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.”
And there was a famine in the land
famine that was in the days of Abraham - at least a century previous (see ch.12:10).
And Isaac - who, since his father's death, had been residing at Hagar's well in the
Abraham's sojourn in Gerar, it is scarcely probable that this was the monarch who
2 “And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not
in the land which I shall tell thee of:” And the Lord (Jehovah, i.e. the God of the
covenant and of the promise) appeared unto him, - only two Divine manifestations
are mentioned as having been granted to the patriarch. Either the peaceful tenor of
Isaac s life rendered more theophanies in his case unnecessary; or, if others were
enjoyed by him, the brief space allotted by the historian to the record of his life may
account for their omission from the narrative. Though commonly understood as
having occurred in Gerar (Keil, Lange, Murphy), this appearance, is perhaps better
regarded as having taken place at Lahai-roi, and as having been the cause of Isaac's
turning aside into the land of the Philistines (Calvin) - and said, Go not down into
done on the occasion of the earlier dearth (ch. 12:10). Jacob in the later famine
was instructed to go down to
was left at liberty to think and act for himself. Dwell in the land which I will tell
thee of (i.e.
“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;” Sojourn in this land, - viz.,
Philistia (Murphy, Alford), though otherwise regarded as
Calvin) - and I will be with thee, and will bless thee. Of this comprehensive
promise, the first part was enjoyed by, while the second was distinctly stated to,
Abraham (compare ch. 12:2). God s presence with Isaac was of higher significance
than his presence with Ishmael (ch. 21:20). For unto thee, and unto thy seed, will
I give all these - הָאֶל, an archaism for הָאֵלֶּה (compare ch. 19:8, 25) - countries
which I sware unto Abraham thy father.
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;” And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven (see ch. 15:1-6),
and will give unto thy seed all these countries (i.e. the territories occupied by the
Canaanitish tribes); and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed
5 “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my
commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” Because that Abraham obeyed
(literally, hearkened to) my voice (a general description of the patriarch's obedience,
which the next clause further particularizes), and kept my charge, custodierit custodiam
(Calvin); observed my observances (Kalisch); the charge being that which is intended
to be kept - my commandments, - i.e. particular injunctions, specific enactments,
express or occasional orders (compare II Chronicles 35:16) - my statutes, - or
permanent ordinances, such as the Passover; literally, that which is graven on
tables or monuments (compare Exodus 12:14) - and my laws - which refer to the
great doctrines of moral obligation. The three terms express the contents of the
Divine observances which Abraham observed.
6 “And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:” As God had shown and enjoined him.
A Good Man’s Perplexity (vs. 1-6)
Ø Its projected destinations.
Pharaohs was yet no proper resort for the son of Abraham, the heir of
been to Abraham a scene of peril, and it was not a place to which he was
directed to turn. Considerations such as these should have operated to
from even entertaining the idea of a pilgrimage to
the behavior of this Hebrew patriarch is sometimes outdone by that of
modern saints, who not simply project, but actually perform, journeys, of
pleasure or of business, across the boundary line which separates the
Church from the world, into places where their spiritual interests are
endangered, and that too not only without the Divine sanction, but
SOMETIMES IN EXPRESS VIOLATION OF THAT AUTHORITY!
Ø Its ostensible occasion. The famine. A severe trial, especially to a flockmaster.
It was yet by no means an exceptional trial, but one which had
in the experience of the inhabitants of
particular of his father, and might possibly recur to himself, just as life’s
afflictions generally bear a singular resemblance to one another
I Corinthians 10:13; I Peter 4:12). It was not an accidental trial, but had
been appointed and permitted by that Divine wisdom without whose
sanction no calamity can fall on either nation or individual, saint or sinner
(Deuteronomy 32:39; Psalm 66:11; Amos 3:6). And just as little
was it purposeless, being designed to initiate Isaac in that life discipline
from which no child of God can escape (Acts 14:22; Hebrews 12:11;
Ø Its secret inspiration. Unbelief. Jehovah, who had given the land to
Isaac, could easily have maintained him in it notwithstanding the dearth,
had it been His pleasure not to provide a way of escape. Had Isaac not at
this time been walking somewhat by sight, it is probable his thoughts
would not have
and dangerous projects have a secret connection with THE SPIRIT
OF UNBELIEF which causes to err.
Ø Prohibiting. “Go not down into
would have been blameless had he gone down without them. Abraham did
so, but it is not certain that God approved of his conduct in that matter.
