Genesis Chapter Twenty-Six
Read Genesis 26:1-6 – Isaac Goes to Gerar
v.1 “And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.”
Isaac has been living near the well of Lahairoi or Beerlahairoi, between Kadesh and Bered where Hagar was found when she ran away from Sarah. As is common in this region that is primarily desert any fluctuation in rainfall generates a drought and then a famine when food for man and beast is scarce. As a result Isaac moves toward the Mediterrean coast to the area around Gerar and apparently goes to Abimelech for assistance or at least mutual support.
v.2 “And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go
not down into
As would be expected
with a land that is watered by a great river such as the
v.3 “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;”
As we have studied
previously when God called Abram to move to
Genesis 12:2 “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:”
A covenant and promise that has been repeated several times during the intervening years and now God is going to confirm His covenant with Abraham’s son, Isaac. Isaac was the heir of the same promise as the Hebrew writer confirms hundreds of years later:
Hebrews 11:9 “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:”
v.4 “And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;”
God makes the same
promise to Isaac that he made to his father:
“And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
v.5-6 “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. 6And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:”
Just as receiving God’s blessings are contingent upon our obedience to him today, the blessings he gave to Abraham and Isaac were conditional then as well. Abraham was blessed because he obeyed God’s voice, kept those things that God had charged him to keep, obeyed God’s commandments and followed his statues and laws. Why is it so difficult for mankind to understand the nature of God? God’s commitments to Isaac and to us as Christians were made and will be kept on the same basis, our obedience. This is one of the reasons that it is profitable for us to study the Old Testament.
Read Genesis 26:7-16 – Isaac’s Deception
v.7 “And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.”
Isaac is afflicted with the same fear that we saw in Abraham. We remember that he had persuaded Sarai to:
“Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.” Genesis 12:13
At least in the case of Abram and Sarai this was technically true as they were indeed half-siblings but in the case of Isaac he doesn’t even have that kernel of truth in his claim. Isaac communes with God but either does not know or does not understand the wisdom of God:
“THE FEAR OF MAN BRINGETH A SNARE: BUT WHOSO PUTTETH HIS TRUST IN THE LORD SHALL BE SAFE.” Proverbs 29:25
But Isaac, presented to us by God as a man of faith did have times in his life when fear overcame his faith because his faith was weak just as ours can be at times.
v.8-9 “And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife. 9And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.”
Another lesson from God’s wisdom that Isaac has not learned is one we find in:
Numbers 32:23 “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.”
Abimelech, probably not the same man that Abraham deceived because it’s about 100 years later, but the king of the region in which Isaac is dwelling, ruler of the same people. He observes Isaac and Rebekah together and understands by what he sees that their relationship is more than that of brother and sister. Where the King James Version uses the word “SPORTING” the New King James translates the activity as “SHOWING ENDEARMENT”, and the English Standard Version “LAUGHING”.
As we noted before here we see that even very good men had faults and weaknesses, even men who walked and talked with God on a regular basis. This does not justify either their weakness or ours but simply helps us understand and not despair because we have a weakness that we must battle constantly
When asked by Abimelech why he did this Isaac confessed that he feared for his life.
v.10-11 “And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us. 11And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”
Abimelech upbraids Isaac just as his ancestor had done to Abraham for the same offense. He could have caused a real tragedy by his deception. Abimelech takes Isaac and Rebekah under his personal protection and decrees that any person of his kingdom that touches or injures either of them will face punishment of death. It brings to mind the protection provided by God to his prophets of which Isaac is one:
Psalms 105:14-15 “HE SUFFERED NO MAN TO DO THEM WRONG: YEA, HE REPROVED KINGS FOR THEIR SAKES; saying, TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED, AND DO MY PROPHETS NO HARM.”
v.12 “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him.”
Always before in the scripture Abraham and Isaac were pictured as being rich in herds, flocks, silver and gold with nothing being said about sowing and reaping but here for the first time we find farming mentioned. Isaac sowed and reaped an hundredfold. God continues to bless Isaac, he continues to prosper materially.
v.13-14 “And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: 14For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him.”
In fact God blessed Isaac to the extent that he not only became great but now we’re told that he became very great. The Holy Spirit teaches us through the Psalmist:
“PRAISE YE THE LORD. BLESSED is THE MAN that FEARETH THE LORD, that DELIGHTETH GREATLY IN HIS COMMANDMENTS. HIS SEED SHALL BE MIGHTY UPON EARTH: THE GENERATION OF THE UPRIGHT SHALL BE BLESSED. WEALTH AND RICHES shall be IN HIS HOUSE: AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS ENDURETH FOR EVER.” Psalms 112:1-3
But with these blessings comes the envy and hatred of those who are not so blessed. The Holy Spirit through the wisdom of Solomon reminds us that this will happen when we prosper because of righteousness or “RIGHT WORK”:
Ecclesiastes 4:4 “Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.”
We will be envied and endure “VEXATION OF SPIRIT.”
v.15 “For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth.”
The great herds and flocks of Isaac needed water to survive. In spite of the covenant that had been made with Abraham in their envy and spite these people worked at destroying the water that Isaac needed to maintain his animals. They stopped up the wells that Abraham had dug. We don’t know the common law of the land but apparently because he had dug these wells, apparently he and his descendants had first claim on their water.
v.16 “And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.”
Abimelech now wants Isaac to remove
himself from his kingdom. Through God’s
blessings he had become like the children of
Exodus 1:9-10 “Now
there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. 9And he
said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of
But Isaac did not depart from Gerar immediately.
Read Genesis 26:17-25 – Isaac Moves to
v.17-18 “And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. 18And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.”
In spite of Abimelech telling him to
leave Isaac moves into the
Isaac digs again his father’s wells and continues to occupy the land, calling the wells by the same names that Abraham used. He’s defying Abimelech and claiming his right to the water but this causes nothing but trouble.
v.19-20 “And Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water. 20And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac’s herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him.”
Isaac’s servants dig another well in this valley, one that uncovers a spring but the local herdsmen claim the water as their own.
v.21-22 “And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah. 22And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the LORD hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
Isaac’s servants move and dig two more wells and finally one that the Philistine herdsmen did not claim. But there is to be no peace for Isaac in this land.
he went up from thence to
Isaac finally leaves the land near
Gerar and moves back to
v.24 “And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake.”
When Isaac returns to the southern
area of what became the
v.25. “And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.”
So Isaac settles down, at least to the extent that either he or Abraham ever settle down. He builds an altar and “CALLED UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD”, he worships and obeys God’s commands. He pitches his tent, establishes his settlement, though still in the dwelling of a nomad and his servants dig a well that they might have the water needed to sustain themselves and their herds and flocks.
Read Genesis 26:26-33 – Abimelech’s Covenant With Isaac
v.26-27 “Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army. 27And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?”
Isaac finally left the area of Gerar
as Abimelech had told him to do but Abimelech apparently has second thoughts
about Isaac. He is wealthy and powerful
Judges 11:7 “And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?”
v.28-29 “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; 29That 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.”
Abimelech sounds like a typical politician, doesn’t he? He “adjusts” the truth to suit his purpose, he’s an original “spin doctor”. Isaac has been richly blessed; God is with him so Abimelech wants him for an ally, he definitely doesn’t want Isaac to be his enemy. He claims that his people have done nothing but good for Isaac, apparently he doesn’t want to acknowledge that the reason Isaac moved is because his people, his herdsmen kept claiming Isaac’s wells. He claims that he sent Isaac away in peace. This is at least partially true as there was no warfare between them but neither was there any love lost between them either.
v.30-31 “And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink. 31And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.”
But Isaac is a peace loving man and he accepts Abimelech’s proposal. He prepares a feast to celebrate the occasion. The next day they finalize their covenant and Abimelech goes on his way.
it came to pass the same day, that Isaac’s servants came, and told him
concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found
water. 33And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is
The scripture tells us that on the
very same day, Isaac’s servants find water and their well is complete. As Abraham, his father, had done in earlier
times, Isaac names the well Shebah. Then we’re told by Moses that the name
Read Genesis 26:34-35 – The Marriage of Esau
v.34 “And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:”
has reached the marriageable age of forty, the same age as Isaac when he
married Rebekah but he goes his own way in choosing a wife, or as in this case
wives. He marries daughters of the
Hittite people who live in this part of
v.35 “Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.”
This marriage of Esau’s caused his parents “GRIEF OF MIND”. There are probably several reasons but it underscores the character of a man who would sell his birthright. The Holy Spirit through the Hebrew writer records:
“Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” Hebrews 12:16
calling him both a fornicator and a profane person. The Hittites had no religion among them, we’re told, and Isaac and Rebekah are grieved just as we would be today if one of our Christian children married someone who did not respect or serve God.