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.