We have here an account of the treaty between Abimelech and Abraham, in which appears the accomplishment of that promise (Gen. 12:2) that God would make his name great. His friendship is valued, is courted, though a stranger, though a tenant at will to the Canaanites and Perizzites.
I. The league is proposed by Abimelech, and Phichol his prime-minister of state and general of his army.
1. The inducement to it was God’s favour to Abraham (Gen. 21:22): “God is with thee in all that thou doest, and we cannot but take notice 20e8 of it.” Note, (1.) God in his providence sometimes shows his people such tokens for good that their neighbours cannot but take notice of it, Ps. 86:17. Their affairs do so visibly prosper, and they have such remarkable success in their undertakings, that a confession is extorted from all about them of God’s presence with them. (2.) It is good being in favour with those that are in favour with God, and having an interest in those that have an interest in heaven, Zech. 8:23. We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you. We do well for ourselves if we have fellowship with those that have fellowship with God, 1 John 1:3.
2. The tenour of it was, in general, that there should be a firm and constant friendship between the two families, which should not upon any account be violated. This bond of friendship must be strengthened by the bond of an oath, in which the true God was appealed to, both as a witness of their sincerity and an avenger in case either side were treacherous, Gen. 21:23. Observe, (1.) He desires the entail of this league upon his posterity and the extension of it to his people. He would have his son, and his son’s son, and his land likewise, to have the benefit of it. Good men should secure an alliance and communion with the favourites of Heaven, not for themselves only, but for theirs also. (2.) He reminds Abraham of the fair treatment he had found among them: According to the kindness I have done unto thee. As those that have received kindness must return it, so those that have shown kindness may expect it.
II. It is consented to by Abraham, with a particular clause inserted about a well. In Abraham’s part of this transaction observe,
1. He was ready to enter into this league with Abimelech, finding him to be a man of honour and conscience, and that had the fear of God before his eyes: I will swear, Gen. 21:24. Note, (1.) Religion does not make men morose and unconversable; I am sure it ought not. We must not, under colour of shunning bad company, be sour to all company, and jealous of every body. (2.) An honest mind does not startle at giving assurances: if Abraham say that he will be true to Abimelech, he is not afraid to swear it; an oath is for confirmation.
2. He prudently settled the matter concerning a well, about which Abimelech’s servants had quarrelled with him. Wells of water, it seems, were choice goods in that country: thanks be to God, that they are not so scarce in ours. (1.) Abraham mildly told Abimelech of it, Gen. 21:25. Note, If our brother trespass against us, we must, with the meekness of wisdom, tell him his fault, that the matter may be fairly accommodated and an end made of it, Matt. 18:15. (2.) He acquiesced in Abimelech’s justification of himself in this matter: I wot not who has done this thing, Gen. 21:26. Many are suspected of injustice and unkindness that are perfectly innocent, and we ought to be glad when they clear themselves. The faults of servants must not be imputed to their masters, unless they know of them and justify them; and no more can be expected from an honest man than that he be ready to do right as soon as he knows that he has done wrong. (3.) He took care to have his title to the well cleared and confirmed, to prevent any disputes or quarrels for the future, Gen. 21:30. It is justice, as well as wisdom, to do thus, in perptuam rei memoriam—that the circumstance may be perpetually remembered.
3. He made a very handsome present to Abimelech, Gen. 21:27. It was not any thing curious or fine that he presented to him, but that which was valuable and useful—sheep and oxen, in gratitude for Abimelech’s kindness to him, and in token of hearty friendship between them. The interchanging of kind offices is the improving of love: that which is mine is my friend’s.
4. He ratified the covenant by an oath, and registered it by giving a new name to the place (Gen. 21:31), Beer-sheba, the well of the oath, in remembrance of the covenant they swore to, that they might be ever mindful of it; or the well of seven, in remembrance of the seven lambs given to Abimelech, as a consideration for his confirming Abraham’s title to that well. Note, Bargains made must be remembered, that we may make them good, and may not break our word through oversight.