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(Gen 18:1 - 22:24)

B'resheet/Genesis 21:22   "G-d is with you in all that you do"


This statement is made by Abimelech, the king of Gerar, and Phicol, the commander of the king's armies to Abraham. They come to him to ask if he will make a covenant with them not to deal falsely with them, plot against them, or - presumably - make ware against them. Their motivation has attracted the attention of the commentators; Abraham may be rich and have a large household, but surely he wouldn't represent a threat to an established kingdom? Abraham was a nomad, a sojourner in tents - here today and, relatively speaking, gone tomorrow - while they are city dwellers with thick stone walls and city gates, rooted in the sand and bed-rock of the land; why should they be concerned about Abraham?

Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi starts by telling us that "[Abimelech and Phicol] saw that he had left the vicinity of Sodom safe and sound, and that he had waged war against the kings and they fell into his hand, and that his wife was remembered by G-d in his old age." Abraham had come unscathed through the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the report of his chasing the five kings the length of the country and and returning all the captives was well known, and the miraculous birth of a son to a couple in their nineties had not escaped the notice of the King of Gerar. The Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno dryly puts these words in Abimelech's mouth: "G-d is with you therefore I fear you and desire a treaty with you, not because of your might or wealth." In spite of Abraham's wealth, which was considerable, and his apparent might, which seemed beyond dispute, what really motivated the king of Gerar and the commander of his armies was that G-d was with Abraham. With divine favour, guidance, power and resources, Abraham would be more than a match for even the largest of armies and the thickest of city walls. Although What Is ...

Targum Onkelos: An early (1st-2nd Century CE) translation/paraphrase of the Torah into Aramaic; attributed to a Roman convert to Judaism, Onkelos; used in Babylonian synagogues during the Talmudic era
Targum Onkelos - known for paraphrasing away anthropomorphisms from the Hebrew text - translates this as , the Memra [Word or Wisdom] of the L-rd helps you, this only serves to emphasis the awe that Abraham must have had in the eyes of the king and his general; the creative power and force of G-d, His active word, was working alongside Abraham in everything he did.

Rabbi Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch finds it difficult to accept that the men of Gerar were concerned about what Abraham himself would and could do. Abraham was, after all, only one man, quite old, and would not have the drive and determination of a younger man. No, Hirsch supports, they were concerned about how Abraham would inspire and teach the next generation: his son Isaac! Abimelech and Phicol can see a more disturbing future for their country than Abraham; they trust Abraham's ability as a father to raise up and educate sons to follow him, they have confidence in Abraham's power to train and establish a dynasty that will maintain and walk in their father's values in future generations. They would rather have Abraham's progeny as a friend than an enemy so they offer Abraham a covenant that gives him freedom of the land - a thing of no mean value - in order to gain a friendly relationship with him in a way that the future generations will also honour and keep.

Using one of the Hebrew names for Messiah, - G-d with us, G-d gave the prophet Isaiah a warning for the surrounding nations who were eyeing Israel up covetously for conquest:

G-d is with us! You may make an uproar, people, but you will be shattered. Listen, all of you from distant lands; arm yourselves, but you will be shattered; yes, are yourselves, but you will be shattered; devise a plan, but it will come to nothing; say anything you like, but it won't happen; because G-d is with us. (Isaiah 8:8b-10, CJB)

Because G-d was with Israel, their plan to conquer and plunder Israel would not only come to naught, but they themselves would be shattered in the process. This rested entirely upon the promises and presence of G-d among His people, for they were already weak and were unable to defend themselves against the strong and well-armed nations who were poised to march in and take possession. 'Look,' G-d is saying to the nations, 'see things as they really are: I am with My people and you can't overcome Me!'

The Jewish leaders recognised the same quality in Yeshua. Nicodemus came to Yeshua at night and said, "Rabbi, we know it is from G-d that you have come as a teacher, for no-one can do these miracles You perform unless G-d is with him" (John 3:2, CJB). Later on, the man who has been blind from birth but was given sight by Yeshua tells the Jewish leaders, "In all history no-one has heard of someone's opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from G-d He couldn't do a thing!" (John 9:32-33, CJB) The following Hanukkah when Yeshua was again in Jerusalem, some of the leadership tried to stone Him for they thought He was blaspheming, but Yeshua told them "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father" (John 10:37-38, NASB).

Rav Sha'ul understood what this meant in a very practical sense. He wrote, "What then shall we say to these things? If G-d is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:21, NASB) He saw the power of G-d at work in each believer, the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, that other people would see and want for themselves: "For it is G-d who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13, NASB). We should expect the people around us to see G-d in our behaviour, to hear G-d in our words, to be questioning how and why we do what we do and the attitude of love that we show to them and each other. If not, then we need to ask why. It is not that G-d doesn't want that to be happening, for not only has He told us to be like that, but He wrote in His word that it would be so: "Thus says the L-rd of Hosts, 'In those days the men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that G-d is with you"'" (Zechariah 8:23, NASB).

Further Study: Joshua 2:8-13; Hebrews 13:20-21

Application: How does your world view match against G-d's? Do you really expect that G-d will be revealed in your life? Perhaps it is time for a reality check, where we ask G-d to align our expectations with His word and then be ready and open for Him to show Himself in us. Then stand back and see what G-d will do!

© Jonathan Allen, 2008

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