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Gen 26:1 There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham- The recollection of the famine in Abraham's days is to point up the fact that Isaac found himself in an identical situation to Abraham, and failed in precisely the same way. Circumstances and situations repeat between the lives of God's people, and between our lives and those of Biblical characters. This is so that we might learn the lessons; or upon failure, reflect and discern the similarities.

Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, to Gerar- He ought to have learnt from Abraham's mistake, and not led himself into temptation. The desire to go to Egypt was likely because the famine meant that his flocks, his wealth, would be decreased- rather than that he would literally die of famine. So as so often, the fear of losing wealth leads believers into temptation and failure.

Gen 26:2 Yahweh appeared to him, and said, Don’t go down into Egypt. Live in the land I will tell you about- The fact Isaac lived in Gerar (:6) could be read as rank disobedience. Or perhaps he reasoned that as Gerar was on the edge of the promised eretz, he was justified in doing so. But living on the edge of Divine things leads to temptation. Whether Gerar was in "Egypt" or the eretz of promise was debatable; and instead of removing himself from temptation, Isaac took himself to the edge, and therefore fell into it. See on Hos. 4:15 for a similar failure in later Israel.

Gen 26:3 Live in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you. For to you, and to your seed, I will give all these lands- As noted on :1, his fear was that he would lose the material blessings of large flocks because of the famine if he remained in "this land". He was being asked to do something counter instinctive. And he didn't want to. He ought to have recalled how Abraham resigned the best pasture land to Lot, and was then told that to look out over the land Lot had chosen, and believe that this land would be his eternal inheritance. And so Isaac was promised that he would be given all Egypt and "all these lands" eternally. The phrase may suggest that certain lands were in view; perhaps like Abraham, Isaac was on an elevated point from where he could view "these lands", and was promised them. Or maybe we have here the first hint that the promise of inheriting one land, the eretz, was to be extended to the inheritance of all lands, "the world", the entire planet (Rom. 4:13).

And I will establish the oath which I swore to Abraham your father- The oath to Abraham would be established or repeated to him. That is evidence enough that the Abrahamic blessing was not simply inherited; it had to be established or confirmed to each individual, on their choice. Ishmael clearly didn't want this, despite being circumcised into the covenant. We read in Jer. 34:18 of those of Israel who did not establish or confirm the covenant oath (s.w.). People today allow the promises to be established to them by baptism into Christ (Gal. 3:27-29). We encounter the same word at the end of the wilderness journey, where Moses urges the peoples' faithfulness so that Yahweh might "establish His covenant" with them (Dt. 8:18; 28:9,13); and we note that despite their disobedience, He still "established" the covenant with them, by grace alone (Dt. 9:5). The idea of an "everlasting covenant" being established with God's people (Ez. 16:60) perhaps means that from that time onwards, it would be unconditional, not requiring the human side of reconfirmation. It may therefore refer to our eternal existence. Or the idea could be that from God's side, His offer is eternally there, He is always offering the covenant- and it is the indifference of men which leads to their not confirming it.

Gen 26:4 I will multiply your seed as the stars of the sky, and will give to your seed all these lands- Paul's point in Gal. 3:16 is that "seed" is singular and ultimately refers to the Lord Jesus. The singular seed becomes many because people from all nations become "in" Christ by baptism into Him and abiding in Him (Gal. 3:27-29). And yet whether Isaac perceived that is doubtful; perhaps he was driven to understand it that way by the fact that so far as we know, he and Rebecca had only two children, the twins. And that after waiting 20 years. This would have been considered a most not blessed marriage and fruitfulness. But again we see the Divine hallmark, of working through human weakness. It was to be through that apparent lack of blessing that the greatest conceivable blessing was to come.

