In Genesis 26:1

Now there was a famine in the land, besides the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. So Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines.

Is this the same Abimelech from Genesis 20?

3 Answers 3


It is highly unlikely that it's the same person, 75 years later. According to the JPS commentary on the Tanakh:

This is a fairly common ancient West Semitic personal name. It appears as ʾabmlk in the Ugaritic texts and as abimilki, king of Tyre, in the El-Amarna correspondence (second half 14th cent. B.C.E.). It also appears as an Israelite name that means “my father is king.”

Sarna, N. M. (1989). Genesis (p. 141). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

There are 67 encounters with an Abimelech from Genesis to 1 Chronicles. I think of it like Pompey, ruler of Egypt who always has a sister/wife named Cleopatra.


Both encounters with Abimelech via Abraham and Isaac, he had the same commander of his army, Phichol. So unless both names/titles are that common, what are the chances a different Abimelech had a commander names Phichol? Likely these two particular encounters are with the same Abimelech.

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    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 14:26

Hamilton, in the NICOT commentary, writes:

The Abimelech of ch. 20 cannot be the same Abimelech of ch. 26, if one takes the years and figures of Genesis seriously. The adult and married Abimelech of ch. 20 enters the Abraham story before Abraham reaches the age of 100. The Abimelech of ch. 26 comes much later, after Abraham’s death at the age of 175. Isaac is now 60 (25:26) and his two boys have grown up. Hence the Abimelech of ch. 20 and the Abimelech of ch. 26 are separated by at least seventy-five years, and we must be dealing with two individuals with the same name. The same must be the case with Phicol (21:22; 26:26). This is probably an instance of dynastic or royal names borne by a number of individuals such as one finds in the English monarchy with Henry, George, or Edward. Note that the title of Ps. 34 is “A Psalm of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech”; yet 1 Sam. 21:10–15 identifies the king as Achish. These texts are not necessarily contradictory; they may show that among earlier and later Philistine kings Abimelech was a favorite throne name to assume alongside one’s own name.

(Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18–50, New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 192.)

Hamilton's conclusion is that it is a family name that is handed down. A slightly different conclusion (that I prefer) is that אֲבִימֶּ֥לֶךְ, Abimelek is a title, like Pharaoh. That would explain its repeated use.

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