Besides, though it could be shown that Abraham incurred no guilt and
hurt by residence in
might venture thither with impunity and without sin. Hence the proposed
journey was interdicted. So God in His word debars saints from going
down to the unspiritual and unbelieving world to damage or imperil their
souls’ higher interests.
Ø Prescribing. “Dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: sojourn in this
land.” It is always safest for the saint in seasons of perplexity to wait for
and to follow the light from heaven. Sufficient guidance God has promised,
through His Spirit, by His word, and in His providence, to enable gracious
ones who wait upon his teaching to detect the path of duty and the place of
Ø Promising. For Isaac’s encouragement the various promises of the
Abrahamic covenant are repeated, renewed, and confirmed to himself for
his father’s sake; embracing promises of the Divine presence — “I will be
with thee” — and the Divine blessing — “and will bless thee;” in which
latter are comprehended the inheritance, — “all these countries,” — the
seed. — “I will make thy seed to multiply,” — and the universal salvation
— “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” which had been
promised and guaranteed to Abraham by oath. So has God given to
believers “exceeding great and precious promises” for Christ’s sake,
because of the covenant made with Him, on the ground of the obedience
rendered, and for the merit of the sacrifice presented, by Him.
thither in compliance with the Divine instructions. Like Abraham’s, Isaac’s
o Minute, exactly following the Divine prescription.
o Prompt, putting into immediate execution the Divine commandment.
o Patient, remaining in the land of the Philistines till God in His
providence indicated it was time to remove. So should Christ’s
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.” And the men of the place
(i.e. the inhabitants of Gerar) asked him (literally, asked, or made inquiries; probably
first at each other, though ultimately the interrogations might reach Isaac himself)
of his wife (being in all likelihood fascinated by her beauty); and he said, - falling
was certainly an equivocation, since, although sometimes used to designate a
female relative generally (see ch. 24:60), the term "sister" was here designed
to suggest that Rebekah was his own sister, born of the same parents. In propagating
this deception Isaac appears to have been actuated by a similar motive to that which
impelled his father - for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he (sc. to himself,
the words describing the good man's secret apprehensions), the men of the place
should kill me for Rebekah; - the historian adding, as the explanation of his fears –
because she was fair to look upon (see ch. 24:16).
8 “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.” And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time
(literally, when were prolonged to him there the days), that Abimelech king of the
Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with
Rebekah his wife - i.e. caressing and using playful liberties with her, which showed
she was not a sister, but a wife - παίζοντα – paizonta - sporting (Septuagint),
9 “And 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,
(sc. in my heart, or to myself), Lest I die for her.
10 “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.” And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the
people might lightly have lain with thy wife, - literally, within a little (compare
shouldest - i.e. (within a little) thou mightest - have brought (or caused to come)
guiltiness upon us (compare ch. 20:9, where חַטָּאָה is used instead of אָשָׁם).
11 “And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man
or his wife shall surely be put to death.” And Abimelech charged all his (literally,
the) people, saying, He that toucheth - in the sense of injureth (compare Joshua 9:19;
Psalm 105:15) - this man or his wife shall surely be put to death. The similarity of
this incident to that related in Genesis 20 concerning Abraham in Gerar may be
explained without resorting to the hypothesis of different authors, The stereotyped
character of the manners of antiquity, especially in the East, is sufficient to account
for the danger to which Sarah was exposed recurring in the case of Rebekah three
quarters of a century later. That Isaac should have resorted to the miserable expedient
of his father may have been due simply to a lack of originality on the part of Isaac; or
perhaps the recollection of the success which had attended his father's adoption of this
wretched subterfuge may have blinded him to its true character. But from whatever
cause resulting, the resemblance between the two narratives cannot be held as
destroying the credibility of either, and all the more that a careful scrutiny will
detect sufficient dissimilarity between them to establish the authenticity of the
incidents which they relate.
A Good Man’s Transgression (vs. 7-11)
Ø An unmitigated lie. It was scarcely entitled to claim the apology of being
what Abraham’s falsehood was, an equivocation, Rebekah not being
Isaac’s half-sister, but cousin.
Ø A deliberate lie. Asked about his relations to Rebekah, he coolly replies
that they are sister and brother. He had no right to suppose his
interrogators had ulterior designs against Rebekah’s honor.
Ø A cowardly lie. All falsehoods spring from craven fear — fear of the
consequences that may flow from telling THE HONEST TRUTH!
Ø A dangerous lie. By his wicked suppression of the truth he was guilty of
imperiling the chastity of her whom he sought to protect. Almost all
falsehoods are perilous, and most of them are mistakes.