In your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed- The Hebrew text says that "a great mixture" of people "went up also" with Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 12:38).  There can be no doubt that this refers to the many references in the promises that the seed would come to include such a "mixed  multitude" (Gen. 17:6; 22:17;  26:4; 28:3,14;  35:11), thereby showing that by reason of leaving Egypt and passing through the Red Sea these Gentiles became part of the seed (cp. 1 Cor. 10:1;  Gal. 3:27-29). But the supreme fulfilment of these promises will be after the 'Red Sea' of the last days. And the "blessing" promised was of relationship with God and forgiveness of sin (Acts 3:25,26).

Gen 26:5 Because Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My requirements, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws- Here again we see the huge significance of Abraham's faith. The promises made to him were available to future generations because of his faith, although individuals still needed to personally respond to the covenant. We wonder whether there were more laws and requirements given to Abraham than are recorded in Genesis. Or perhaps Moses expressed it this way for the sake of his primary audience, Israel in the wilderness, who were being given the various requirements of the law. Another possibility is that we have here a case of intensive plurals, whereby the one great law or requirement is spoken of in the plural. And the greatest law or command he obeyed was surely to be willing to sacrifice Isaac. As we noted on chapters 11 and 12, Abraham's obedience to God's word of command to leave Ur and break with his family was "obeyed" very poorly and slowly by him; but God counts such obedience to him.

Gen 26:6 Isaac lived in Gerar- S
ee on Gen. 25:28 and Gen. 26:1,2.


Gen 26:7 The men of the place asked him about his wife. He said, She is my sister, for he was afraid to say, My wife, lest, he thought, the men of the place might kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to look at- See on Gen. 25:28. If he had remained firmly within the eretz rather than practicing the spiritual brinkmanship of living in Gerar (see on :1,2), the situation would not have arisen. He repeats the failure of Abraham precisely. Rebekah was indeed his relative, but that was a stretch of the word "sister". The contrast is clearly made with the way that in the New Testament, a husband should be willing to die for his wife.

Gen 26:8 It happened, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out of a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was caressing Rebekah his wife- Isaac is an example of a man who wouldn't be whom God intended him to be- at least, not all the time. His fear stopped him, and it robbed him of the joy God intended for him. It was due to his fear, his lack of faith in God's promises, that he passes off his wife as his sister when he thinks Abimelech or his people have an interest in her. But Isaac and Rebekah slip off for some intimate time together, and it's noticed that Isaac was "Isaacing ["playing" / "laughing"] himself with Rebekah"- Yitshaq metsaheq et Ribqah (Gen. 26:8 Heb.). He was 'being himself' with her, living up to his name, Isaac, which means 'laughter'. It was his fear and lack of faith which had led him to not be himself. And we so very often make the same mistake. And yet I observe that Isaac must have really loved his wife to do this; and it gives force to the simple statement that Isaac loved Rebekah, despite it being an arranged marriage and not a love marriage (see on Gen. 24:67).

Gen 26:9 Abimelech called Isaac and said, Behold, surely she is your wife. Why did you say, ‘She is my sister?’ Isaac said to him, Because I said, ‘Lest I die because of her’- Again, the contrast is clearly made with the way that in the New Testament, a husband should be willing to die for his wife. Abimelech and his people had already had this experience with Isaac's father Abraham. They must have found God's people rather enigmatic; their personal morality and integrity was low, lower than the surrounding peoples. And yet they strongly believed in their God's promises, and were greatly blessed by Him. Their God was the God of all grace, quite different to their gods.


Gen 26:10 Abimelech said, What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt on us!- These are the very words the Abimelech had used to Abraham. See on :9. The fact Rebekah was in this situation for "a long time" (:8) points up the morality of the Gentiles as being superior to that of the supposedly holy family. They didn't rape her, nor have casual sex with her; if indeed she was taken as a wife, she was subject to a long period of ritual preparation before having sex with her. "Abimelech" is likely a generic title for the rulers of the area, but it could conceivably have been the same Abimelech with whom Abraham dealt. He too realized that sins of ignorance were still reckoned by Yahweh to be sins, and brought guilt. The idea of sins of ignorance was probably unknown amongst the local religions; but the one true God was far more sensitive to sin than they were. "Easily" is literally 'as a light thing'. In their morality, casual sex with a stranger was a light thing; but Abimelech tacitly recognizes that they were answerable to Yahweh, and for Him, such sins of ignorance were not a light thing, and would bring guilt. 


