19 And Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water. 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. 21 And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah. 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.
The herdmen who fought to take away Isaac’s well cannot be justified in their actions. Notice that they waited until he was done doing all of the work before they tried to make their claim, which shows that their motives were selfish and deceitful.
Then Isaac again dug a well and the herdmen again wrested it from him. But again, Isaac did not dwell on the matter. Instead, he left that hotly contested area and dug a third well in a new area. Finally, there was no dispute over this one, so he named it Rehoboth, which means “broad places,” because at last he had found room enough to live in.
The story of the herdmen stealing Isaac’s wells rankles me. It is in our nature to want punishment for the unjust, to see them be held accountable and pay back what they have taken. We hate to see the unfair win.
But in the long run they do not. Truly, the lazy and the indolent are their own worst punishment. Whatever happened to these herdmen who cheated to get ahead? Evidently they then led such insignificant lives that we never hear of them again, either in scripture or any other historical record. But Isaac, the one who “lost” the struggle and meekly moved onward? His fame has continued for millennia.
In the long run, it pays to be honorable.