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Philistine Apologies

The godly person accepts the half-hearted apology without demanding more than a person’s dignity will allow.

The LORD prospered Isaac while he dwelt in the Philistine territory, but that prosperity incited the jealousy of the Philistines who drove him out. Isaac returned to the arid soil of the Negev, where his father, Abraham, had dwelt. There he found that his father’s wells had been filled in by the Philistines. Isaac reopened the wells, but each time he did, the Philistines came, claiming the well as their own. Rather than fight with the Philistines, each time it happened, Isaac moved on and attempted to open a new well.

Who then among you is noble-minded? Who is compassionate? Who is full of love? Let him declare, “If sedition and disagreement and schisms have arisen because of me, I will depart, I will go wherever you want, and I will do whatever the majority commands; only let the flock of Messiah live peacefully with the elders set over it.” He that acts in this way will acquire for himself great glory in the Lord; and every place will welcome him. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” This is the way that those who live a godly life … have done and always will do things. (1 Clement 54)

When we are pushed by others, our tendency is to push back and demand our rights. Rarely do we see someone turn the other cheek. Even among disciples of Yeshua, it is rare to see someone back down from a slight or injury.

Isaac and his servants were busy opening another well when Abimelech and his men showed up.Here we go again, Isaac must have thought. To his astonishment, though, the Philistines did not claim his well this time. Instead they announced a reversal of policy and asked for a covenant-truce with Isaac.

Why the sudden change in attitude? The Philistines explained, “We see plainly that the LORD has been with you” (Genesis 26:28Genesis 26:28
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

28 And they said, We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee; We saw...: Heb. Seeing we saw  

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). The testimony of Isaac’s life had an impact on them. They saw that God was with him. Perhaps they noticed that he conducted himself in a godly manner, and they felt ashamed.

Things would probably have been different if Isaac had quarreled and fought for his wells. His testimony of peace would have been compromised. He might have been able to keep his wells, but he would have earned lifelong enemies.

The Philistines claimed, “We have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace” (Genesis 26:29Genesis 26:29
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

29 That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the LORD. That...: Heb. If thou shalt  

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). They asked Isaac for a covenant of peace on that basis. Isaac must have had to bite his tongue. Nothing but good? Sent me away in peace? Weren’t these the same Philistines who had driven him out their territory? Weren’t they the same Philistines who had pursued him into the Negev and took away his wells? How could they say they had done nothing but good?

Actually, this was how the Philistines apologized for the evil they had done to him and for sending him away in strife. Some people cannot apologize properly. Their ego prevents them from ever admitting any wrong on their own part. Deep inside, such a person knows that he is at fault and that he needs to make some sort of conciliatory effort, but an apology is not even a remote possibility. His pride forbids him.

Isaac was willing to overlook the foolish pride of the Philistines in order to make peace with them. So too we should accept even half-hearted attempts at reconciliation. We should not demand a formal apology. Instead we should be willing to take whatever modicum of peace our adversary offers.

 

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