Ø An unnecessary lie. No lie ever can be necessary; but least of all could
this have been, when God had already promised to be with him in the land
of the Philistines.
Ø An unbelieving lie. Had Isaac’s faith been active, he would hardly have
deemed it needful to disown his wife.
Ø A wholly worthless lie. Isaac might have remembered that twice over his
father had resorted to this miserable stratagem, and that in neither instance
had it sufficed to avert the danger which he dreaded. But lies generally are
wretched hiding-places for endangered bodies or anxious souls.
Ø God by His providence assists in the detection of liars. By the merest
accident, as it might seem, Abimelech discovered the true relationship of
Isaac and Rebekah; but both the time, place, and manner of that discovery
were arranged by God. So the face of God is set against them that do evil
(Psalm 34:16; I Peter 3:12, even though they should be His own people.
Ø Liars commonly assist in their own detection. Truth alone is sure-footed,
and never slips; error is liable to stumble at every step. It is difficult to
maintain a disguise for any lengthened period. The best fitting mask is sure
in time to fall off. Actions good in themselves often lead to the detection of
Ø With promptitude. Sending for Isaac, he charges him with his sin. It is
the part of a true friend to expose deception whenever it is practiced, and,
provided it be done in a proper spirit, the sooner it is done the better. Sin
that long eludes detection is apt to harden the sinning heart and sear the
Ø With fidelity. Characterizing it as:
o a surprising inconsistency on the part of a good man like Isaac;
o a reckless exposure of his wife’s person, which was far from
becoming in a kindly husband; and
o an unjustifiable offence against the people of the land, who, by his
carelessness and cowardice, might have been led into grievous
Ø With forgiveness. That Abimelech did not intend to exact punishment
from Isaac, or even cherish resentment against him in consequence of his
behavior, he proved by charging his people to beware of injuring in any
way either Isaac or Rebekah. It is good and beautiful when mercy seasons
judgment, and the reproofs of friendship are accompanied by messages of
12 “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold:
and the LORD blessed him.” Then Isaac sowed in that land, - viz., Philistia. Though
a distinct advance on the purely nomadic life pursued by Abraham, this did not imply
fixed property in, or even permanent settlement on, the soil, "but only annual tenancy"
thereof. Robinson (1. 77) mentions a colony of the Tawarah Arabs, about fifty families,
living near Abu Zabel, in
Biblical patriarchs were not mere Bedouin wanderers, like those who now occupy
the Eastern deserts. They had large herds of cattle, which genuine Bedouins have
not; they tilled the ground, which these robbers never do; and they accommodated
themselves, without difficulty or reluctance, to town and city when necessary,
which wild Arabs cannot endure" ('Land and Book,' p. 296) - and received in the same
year an hundred-fold - literally, an hundred measures, i.e. for each measure of that
which he sowed; an exceptional return even for
less fertile than the very best of the
and Arab grain stores at Nuttar-abu-Sumar,
in the vicinity of
the remunerative yield of its harvests (Robinson, vol. 1. p. 292). Herodotus (1. 193)
speaks of two and three hundred-fold as having been reaped on the plain of Babylonia;
Matthew 13:23). The reading "an hundred of barley" (Septuagint, Syriac, Michaelis)
is not to be preferred to that in the Textus Receptus. And the Lord blessed him - as
he had promised (v. 3).
13 “And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became
very great:” And the man waxed great, - like his father before him (compare
ch. 24:1,35) - and went forward, - literally, went going, the verb followed by
the infinitive expressing constant growth or progressive increase (compare ch. 8:3;
Judges 4:24) - and grew until he became very great - "as any other farmer;
would who reaped such harvests" ('Land and Book').
14 “For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of
servants: and the Philistines envied him.” For he had (literally, there was to him)
possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: - γεώργια
for the concrete, "implying all manner of work and service belonging to a family,
and so servants and tillage of all sorts" (Ainsworth); but the reference rather
seems to be to the number of his household, or domestic slaves, plurimum familiae
(Vulgate) - and the Philistines envied him. The patriarch's possessions (mikneh,
from kanah, to acquire) excited jealous feeling (from root kana, to burn) in the
breasts of his neighbors (compare Ecclesiastes 4:4).
