Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 26:34-35

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:

35 Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.

Esau’s choice to marry the Hittite wives is another example of how he sought his immediate desires over the blessings of God. His family was living in Gerar, many miles away from the covenant bloodline. But rather than take a trip to the home of his forefathers to find a wife who knew and followed Jehovah, he sought immediate gratification from the idolatrous wives who lived next door.

As with his birthright and the mess of pottage, Esau showed an aloofness for the things of God, a failure to see the weight and significance in anything that did not immediately feed his physical, carnal appetites. When we first met him in Genesis 25:27 he was called a “man of the field,” and that is an incredibly astute description. Esau was a man of the earth, a man of the physical realm, whose thoughts extended no higher than the dirt of the plain.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 26:26-33

26 Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol 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?

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;

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.

30 And he made them a feast, 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.

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.

33 And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba unto this day.

The king spoke flattering of himself and his court, mentioning that they have done “nothing but good” to Isaac, which was clearly untrue. Isaac had been told to go away from Abimelech because he had been increasing in strength more quickly than Abimelech was comfortable with. Then, out in the wild, Isaac had had to compete with the herdmen for the ownership of his own wells. He had been insulted and hurt by these people on more than one occasion, which explains his skepticism when approached by this entourage of the king.

The king’s motive in this scene seems clear. Even after being cast out into the wild, Isaac had increased under the hand of the Lord. His growth in wealth and power had made the king even more uneasy, and so the ruler deemed it wise to obtain a treaty of peace before things got out of hand. The fact that the king brought with him the captain of his armies makes me wonder if Isaac was being forced to choose between a peace treaty or a declaration of war!

In short, the king was not here out of sincere friendship, he was here for his own motives. But Isaac was mature enough to look past the offenses of the past and do what was prudent for him, his household, and the people of Gerar. A pledge of peace really is the best outcome for everyone. So he hosts a feast for his guests, agrees to the pact, and a delicate situation is resolved.

And then, as if in response to his decency, Isaac is blessed with yet another well. He named it Shebah, which means oath. But I do not believe he was naming it after the oath he had just made with the king of the philistines. I imagine he named it after the oath that actually mattered to him, the one that had caused him to flower in the desert, the one that blessed him with wells when he treated his rude neighbors with decency. He was referring to the oath between him and God.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 26:23-25

23 And he went up from thence to Beer-sheba.

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.

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.

Isaac had been exiled and bullied by the citizens of Gerar. First king Abimelech made him move away because he was getting too powerful, then the herdmen fought with him for control of the wells. This was a time when everything in the world was conspiring against him.

It is touching, then, that in this moment of loneliness and frustration, God appeared to Isaac and said “fear not, for I am with thee.” Isaac may have been alone in the world, but he was alone with God, and God would see that he was taken care of. God would support him when no one else would. God would multiply and increase him, in spite of all the world’s opposition.

And so, like his father before him, Isaac built an altar in the open and called upon the name of his God. He threw in with that one, best friend who would see him through thick and thin.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 26:19-22

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.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 26:15-18

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.

16 And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.

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

I mentioned previously that Isaac had inherited his father’s wealth and expanded upon it, however there was some work of his father that had fallen into ruin and needed to be repaired. His father had dug life-giving wells in the land of the Philistines, and in their envy the locals had stopped them up.

So, when Isaac saw the good works of his father being undone, he restored them. He dug the wells back as they were before and named them again after the names his father had given. A large part of Isaac’s mission in life seems to have been to preserve and expand the good works of his father to future generations. That may not sound like the most envious of roles to fill, but preserving the good of others is not a small or insignificant duty.

Many of us have also been given great gifts from our ancestors, such as a level of freedom and security that most people in history never enjoyed. And we all have an obligation to preserve those same gifts to our descendants. Otherwise, the gifts could end with us, just as Abraham’s gifts could have ended with Isaac if he hadn’t labored to pass them on to the next link in the chain.

There is a term that describes this notion of passing the good we receive to another: pay it forward. We do not pay the price for many of our own blessings, but we should then pay the price for others instead.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 26:12-14

12 Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him.

13 And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:

14 For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him.

I didn’t understand before I became a working man and had investments how significant a yearly increase a hundredfold is. In today’s terms, we would say that Isaac was making a 10,000% return on his investment! It’s frankly ridiculous, and of such a magnitude that one could not take the credit for it, but would have to admit they had been blessed by the hand of providence.

Thus, while Abraham had become rich and powerful, Isaac became even more so. Of course, all this wealth was for a purpose. If God intended to maintain a pattern of one covenant child per generation, then there would be no need to increase Isaac past his father. But the lineage was supposed to expand rapidly, and so the foundation to support it needed to as well.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 26:7-11

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.

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.

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, 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.

11 And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.

Isaac repeats the same pattern as Abraham, informing the people of Gerar that Rebekah is his sister (technically she is his first-cousin-one-removed) instead of his wife.

When I first read this passage, I noted that the king here was named Abimelech, the same as when Abraham passed through this land. I thought it amusing that he would have been tricked twice by Abraham and his son, however, a little research reveals that Abimelech was a common name among the Philistines, also being the name of another king in the time of David. Thus it could be another king with the same name, or perhaps the name was actually a title, much like “Pharaoh” for the Egyptian kings.

I also assumed that the phrase “Isaac was sporting with his wife” was a euphemism for some sort of physical intimacy. But as it turns out, the word used in the original Hebrew is צְחַק or tsachaq, which means “to laugh.” So, it seems more accurate to say that Isaac and Rebekah were laughing, joking and/or playing together, in such a way that he could tell they were closer than just siblings.

Something else interesting is that the Hebrew word tsachaq is the same word used to describe when Sarah laughed after God said that she would bear a son in her old age. And then, when Isaac was born, he was named after that moment. His name in Hebrew is Yitschaq. Here is how the two words (tsachaq and Yitschaq) are written in the Hebrew language:

צְחַק
יִצְחָק

Isaac’s name literally means “he laughs,” and this phrase about him sporting with Rebekah can be read as “he-laughs was laughing with his wife.” It is an amusing sentence.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 26:1-5

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.

2 And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:

3 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;

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;

5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

A famine occurred, much as it did for Abraham. Isaac had to set out from his home, much as did Abraham. He was led to the land of the Philistines, much as was Abraham. And along his way God promised him innumerable descendants and a great land for an inheritance, much as He had to Abraham.

But while Isaac’s story may heavily mirror Abraham’s in some parts, he still was not Abraham and he had his own, individual walk with God. That walk meant continuing the path that his father started, but he was covering new ground along his way. Some of the differences between his path and Abraham’s are how the matter of having posterity was resolved much more quickly for Isaac, he was not asked to sacrifice his son, and he was already well on his way to wealth from what he had inherited.

Many things appear to have been easier for Isaac than they were for Abraham, and perhaps that is why so little of his story is recorded in the Bible. He is the main character only for the rest of this chapter, and then the focus will shift to Jacob, his son. Isaac served his purpose of continuing the line and the promise, but greater advancement in the face of adversity would come during the next generation.