Genesis 26:1-11 – A famine comes to the land where Isaac was living, the famine apparently did not affect the coast where the Philistines lived in the land now known as Gaza. God graciously appears to Isaac and tells him not to leave the land of promise. Note in V 5 that this blessing comes to Isaac because of Abraham’s obedience; it is easy to speculate that this is here because of his actions with Esau. In the rich tradition of his father, when Isaac comes to the land of the Philistines he does what Abraham did and says that she is his sister.
The reason is the same as Abraham, he feared that the Philistines would kill him so that the king would be able to marry Rebekah. This is as bad a wrong if not worse than Abraham’s – worse because he should have known better. He probably reasoned that Abraham’s actions weren’t fatal but like Abraham’s lie there would be consequences. In the case of Isaac he will from this point on experience hostility with the Philistines his entire life.
Isaac’s lie was discovered when Abimelech happened to see Isaac and Rebecca embracing from a palace window. When he confronted Isaac with the evidence, Isaac admitted the truth and the reason. Isaac was then rebuked by Abimelech saying that Isaac compromised his entire nation by potentially causing his people to commit a sin with Rebekah.
Once again the ungodly are rebuking the Godly, because of their lack of faith and by not speaking the truth. The English poet John Dryden wrote, “Truth is the foundation of all knowledge and the cement of all societies.” When people don’t keep their word, the foundations of society begin to shake and things start to fall apart.
Happy homes, lasting friendships, thriving businesses, stable governments, and effective churches all depend on truth for their success. Isaac explains his motive for his lie but the excuse appears rather lame. Even if the men appeared to covet his wife, a man of faith would not stoop to lies to save his own neck. The King appears far more righteous than Isaac and his actions in V 11 demonstrate his commitment not to harm Isaac or Rebekah.
Genesis 26:12-14 – Isaac was then greatly blessed by the Lord even though he remained in the land of the Philistines. This land was also part of the land that he would eventually inherit through his children. Isaac, perhaps because of the famine now begins to not only raise cattle, but crops as well. His crops were mightily blessed with a hundred fold increase. God kept His promise and blessed Isaac in all that he did. How could the Lord bless somebody who claimed to be a believer and yet deliberately lied to his unbelieving neighbors?
Because God is always faithful to His covenant and keeps His promises; and the only condition God attached to His promise of blessing was that Isaac remain in the land and not go to Egypt. The blessing of God was so strongly upon Isaac that Abimelech’s servants became jealous. Water was an essential ingredient to Isaac’s success and his water came from the many wells that Abraham had dug in the land of the Philistines. The people of the land wanted to force Isaac away and so began to plug up all the wells so that Isaac would have to be forced to leave their land. The king responds to his people=s fear and jealousy by requesting Isaac to leave his territory, so Isaac leaves.
Genesis 26:15-22 – Moving to the Southeast Isaac initially settles in the land that was occupied by his father Abraham. Abraham had been given the right to settle in these lands by the Abimelech of his days. This land rightfully belonged to Isaac, and he reestablishes this right by opening and naming the wells as they were named by his father. In addition to these wells unearthed by Isaac, his men dug a new well that turned out to be an artesian well, sending forth ”Living waters” which the NIV version translates “fresh water”. The Philistines demanded that this well should rightly belong to them.
Rather than fight, Isaac moved once more, to commemorate the fighting over the well he names this well Esek or the well of quarreling. He moves east along the Gerar valley and his men discover another well, and once again the men of Gerar claim the well, he names this well “Sitnah” which means “hostility”.
This time he moves to a completely different area and the Philistines finally leave him alone. Still again his men dig another well and it is named Rehoboth which means Athe well of ample room. He leaves flocks and herdsmen here and moves onto Beersheva. Had Isaac not lied about his wife, God would not have disciplined him but would have given him peace with his neighbors (Proverbs 16:7). Because of his sin, however, Isaac’s material blessings caused him trouble.