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.” For all the wells which his father's servants had digged in the days of
Abraham his father (see ch. 21:30), the Philistines had stopped them, and filled
them with earth. This act, commonly regarded as legitimate in ancient warfare,
was practically to Isaac an act of expulsion, it being impossible for flocks and
herds to exist without access to water supplies. It was probably, as the text indicates,
the outcome of envy, rather than inspired by fear that Isaac in digging and possessing
wells was tacitly claiming the ownership of the land.
16 “And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier
than we.” And Abimelech said unto Isaac (almost leading to the suspicion that
the Philistine monarch had instigated the outbreak of hostilities amongst his people),
Go from us (a royal command rather than a friendly advice); for thou art much
mightier than we. The same apprehension of the growing numbers and strength
of Isaac's descendants in
to their enslavement (see Exodus 1:9).
17 “And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent
dwelt there.” And Isaac - perhaps not without remonstrance, but without offering
I Peter 3:9)
- departed thence (i.e. from Gerar), and pitched his tent in the
of Gerar, - a valley or nahal meant a low, flat region watered by a mountain stream.
The Wady Gerar has been identified with the Joorf-el-Gerar, the rush or rapid of
Gerar, three hours south-east of
18 “And 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.” And Isaac digged again - literally, returned and digged, i.e. re-dug
(compare II Kings 20:5) - the wells of water, which they (the servants of Abraham)
had digged in the days of Abraham his father; - from which it appears that Abraham
had digged other wells besides that of
stopped them after the death of Abraham:” - which was a violation of the league
into which Abimelech had entered with the patriarch (ibid.) - and he called
their names after the names by which his father had called them - and with which
Isaac was sufficiently acquainted.
19 “And Isaac's servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing
20 “And 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.”
And the herdmen of Gerar - i.e. Abimelech's servants (ch. 21:25) - did strive with
ours: - literally, to us (belong) the waters - and he called the name of the well Esek
("Strife"); because they strove with him - the verb being עָשַׂק, to strive about anything.
21 “And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name
of it Sitnah.” And they digged another well (Isaac having yielded up the first), and
strove for that also: - "The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water"
(Proverbs 17:14) and he called the name of it Sitnah - "Contention" (from שָׂטָן,
to lie in wait as an adversary; whence Satan); probably in Wady-es-Shutein, near
22 “And 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.”
And he removed from thence (yielding that too), and digged another well;
and for that they strove not (perhaps as being beyond the boundaries of Gerar):
and he called the name of it Reheboth; - i.e. "Wide spaces" (hence "streets,"
(ch. 19:2); from רָחַב, to be or become broad; conjectured to have been situated
in the Wady
Ruhaibeh, about eight and a half hours to the south of
where are still found a well named Bir-Rohebeh and ruins of a city of the same
name (Robinson, vol. 1. p. 289; Thomson, 'Land and Book,' p. 558) - and he said,
For now the Lord hath made room (literally, hath made a broad space) for us,
we shall be fruitful in the land.
A Good Man’s Prosperity (vs. 12-22)
Ø The industry of Isaac. “Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the
same year an hundredfold.” An intimate connection subsists between
diligence and prosperity.
o As there is no harvest without a seed-time, so there is no increase of
wealth without the putting forth of personal labor in its acquisition
(compare Proverbs 10:4; 13:4; 28:19).
o As by God’s appointment harvest follows seed-time, so commonly
“the hand of the diligent maketh rich” (compare ibid. 13:4; 21:5;
Ø The blessing of God. “And the Lord blessed him.” As without Divine
assistance the best contrived and most laboriously applied means may fail
in the accumulation of material goods, so with heavenly succor the least
likely instruments can achieve success. The harvests of the farmer depend
more upon the goodness of God than upon the excellence of the plow.
(compare Psalm 127:1-2).
Ø The envy of the Philistines. Envy:
o one of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19; James 4:5),
o a frequent characteristic of evil men (I Corinthians 3:3; Titus 3:3),
o an occasional infirmity of pious souls (I Corinthians 3:3; Philippians
1:15; I Peter 2:1),
o straitly forbidden by the law of God (Exodus 20:17; Psalm 37:1;
o is commonly excited by observing the prosperity of others (Psalm
37:7; 73:7; Ecclesiastes 4:4; for example:
§ Rachel and Leah, ch. 30:1, 15;
§ Joseph’s brethren, ch. 37:4-11,19-20; Acts 7:9;
§ Miriam and Aaron, Numbers 12:1-10;
§ the princes of Darius, Daniel 6:4),
o is usually accompanied with some degree of hatred as:
§ Cain, ch. 4:4-8;
§ Sarah, ch. 16:5-6;
§ Laban, ch. 31:5),
o and inevitably tends, as in the case of the Philistines,
to hostility, secret or open.
