Genesis 26: God’s Promise to Isaac

1 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. 2 And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

-This is the only verifiable record we have of God speaking to Isaac and Isaac obeys this command. In his whole life, Isaac never goes beyond the borders of the promise land. This chapter is a complete repeat of what happened to Abraham. There was a famine, he headed towards Egypt, he met Abimelech, he passed his wife off as his sister…the only difference is these happened all at the same time to Isaac. Now the ordeal Abraham had with Abimelech before was at least 76 years ago so is this the same Abimelech his father dealt with? Abimelech is a title like “Pharaoh”or “Caesar” and so this is likely another person, maybe a son of the previous one.

Isaac and Abimelech

6 So Isaac settled in Gerar. 7 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 because of Rebekah,” because she was attractive in appearance. 8 When he had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw Isaac laughing with Rebekah his wife.

-Laughing sounds pretty innocent and certainly a brother and sister can laugh together alone so why did Abimelech think this so odd? The Hebrew word used here is “tsachaq” which does mean “to laugh” but also “to play” or “to mock”. From the context, it can be reasonably assumed the two of them were being playful with each other in the way couples do with loving little pokes and nudges. In other words, they were flirting. This certainly goes beyond normal brother and sister behavior. One difference with Isaac to his father is while his father may have technically been telling the truth, this was an outright lie because Rebekah was his second cousin.

9 So Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, she is your wife. How then could you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought, ‘Lest I die because of her.’” 10 Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” 11 So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” 12 And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him, 13 and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. 14 He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him. 15 (Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.) 16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.” 17 So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there.

-Like with Abraham, Isaac actually did something wrong by lying yet God made sure to bless him anyway. This doesn’t mean at all that what Isaac did was OK, God does not bless based on good behavior, only grace. God made a promise to Abraham and when a famine occurred, He made sure to bless Isaac abundantly so that his line may continue and Jacob can inherit the blessings that would lead to all his sons being born and taken care of to the point they did what they would do.

18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. 19 But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, 20 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him. 21 Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. 22 And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

-”Esek” means “contention”, “Sitnah” means “strife”, and “Rehoboth” means “wide places of streets”. The reason we are given information about the exciting world of well digging is Isaac is trying to find a place to stay. He assumed he can reuse the same locations his father once used but he was wrong. In order to settle somewhere, you need a water source. So on the third spot, there was no quarrel.

23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” 25 So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.

-Isaac is showing great faith here because he knows if God spoke to him here, perhaps God is also showing him where the water is. It does not say in the previous verse if Rehobath was simply a spot they tried to find water or actually did find water and stayed for a while. From there reaction in the next verses, they may not have found water at that third site.

26 When Abimelech went to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army, 27 Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?” 28 They said, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you. So we said, let there be a sworn pact between us, between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.” 30 So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank.

-It has been suggested over time that this Abimelech probably wasn’t the same Abimelech that Abraham dealt with because “Abimelech” was a title but Phicol is also mentioned again as being the commander of the army. So it is also suggested “Phicol” is also a title like “General” just like Abimelech is a title like “Emperor”. Here we see God moving Isaac’s potential enemies to make peace with him so that he will be protected in the future. God is giving Isaac everything and meeting all his needs to abundance.

31 In the morning they rose early and exchanged oaths. And Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace. 32 That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they had dug and said to him, “We have found water.” 33 He called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.

-Any time the bible says “to this day” it is referring to the time this was written which was by Moses during the exodus of the Israelites. That being said, there just so happens to be a Beersheba still existing today: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beersheba . This oath was made at the same place Abraham had made his oath with Abimelech in Genesis 21. We previously mentioned “Beersheba”means “well of sevens” but it may be that this was not named until Issac made the deal with Abimelech. Then, the place become known by this name after this time because of what happened with both he and his father before him. In other words, this place now had a reputation for wells and oaths so the name was given.

34 When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, 35 and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.

-Being Hittites who are descendants of Heth, son of Canaan, they likely had the same type of morals the Canaanites had had in Sodom and Gomorrah. The fact that Esau took two wives shows his lack of concern for the spiritual or what is proper. As mentioned before, these people have not been given the law so may not be aware it is not good to take more than one wife but this verse does not say one of them was a primary wife and one a concubine. Abraham and Isaac both had one wife that was at the very least the main wife that he loved and considered his partner, Esau appears to be doing this for two equally. Remember the Hittites were who Abraham purchased the land for Sarah’s tomb from and so he and they had a good relationship at the time.

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