26 23Then Isaac went up from Gerar to Beer-sheba. 24 And YHWH was seen by him on that night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not. I am with you and will bless you, and I will multiply your seed, for the sake of Abraham, my servant.” 25 And Isaac built an altar there and called out the name of YHWH. Isaac pitched his tent there, and Isaac’s servants began digging a well.
26 And Abimelech came to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his aide and Phicol the commander of his troops. 27 Isaac said to him, “Why have you come to me when you hate me and sent me away from you.”
28 They said, “We have repeatedly seen that YHWH is with you and thought, ‘Let there be an oath between us and you.’ We want to cut a covenant with you, that you will do no harm to us, just as we have not harmed you. We have not touched you; we have only dealt well with you and sent you away in peace. You are blessed by YHWH.” 30 Isaac prepared a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31 They rose early in the morning and swore an oath to each other. Isaac sent them off, and they went from him in peace.
32 On that same day, Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had been digging and said to him, “We found water.” 33 He called it Shibah; therefore, the name of the city has been Beer-Sheba to this day.
The well at Rehoboth is a sign of open space between Isaac and Abimelech—both allies and adversaries. This tension is soon to become evident between the twins, Esau and Jacob. A question for Readers is whether Esau and Jacob will find space for each other.
Isaac was associated with Beer-Lahai-Roi after his biding. A famine brought them to Gerar. He left there and traveled to Beer-Sheba, where Abraham had gone after binding Isaac. This physical connection is confirmed with a night-vision of the G*D of Abraham, his father.
After receiving a specific blessing for himself, Isaac builds yet another altar at Beer-Sheba and begins to dig yet another well, or re-dig the well of Hagar and Ishmael.
While digging a well, Abimelech and his counselors, and, presumably, troops to protect them, come calling. A question arises about their intent. The last encounter between Isaac and Gerar resulted in being sent away and his wells destroyed.
YHWH’s blessing to protect Isaac’s seed begins by turning an antagonistic relationship to an oath-taking pact between the people of king Abimelech and the people of Isaac. There will be space enough for both.
A formal alliance followed a great feast. The peoples parted in peace.
With the completion of a political and military pact, the well is completed and water secured. We revisit a first naming of Beer-Sheba in Chapter 21 that left some confusion about emphasizing the number seven or the oath that was honored by the sacrifice of seven ewes. In this instance, there is a feast, not a sacrifice, and the name is connected only with oath-taking. To double down on space for the protection of Isaac’s seed, we can also return to the blessing Ishmael received in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba—to have his seed develop into a great nation.
Whew. All seems to be going well for Isaac after some tense times.