2. The suspicion of Abimelech. The growing power of the patriarch had
filled the monarch’s mind with alarm. Interpreting the character of Isaac by
his own, he conceived it impossible to possess large resources without
using them to acquire dominion over others. Modern kings and statesmen
are scarcely further advanced, the prosperity of neighboring empires being
commonly regarded as a menace to the liberties of their own. It is the
mission of Christianity, as regards both nations and individuals, to show
how power of every kind can be possessed without injury, and wielded
with advantage, to the highest interests of others.
Ø Patience, or the exhibition of a meek and unresisting spirit in submitting
to injury. When
Abimelech requested him to leave the town of
left. When the Philistines filled up his father’s wells, he quietly dug them
out again. When the herdmen of Gerar wrangled with his shepherds about
a spring, he simply gave it up, and sought another; and when this too was
disputed, he retired and sank a third. And all the while his flocks and herds
kept on multiplying. A beautiful example of the spirit which Christ has
enjoined (Matthew 5:39-42): and of the promise which Christ has made
(ibid. 5:5) to His followers.
Ø Perseverance, or the diligent exercise of means in selecting pasture
grounds and digging wells; not permitting himself to be discouraged by the
opposition of his neighbors, but, while peacefully allowing himself to be
despoiled, steadily attending to his business. An illustration of that quiet,
determined, and unwearied application which often contributes more to
success in life than brilliant abilities.
Ø Piety, or the grateful recognition of God’s hand in putting an end to the
irritation and annoyance of his neighbors, and giving him at last a
comfortable settlement at Rehoboth. It is the grace of God which affords:
o quiet neighborhoods to reside in,
o easy circumstances to live in, and
o hopeful futures to trust in; and
it is piety in us to ACKNOWLEDGE THAT GRACE!
1. That there is only one royal road to material prosperity, viz., diligence
2. That if material prosperity can procure comforts, it is also attended by
3. That material prosperity is often thrown away in litigation when it might
be preserved by submission.
4. That material prosperity should stir the heart’s gratitude to God.
Digging Wells of Salvation (v. 22)
“And he removed from thence, and digged another well.” Historically, an
instance of a meek and quiet spirit in contact with the world.
Ø Wells precious.
Ø Often formed with much labor.
Ø Herdsmen of Gerar took what Isaac had digged.
Ø Twice he yielded for the sake of peace.
Ø Then he digged another, and for it they strove not.
Ø His example (compare Matthew 5:39; I Corinthians 6:7).
But we may also observe a typical significance. Wells, fountains, sources of
“living water” (Isaiah 12:3; Zechariah 13:1) connected with spiritual blessings
(compare I Corinthians 10:4 with John 4:14, and 7:39).
water). The gift is from God alone (Isaiah 44:3; Zechariah 12:10).
His will to bless appears through the whole Bible — in the first formation
of man, and in care for the salvation of sinners (Luke 19:10). But
many, though thirsty, do not seek living water. They have not peace.
Separation from God brings unrest (Isaiah 57:20-21). But the cause is not
believed, and the way of comfort not loved. Many try all ways to find
peace EXCEPT THE RIGHT ONE! They will follow preachers, or take
up systems, or join associations. But Christ’s word is “Come unto me.” Again,
many will not dig; content merely to wish. God who bestows the gift has
appointed means (Matthew 11:12). These do not really desire a work
of grace in their souls. They want to be made safe, not to be renewed; to be
delivered from fear, but not disturbed just now. Hence they do not search their
Bibles (Psalm 119:130), or pray for the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 37:9),
or care for the salvation of others (I John 3:17). It is God’s will we
should dig. He may send a blessing unsought. But usually He works
through means. The Bible, prayer, the Lord’s table, Christian converse,
Christian work (Proverbs 11:25), all are as wells, means for getting the
water of life; nothing in themselves, yet made effectual where the blessing
They form the trial of faith (I Peter 1:7). From those who love not
God. A Christian member of a worldly family, or cast among careless
associates, meets many hindrances. They may be open or veiled; in
opposition or in mistaken kindness. And time for prayer is intruded on, and
work for God is hindered, and a constant opposing influence is felt to chill
the love of God. Or the hindrance may be from within. In prayer the mind
overpowered by intrusive thoughts; besetting sins constantly gaining the
victory; our spirits not in harmony with the “still small voice.” (I Kings
19:12-13) Remember it is God’s will through trial to give victory
(I Corinthians 10:13). Amalek fought against
herdsmen strove against Isaac, but the way of victory was the same in
both instances — trust and perseverance.