Gen 26:11 Abimelech commanded all the people, saying, He who touches this man or his wife will surely be put to death-
 The Abimelech kings appear far more gracious and honourable than the Abraham family who wandered in and out of their territory; the way Abimelech threatens his own people with death if they touch Isaac or his wife, after they had been deceitful to him, is an example. Yet it was not the nice people of the world, but this wandering, spiritually struggling family whom God loved and worked with. See on Gen. 20:16. "Will surely be put to death" may be a comment to the effect that Yahweh, Isaac's God, would surely take vengeance in such a case. Or perhaps Abimelech reasoned that it would be better if his authorities punished such an offender with death, than that Yahweh take vengeance upon them all. He clearly feared and respected Yahweh, realizing that He would judge even sins of ignorance.

Gen 26:12 Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year one hundred times what he planted. Yahweh blessed him- One hundred fold yield is incredible; 25 fold yield would be good. Especially as this was in time of famine. Abraham likewise was greatly blessed immediately after making the identical failure. We would rather expect there to be some punishment; but there was none. Instead, the opposite- blessing. Punishment is often an ineffective way of achieving correction and growth. Hence the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer in this life. It was the pouring out of grace which led to Abraham and Isaac realizing the depth of their failure.

The Abraham family's considerable wealth is a theme in the records. Here and :13 provide quite some emphasis of the same point. Eliezer commented on Abraham's material wealth: "The Lord hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great (note the repetition)"; he then goes on to enumerate a long list of possessions: flocks, herds, silver, gold, menservants, maidservants, camels, asses. Truly "The Lord had blessed Abraham in all things" (Gen. 24:1). This suggests that the patriarchs' material prosperity was a primary fulfillment of the Abrahamic blessing in their lifetime. Peter interprets the blessing as the forgiveness of sins (Acts 3:25,26). The stress on their material blessings therefore points forward to our spiritual riches of blessing in Christ. Even earlier in Abraham's life, "Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold" (13:1). Other references to Abraham's wealth occur in 13:6; 14:23. Jacob too was  blessed with material wealth (31:16; 33:11 AVmg.). His parting with Esau because they were both so wealthy (36:7) echoes the division between Abraham and Lot  and Abraham and Abimelech for the same reason (Gen. 13:6). The similarities between these incidents serves to emphasize the wealth of the family. The prosperity of Lot in Sodom is also highlighted (14:12 Heb.). Each of them seems to have accumulated wealth in their own right in addition to inheriting it.

Gen 26:13 The man grew great, and grew more and more until he became very great- "Great" is the same word used in Gen. 12:2; that Abraham's seed would be "great". As noted on Gen. 24:35, the greatness of blessing had a primary fulfilment as demonstration of how the greater, spiritual blessing would likewise become true.

 
Gen 26:14 He had possessions of flocks, possessions of herds, and a great household. The Philistines envied him-  There is a theme of envy in the accounts of Isaac and Jacob. The Philistines envied Isaac; as (we can assume) Laban did Jacob; Rachel envied Leah (Gen. 30:1); Joseph's brothers envied him (Gen. 37:11; Acts 7:9). Family friction certainly stalked the generations, as it has done amongst the new Israel. Jacob against Esau, Isaac against Jacob, Ishmael against Isaac, Sarah against Hagar, Joseph's brothers amongst themselves (Gen. 45:24). Envy of Israel by the world and friction within Israel has been a continued characteristic (what similarities with spiritual Israel?). Yet there was also a soft streak there; Esau and Jacob evidently had a certain affection for each other and willingness to truly forgive (Esau more so than Jacob!); Abraham truly cared for Lot's fate in Sodom on at least two occasions; and the brothers genuinely cared for Benjamin and the grief of their father.

