Genesis 26

26:1 Now there was a [another] famine [famines were periodic occurrences that often forced nomads to leave their country in order to survive; cf. Ruth 1:1] in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time [Abraham had also faced famine; cf. Gen. 12:10]—and Isaac went to Abimelek [possibly a title like “pharaoh”; Abraham also encountered an Abimelek at Gerar (Gen. 20:1-2)] king of the Philistines in Gerar [a city of the Negev that receives limited rainfall].

Children of believers eventually need to make their parents’ faith their own. Years after the experience on Mount Moriah, Isaac faced a challenge to his own faith. This challenge came in the form of a famine. Famines occurred periodically and often forced nomadic peoples to travel far in order to survive. In some cases, people traveled to other countries in order to find relief (read Ruth 1:1). Abraham had previously faced a severe famine that forced him to go to Egypt for a period of time.

Sooner or later, children face many of the same challenges that their parents faced. When famine came, Isaac sought refuge in the Philistine city of Gerar. Although located in the Negev, an area that receives little rainfall, Gerar had possibly escaped some of the effects of the famine.

26:2 The LORD appeared [just as He had often appeared to Abraham] to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt [this decision represented the easy way out]; live in the land [to stay meant hardship and risk] where I tell you to live [cf. Gen. 12:1 re: God’s instructions to Abraham].

The Lord appeared to Isaac, just as He had appeared to his father, and specifically instructed him to not go down to Egypt. Going to Egypt represented the most logical solution for surviving the effects of the famine. Yet, God’s instructions were clear — God told Isaac to stay. On the surface, staying did not make much sense and was a decision that represented certain hardship. In this case, staying in the land was riskier than going to Egypt.

Our faith is always tested at the point where God’s instructions run contrary to our limited human understanding. At such times God will not give us the satisfaction of answering all of our questions. But, the answers will come in due time if we will trust Him. God never leads us where He will not sustain us.

26:3 Stay [this was Isaac’s test of faith] in this land for a while [as a resident alien or pilgrim], [note six great promises] and [1] I will be with you [a beautiful and comforting promise] and [2] will bless you [included spiritual and material blessings]. For to you and your descendants [both physical and spiritual descendants (descendants by faith in Christ)] [3] I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham [God’s covenant with Abraham would be continued in Isaac].

God told Isaac to stay in this land as a foreigner rather than flee the famine. Isaac exercised faith in God by not fleeing to Egypt but choosing instead to believe that God would provide during the famine. This was reminiscent of Abraham’s faithful obedience in Genesis 22:2-3. When the Lord appeared to Isaac, He confirmed the covenant He had previously made with Abraham. God promised to be with Isaac. God never forsakes His own people even in difficult times.

God also promised to bless Isaac. This promise included both spiritual and material blessings. God reassured Isaac that He would make his offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky, a promise He had made to Abraham (Gen. 15:5). God promised to give Isaac’s descendants all these lands and to bless all the nations or peoples of the earth through his offspring.

26:4 [4] I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky [cf. Gen. 15:5] and [5] will give them all these lands, and [6] through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed,

26:5 because [note Abraham’s wholehearted obedience to God’s call…] Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.”

God blessed Isaac because of Abraham’s faith and wholehearted obedience to God. Abraham had obeyed God’s mandate, commands, statutes, and instructions. The blessing experienced by Isaac, his offspring, and all the nations of the earth came as a result of Abraham’s faithful obedience.

We need to understand that, like Abraham, our faithful obedience to God can have lasting impact that we will not see in our lifetime. Like Isaac, we owe a debt to those spiritual leaders and parents who have gone before us. And, we should live in such a way that the generation to come will be blessed because of our faithfulness. The greatest and most lasting legacy that we can leave to the next generation is that of a lifetime example of faith in action.

26:6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.

26:7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

26:8 When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah.

26:9 So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.”

26:10 Then Abimelek said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”

26:11 So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”

26:12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him.

26:13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy.

26:14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him.

26:15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.

26:16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”

26:17 So Isaac moved away from there [the city of Gerar, the place where Abimelech, king of the Philistines, lived (Gen. 26:1)], and encamped in the Valley of Gerar [Isaac stayed in the same general area] and settled there.

Who was Isaac?
• the promised son born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age
• the second of the Hebrew patriarchs
• married Rebekah
• father of twins sons, Jacob and Esau

26:18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham [read Gen. 21:22-34 re: Abraham’s treaty with Abimelech], which the Philistines had stopped up [indicates that the Philistines no longer honored the treaty between Abraham and Abimelech] after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them [thereby reclaiming them].

26:19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley [Valley of Gerar] and discovered a well of fresh water there.

26:20 But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek [means strife, dispute, or contention], because they disputed with him.

26:21 Then [rather than fighting over the well in dispute] they dug another [at a different location] well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah [means opposition or enmity].
26:22 He [Isaac] moved on [in an effort to avoid conflict] from there and dug another well [apparently beyond Philistine territorial claims], and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth [means room or broad places], saying, “Now the LORD has given us room [open spaces represent prosperity or salvation in Heb. thought (cf. Isa. 54:2-3)] and we will flourish in the land.”

Reflect (26:20-22)
• How do you handle conflict?
• When is ignoring or running away from conflict not necessarily the best way to handle conflict?
• When should people avoid conflict?
• How may God be leading you to make peace?
• What sacrifice may you have to make for peace?

26:23 From there he went up to Beersheba [located in the southern part of the promised land].

26:24 That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid [read 26:7 re: Isaac’s fear; perhaps Isaac had feared the herdsmen of Gerar and moved on as a result (26:20)], for I am with you [God’s presence dispels fear]; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants [cf. Gen. 12:1-3] for the sake of my servant Abraham.”

Reflect (26:24)
• How can God’s presence and promises give us peace in our lives?
• How does an awareness of God’s presence affect the inner peace you feel?

26:25 Isaac [note his response to God’s promise of presence, blessing, and descendants] built an altar there [at the place where God had appeared to him] and called on the name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.

26:26 Meanwhile, Abimelech had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces.

26:27 Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away [cf. Gen. 26:16]?”

26:28 They answered, “We saw clearly that the LORD was with you [indicates they saw Isaac as the stronger party]; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty [a nonaggression treaty] with you

26:29 that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest [to violently strike or defeat an opponent] you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace [in this situation refers to the absence of conflict]. And now you are blessed by the LORD.”

Note: The basic meaning of the Hebrew term “shalom” is wholeness, well-being, or completeness.

26:30 Isaac [acted as a peacemaker; cf. Matt. 5:9] then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank.

Reflect (26:30)
• What are the characteristics of a peacemaker?
• As a Christian, how can you work for peace?
• When was the last time you set aside your rights and sacrificed personally in order to make peace with a stranger, acquaintance, friend, or family member?

26:31 Early the next morning the men swore an oath [a way of sealing their agreement; indicates seriousness of their commitment] to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they left him in peace.

26:32 That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, “We’ve found water!”

26:33 He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.

26:34 When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.

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