His people though surrounded by hindrances? Is some means of grace
debarred? Is some line of Christian work, some way of Christian progress,
closed against thee? Dig another well. Seek and pray for other channels in
which to consecrate thy life. Perhaps the real foe hindering thee was self-will,
and God has helped thee to put down self. Jesus cried, “Come unto
me and drink.” Whatever be the well, He is the source of its spring. Make it
clear to your own heart that you are pressing to Him. Tell God that it is
indeed so. Then in some form or other the prayer, “Spring up, O well,”
shall have an abundant answer. (Numbers 21:17)
23 “And he went up from thence to
from thence (Rehoboth, where latterly he had been encamped) to Beer-sheba –
a former residence of Abraham (ch. 21:33), situated "near the water-shed between
the Mediterranean and the
wady by an ascent.
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.” And the Lord appeared
unto him the same night (i.e. the night of his arrival
dream or vision), I (the pronoun is emphatic) am the God (the Elohim) of Abraham
thy father (the language is expressive not alone of the covenant relationship which
subsisted between Jehovah and the patriarch while the latter lived, but also of the
present continuance of that relationship, since Abraham, though dead, had not
ceased to he): fear not (compare ch. 15:1, in which the same encouraging
admonition is addressed to Abraham after his battle with the kings), for I am
with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed - a repetition of promises
already given to himself (see vs. 3-4) - for my servant Abraham's sake - a reason
declaring God's gracious covenant, and not personal merit, to be t he true source
of blessing for Isaac.
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.” And he (i.e. Isaac,
in grateful response to the Divine Promiser who had appeared to him) builded an
altar there, - the first instance of altar building ascribed to Isaac; "those erected by
his father no doubt still remaining in the other places where he sojourned" (Inglis)
and called upon the name of the Lord, - i.e. publicly celebrated His worship in the
midst of his household (see on ch. 12:7-8) - and pitched his tent there (the place
being now to him doubly hallowed by the appearance of the Lord to himself as well
as to his father): and there Isaac's servants digged a well - a necessary appendage
to a flockmaster's settlement.
26 “Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends,
and Phichol the chief captain of his army.” Then (literally, and) Abimelech went
to him from Gerar, - the object of this visit was to resuscitate the alliance which had
formerly existed between the predecessor of Abimelech and Abraham (ch. 21:22-32);
yet the dissimilarity between the two accounts is so great as to discredit the hypothesis
that the present is only another version of the earlier transaction - and Ahuzzath one
of his friends, - מֵרֵעֵהוּ; neither ὁ νυμφαγωγὸς αὐτοῦ (Septuagint), nor a suite or
number of his friends (Onkelos), nor one of his friends (Authorized Version);
but his friend, and probably his privy councilor (Keil, Kalisch, Murphy), whose
presence along with the monarch and his general marks the first point of difference
between the present and the former incident - and Phichol (see ch. 21:22)
the chief captain of his army.”
27 “And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me,
and have sent me away from you? And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore –
מַדּוּעַ, contr, from מָה יָדוּעַ, what is taught? = for what reason (compare τί μαθών –
ti mathon) - come ye to me, seeing (literally, and) ye hate me, and have sent me
away from you? While animadverting to the personal hostility to which he had
been subjected, Isaac says nothing about the wells of which he had been deprived:
a second point of difference between this and the preceding narrative of Abraham's
covenant with the Philistine king.
28 “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;” And they said, We saw certainly - literally, seeing we saw,
i.e. we assuredly perceived, or, we have indeed discovered. Abimelech and his
ministers first explain the motive which has impelled them to solicit a renewal
of the old alliance - that the Lord was with thee: - the use of Jehovah instead
of Elohim, as in ch. 21:22, does not prove that this is a Jehovistic elaboration of
the earlier legend. Neither is it necessary to suppose that the term Jehovah is a
Mosaic translation of the epithet employed by Abimelech (Rosenmüller).
The long-continued residence of Abraham in Gerar and
opportunity for Abimelech becoming acquainted with the patriarch's God. The
introduction of Jehovah into the narrative may be noted as a third point of
dissimilarity between this and the previous account - and we said, Let there be
now an oath - i.e. a treaty secured by an oath or self-imprecation on the transgressor
a farther particularization of the parties to the covenant for the sake of emphasis –
and let us make a covenant with thee. The phrase "to cut a covenant," here used
in a so-called Jehovistic portion of the history, occurs in ch. 21:27, 32, which
confessedly belongs to the fundamental document.
29 “That 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.” That thou wilt do us no hurt, - literally, if thou
wilt do us evil (sc. thy curse come upon thee!); the force being to negative in the
strongest way possible any intention of injury (compare ch. 21:23) - as we have
not touched thee, - i.e. injured thee; which was not true, as they, through their
servants, had robbed Isaac of at least two wells - and as we have done unto thee
nothing but good, - Abimelech's estimate of his own behavior, if exceedingly
favorable to himself, is at least natural (see Proverbs 16:2) - and have sent thee
away in peace (without open violence certainly, because of Isaac's yielding, but
scarcely without hostility): thou art now the blessed of the Lord. Regarded by
some as an instance of adroit and pious flattery, these words are perhaps better
understood as explaining either why Isaac should overlook the injuries which
they had done to him (Calvin, Bush), or why he should grant them the oath which
they desired (Ainsworth), - he requiring no guarantee of safety from them, since
Jehovah was on his side (Murphy), - or why they had been stirred up to seek his
favor and alliance (Rosenmüller).
30 “And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink.”
And he made them a feast, - so
of any banquet in the case of Abraham's covenant, which may be noted as another
point of difference between the two transactions. A similar entertainment accompanied
Jacob's covenant with Laban (ch. 31:54); while in the Mosaic system the sacrificial
meal formed an integral part of the regularly-appointed sacrificial worship
31 “And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another:
and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.”
And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another - literally,
a man to his brother. On the derivation of the verb to swear from the word for seven,
see ch. 21:23 - and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.
32 “And 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.” And it came to pass the same day (i.e. the day of the treaty), that Isaac's
servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, - the
operation of sinking this well had probably commenced on the day of Abimelech s
well-diggers returned to the patriarch's encampment to report the success of their
operations - and said unto him, We have found water. The Septuagint, mistaking
לו, to him, for לֹא, not, read, "We have not found water;" the incorrectness of
which is sufficiently declared by what follows.
33 “And he called it Shebah: therefore the name
of the city is
this day.” And he called it Shebah ("Oath;" which he would certainly not have
done had it not been a well): therefore the name of the city (which ultimately
gathered round the well) is
Isaac must have perfectly understood that the place had been so named by his
father three quarters of a century previous; but either the name had been forgotten
by others, or had not come into general use amongst the inhabitants, or, observing
the coincidence between his finding a well just at the time of covenanting with
Abimelech and the fact that his father's treaty was also connected with a well,
he wished to confirm and perpetuate the early name which had been assigned to
the town. It is not certain that this was Abraham s well which had been rediscovered;
the probability is that it was another, since at Bir-es-Sheba two wells are still in
existence (ibid.) unto this day - an expression used throughout Genesis to describe
events separated from the age of Moses by several centuries (see ch. 19:37-38;
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:”
And Esau was forty years old - literally, a son of forty years; the age of Isaac
when he married Rebekah (ch. 25:20) - when he took to wife Judith (Jehu-dith,
"Celebrated," "Praised," if Shemitic; but the name is probably Phoenician) the
daughter of Beeri - ("of a well"? "The Well-finder," (see ch. 36:24) - the Hittite,
and Bashemath ("Sweet-smelling," "Fragrant") the daughter of Elon the Hittite) –
adding to them afterwards Maha-lath the daughter of Ishmael, and sister of
35 “Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.”
Which were a grief of mind (literally, bitterness of spirit) unto Isaac and to Rebekah –
possibly because of their personal characters, but chiefly because of their Canaanitish
descent, and because in marrying them Esau had not only violated the Divine law
which forbade polygamy, but also evinced an utterly irreligious and unspiritual
Line upon Line, in God’s Teaching (vs. 1-35)
Isaac, like his father, has his time of sojourn among the Philistines. The
events of his relationship with the Abimelech of his day resemble those of
the former patriarch, though there are differences which show that the
recurrence is historical.
impression. The intention of the record is to preserve a certain line of
Divine guidance. Isaac trod in the footsteps of Abraham. We have Isaac’s
wells, oaths, feast, Shebah — all following close upon those of the
midst of heathens confirms that covenant. The same lesson of special
providential protection and blessing is thus repeated and enforced. Again
the same contrast of man’s infirmity with God’s unchangeableness. The
perversity of the fleshly-minded man forming a marriage connection with
heathen people, and bringing grief of mind to his parents, reveals the
distinctness of the world
A Good Man’s Environment (vs. 23-35)
Ø Jehovah’s grace to Isaac.