Gen 26:15 Now all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped, and filled with earth- This was due to their envy (:14). Flocks were the measure of wealth, and to cut off the water supply was a way of diminishing them. This reflects the basic human feature of wanting to bring others down to our level, the tall poppy syndrome. Abraham is repeatedly called "his father" (see on :18). We get the idea that he was living out parental expectation to some degree, as Jacob also did. Abraham was a hard act to follow; and yet unlike many sons in that situation, Isaac did not lose faith because of it.


Gen 26:16 Abimelech said to Isaac, Go from us, for you are much mightier than we- Moses was primarily writing for the Israelites in the wilderness, who had suffered the same treatment from the Egyptians. He was seeking to teach them that circumstances repeat, just as they had in the lives of Abraham and Isaac; and they were to learn from that.


Gen 26:17 Isaac departed from there, encamped in the valley of Gerar, and lived there- I suggested on :2 that God had in fact asked Isaac to remain in the promised eretz, and his living in Gerar was in disobedience. At best, seeing it was somewhere on the borders of the eretz, he was practicing spiritual brinkmanship; and because he placed himself close to the edge, he went over. Like Abraham, he seems not to have learnt the lesson. For he leaves Gerar town and lives in the valley nearby; and therefore the friction continued with the local Philistines [a term which may then have included Abimelech and the people of Gerar]. The record of the patriarchs is full of such examples of not learning lessons, partial obedience, rank failure- and yet an abiding basic faith in God. And that is what makes them our pattern.


Gen 26:18 Isaac dug again the wells of water, which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father. For the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham- And yet immediately after Abraham's death, the Lord had richly blessed Isaac (Gen. 25:11). Blessing would have been understood in terms of fertility; growth in flocks or good harvests. Yet this was achieved without the water sources which were seen as so important to achieve wealth. All the time, Isaac was being shown that blessing was by grace alone. But like us, the Abraham family struggled so hard to accept this. See on :22.

He called their names after the names by which his father had called them- As noted on :15, this could reflect an obsession with his father, and a living out of parental expectation.


Gen 26:19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found there a well of springing water- As noted on :18, the whole business of the wells was to try to teach Isaac about God's grace. They dug, but God responded by giving them a spring of water, welling up from Him, rather than the stagnant water usually found when a well hits the water table. The implication could even be that they dug in search of water, but found a natural well of springing water which for some reason had as yet been undiscovered. Again, this was grace. This would explain the argument in :20.


Gen 26:20 The herdsmen of Gerar argued with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, The water is ours! He called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him- I suggested on :19 that Esek was a natural well of springing water which for some reason had as yet been undiscovered. It was not as it were dug down to by Isaac's workers. And so the local people claimed it was theirs, because it was in their territory.


Gen 26:21 They dug another well, and they argued over that, also. He called its name Sitnah- "Sitnah" is a form of satan, to be an adversary or make an accusation. That is all 'satan' means as a word. The Hebrew translated "argued" can as well mean that they fought together (s.w. Ex. 21:18).


Gen 26:22 He left that place, and dug another well. They didn’t argue over that one. He called it Rehoboth. He said, For now Yahweh has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land- The response  to contention should be to walk away, rather than "argue", bearing in mind as noted on :21 that the Hebrew can mean that they actually fought over it. Isaac had already been blessed with amazing fruitfulness by God's grace (see on :12). But here Isaac reasons that having his own personal water supply would make him more fruitful. He had failed to realize that fruitfulness was given not by water supply but God's grace; see on :18. The immediate relevance to the wilderness generation of Yahweh making room for Isaac in Canaan was that He had promised to also make room for them in the same land; the same word is translated "enlarge" (Ex. 34:24; Dt. 12:20; 19:8). Perhaps Isaac was thinking that now he finally had his own territory within the land, with his own secured water supply. But he failed to fully believe that the entire eretz was promised to him.