Genesis 26:23-25 – Beersheva was the place that Abraham had made a covenant with the Philistines, the name means “seven” and is a reminder of the seven lambs that Abraham gave to Abimelech as a confirmation of their covenant (Genesis 21:29ff). This was the place that Isaac lived after his father offered him to the Lord on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22).
In someway perhaps Isaac is returning to the place where his fellowship with the Lord was really close. This is a good idea for all of us from time to time. We should return to the place where fellowship with the Lord was special and dear. Once again the Lord appears to Isaac and reassures him of His covenant promises. It always seems to be that when we spend too much time in the world that we tend to lose fellowship with the Lord, this is why fellowship with the Lord is so important. Isaac builds an altar the Lord and he settles here in the land of the oath.
Genesis 26-33 – Abimelech and his general Phicol, along with another friend of the king journey to the land that Isaac was dwelling in order to make peace with him. Isaac chastises them for their treatment of him. The reason for them coming is because they can see the blessing of God upon Isaac and want to make peace with this man so blessed, and growing in power. Rather than holding a grudge Isaac enters into a covenant of peace with them. This type of attitude is called for all believers (Romans 12:18) If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Isaac’s servants continued their water explorations while this meeting with Abimelech was going on, and before these Philistines leave water is discovered. Isaac names this well “Beersheba” (meaning “the well of the oath”) which is also the name of the location named when Abraham had entered into a covenant previously with the Philistines. Beersheba also means “seven”, the number associated with covenants or oaths.
Genesis 26:34-35 – This information is related to what follows, giving further insight into why God preferred Jacob over Esau. When Esau married these women it showed a complete disregard for their spiritual heritage as well as the preservation of the “seed” of promise. He had to have been aware of the lengths that his grandfather Abraham went to in order to secure a suitable wife for his father.
Not only were these wives from the wrong lineage, but God’s design was for monogamy not polygamy. Esau was forty years old when he took these wives, so youth can not be blamed on his actions. He obviously went against his parents for we are told that these wives were a constant source of grief to them. This grief may have been the result of their idolatry or attitudes that are the fruit of idolatry.
Genesis 27:1-5 – In spite of the obvious lack of discernment and spiritual dullness demonstrated by Esau, Isaac still wants to impart the blessing of the first born on Esau. In most commentaries Jacob is characterized as a liar, a deceiver, a supplanter, a man who cared only for money, one who was shrewd, covetous, and lacking ethical scruples, caring only for his self interests. In making these observations most commentators pay little heed to God’s perspective but instead add their own.
Sadly these characteristics are also projected upon on all the sons of Jacob. It must be noted that nowhere in Scripture is there a criticism of Jacob except from the lips of Esau and Laban, both who the Bible clearly describes as unworthy men. Every time God speaks to Jacob, it was with a message of blessing and promise, never one of rebuke or chastisement. We would do well to remember the words of God to Isaiah (Isaiah 55:8) “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
Isaac is set on thwarting the express promises of God because he is blinded by his love for Esau which is likely the result of his lack of fellowship with God, and his love of Esau’s personality. He is over 100 years of age here and very nearsighted if not blinded by cataracts. The setting for solemn actions like this is generally a meal and what could be more appropriate in Isaac’s mind than to have a meal prepared with the skill of Esau.
That this was unfolding without his consultation with Rebekah, which gives us insight that many spiritually foolish things can be avoided if we have our spouses involved in our decisions. He probably did this knowing that she would have disagreed with him because of what God had told her prior to the birth of the boys.
Genesis 27:6-10 – That Esau went along with receiving the birthright from his father rather than mentioning that he had sold it to his brother demonstrates that Esau to a degree is involved in deceit as well. Rebekah immediately rolls into action to prevent these plans from being carried out. Like her husband she lacks a certain amount of faith and trust in God to accomplish His will and promises concerning her son Jacob.
Rather than allow God to fulfill His promise to her regarding her son Jacob, she decides by her actions that the Lord helps those who help themselves. Rebekah comes up with a plan to disguise Jacob as Esau so that a deceived Isaac would bless Jacob thinking it was Esau. The plan was made possible because of Isaac’s near blindness. She would prepare food from the goats.