Genesis 26 – Isaac Sins Like Abraham
A. Isaac repeats Abraham’s mistakes.
1. (1) Isaac responds to famine by going towards Egypt.
There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar.
a. There was a famine in the land: Though Isaac lived in the land God promised to his father Abraham and his descendants, it did not mean that life in the land would be without trouble or challenge. As there was a famine in the days of Abram (Genesis 12:10), so there was a famine in Isaac’s day.
b. Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar: Isaac began to go south towards Egypt, as Abram did in famine (Genesis 12:10). It seems that Isaac thought to travel along the famous road between Egypt and Canaan that went along the Mediterranean Sea.
i. Gerar was the same place where Isaac’s father Abraham met another Abimelech, and almost compromised his wife (Genesis 20:1-18). A similar story, similar both in the way man acted and the way God acted would play out with Abraham’s son.
ii. The ruler of Gerar was called Abimelech as a title, not as a personal name. This is why both Abraham and Isaac dealt with Abimelech (Genesis 20, Genesis 26).
2. (2-5) God proclaims the covenant to Isaac.
Then the LORD appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”
a. Do not go down to Egypt: As Isaac journeyed south, God warned him not to go any further. Isaac was to always live in the land that God told him to live in. The Son of Promise was always to live in the land of promise; if Isaac did, God promised to be with him and to bless him.
b. I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father: In theory, it was possible for the covenant to end with the passing of Abraham, but God was true to His word. The covenant God made with Abraham was not only unto Abraham, but unto his chosen descendants also (Genesis 17:7-8). This fulfilled a specific promise made in Genesis 17:19.
i. This formal repetition of the covenant included the three essential aspects first communicated in Genesis 12:2-3 and repeated afterwards, including the promise of:
· A land (all these lands).
· A nation (your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven).
· A blessing (in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed).
c. Because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge: God said that He kept the covenant with Isaac because of Abraham’s obedience. A close look at Abraham’s life shows that his obedience wasn’t complete or constant; yet God recognized it.
i. God could say this of Abraham because Abraham was declared righteous by faith (Genesis 15:6), and as far as God was concerned, all He saw in Abraham was the righteousness of Jesus.
3. (6-8) Abimelech takes Rebekah because Isaac says she is his sister.
So Isaac dwelt in Gerar. And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “She is my wife,” because he thought, “lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold.” Now it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked through a window, and saw, and there was Isaac, showing endearment to Rebekah his wife.
a. So Isaac dwelt in Gerar: Isaac obeyed God’s warning and stayed in the land; yet he lived among the people in Canaan, closer than he had before, and this would bring trouble.
b. And he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “She is my wife”: Isaac went from such a high spiritual experience (Genesis 26:1-5) to such blatant sin because of the weakness of his own flesh, and also because of his father’s bad example.
i. Peter, with his confession and wrong counsel to Jesus, was a perfect example of how sin can follow upon an outpouring of God’s blessing. For good reason, 1 Corinthians 10:12 says: Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
c. Lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold: The Bible doesn’t teach we are bound by what are known as generational curses, but it is often the case that the sins of the fathers are found in the children. This may be because those sins of the flesh have been nurtured in the same environment and patterned by a previous generation.
d. There was Isaac, showing endearment to Rebekah his wife: When Abimelech saw this, he made the logical conclusion, understanding the true nature of their relationship.
i. The King James Version has an interesting translation here, saying Isaac was sporting with Rebekah.
4. (9-11) Isaac is rebuked by a pagan king, even as his father was.
Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Quite obviously she is your wife; so how could you say, ‘She is my sister’?” And Isaac said to him, “Because I said, ‘Lest I die on account of her.’” And Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might soon have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt on us.” So Abimelech charged all his people, saying, “He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”
a. Quite obviously she is your wife: What Isaac thought could be hidden was obvious to others. This is often the case with sin among God’s people.
b. What is this you have done to us: In a similar manner to the rebuke of Pharaoh to Abraham (Genesis 12:18-19) and of Abimelech’s predecessor to Abraham (Genesis 20:10), this ruler of Gerar rebuked Isaac for his deception.
c. He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death: Even as God protected his father Abraham and mother Sarah (even in the midst of sinful conduct), Isaac and Rebekah were also protected.
B. Isaac digs the wells.
1. (12-14) Isaac becomes wealthy, as Abraham was before him.
Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him.
a. Then Isaac sowed in that land: Prosperity came to Isaac as the blessing upon his hard work. He probably received enough of an inheritance from his father that he did not have to work, but worked hard nonetheless, and God blessed it and he became very prosperous.
b. So the Philistines envied him: Isaac’s prosperity prompted the envy of his neighbors. This was another problem that came from living in close company to the Philistines of Gerar.
2. (15-17) Isaac leaves Gerar.
Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth. And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.” Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.
a. Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells: Wells were precious, and they were difficult and expensive to dig. It was a significant attack to destroy someone’s wells. This shows how severe the envy of the Philistines was towards Isaac.
i. These particular wells were dug in the days of Abraham (Genesis 21:30) and had served Abraham and his son for many years.
b. Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar: Isaac didn’t want to continue the battle, and was confident that God would take care of him if he departed. He did, but did not go far.
3. (18-19) Isaac digs the wells of Abraham.