Gen 26:23 He went up from there to Beersheba- As noted on :22, Isaac was thinking that now he finally had his own territory within the land, with his own secured water supply. But he failed to fully believe that the entire eretz was promised to him.  And so as soon as he considered himself settled in permanently, he has to move to Beersheba. The reasons aren't given; but the lesson is that the true seed of Abraham never really settle down. We are kept on the move, especially if we are tempted to think that we have a settled place now.


Gen 26:24 Yahweh appeared to him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham your father. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you, and will bless you, and multiply your seed for My servant Abraham’s sake- The encouragement not to fear was perhaps because Isaac had had to flee Rehoboth, where he thought he had settled permanently (see on :23), because of some aggressors; perhaps his comment to Abimelech that "you hate me" (:27) has something to do with it. God would be the source of blessing for Isaac, through His grace; and not because Isaac had his own secured private water source and apparently secure, permanent territory. And instead of focusing so much upon the literal land aspect of the promises, he was bidden refocus upon the seed. Likewise the idea of inheriting a literal Kingdom on earth can become so focused upon that the things of the Lord Jesus are obscured or distorted; and thus the New Testament without doubt focuses more upon Jesus than upon the literal aspect of His future Kingdom.


Gen 26:25 He built an altar there, and called on the name of Yahweh, and pitched his tent there. There Isaac’s servants dug a well- As explained on :23 and :24, Isaac had thought that Rehoboth was to be his permanent home, especially as he had his own private, secure water supply. But the hand of providence moved him on from any sense of permanence in this life; for that is not the spirit of the seed of Abraham, who are merely passing through this world, which they shall eternally inherit in future. Isaac seems to have learnt the lesson this time; for he pitches his tent, calls on Yahweh, and digs a new well in tacit recognition that Rehoboth was not the final well after all (see on :23).


Gen 26:26 Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath his friend, and Phicol the captain of his army- This was similar to how they had come and made a treaty with Abraham in Gen. 21:22,32. The names may well be titles rather than personal names. The language used is identical to that in Gen. 21; Isaac was being led through some of Abraham's experiences, so that he would be the true seed of Abraham not just ethnically, but spiritually. And the same is true of us; Abraham is father of all the faithful (Rom. 4:16) in that his life and path is in essence that of us all. We are therefore led through similar experiences to him.


Gen 26:27 Isaac said to them, Why have you come to me, since you hate me, and have sent me away from you?- Isaac's criticism of them seems unreasonably aggressive and paranoiac. Abimelech is consistently presented in Genesis as being of great integrity and far higher morality than the Abraham family. Isaac thinks that they "hate" him; but Abimelech can truly say in :29 that he has done nothing but good to Isaac. He had sent Isaac away "in peace" and not with any personal animosity (:29). I suggest that Isaac was a fearful man, and he had an irrational fear about Abimelech. It was this which led him to leave Rehoboth, after he had imagined that there he finally had found some permanence, and a secure private water source- see on :23,24. The "fear" he had, which God comforted him about in :24, was therefore an irrational fear. But God worked through it, as He works through our irrational fears, in order to keep Isaac on the move, and to save him from losing his pilgrim status and mentality, by settling down in Rehoboth. Even if Abimelech did indeed "hate" Isaac, he had the Abrahamic promise that he would possess the gate of his enemies, those who "hate" him (Gen. 24:60 s.w.). Perhaps Abimelech realized this more than Isaac did, and therefore wanted to make peace rather than experience God's judgment. We recall his fear of Divine judgment if any of his people had slept with Rebekah.


