Genesis Chapter Twenty-Six


Read Genesis 26:1-6 – Isaac Goes to Gerar


v.1And 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.2And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:”


            As would be expected with a land that is watered by a great river such as the Nile, Egypt apparently is not affected by this famine.  The scripture implies, by recording God’s warning, that Isaac was thinking about going there but God tells him not to do so.


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 Canaan he made him a promise and entered a covenant with him:


Genesis 12:2And 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 11:9By 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.4And 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.5-6Because 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.7And 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:




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.8-9And 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 32:23But 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.10-11And 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:




v.12Then 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:




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 4:4Again, 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.15For 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.16And 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 Israel in Egypt:


Exodus 1:9-10Now 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 Israel are more and mightier than we:”


But Isaac did not depart from Gerar immediately.


Read Genesis 26:17-25 – Isaac Moves to Beersheba


v.17-18And 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 valley of Gerar.  The Pictorial Library of Bible Lands depicts Gerar as a city of about 40 acres, quite large for this region and time.  It sat on the bank of a wadi or river that ran through a valley of the same name.

            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.19-20And 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.21-22And 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.


v.23And he went up from thence to Beersheba.”


            Isaac finally leaves the land near Gerar and moves back to Beersheba where Abraham had lived for many years.  We have no record of God’s intervention or that he communed with Isaac during this period of strife so perhaps this was the providence of God working to encourage Isaac to move again.  The region around Gerar is depicted as being very fertile, even today, and it would have been easy for Isaac to have anchored there and joined with the Philistine peoples.


v.24And 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 land of Israel God visits him and confirms the promise that was made to Abraham.  He is now where God wants him to be.


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 26:26-33Abimelech’s Covenant With Isaac


v.26-27Then 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 and Beersheba, after all, is only day’s journey by camel away from Gerar.  So he takes a friend and the captain of his army and pays a visit to Isaac.  Isaac’s reaction is much the same as Jephthah of Gilead in the time of the Judges.


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.28-29And 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.30-31And 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.


v.32-33And 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 Beersheba unto this day.”


            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 Beersheba, which means the “well of the oath”, was continued even until the day that Genesis was recorded.  No city exists at Beersheba today but you can see the pictures of the archeological dig on-line at the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands.


Read Genesis 26:34-35 – The Marriage of Esau


v.34And 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:”


Esau 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 Canaan.  The same people that Abraham bought his burial cave from in Genesis 23.  Bashemath has more than one name and is called Adah in Genesis 36 and Malalath in Genesis 28.


v.35Which 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.