Gerar was an ancient town in the Negev, in the south of the land of Israel, roughly half-way between Beersheba and Gaza (see Bible Places). In the time of Abraham, it was ruled by a Philistine king named Abimelech. Both Abraham and Isaac (who was born in the area) made a treaty with the king of Gerar, after separate incidents in which both claimed that their wives were their sisters, in order to keep from bring killed.
In earliest times, Gerar was within the territory of the Canaanites:
"Afterward the families of the Canaanites [see Who Were The Canaanites?] spread abroad. And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon, in the direction of Gerar, as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha." (Genesis 10:18-19 RSV)
To keep from being killed, Abraham told the king of Gerar that Sarah was his sister (which, technically, she actually was):
"From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, "She is my sister." And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, "Behold, you are a dead man, because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a man's wife ... Abraham said, "I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. Besides she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife." (Genesis 20:1-3,11-12 RSV)
Later, Isaac used the same survival tactic:
"Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines ... When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, "She is my sister"; for he feared to say, "My wife," thinking, "lest the men of the place should kill me for the sake of Rebekah"; because she was fair to look upon." (Genesis 26:1,7 RSV)
Fact Finder: Which king of Judah pursued the defeated Ethiopians as far as Gerar?
2 Chronicles 14:13
See also Kings of Israel and Judah
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