Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 42:36-38

36 And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.

37 And Reuben spake unto his father, saying, Slay my two sons, if I bring him not to thee: deliver him into my hand, and I will bring him to thee again.

38 And he said, My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left alone: if mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave.

It seems that Reuben was in favor of immediately returning to Egypt, proving that their youngest brother existed, and getting Simeon out of bondage. But this was a risk too great for Jacob. He had lost one son, and now a second, and he would rather cut his losses here than risk losing a third!

Reuben still contends the matter, though. Simeon is Reuben’s blood brother, both being the sons of Leah. Simeon was also the very next son born after Reuben, the nearest to him of all his brethren. Thus, of all his brothers, Simeon might be the one that Reuben has the most motivation to get free.

Perhaps the brothers had evil intentions towards Joseph in the past, but Reuben makes it clear that he harbors no such ill will for Benjamin. He is willing to put his own sons on the line, committing them to death if he doesn’t keep his promise and bring Benjamin back safe and sound! With such an oath we can be sure he truly intended to let no harm come to the boy.

And in Reuben’s oath there seems to be a messianic representation. A father is willing to put the life of his own son on the line in order to save another child. It is a moving offer, yet it is not enough to sway Jacob. For even if Reuben’s heart is in the right place, and he will not personally cause harm to Benjamin, he cannot claim to have power over all the other factors in the world. He could really try his best to preserve his younger brother, but mischief might still “befall him by the way.”

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 31:43-44, 46, 48, 52-53

43 And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born?

44 Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.

46 And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.

48 And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;

52 This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.

53 The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.

After Jacob’s impassioned criticism Laban responds with an endearing gesture. He reminds Jacob that his family is Laban’s family, too, and he could not harm Jacob without damaging his daughters and grandchildren as well.

But clearly, a rift has grown between the two men, and Laban proposes a solemn covenant to preserve the peace between them. They erect an altar and make a pledge that neither of them will cross it to the other’s domain with an intention of harm.

Verse 53 I consider to be a particularly significant passage. Laban invokes their two ancestral fathers: Abraham and Nahor, who were brothers, and also Terah, who was the father of them both. These two lines have continued to have interactions from time-to-time, but now it is an end of an era. Laban and Jacob are wise to recognize that the relationship is strained, and so it is best of everybody that the two lines go their separate ways.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 26:26-33

26 Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army.

27 And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?

28 And they said, We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee;

29 That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the Lord.

30 And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink.

31 And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.

32 And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac’s servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water.

33 And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba unto this day.

The king spoke flattering of himself and his court, mentioning that they have done “nothing but good” to Isaac, which was clearly untrue. Isaac had been told to go away from Abimelech because he had been increasing in strength more quickly than Abimelech was comfortable with. Then, out in the wild, Isaac had had to compete with the herdmen for the ownership of his own wells. He had been insulted and hurt by these people on more than one occasion, which explains his skepticism when approached by this entourage of the king.

The king’s motive in this scene seems clear. Even after being cast out into the wild, Isaac had increased under the hand of the Lord. His growth in wealth and power had made the king even more uneasy, and so the ruler deemed it wise to obtain a treaty of peace before things got out of hand. The fact that the king brought with him the captain of his armies makes me wonder if Isaac was being forced to choose between a peace treaty or a declaration of war!

In short, the king was not here out of sincere friendship, he was here for his own motives. But Isaac was mature enough to look past the offenses of the past and do what was prudent for him, his household, and the people of Gerar. A pledge of peace really is the best outcome for everyone. So he hosts a feast for his guests, agrees to the pact, and a delicate situation is resolved.

And then, as if in response to his decency, Isaac is blessed with yet another well. He named it Shebah, which means oath. But I do not believe he was naming it after the oath he had just made with the king of the philistines. I imagine he named it after the oath that actually mattered to him, the one that had caused him to flower in the desert, the one that blessed him with wells when he treated his rude neighbors with decency. He was referring to the oath between him and God.