to make peace.
Hebrews 12:14 - Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Do you see that the holiness that the people of God will not see God without is tied to striving for peace with everyone!
So what does this peacemaking actually look like? Well let’s start by taking some ques from Abraham and how he made peace today.
Believers should agree to requests for peaceful relationships.
Abimelech approached Abraham for peace, and instead of telling him to go away, Abraham was glad to make peace with him. Even through the awkward tension. Even though they had past baggage.
Believer – never turn someone away who desires peace. Never say no to someone trying to reconcile with you. No matter your past with that person – no matter what awkward stuff has come before you are to make peace with them.
Believers should try to restore peace when it is disrupted.
Abimelech’s servants took Abrahams well as their own. And instead of holding it in, and resenting Abimelech – instead of making war on Abimelech, what does Abraham do? He talks to Abimelech about it, and makes peace. Again, at his own expense, by giving Abimelech the ewe lambs.
Believer – if you have any tension in any of your relationships, don’t wait. Don’t harbor anger, don’t resent, don’t leave anything unforgiven, don’t leave anything un-apologized for.
Matthew 5:23-24 says; “So, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Whenever there is a disruption in a relationship, be quick to make peace a priority.
Believers must use peace and prosperity to serve God.
What did Abraham do with the peace in the land? He called on God’s name! He worshipped the everlasting God.
You and I are to take advantage of peace in the same way.
1 Timothy 2:1-2; “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Live well and peacefully in the land! Pray that the people of God could live at peace even with the politicians that we don’t like! Through prayer pursue peace in the land so that you can use that peace to worship God with your life, living Godly and dignified in every way!
Peace! Be people of peace!
Romans 12:8 - If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
You may think there are situations in your life where peace with someone is impossible, so you don’t even try. Well people can be difficult, and sometimes total peace isn’t always going to be achieved. But if that’s the case, never let it be because you didn’t pursue peace.
You worry about yourself and do everything you can to attain peace, so if there must be a lack of peace, you are in the clear, and have done everything you could have.
The Word of God commends you this morning to leave here, and make peace wherever you need to make peace.
Now all of this is good and true, and must be applied. But so far we’ve taken pointers from Abraham, who lived in a covenant that was “come and see”. Abimelech came to him to make peace. So we’ve looked at how to make peace in the situations that come into our life in our inner circle.
But we live in the New Covenant, which is a go and tell Covenant. A “go and make peace” covenant! In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul say’s we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation! That means we’ve been given the ministry of going and pleading with the world to make peace with King Jesus!
Abimelech saw Abraham growing in power and authority, and it made him nervous, because he wasn’t at peace with Abraham, so he went and made peace with Abraham while he could.
King Jesus currently has all power and authority, and that should make the world nervous since they’re not at peace with Him!
So GO and make peace! Tell them that Jesus reigns and they need to come to terms with Him and reconcile while there’s still time! Tell them He’s already made peace by the blood of His cross if they would make peace with Him!
If you’re here and you haven’t reconciled with king Jesus, waste no time! Make peace with Him!
Peace! Be people of peace!
This brings us to our last point – THE EVERLASTING GOD
2. The Everlasting God.
Making peace is hard. That’s why it says to strive for peace. It wont fall in your lap. Making peace with friends and family is hard.
Preaching the gospel to make peace between God and the world is even harder.
The path of peace is a difficult path. Peace takes elbow grease.
So when you’re weary, where do you look? Who do you turn to? You go to the God of Abraham. The everlasting God.
Let me read again our call to worship from this morning.
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.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 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.
As you run the marathon of peace – as you fight, sweat, and bleed for peace. Remember to turn to your only source of strength. The everlasting God.