7 And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.

8 And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.

9 And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.

10 And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.

11 And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.

Isaac repeats the same pattern as Abraham, informing the people of Gerar that Rebekah is his sister (technically she is his first-cousin-one-removed) instead of his wife.

When I first read this passage, I noted that the king here was named Abimelech, the same as when Abraham passed through this land. I thought it amusing that he would have been tricked twice by Abraham and his son, however, a little research reveals that Abimelech was a common name among the Philistines, also being the name of another king in the time of David. Thus it could be another king with the same name, or perhaps the name was actually a title, much like “Pharaoh” for the Egyptian kings.

I also assumed that the phrase “Isaac was sporting with his wife” was a euphemism for some sort of physical intimacy. But as it turns out, the word used in the original Hebrew is צְחַק or tsachaq, which means “to laugh.” So, it seems more accurate to say that Isaac and Rebekah were laughing, joking and/or playing together, in such a way that he could tell they were closer than just siblings.

Something else interesting is that the Hebrew word tsachaq is the same word used to describe when Sarah laughed after God said that she would bear a son in her old age. And then, when Isaac was born, he was named after that moment. His name in Hebrew is Yitschaq. Here is how the two words (tsachaq and Yitschaq) are written in the Hebrew language:


Isaac’s name literally means “he laughs,” and this phrase about him sporting with Rebekah can be read as “he-laughs was laughing with his wife.” It is an amusing sentence.

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