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illustrations, in the history of different countries, might be given of the former; every reference to famine in the Scriptures is suggestive of the latter. The hand of God may, in a great variety of ways, be laid on the staple articles of food. When long-continued drought is marked by the absence of copious dew, the pastures are burnt up, and the cereal crops fail—“The fields yield no meat, the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stall” (Heb. iii. 17). The restraining of rain in its season makes the sowing of the husbandman vain, and the experience described by Amos is realized—“I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places. And also I have withholden the rain from you” (Amos iv. 6, 7). Or he may permit certain insects, destructive either in their larval or in their fully developed state, to increase to such an extent, as to destroy not corn and green crops only, but fruit-bearing trees, until "joy is withered away" from those who rejoiced in them, and the words of Joel become a bitter experience—“The vine is dried up, and the fig-tree languisheth; the pomegranate-tree, the palm-tree also, and the apple-tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered” (Joel i. 12). This last mode deserves a fuller notice, both because of the frequency of its occurrence, and the varied illustrations which can be given of its influence. (See under Joel i. 4.)
In a country like Egypt, in which the corn crop depends on the annual inundation of the Nile, the failure of this would be sure to result in wide-spread famine. And we have only to imagine the existence of scarcity in the neighbouring countries at the same time with a famine in Egypt, to see how Canaan must have suffered in the time of Jacob, " when the famine was so sore in all lands” (xli. 57). This, however, does not seem to have been the case with the famine, either in the time of Abraham, or with that which happened in the days of Isaac. The former went down to Egypt, and the latter was on his way to it, in order to escape the effects of the scarcity. Indeed, most of the famines mentioned in Holy Writ were partial in their effects, and limited to the countries for the sins of whose inhabitants they had been sent. Thus in Isaac's day, the neighbouring country of Philistia was exempt, as it was later in the days of Elisha, when the Shunammite woman "went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years, for the Lord had called for a famine on the land of Israel” (2 Kings viii. 1, 2). "In the days when the Judges ruled there was a famine in the land” (Ruth i. 1), which did not reach the country of Moab for Elimelech and Naomi with their sons, went
into the country of Moab and continued there in order to escape the hardships in their own land. The famine also referred to in the history of Elijah (1 Kings xviii. 2) appears to have been confined to Samaria itself, and not to have extended to Judæa proper.
Few studies would turn out more instructive and of fuller interest than to trace in an historical way (1) the Scripture threatenings of this scourge because of certain sins; (2) the fulfilment of the threatenings and its influence on those stricken with famine; (3) the famines which have been recorded among nations not named in Scripture; and (4) the physical features of such lands, their relation to neighbouring countries, and the condition of the industrial arts among the people. The work would be valuable, not only from the point of view of religion, but even from that of political economy. The connection between threatening and fulfilment in one case, has been sketched with terrible fidelity by Josephus in the history of one of which he was a witness, when war lent its horrors to famine, and when pestilence walked abroad at noonday. In his narrative of the incidents of the siege of Jerusalem by Titus he says:-“The madness of the seditious did also increase together with their famine, and both those miseries were every day influenced more and more, for there was no corn which anywhere appeared publicly, but the robbers came running into, and searched men's private houses; and then, if they found any, they tormented them, because they had denied they had any; and if they found none they tormented them worse, because they supposed they had more carefully concealed it. The indication they made use of, whether they had any or not, was taken from the bodies of these miserable wretches, which, if they were in good case, they supposed they were in no want at all of food, but if they were wasted away, they walked off without searching farther; nor did they think it proper to kill such as these, because they saw they would very soon die of themselves for want of food. Many there were indeed who sold what they had for one measure ; it was of wheat if they were of the richer sort, but of barley if they were poorer. When these had so done, they shut themselves up in the inmost rooms of their houses, and ate the corn they had gotten; some did it without grinding it, by reason of the extremity of the want they were in, and others baked bread of it, according as necessity and fear dictated to them; a table was nowhere laid for a distinct meal, but they snatched the bread out of the fire, half baked, and ate it very hastily. It was now a miserable case, and a sight that would justly bring tears into our eyes, how men stood as to their food, while the more
powerful had more than enough, and the weaker were lamenting (for want of it). But the famine was too hard for all other passions, and it is destructive to nothing so much as to modesty; for what was otherwise worthy of reverence was in this case despised; insomuch that children pulled the very morsels that their fathers were eating out of their very mouths, and what was still more to be pitied, so did the mothers do as to their infants; and when those that were most dear were perishing under their hands, they were not ashamed to take from them the very last drops that might preserve their lives; and while they ate after this manner, yet were they not concealed in so doing ; but the seditious everywhere came upon them immediately, and snatched away from them what they had gotten from others; for when they saw any house shut up, this was to them a signal that the people within had gotten some food; whereupon they broke open the doors, and ran in, and took pieces of what they were eating, almost up out of their very throats, and this by force. The old men, who held their food fast, were beaten; and if the women hid what they had within their hands, their hair was torn for so doing; nor was there any commiseration shown either to the aged or to infants, but they lifted up children from the ground as they hung upon the morsels they had gotten, and shook them down upon the floor; but still were they more barbarously cruel to those that had prevented their coming in, and had actually swallowed down what they were going to seize upon, as if they had been unjustly defrauded of their right.”