And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them. Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there.
a. Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham: Isaac went back to the same resources that had sustained his father and all he possessed (Genesis 21:25-31). It took faith, work, and commitment to dig the wells again, but the provision was there when Isaac sought it diligently.
i. For nomadic herdsmen, even great ones like Abraham and Isaac, water was life. In some seasons of the year, human or animal life could not be sustained without water from wells. These wells were not a luxury, but a necessity.
ii. There is a powerful illustration here of the spiritual life. The spiritual resources that sustained previous generations are available for us today, if we will seek them with faith, work, and commitment.
b. He called them by the names which his father had called them: Isaac honored the provision that his father received by calling the wells by the same name.
i. Using this as a spiritual illustration, we might say that the wells of peace, of power, of grace, of wisdom, of transformation are all available for the believer today as they were for previous generations. The question is whether a present generation will have the faith, the work, and the commitment to dig the wells again.
c. Found a well of running water: It seems that Isaac even found something that Abraham didn’t. Isaac found the best kind of well – one of running water. This was the best kind of provision, and came to Isaac as he received the provision once enjoyed by his father Abraham.
4. (20-23) Three wells and their names.
But 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 quarreled with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” Then he went up from there to Beersheba.
a. He called the name of the well Esek: The first well was named contention, because it made others jealous. It seems that though Isaac called these wells by the names Abraham had previously given (Genesis 26:18), he also named them in light of his present circumstances.
b. He called its name Sitnah: The second well was named opposition for the same reason.
c. He called its name Rehoboth: The third well was named roominess, because it was far enough to not be a problem. Isaac saw this as a testimony to God’s faithfulness and blessing (now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land).
i. Isaac saw these wells as they rightly were: the blessing of God. He saw them more as God’s gracious blessing than the result of his hard work.
d. Then he went up from there to Beersheba: God used the conflicts to lead Isaac back to Beersheba, where Abraham had been before. Because God repeatedly demonstrated His faithfulness to Isaac, he knew that he could be blessed and fruitful wherever God led him (we shall be fruitful in the land).
i. Of course, none of this lessens the responsibility of those who unjustly opposed Isaac. God used their sinful contention against Isaac, but it was still sin.
C. God’s blessing upon Isaac.
1. (24-25) God again confirms His promise to Isaac for Abraham’s sake.
And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.” So he built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
a. The LORD appeared to him the same night: Isaac’s father Abraham had many personal appearances of the LORD. This seems to be the first such experience for Isaac.
b. Do not fear, for I am with you: In the atmosphere of greater contention between Isaac’s herdsmen and the Philistine herdsmen, Isaac had reason to be afraid. Here, God told Isaac to put any such fears away.
c. For My servant Abraham’s sake: God kept His covenant with Isaac for Abraham’s sake. After the same pattern, God keeps His covenant with us for Jesus’ sake.
d. So he built an altar there… he pitched his tent there… dug a well: Isaac walked in the same paths of his father Abraham. Altars and tents marked Abraham’s life, demonstrating a life of worship and trust. Isaac lived that, calling on the name of the LORD, and enjoyed the additional blessing of another well.
2. (26-31) The natives make peace with Isaac because the LORD is with him, just as happened with Abraham.
Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath, one of his friends, and Phichol the commander of his army. And Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?” But they said, “We have certainly seen that the LORD is with you. So we said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you, that you will do us no harm, since we have not touched you, and since we have done nothing to you but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the LORD.’” So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. Then they arose early in the morning and swore an oath with one another; and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.
a. Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you: Isaac’s question was logical. He was pushed out of Gerar by the contention of the herdsmen of Gerar. He had every reason to believe he was not welcome – and he went towards Beersheba.
b. We have certainly seen that the LORD is with you: Abimelech gave a surprising response. He and others could see that the covenant God, Yahweh, was with Isaac and had blessed him. He came to ask for peace and a blessing from Isaac, this wonderfully blessed man, because he knew that God was with him, and that you are now the blessed of the LORD.
i. We see the tremendous practical wisdom of Isaac’s actions. He didn’t respond to evil with more evil, and he sought God’s provision along the pattern of ancient ways.
c. They departed from him in peace: After a feast marking their covenant of peace, Abimelech departed from Isaac.
3. (32-33) God’s blessing for Isaac in the form of a well.
It came to pass the same day that Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.” So he called it Shebah. Therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.
a. It came to pass the same day: God brought many blessings to Isaac at once. He enjoyed a rich season of blessing.
b. We have found water: Abraham was a man of altars, and Jacob would be a man of tents. Isaac was a man of wells, and he knew God’s constant provision. He knew by experience God could provide in many different ways, not just one.
i. So he called it Sheba: “Like Isaac, after you have drunk of the waters of ‘contention’ and ‘hatred’, you will be brought to Rehoboth, where you shall have ‘room’, yea, even to Beer-sheba, ‘the well of the oath’, or ‘the seventh well’, ‘the well of satiety’, where your enemies shall seek your favor, and glorify your Lord.” (Spurgeon)
4. (34-35) Esau marries, becoming a grief to his parents.
When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah.
a. He took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: Esau, the son of Isaac and twin brother of Jacob, went against the pattern established by Abraham, that his descendants should not marry the women of Canaan (Genesis 24:3-4).
b. They were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah: This shows Esau’s character as a fornicator and profane person (Hebrews 12:16).
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission