Genesis 26



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 (of Canaan), beside the first (i.e. first recorded)

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

wilderness of Beersheba (ch.  25:11) - went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines

unto Gerar (compare ch. 20:1-2; 21:22). Seventy or eighty years having elapsed since

Abraham's sojourn in Gerar, it is scarcely probable that this was the monarch who

then reigned.


2 “And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell

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

Egypt - whither manifestly he had been purposing to migrate, as his father had

done on the occasion of the earlier dearth (ch. 12:10). Jacob in the later famine

was instructed to go down to Egypt (ch. 46:3-4); Abraham in the first scarcity

was left at liberty to think and act for himself. Dwell in the land which I will tell

thee of (i.e. Philistia, as appears from the preceding verse).


“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 Canaan (Lange, Keil,

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

(i.e. Canaan and the surrounding lands), and I will perform the oath (see ch. 22:16-18)

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

(compare ch. 12:3;  22:18).


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. Egypt. Renowned for fertility, the land of the

Pharaohs was yet no proper resort for the son of Abraham, the heir of

Canaan, and the friend of God. It was outside the land of promise; it had

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

deter Isaac from even entertaining the idea of a pilgrimage to Egypt. But

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



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

occurred before in the experience of the inhabitants of Canaan, and in

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;

James 1:2-3).


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 turned to Egypt. Most of the saint’s doubtful transactions

and dangerous projects have a secret connection with THE SPIRIT

OF UNBELIEF which causes to err.




Ø      Prohibiting. “Go not down into Egypt.” That Jacob subsequently went

down to Egypt in obedience to Divine instructions is no proof that Isaac

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

contracted no hurt by residence in Egypt, it would not follow that his son

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.


  • THE FILIAL OBEDIENCE. “Isaac dwelt in Gerar,” having removed

thither in compliance with the Divine instructions. Like Abraham’s, Isaac’s

obedience was:


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

followers obey.

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

into the same infirmity as Abraham (ch. 12:13;  20:2) - She is my sister: - which

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),

jocantem (Vulgate).


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

Psalm 73:2; 119:87) one of the people might have lain with thy wife - and thou

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



  • A LIE REPROVED. The conduct of Isaac Abimelech rebukes:


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

guilty conscience.


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 Egypt, who cultivated the soil and yet dwelt in tents. "The

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 Philistia, though "the country is no

less fertile than the very best of the Mississippi Valley" ('Land and Book,' p. 557);

and Arab grain stores at Nuttar-abu-Sumar, in the vicinity of Gaza, still proclaim

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;

but in Palestine the usual rate of increase was from thirty to a hundred-fold (see

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;

12:9; 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

πολλά - georgia polla -  (Septuagint), i.e. much husbandry, the abstract being put

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 Egypt took possession of the heart of Pharaoh, and led

to their enslavement (see Exodus 1:9).


17 “And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and

dwelt there.”  And Isaac - perhaps not without remonstrance, but without offering

resistance, as became a saint (Matthew 5:5; Romans 12:17-18; Hebrews 12:14;

I Peter 3:9) - departed thence (i.e. from Gerar), and pitched his tent in the valley

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 Gaza - and dwelt there.


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 Beersheba (ch. 21:31) - for the Philistines had

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

water.”  Literally, living water (compare Leviticus 14:5-6; Zechariah 14:8;

Revelation 21:6).


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

Isaac's herdmen, - as Lot's with those of Abraham (ch. 13:7) - saying, The water is

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 Beersheba,

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,

 and 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;

James 5:9),

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 Gerar, Isaac

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!


  • LEARN:


1. That there is only one royal road to material prosperity, viz., diligence

and devotion.

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).


  • ISAAC DIGGED, to find “the gift of God” (common. Eastern name for

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

is desired.


  • HINDRANCES. Let none expect to possess wells of salvation without.

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 Israel (Exodus 17) as the

herdsmen strove against Isaac, but the way of victory was the same in

both instances — trust and perseverance.


  • DIGGED ANOTHER WELL (Galatians 6:9). Will the Lord fail

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 Beersheba.”  And he (viz., Isaac) went up

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 Salt Sea" (Murphy), hence approached from the low-lying

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 at Beersheba), and said (in a

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 Beersheba afforded ample

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

(compare ch. 24:41; Deuteronomy 29:11, 13) - betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, -

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 Lot did to the angels (ch. 19:3). There is no mention

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

(Leviticus 7:15, 31; Deuteronomy 12:7, 17; - and they did eat and drink.


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

arrival at Beersheba (see v. 25). Almost immediately on the king's departure the

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 Beersheba unto

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 Beersheba - i.e. the well of the oath (see ch. 21:31).

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;

22:14;  32:32).


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

Nebajoth (ch. 28:9). On Esau's wives see ch. 36:2-3.


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.


  • GOD REPEATS HIS LESSONS that they may make the deeper

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

preceding generation.



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 mans infirmity with Gods 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 from the kingdom of God.




A Good Man’s Environment (vs. 23-35)




Ø      Jehovahs 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

like Beersheba, previously consecrated by gracious revelations of



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      Isaacs 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      Isaacs 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

them wrong.


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

3:17, 23).


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      Esaus 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      Isaacs 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.


  • LEARN:


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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