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geniture for the satisfaction of the moment. We cannot help condemning Jacob; yet though we pity Esau, our pity is weakened when we see his utter indifference to all the higher prerogatives of his birth ; he did not possess the qualities essential to a descendant of Abraham, the destined father of a holy nation; he was as unworthy as he was unmindful of propagating the noble truths entrusted to his race; but although this was evident to the more cultivated and more aspiring Jacob, he debased himself in the eyes of God by trying to fulfil the prophecy of his birth by his own unjustifiable means. For Jacob, unlike Abraham, was insincere and ambitious; great sorrows and manifold trials were necessary to elevate his faith and purify his life.
16. ISAAC) IN GERAR.
Once again there was a famine in the land, just such another scourge as there had been in the days of Abraham, when he wandered southward into Egypt. But Isaac was commanded by God not to enter into that country of superstition and idolatry; so he left Beerlahai-roi, and went to Gerar to the king Abimelech, who had been so devoted an ally of the great patriarch. Before Isaac set forth with his vast possessions, God blessed him and promised to fulfil all the pledges He had given to Abraham-because Abraham obeyed My voice, and observed My observances, My commandments, My statutes, and My doctrines.' So Isaac settled in Gerar; but like his father Abraham, he dreaded the people’s recklessness, and apprehended they might kill him for the sake of his beautiful wife Rebekah. So he resorted to the same stratagem, and made her pass for
his sister. But his true relation with Rebekah was discovered; and as before, the worshipper of the true God was reproved by the heathen king. Abimelech, however, not only allowed the patriarch to dwell in his land, but gave him his powerful protection. Thus in Gerar Isaac's numerous tents were pitched, and his flocks and herds grazed in undisturbed tranquillity.
Meanwhile the two brothers Esau and Jacob grew in years and in vigour. We may suppose that Esau followed the chase with the Philistine hunters; while Jacob dwelt among the tents, and cultivated the rich and blooming land which rewarded the husbandman's industry a hundredfold, and was an unfailing source of wealth and influence.
When the Philistines saw the stranger becoming exceedingly great, they envied him and showed their illfeeling by trying to vex and molest him. As a rich herdsman, Isaac must have taken possession of a large number of wells, which were of course indispensable for the maintenance of his cattle. Most of these wells had been dug by the servants of Abraham, who had jealously guarded them from the herdsmen of Abimelech. But the envious Philistines, not daring to make an open struggle for the wells, had secretly stopped them up with earth. Abimelech, foreseeing serious contentions, said to Isaac: «Go from us; for thou art mightier than we.' Peaceful and animated by good-will towards the king, Isaac left the district which was yielding him such rich harvests, and went down into the valley of Gerar, where he fixed his abode. But here again the wells became a cause of strife: the Philistines had stopped up those which Abraham had dug, so that the herdsmen of Isaac had to recommence their labours. And when at last the refreshing springs burst forth from the depths of the valley, the herdsmen of Gerar claimed the water as their
Isaac gave to the well the appropriate name of Esek (contention), and with his usual meekness he left it to commence his work afresh. But again the native herdsmen took possession of the well, which Isaac called Sitnah (strife). Anxious to avoid further dissensions, he removed to another part of the valley, where he again dug a well. This time his gentle forbearance was rewarded; he was not annoyed by the Philistines, and he gave to the happy spot the name Rchoboth (enlargement), exclaiming with pious gratitude, . For now the Lord has enlarged us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.' Near this spot was Beer-sheba, where Abraham and Abimelech had made their covenant of peace.
Here the great patriarch had built an altar to God and had invoked His
At this sacred place, Isaac was favoured with a Divine vision : the Lord appeared, bidding him to be firm and fearless, for he was blessed as the son of Abraham. Beneath the shade of the tamarisk-tree which his father had planted, he built up an altar where he paid homage to the name of the Lord, and there he remained, and there again he dug a well.
Whilst living at Beer-sheba, in his quiet and sacred retirement, three powerful men came to him, the king Abimelech, his councillor Ahuzzath, and the general of his army Pichol. Isaac, astonished at their arrival, at once imagined some evil design, and asked distrustfully, • Wherefore do you come to me,
hate have sent me away from you?' But the king had come in peace and friendship. Convinced that Isaac was under the special protection of the Lord, he longed for his alliance; therefore he renewed with him the covenant which he had made before with Abraham. As a sign of friendship the Philistines ate and drank with the patriarch, and before their departure on the following morning, they swore fidelity one to another. In commemoration
of the oath, the well dug at that spot was called Shibah, harmonising with Beer-sheba, the name of the city.--The two sons of Isaac, who had evidently lived with their father in the land of the Philistines, are not mentioned in all these transactions; but Esau must have dwelt much among strangers, for he took two wives, Judith and Basemath, both Hittite maidens, daughters of idolaters. He thus estranged himself more than ever from the chosen family, and brought by his unhappy marriage grief and sorrow upon Isaac and Rebekah.
17. THE BLESSING OF ISAAC.
[GENES. XXVII.] The Bible, although it is the story of the chosen people, although it tells us of the wonderful blessings conferred by God upon the patriarchs, upon those men who handed down the worship of the true and everlasting God from generation to generation, never omits recording the errors and the failings of the favoured race or of the founders of its glory : it does not seek to extol that which deserves condamnation; nor does it try to excuse what is open to censure or scorn. Jacob was called the righteous man ; he possessed the superior refinement of soul and the elevation of mind necessary for the heir of his father's great spiritual treasures; he was, like Isaac and Abraham, to be the elected of the Lord, guided by Him, blessed, strengthened, taught by Him. But Jacob was not graced by the purity of heart, the grand and simple faith which distinguished Abraham, nor by the gentle and pious selfdenying spirit of Isaac. The story of the pottage by which he purchased the birth-right, is followed by another incident more painful still for those who would fain love and venerate the grandchild of Abraham, the father of Joseph.
Isaac had become an old man stricken with years. His eyes were dim so that he could not see, and he felt that his life was waning. So he wished to give to his first born Esau his blessing before he died. It was and still is the custom among eastern nations to ratify compacts and covenants by a meal; and hence, when a parent is about to bestow upon his child his final blessing, which in some respects partakes of the character of a covenant, the same means of ratification is not unusually adopted. Therefore, the aged patriarch called his son and said : “Behold, I pray thee, I am old, I know not the day of my death : and therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field and hunt for me some venison; and make me a palatable meal, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless thee before I die.' Away sped the hunter Esau to do his father's bidding. But Rebekah had listened in the seclusion of the tent when Isaac spoke, and in a moment her resolve was taken. Esau should not receive the blessing, which, as she believed, belonged even from his birth to her younger and dearer son. She went to Jacob, and hastily related to him what she had heard, and then she continued : Listen to my voice, according to that which I command thee. Go, I pray thee, to the flocks, and fetch me from there two good kids of the goats, and I will make them a palatable meal for thy father, such as he loves. And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death. Jacob heard this wily scheme, not with indignation or repugnance, but only with fear that it might not be successful. Esau was a hairy man, and Jacob a smooth man : would not the blind father, when stretching forth his hands towards his child, discover the deception, and would not then the blessing be changed into a curse ? Rebekah was the bolder and more resolute spirit; she replied to Jacob's