Abraham’s Agreement With Abimelech

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Abimelech takes Philcol, his military advisor with him to meet Abraham (v. 22). Apparently he was afraid of Abraham and thought that at some opportune time Abraham would zap him (vv. 23-24). It seems that Abraham had dug a well and Abimelech’s men had violently wrestled it from him (v. 25). Being confronted with this Abimelech denies all knowledge of the incident and signed a contract with Abraham confirming Abraham’s right to the well (vv. 26-27). It is questionable whether he had any intention of honoring this contract but at least it looked good on paper. Abraham sets apart seven female lambs (v. 28) and Abimelech questions him about it (v. 29).Abraham told him to take these as proof that he had dug the well (v. 30).

This contract was made in Beersheba, which was the most southern city of Israel (v. 31). It lay on the edge of a vast wilderness that stretched from Egypt to the southwest and Mount Sinai to the south. The phrase from Dan to Beersheba was often used to describe the boundaries of the Promised Land ( II Samuel 17:11). Beersheba’s southern location and the presence of several wells explains why Abraham settled there. Beersheba was also the home of Isaac. After this Abimelech rose up with his chief captains and returned to the land of the Philistines (v. 32). Probably these two congratulated each other on having gotten the best of Abraham. After this Abraham planted a tamarisk tree, worshiped the Lord there and lived for a long time in the land of the Philistines (vv. 33-34).


Sincerity in my relationship with others is more important than any agreement that I may sign. I am not responsible for what the other person may or may not do but I must be very careful to carry out my end of the bargain.

Genesis 21:22-34 (English Standard Version)

At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, "God is with you in all that you do. 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." And Abraham said, "I will swear." When Abraham reproved Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech's servants had seized, 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." So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a covenant. Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock apart. And Abimelech said to Abraham, "What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?" 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." Therefore that place was called Beersheba, because there both of them swore an oath. 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. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned many days in the land of the Philistines.

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