What a way to start the second half of Genesis, with a story we’ve heard twice before. OK, stop me if you’ve heard this one, a married couple settle in a town as aliens, but the man is afraid that the townspeople will kill him so he says that his wife is his sister. Yeah.
Once again, it’s Abimelech who was on the receiving end of this deception, but this time it’s Isaac and Rebekah pulling it.
8 When Isaac had been there a long time, King Abimelech of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw him fondling his wife Rebekah. 9 So Abimelech called for Isaac, and said, “So she is your wife! Why then did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought I might die because of her.”Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (Gen. 26, 8-9, p. 72). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
You would think that Abimelech would be wise to these shenanigans, but he’s not.
Isaac planted crops and reaped a lot more than he planted. He got rich with plants and flocks and herds and the Philistines hated him, so they cut off his water supply by filling in all of the wells that Abraham dug (or rather, Abraham’s servants). So Isaac moved and dug new wells (or rather his servants), but the shepherds told him that the water was theirs. This is pretty much the same story as it was in chapters 12 and 20. I hope we’re done with it now. One note up to this point, according to the Oxford Bible Commentary, the Philistines that King Abimelech led are not the same as the tribe of Goliath.
Finally in this chapter, Esau ended up adding more fuel to my upcoming marriage sermon by marrying two Hittite women. Apparently, Rebekah didn’t like them, but we really get no elaboration on that.
We come to the chapter where Isaac is old and wants to give his blessing to Esau, but he can’t do it yet because he wants to have a feast. Rebekah overhears the exchange and hatches a plan that involves more repetition about savory food such as his father loved. We all know the story, food, brother’s clothes, goat skins because Jacob isn’t hairy. Isaac, God’s chosen one whom he has blessed, is fooled by a kid in kid’s clothing.
Referring back to AJ Jacob’s book, The Year Of Living Biblically, the author talked with one of his rabbi consultants about this story. In Hebrew tradition, Jacob was the wise choice to inherit his father’s fortune. Esau was wild and erratic, and remember, he sold his birthright for stew. I hope that was the greatest stew that he ever ate in his entire life, because that’s all he ever got.
Anyway, Jacob was smart enough to hightail it before Esau came home. The good news is that Isaac eats twice. The bad news is that Esau was pissed. I do wonder how legal this story is. I mean, Jacob deceived his blind father into blessing him. Couldn’t Isaac rescind his blessing if he wanted to and call the sale of Esau’s birthright to Jacob for stew invalid? I might have to discuss this with a legal expert. Rebekah sends Jacob away to stay with Uncle Laban (her brother) in Haran until Esau gets over it…gets over losing his birthright for stew and losing his father’s blessing due to some strategically placed goat skins.
Isaac officially blesses Jacob and forbids him from marrying a Canaanite woman and instead directs him to marry one of his cousins. I mean, I guess he has to keep it in the family. Also, hey, what’s wrong with Canaanite women?
Meanwhile, Esau married one of Ishmael’s daughters, which would make her his half-cousin, I guess. This means that he now has three wives.
Jacob sleeps at a “certain place” and has the ladder dream which is just more “I will give you this land” because of course he will. Also, Jacob uses a rock for a pillow (which is softer than many pillows I’ve slept on in hotel rooms) which he them poured oil on. He called the place Bethel even though this “certain place” was already called Luz. This chapter ends with another reference to tithing.