The visit of Isaac to Philistia is made the occasion of a clear intimation of the future boundary of the land of promise in one direction. The country of the Philistines was to form a portion of it. “Sojourn in this land,” said God to him, “and I will be with thee and bless thee; and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries” (ver. 3). This promise was never forgotten. Joshua, when “old and stricken in age,” was reminded of it by the Lord himself, who said to him, “ There remaineth much land to be possessed. This is the land that yet remaineth : all the borders of the Philistines, and all Geshuri, from Sihor, which is before Egypt, even unto the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites ” (Josh. xiii. 1–3). Accordingly among the towns allocated to the tribe of Judah, mention is made of “Ekron with her towns and villages; from Ekron even unto the sea, all that lay near Ashdod, with their villages : Ashdod with her towns and VOL. I.
her villages, Gaza with her towns and her villages, unto the river of Egypt, and the great sea, and the border thereof” (Josh. xv. 45–47).
When Isaac had established himself for a season at Gerar, he betook himself to agriculture. God had promised to protect and preserve him and his household, but he knew that this would come to him in the way of the diligent use of means. Accordingly “ Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundred fold; and the Lord blessed him; and the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great” (ver. 12, 13). On this passage Bishop Patrick has the following note :-“This, in itself, is not wonderful; though it was a singular blessing of God, at that time, after there had been a dearth; and, perhaps, the soil was not rich which afforded so large a crop. Varro says, that in Syria, about Gadera, and in Africa, about Byzacium, they reaped a hundred bushels from one. Pliny and Solinus say the same of Byzacium : insomuch that Bochart fancies the metropolis of that rich country, Adrumetum, had its name from thence; it signifying, in the Phænician language, the region of an hundred fold. Nay, some places of Africa were so rich that they produced two hundred, yea, three hundred fold, as Bochart shows out of several good authors.” The natural fertility of the plains of Philistia has already been noted. The Lord so blessed the industry of Isaac, that this fertility was raised to an hundred fold.
The manifest blessing which rested on Isaac provoked the envy of the Philistines, and means were taken to send him out of their country. They filled up the wells which Abraham on his visit had dug, and when Isaac's servants dug others, the herdmen of Gerar strove about them. The two about which the cause of the quarrel specially was, took their names from it; one was called Esek-Contention, the other Sitnah-Hatred. At a greater distance yet another well was dug, for which they did not contend, and Isaac named it Rehoboth-Room. The last, notwithstanding the doubts of Dr. Robinson, is generally believed to have perpetuated its name and indicated its site, in the modern Wady er-Ruhaibeh. Dr. Robinson believes he has identified “Esek” and “Sitnah.” “These wells are some distance apart; they are circular, and stoned up very neatly with solid masonry, apparently much more ancient than that of the wells at 'Abdeh. The longer one is twelve and a half feet in diameter, and forty-four and a half feet deep to the surface of the water; sixteen feet of which at the bottom is excavated in the solid rock. The other well lies fifty-five rods westsouth-west, and is five feet in diameter, and forty-two feet deep.”
AC was old, his eyes were dim, and believing that death might be near, he resolved to give Esau the covenant blessing before his “ day was done.” It is not necessary to account for this wish, by making out that "he sought to do it because he had much more sympathy with the direct and manly bearing
of Esau, than with the crookedness and subtilty of Jacob.” If any ground of preference is specially to be sought, it will be found in chapter xxv. 28—'Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison.' The motive, however, as the tenor of the blessing shows, had its foundation in the patriarch's views of the privileges of the eldest son. The blessing was to be given in connection with a meal, and Esau is sent into the field, with ‘his weapons, his quiver and his bow,' that he might take venison.” In this transaction the covenant-idea must be recognized, otherwise, we will not see any meaning in the accompanying circumstances. The root of the word covenant itself points to eating (berith, from barah, to eat). Thus, 2 Sam. xii. 17—“Neither did he eat (barah) bread with them.” In pointing out this, I am aware that some derive" covenant" from another root meaning “to cut.” If then we attach this idea to the incidents recorded in the opening of this chapter, a beautiful propriety comes to be linked up with the meal of which Isaac desired to partake before blessing his son, and the act comes to be associated with, and to shed light on, several other passages of Scripture. Take, for example, the illustration of this in chapter xxxi.--"Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee. And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap. And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha; but Jacob called it Galeed” (ver. 45–47). True, both Laban and Jacob partake of the meal in this case, while Isaac alone eats the food presented. This, however, he does as the representative of the covenant made with Abraham, and as in God's stead to convey the blessing. Thus in chapter xv., Abraham is seen standing aside, and God as acting alone, even as Isaac's son stands by, and waits for