Genesis 21:22-34: The anointing.
“22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, ‘God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness that I have shown to you.’ 24 Abraham said, ‘I swear it.’ 25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, ‘I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.’ 27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, ‘What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?’ 30 He replied, ‘Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.’31 So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.” NIV UK
The ‘anointing’ is something people can recognise, even if they can’t explain what it is. They can sense it; feel it. It can even cause them to fear. But Abimelech was able to articulate it. He recognised that God was with Abraham (22). It’s not surprising that Abimelech was able to say this. In the first place, God had spoken to him in a dream about Abraham (20:3). Secondly, he had experienced healing in his family through Abraham’s prayer (20:17, 18; see 20:7).
We have to note that carrying an anointing is not necessarily a sign of special goodness or godliness. As we have seen, in the episode with Abimelech, Abraham had not acted honestly or honourably. He was not a good witness. In a way, it is sad that Abimelech had to say to him: ‘’Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants’’ (23a). That contains an echo of Abraham’s recent deceit. It can take a long time to build trust, but it can be broken in a moment. Once lost, it be difficult to restore it – but not impossible.
We should not follow Abraham’s example of dishonesty, but it is good to know that you don’t have to be perfect know God’s presence with you.
Notice that Abraham was still living in the land as an ‘’alien’’ (23). He never did own any part of the promised land except this well at Beersheba, and, later, a burial plot for Sarah.