Sins of the Father
Once again famine strikes. Isaac must return to Gerar, and he realizes the promised land won’t be for him. Perhaps Esau, or his children.
Isaac remembers the lie his father told to the new Abimelech’s father. He says, “Your Majesty, my house and I cannot thrive during a famine out there. Our animals will starve if we do not die of thirst.”
The Abimelech rose and shouted, “Of course! Ishmael, it is good to see you. I have not seen you since we were both boys. It is good to see you, man.”
They embraced, and the king insisted on a feast, music, and welcoming them before he would hear a word of any favors.
He grants Isaac some vast lands to the south, much of it the same fields he had grown up upon. His heart is torn, but he does not feel it. It tears quietly, while he’s distracted being homesick for a land that is not promised to him.
Isaac grows sullen, and takes it out on people he loves, then people he likes, those in his employ, and even the slaves and neighbors. Why must he be destined to leave, to go back to Canaan. That was father’s obsession. Who knows if he ever really heard God or had those visions.
Isaac’s lack of care, not just for them, for the land, but mostly his scarcely hidden scorn for life, the land, their community. They could not blame the Abimelech, not if they wished to live. They much preferred Abimelech being happy with them, so they decided that Isaac was a better target.
When the Abimelech summons Isaac, the king says, “My people tell me they’ve grown jealous of your wealth. They struggle, you prosper. I know this is not an easy request, but you will be safer if you move further away. Divest yourself of neighbors.
So, Isaac tells his household where to move. Jacob complains, trying to convinced someone that fighting back would be better.
They find a new place to camp, near one of father’s old wells. After a few days, some servants get sick before its discovered the well has gone toxic. They move on, and another well gets poisonned. This time they were certain the water was clean.
They go even further, and further. One night, after a move they finally catch a man in the act, trying to poison the well. But Isaac can think of no punishment. To bring him to the Abimelech, or to punish him, or to let him go, his neighbors would either seek revenge, claim injustice, or increase the force of their attacks. So, the sneak is let go and they move several days south, near the borders of Philistine, too far for petty revenge, not far enough to escape his father’s wells.
After a few months the Abimelech arrives with riders: “Where have you been, man!”
Isaac motions around him.
Abimelech laughs: “This is ridiculous. I commend you for not harming any of my people, you would have had the right! Come! Stay with me in my royal court, you will be my brother, my guest, every need will be met, every protection that is mine will be yours.
Isaac kneels and touches his feet. Abimelech starts to stop him, but Isaac gives a look that says: Don’t. He says, almost like a prayer: “You are too kind, brother. My place is here. It is quiet. I can feel God here. For any other reason, I would accept your generosity with humility and gratitude.
“I don’t know why, but I need to stay here.”
He realizes God has returned to his heart. He worried about being a coward, or weak. His father would have fought. But he feels God in his heart, glowing bright, nothing else can be seen.