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the expression of Abimelech, Thou art greater and m'ig%i'ter than ive, must not be understood literally, but comparatively. The wcndtrful increase of Isaac's substance had raised the envy of the Philistines, who murmured at seeing a foreigner more pro<perous in their lwd than themselves.
In the valley of Gerar, Isaac had a sort of hereditary rii;ht to dwell, for a former king had granted -to his father the liberty of choosing any part of the country for his residence; and this was the spot Abraham fixed upon; and Isaac had an undoubted claim to the wells which hi,s father digged, because, that Patriarch had actually purchased a title to them*. It was this consideration in all probability that chiefly influenced Isaac to open them rather than dig new ones. Beer-sheba had been consecrated by Abraham, who planted a grove there, and built an altar to the Lord. No sooner was Isaac arrived at this sacred spot, than he was honoured with a Divine vision, and a fresh ratification of the Covenant respecting temporal blessings: from a principle of gratitude for the promises vouchsafed to him, we find that he also built an altar, and resolved to abide in that place.
It seems that Abimelech feared the true Go», or h« would not hare been so solicitous to make an alliance with Isaac, merely from a conviction that he was peculiarly blessed of the Lou D. It is very remarkable, that the well which Abraham named Beer-sheba, or the well of the oath, in witness of the Covenant made between 1.5m and the king of the Philistines, should be discoveied to Isaac on the very day that he was in similar circumstances. It is likely that the news arrived before his royal guest had left him, and that he restored the name to do honour to his father's memory;
* See Section xvi. t
and also that the well might, agreeably to Its first destination, serve as a testimony of the covenant which he had just renewed. . t ..t
The name Phicol seems to have titularly belonged to the office of chief captain of the army. Who Ahuzzath was we are not told, but he was doubtless a person of distinction.
It is evident, from the words in which the promise at the beginning of this section was conveyed to Isaac, that the Divine Being who made it, was the same Lord that appeared to Abraham, and we find him in the second vision, calling himself the God of Abraham.
It is needless to expatiate further on this passage of Scripture; for, after contemplating the history of Abraham, the reflections and practical instruction it is calculated to" convey, will naturally arise in the mind of an attentive reader,^
EUU SELIETH HIS BIRTH-RIGHT—HE MARRIETB TWO WIVES, i ', • > . '.
From Genesis, Chap. Xxt«
And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I ara faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birth right.
And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birth-right to do me? . . . .
And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birth-right unto Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles;
H 4 *nd and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birth-right.
And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.
ANNOTATIONS And REFLECTIONS,
Esau and Jacob were twin brothers; but as Esau was the first-born, he had, as we may suppose, a superiority in his father's house, and seems to have expected, as his birth-right, to be heir of the promises which Go D had made to Abraham and Isaac, one part of which was, that God would be their God in a peculiar manner.
Fond of the sports of the field, Esau pursued them with such ardor, that he left himself little time for considering the value of the privileges to which he made' pretensions, or he would not have parted with them so easily. The Apostle * %o the Hebrews represents the sale of the birth-right as a profane action, which it could not have been, had it related to temporal blessings only.'
Jacob, on the other hand, seems to have had a sincere faith in the promises of .god, and an urgent desire to possess the blessings which were promised to the seed of Abraham and Isaac. It is most likely that Rebekah had made known to Jacob, who was her darling son, what the Lord had revealed to her, before his birth, concerning the superiority. which the nation that was to proceedfrom him should have over that which was to proceed from Esau. This, however, is no excuse for Jacob; he certainly took an unjustifiable method to obtain the birth -right; and we must not consider his success in this instance as a proof of the Divine favour: for iti : 'I :. ' >:•'.c bss-. .
wilt appear, as we proceed, that it did not eventually advance his personal happiness, neither did it procure the blessing of Abraham for his posterity; for before he, or Esau, had done good or evil, before they were born into the world, the Loud had determined, that, in respect to the nations which should spring from them, the elder should serve the younger*, as has been already observed in a former section.':: . • .'
Esau's marriage with a Canaanitish woman was another instance of profaneness; for he could not be ignorant that it was of material consequence, for those who honoured the Lord, and were designed.to be His peculiar people, to avoid alliances with Idolatbrs.
From this section, we learn, that it is very wrong to give up the mind entirely to any pursuit, to the exclusion of religious meditation; had Esau accustomed himself to reflect on the value of the privileges annexed to the birth-right, he would not have been so ready to relinquish the title which he supposed he had to them. In his father's house, he could scarcely be in danger of starving; therefore, we may conclude, that he preferred the gratification of his appetite with a savoury dish, to the greatest spiritual advantages. How many people in the world, like Esau, resign the title, which the Christian covenant gives them, to the providential care of God in this world, and the hope of a heavenly inheritance in the next, for. the sports of the field, and the pleasures of the table! , ,
In his desire to secure to himself the blessing of the Lokd, we should imitate Jacob; but not in his attempt to secure.it by unlawful means. . He certainly was very wrong in taking advantage of his brother's necessities; and the following part of his history shews, that he brought, great distresses upon himself by doing so. Esau, however, deserved the punishment which, by divine per* See Section xxix,
,H5 mission, mission, fell upon him; and Chiistians should take? warning by it, hot to prefer any thing this world can afford to the blessing of God, which under the Christian covenant comprises all that is really needful both for the body and the soul. /
JACOB DECEITETH HIS FATHER.
From Genesis, Chap. xxvii.
Ahjd it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau, his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am t.
And he said, Behold now I am old; I know not the day of my death. Now therefore, take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to. the field, and take me some venison i and make me savoury meat, such as I love, aDd bring it to me that I may eat: that my soul may bless the before I die.
And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau hisson; and Esau went to the field to hunt for venison,. and to bring it. And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son, saying* Behold, I heard thy father speak unto Esau, thy brother, saying, Bring me venison and make me savoury meat, tl at I may eat, and bless thee before the Lord, before my death.
Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, according v> that which I command thee; Go now. to the flock, and fetch me from thence two kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth. And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death.
And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and 1 am a smooth man; My