Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:9-10

9 And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them.

10 And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.

As mentioned yesterday, Jacob wasn’t able to secure the private conversation he had wanted with Rachel, but as soon as she appeared he was moved to do something dramatic for her. The other shepherds had already told him that the stone was not to be removed until all the other sheep were gathered, but he disregarded that custom and rolled the great rock back all on his own, then watered all of Rachel’s flocks for her.

Of course, this romantic gesture hardly compares to his later one when he serves seven years, then seven years again to marry her. I never really thought about it before, but while many consider the Old Testament to be a cold and distant book of scripture, it is actually full of many tender gestures of love, just like these. There was Adam and Eve facing the fallen world hand-in-hand, the way that Abraham handled the responsibility of buying a grave for his lifelong companion Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah’s love-at-first-sight meeting, these stories of Jacob and Rachel, and later we will later have Ruth and Boaz’s love story. Genuine love, and even romantic love, is at the core of many of the greatest Old Testament stories.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:1-2, 5-8

1 Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east.

2 And he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth.

5 And he said unto them, Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We know him.

6 And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep.

7 And he said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them.

8 And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered together, and till they roll the stone from the well’s mouth; then we water the sheep.

After being initiated into the Abrahamic covenant by God, Jacob arrives at Haran, his destination. Immediately there are many similarities between how his wife is found in this land, and how his father Isaac’s was.

In both cases Jacob and the servant of Abraham happened upon a well, almost immediately before the spouse-to-be arrived. And in both cases that lady was coming to water the flocks of her father. The good fortune in each of these experiences suggests divine intervention.

To Jacob this blessing from God seems particularly meaningful. As mentioned before, he has just come from a sacred introduction to his maker, in which God has promised to keep him and increase him, and right away Jacob is seeing the fulfillment of that.

One can’t help but wonder whether Jacob’s suggestion that the shepherds water their flock and take them grazing was a ploy to get them out of the way, allowing him to meet Rachel in privacy. Unfortunately, that tactic did not work, but as we will see tomorrow, he found another way to cultivate romance instead!

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.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 21:27-31

27 And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.

28 And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.

29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?

30 And he said, For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.

31 Wherefore he called that place Beer-sheba; because there they sware both of them.

Abraham brought to Abimelech’s attention that his own servants had taken one of Abraham’s wells by force. Abimelech had not been aware of the offense, but it had come from those that he was responsible for.

A well was an extremely valuable commodity at the time, and one could see how a disagreement about the ownership of it could cause a rift between two newly established friends. So Abraham immediately follows up his accusation with something designed to quell any negative feelings. He gives seven lambs to Abimelech as a testament that he really was the owner of the well. This is a very interesting gesture. Essentially Abraham is giving a small compensation to Abimelech for the inconvenience of having to give back to Abraham what was rightfully his!

This shows a great maturity in Abraham. It helps to prove his sincerity, because at the end of the day he would be out seven lambs whether Abimelech returned the well or not. It also shows that he is sensitive to the embarrassment Abimelech might feel in having his servants called out as thieves, and the offering of this gift makes clear that Abraham has no ill feelings towards Abimelech himself. It is a way of saying “I wanted you to know about this…but don’t worry, we’re still friends.”

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 21:25-26

25 And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away.

26 And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to day.

Previously we read how Abimelech asked Abraham to swear that he would always treat him in an honorable way and Abraham had readily agreed. And it is fascinating that Abraham did that, given that we learn in the very next verses that Abraham did not feel Abimelech had been honorable with him!

Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away one of Abraham’s wells, but Abraham had still been willing to make this pledge to the man. Presumably Abraham’s commitment to treat his fellowman with dignity was not based on how well that fellowman was treating him in return. Abraham’s commitment came from within, and he would be honorable even to those that did evil to him.

Though as Abraham found out, Abimelech was not aware that his servants had taken the well in the first place. They had certainly not done so at his behest. It does not say in the biblical record, but one would assume that Abimelech quickly made restitution.