Gen 26:28 They said, We saw plainly that Yahweh was with you. We said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, even between us and you, and let us make a covenant with you- Despite Abimelech's poor experiences with Isaac and Rebekah due to their lack of integrity about their marriage, Abimelech could not but accept that Yahweh was with Isaac. And he didn't want to be the enemy of God's people. He had a definite fear of Isaac and his God. The oath between Abimelech and Abraham had been for three generations, including Isaac (Gen. 21:21,22). But Abimelech felt the need to confirm it with Isaac personally; reminding Isaac that God's oath to Abraham and his seed likewise had to be personally reaffirmed by those in subsequent generations. Maybe Isaac's lack of integrity led Abimelech to question whether Isaac still felt bound to Abraham's oaths. The incident was therefore used in Divine providence to help Isaac see that he must personally reaffirm Abraham's covenants- including, supremely, that with Yahweh.


Gen 26:29 That you will do us no harm, as we have not touched you, and as we have done to you nothing but good, and have sent you away in peace’. You are now the blessed of Yahweh- Abimelech makes free use of the Yahweh name. He knew something of the promises about "blessing", and considered that Isaac had received blessing from Yahweh. Those material blessings, however, were but attention grabbers, to signpost that generation to understand that there were far greater spiritual blessings yet to come. But as in our lives, the Kingdom life is also now as well as not yet.


Gen 26:30 He made them a feast, and they ate and drank- Eating and drinking at such a feast was a sign of the confirming of a covenant; in this case, the reconfirming of a covenant already made in Gen. 21:21,22. The memorial feast, the breaking of bread, is our equivalent of this; it is an opportunity to personally reconfirm our part in the new covenant.


Gen 26:31 They rose up some time in the morning, and swore one to another. Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace- Abimelech had insisted that he had sent Isaac away in peace (:29); but now Isaac does that to Abimelech. We are left with the impression that Isaac was unreasonably paranoid about Abimelech, although God worked through his irrational fears; see on :27.


Gen 26:32 It happened the same day, that Isaac’s servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had dug, and said to him, We have found water- Isaac had moved away from Rehoboth, the dream home, as it were, where he imagined he had 'found room', and had a secure, private source of water. However, as noted on :23,24, he was moved on from there because it was God's purpose that Isaac should not settle down, but ever live the life of a pilgrim. His sacrifice of the well there was compensated for; he was taught that God can provide wells anywhere, at will.


Gen 26:33 He called it Shibah. Therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day- All the drama about the wells was unnecessary. Isaac thought he needed them in order to preserve the wealth, in terms of flocks, which Yahweh had given him. But now he realized that God can give wells, water and blessing without his needing to strive and argue and even fight for the wells. And he learnt this at Beersheba, where he had grown up as young man (Gen. 22:19). He came full circle, back to his roots with his faithful father Abraham. And so many lives have done the same.


Gen 26:34 When Esau was forty years old, he took as wife Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite- Isaac his father had also married at 40. This again has the ring of psychological credibility; that he thought of marriage at the same age as his father. But at 40, Isaac had taken special care to marry within the faith, whereas Esau did the opposite. Abraham had bought property from the Hittites (Gen. 23:10,16,18,20)- this is emphasized multiple times. And that is understood in the New Testament as an act which reflected the great paradox- that he bought land which was his as an eternal possession. But Esau married into them, instead of recognizing that he merely lived amongst them on his spiritual pilgrimage to a far greater destination. We learn from Gen. 27:46 that Rebekah was 'weary of her life' because of her Hittite daughters in law. Rebekah had sacrificed all she knew and once held dear for the sake of marrying within the faith, as explained in Gen. 24. She found her son marrying outside of the faith to be a source of huge mental agony. The names of the girls and their fathers are all suggestive of idol worship.


Gen 26:35 They grieved Isaac’s and Rebekah’s spirits- Gen. 24 explained the great lengths and sacrifices they both went to in order to honour the principle of marrying within the faith, in order to raise the Godly seed. They of all believers would have been so heartbroken to see their son marrying unbelievers; but often we are tested in family life on the very issues over which we ourselves have taken a strong stand. The grief of spirit was intense; Gen. 27:46 records that Rebekah was 'weary of her life' because of these daughters in law.