Richard Agee

Genesis 21:22–34: Abraham makes seven-fold covenant with Abimelech at Beersheba

What is this story about? It’s easy to miss something if we don’t carefully note what the first verse says, “Now it came about at that time that Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, spoke to Abraham, saying, “God is with you in all that you do” The Bible doesn’t waste words. We see Abimelech the King of the Philistines and his “commander of his army.” Who is this man really? One clue is in his name Phicol. His name literally means “mouth of all” (Strongs H6369). He was Abimelech’s spokesperson.

Another clue about Phicol’s importance is in his English title, often translated as “commander of (Abimelech’s) army.” The word that is translated as “commander” is the Hebrew word sar (Strongs H8269) which would be more literally translated a “prince, leader, or chief.” Most likely Phicol is a relative of Abimelech and therefore his words would carry profound authority. He is more than just a commander of an army.

This story is a continuation of Abraham’s friendship/relationship with Abimelech. In verse 22 Abimelech acknowledges Abraham’s profoundly close relationship with God. In their first meeting, Abraham had withheld a very important piece of information from Abimelech and that omission got Abimelech into lots of trouble with God. Abimelech asks Abraham, “now therefore, swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my offspring or with my posterity, but according to the kindness that I have shown to you, you shall show to me and to the land in which you have sojourned.” Abimelech wants to establish a covenant with Abraham.

Abraham is not just a wealthy nomad, Abraham was a warlord after he conquered the five kings that had conquered Sodom and the five cities of the plain. Abimelech also knew that Elohim, who called Abraham His prophet, had destroyed those cities Himself with fire and brimstone.

Abimelech asks Abraham to promise not to “deal falsely” with him. The Hebrew word for “deal falsely” is shaqar (Strongs H8266). Abraham agrees to make this covenant with Abimelech but there’s one matter he wants to discuss with Abimelech first.

We read in verse 25, “But Abraham complained to Abimelech because of the well of water which the servants of Abimelech had seized.” Sometime underlings will act outside their authority and abuse people but when Abimelech hears of the problem, the Bible tells us “And Abimelech said, ‘I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, nor did I hear of it until today.’”  This is the second time that Abraham withheld information from Abimelech under things had gotten really bad and out of control.

After Abraham and Abimelech’s last meeting, Abimelech gave Abraham sheep and oxen. This time, Abraham is the one giving sheep and oxen to Abimelech for a sacrifice but Abraham also set aside an additional seven ewe lamb for Abimelech. Abimelech notices this and asks Abraham what he is doing, Abraham said, “You shall take these seven ewe lambs from my hand so that it may be a witness to me, that I dug this well.”

Abraham and Abimelech name this place Beersheva, which means “well of seven.” (Strongs H884) which implies a completeness. Abraham also planted a tamarisk tree there. This is a very large tree. That tree was a picture of something. Trees lived a very long time, they are often a witness to an event long after the participants in the original planting are gone.

Abraham planted that tree to remind himself of the fact that this was a place where he called upon the everlasting God. The word translated as “everlasting” is the word olam. We often translate this word as “forever” (Strong’s H5769) but there’s another meaning of the word, which is concealed, or hidden. If you live in a valley, you can’t see “forever” because the mountains block your view but once you climb the mountain, your view is expanded but you still can’t see forever because what’s beyond the horizon is hidden from view.


Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy

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