In today’s chapter, Isaac travels in the land of a foreign king, in order to avoid the effects of a local famine, and to keep the inhabitants from killing him and taking his extremely attractive wife, he claims she’s his sister. Sound familiar? It’s the same thing Abraham did twice before. However, to paraphrase the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, you can’t step in the same river twice, much less the same river that your father stepped in. Isaac’s encounter doesn’t go exactly as his father’s two encounters did, but what are we to make of that?
In junior high, when one of my friends encountered the name “Abimelech,” he adopted a silly deep voice with a quasi-Middle-Eastern accent and pronounced it “a-BIM-lick.” I started drawing a series of comics titled “The Bimlik,” in which a handful of shyguys, at least one of whom had just had or was about to have or was in the process of having face surgery, had inane conversations before encountering a nebulously-drawn monster called the Bimlik, with violent results. Apart from illustrating how strange ancient Semitic names can sound to contemporary American ears, this story has nothing to do with today’s chapter, but a personal anecdote can make for an effective introduction.
Meet Abraham. He’s known as Abram right now. He’s the son of Terah, descended from Noah’s son Shem, whose name means “name.” In the last chapter, Abraham’s dad died, and in this chapter, God calls Abraham to go to a place where God will bless Abraham, his descendants, and finally all the families of the earth. Abraham follows God’s leading to the land of Canaan, which is named for the son of Noah’s youngest son Ham. Abraham builds an altar to God there, and he later moves on to Bethel, where he also builds an altar. But more importantly for today’s post, he goes down to Egypt to avoid the effects of a famine, and while he’s there, problematic stuff happens.