o Revealing His presence. “The Lord appeared unto him.” Similiar
discoveries are now made to saints in “night’ seasons, and at localities
o Proclaiming His character. “I am the God of thy father;” an
appellation that must have sounded dear to Abraham s son, but not
more than the God of our Lord Jesus Christ is to Christians.
o Comforting His servant. “Fear not, for I am with thee.” So a
Christian has the best right to preserve calmness amid life’s
challenges and tribulations, Christ’s command (Matthew 10:31;
Luke 12:32); and the best reason, Christ’s presence (Matthew 28:20).
o Renewing His promises. “I will bless thee and multiply thy seed.”
God renews His promises when He revives their impressions on
the heart, which He does for His own glory as the faithful Promiser,
and for His people’s comfort as necessity requires.
Ø Isaac’s gratitude to Jehovah.
o Building an altar; an act expressive of Isaac’s personal devotion
(I Thessalonians 5:18).
o Invoking God’s name; referring to the public recital of God’s goodness
(see ch. 12:8). It becomes saints to remember God’s mercies
(Psalm 48:9; 103:1-2), and to speak of them to others (ibid. 66:16; 78:4).
o Pitching a tent and digging a well; indicative of Isaac’s confidence in
§ Grateful acknowledgment of past mercies,
§ public celebration of present mercies,
§ hopeful expectation of future mercies,
are duties incumbent upon all, but especially on saints!
Ø Abimelech’s request of Isaac.
o The nature of demand for a formal alliance confirmed by the sanctions
of religion. “Let there be now an oath betwixt us, and let us make a
covenant with thee.”
o The object of it: his own rather than Isaac’s protection. “That thou
wilt do us no hurt.” Most men suspect their neighbors sooner than
themselves. Christianity requires saints to be as careful of their
neighbor’s interests as of their own (Philippians 2:4).
o The motive of it: partly selfish fear, and partly a recognition of
Isaac’s goodness. “Thou art now the blessed of the Lord.”
Ø Isaac’s reception of Abimelech.
o Cautious inquiry. “Wherefore come ye to me?” It is prudent to try
injurious men before we trust them.
o Generous entertainment. “He made them a feast.” Overlooking, as
became a good man, their too favorable account of themselves, he
gave them welcome to his hospitable board. God’s people should not
be censorious even in judging enemies; when obliged to suffer, they
should forget as well as forgive injuries, and never should they
disdain overtures for peace, though made by those who have done
o Solemn adjuration. “And they swore one to another.” Though
religion does not lie within the sphere of politics, politics lie
within the sphere of religion. Nothing should be done by a good man
that he cannot sanctify by the word of God and prayer (Colossians
o Peaceful dismissal. “Isaac sent them away, and they departed from
him in peace.” Those who come for peace should never go without
peace. It is the saint’s interest as well as duty to follow after peace
(Matthew 5:9; Hebrews 12:14). No sooner had Isaac dismissed
Abimelech and his ministers, than his servants came with tidings
of their successful operations in sinking a well. Peace-makers
seldom fail to find a recompense (James 3:18).
Ø Esau’s sinful marriage.
o He took more wives than one, which was against the fundamental law
of marriage (ch. 2:24; Matthew 19:5); (How can a man have a right
relationship with God and have more than one wife? have intimate
relations with more than one woman? This explains a whole lot
of the problems we have in society! CY – 2018)
o he married Canaanitish women, which was against the will of God,
as expressed by Abraham in regard to Isaac’s marriage, and doubtless
also by Isaac with reference to Esau’s; and
o he acted contrary to ‘his parents’ counsel in the matter, which was a
violation of that filial duty which he owed his aged parents.
Ø Isaac’s bitter grief.
o Deeply seated as to its intensity, being bitterness of spirit (Proverbs
o truly religious as to its character, being occasioned chiefly by the
circumstance that Esau’s ill-assorted marriages were not such as
Heaven could approve; and
o sympathizingly shared by Rebekah, whoso motherly bosom was also
stricken with sorrow at her son’s impiety.
Ø That God’s gracious visits to His people are always admirably suited to
their needs in respect of time, place, and manner.
Ø That when a man’s ways please God He maketh even his enemies be at
peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7)
Ø That while ‘....a wise son maketh a glad father, a foolish son is the
heaviness of his mother.” Proverbs 10:1)
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