« PreviousContinue »
together, as they united in the pious office of giving honourable burial to their father. Neither had Ishmael any cause to envy the temporal prosperity of his brother, for having the advantage of being born so many years before him, his family had multiplied greatly, and was become of consequence in the world, before Isaac had any children grown up.
It is related of Ishmael, that he died in the presence of all his brethren. Before his birth, it was predicted of him, that he should be a wild man; that his hand would be against every one, and every one's hand against him ; and that he should dwell in the presence of all his brethren. We do not read of any particular contests, which Ish. mael had with the other descendants of Abraham; but it may be inferred from these passages, that having permission from God to dwell in a certain part of the world, he and his posterity resolutely maintained possession of it, and were blessed with success, in spite of the invasions and opposition which the natives of the adjacent countries might think fit to make, to prevent their establishment. Of the present race of Arabs, who are supposed to be the original descendants of Ishmael, it may literally be said that their hands hiive ever been against every one's, and every one's hand against them; and yet they have continued to live in the presence of all their · brethren, for they were never wholly subdued, even by the greatest conquerors of the earth : but it appears like injustice to Ishinael and his sons, to sup. pose, that they were robbers by profession, because the present wild Arabs are so: it is much more reasonable and candid to imagine, that the pretence of seizing the property of others, as a lawful right derived from their progenitor, is a corruption of later times. The LORD would not have placed any set of people in a situation where they should be under a necessity of practising VOL. I.
immorality; much less a son of Abraham, one on whom He had promised to bestow an extraordinary blessing. If the Ishmaelites had a large tract of country to themselves, as the Scriptures inform us they had, there was no occasion for them to injure others, for their own territories were sufficient to afford them af. fuence.
Abrahanı lived to see the sons of Isaac fifteen years old.
It is a great confirmation of the truth of the prophecies in general, to see so ancient a one fulfilling at this very time. How wonderful it is to think that there should exist a Being so infinitely wise, as to see at once the beginning and the end of all things, even before they are created ! and such a Being is God.
HISTORY OF ISAAC.
From Genesis, Chap. xxvi. And there was a famine in the land, besides the first fanine that was in the days of Abrahanı. And the LORD appeared unto I: aac, and said, Go not down into Egypt: dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:
Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee : for unto thee and unto thy seed I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father :
And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven; and I will give unto thy seed all these coạnuies : and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
And Isaac went unto Abimelech, king of the Philis. tines, unto Gerar.
And Abimelech the king charged his servants, say. ing, He that toucheth this man or his wife, shall surely be put to death.
Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundred fold: and the LORD blessed him. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great.
For he had possessions of Hocks, and possessions. of herds, and great stores of servants : And the Philistines envied him. For all the wells which his father's ser. rants had digged in the days of Abraham his father's the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth.
And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us, for thou art much mightier than we. And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.
And Isaac digged again the wells of water which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistine's had stopped them after the death of Abraham : and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.
And Isaac's servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing , water. And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac's herdmen, saying, The water is ours : and he called the name of the well Esek, because they strove with him.
And they digged another well, and strove for that also : and he called the name of it Sitnah.
And he removed from thence, and digged another well, and for that they -strove not ; and he called the name- of it Rehoboth; and he said, for now the LORD hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the laad. H 2
And he went up from thence to Beer-sheba. And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father : fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed, for my servant Abraham's sake. And he builded an altar there, and called upon
the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there : and there Isaac's servants digged a well.
Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phicol the chief captain of his army. And Isaac said unto them, Where. fore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?
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, 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.
And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink. 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.
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. And he called it Sheba : therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba unto this day.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
Famine is reckoned among those judgments which are inflicted by the hand of God, to awaken wicked nations
) sense of their sins*. That which happened in the days of Isaac seems to have been designed for the punishment of the idolatrous people, and shews that they were not cut off without warnings. It appears that God commanded Isaac t to go from Canaan while the famine lasted, and directed him to the land of the Philistines instead of Egypt, to which we may presume he had purposed to go. But before he departed he was taught to consider Canaan as his home; and to dispel from his mind those fears which the famine naturally gave rise to, the Covenant, which the Lord had for. merly made with Abraham, was renewed to him ; and that Isaac might understand that God's favour to his faithful servants is not limited to the short term of their existence in this world, the LORD assured him, that, in granting the blessing to him, he meant to do a farther
. honour to Abraham, which implied that Abraham still existed, though no longer on earth.
The king of the Philistines could scarcely be the same with whom Abraham made an alliance ; but it is ima. gined, that Abimelech was a general name for the kings of that country. Isaac inconsiderately practised the same kind of evasion which Abraham had before done, by endeavouring to make his wife, pass for his, sister ; but as this subject has already been considered †, it is omitted in this section.
The success which Isaac met with in the great in. crease of his first harvest in the land of the Philistines, and his subsequent prosperity, were proofs that the Pro-, vidence of God constantly attended him.
We cannot suppose that the family of Isaac was equal in number and power to the nation of the Philistines.:
* See Lev: xxvi. 20. Deut. xxviii. 23. Amos iv. 6.
+ I have taken the liberty of making a transposition in this section, which I hope the context justifies. # See Section xvi. H 3