New American Bible (Revised Edition)
The Covenant at Beer-sheba. 22 [a]At that time Abimelech, accompanied by Phicol, the commander of his army, said to Abraham: “God is with you in everything you do. 23 So now, swear to me by God at this place[b] that you will not deal falsely with me or with my progeny and posterity, but will act as loyally toward me and the land in which you reside as I have acted toward you.” 24 Abraham replied, “I so swear.”
25 Abraham, however, reproached Abimelech about a well that Abimelech’s servants had seized by force. 26 “I have no idea who did that,” Abimelech replied. “In fact, you never told me about it, nor did I ever hear of it until now.”
27 Then Abraham took sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech and the two made a covenant. 28 Abraham also set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock, 29 and Abimelech asked him, “What is the purpose of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?” 30 Abraham answered, “The seven ewe lambs you shall accept from me that you may be my witness that I dug this well.” 31 This is why the place is called Beer-sheba; the two of them took an oath there. 32 When they had thus made the covenant in Beer-sheba, Abimelech, along with Phicol, the commander of his army, left to return to the land of the Philistines.[c]
33 Abraham planted a tamarisk at Beer-sheba, and there he invoked by name the Lord, God the Eternal.[d] 34 Abraham resided in the land of the Philistines for a long time.Read full chapter
- 21:22 Of the two related promises of progeny and land, that of progeny has been fulfilled in the previous chapter. Now the claim on the land begins to be solidified by Abimelech’s recognition of Abraham’s claim on the well at Beer-sheba; it will be furthered by Abraham’s purchase of the cave at Machpelah in chap. 23. Two levels of editing are visible in the story: (1) vv. 22–24, 27, 32, the general covenant with Abimelech; (2) vv. 25–26, 28–30, 31, Abraham’s claim on the well. Both versions play on the root of the Hebrew word sheba‘, which means “seven” and “swear,” and the place name Beer-sheba.
- 21:23 This place: Beer-sheba (v. 31). Abimelech had come from Gerar (20:2), about thirty miles west of Beer-sheba.
- 21:32 Philistines: one of the Sea Peoples, who migrated from Mycenaean Greece around 1200 B.C. and settled on the coastland of Canaan, becoming a principal rival of Israel. Non-biblical texts do not use the term “Philistine” before ca. 1200 B.C.; it is probable that this usage and those in chap. 26 are anachronistic, perhaps applying a later ethnic term for an earlier, less-known one.
- 21:33 God the Eternal: in Hebrew, ’el ‘olam, perhaps the name of the deity of the pre-Israelite sanctuary at Beer-sheba, but used by Abraham as a title of God; cf. Is 40:28.