The Lord blesses Isaac. — V.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. The adventures of Isaac, as related in this chapter, have their parallels in the life of Abraham, and show that human nature does not change, but remains selfish and sinful from one generation to the next. A famine having struck Canaan, Isaac found it advisable to journey down to the land of the Philistines, the hereditary title of whose king was Abimelech. V.2. And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Go not down in to Egypt, that, evidently, having been the intention of Isaac, since Egypt was the granary of all the surrounding countries, especially in lean years. Dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of; v.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; v.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; v.5. because that Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws. Isaac was not to move down into Egypt, because the entire land of Canaan, including the land of the Philistines, was included in the blessing of Jehovah, and was eventually to be the possession of the descendants of Isaac, as the Lord had promised to Abraham with an oath, chap. 22, 16. But in addition to these temporal blessings, the descendants of Isaac according to the promise should also become the bearers of the Messianic hope, according to which all nations of the earth were to be blessed in that one Seed, in the Messiah. All this was a reward for the obedience of faith which Abraham had shown in keeping the charge of God, the special commission entrusted to him, His commandments or express orders, His statutes, certain prescriptions to cover specific cases, and His Law, the great doctrine of moral obligations as it applies to all men.
Rebekah’s danger. — V.6. And Isaac dwelt in Gerar, remaining there after the Lord had appeared unto him.V.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. Rebekah had been a beautiful woman at the time of her marriage, chap. 24, 16, and she had retained her beauty. Isaac was so well aware of this that he, knowingly or unknowingly, followed the example of his father, chap. 12, 11. 12; chap. 20, replying to the questions concerning the woman living with him that she was his sister. This was a foolish and dangerous perversion of the truth, as events showed. V.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. By chance Abimelech, looking out of a window of his palace, became witness of the fact that Isaac, who probably occupied a house with its open court near by, was treating his wife Rebekah with such familiar endearments as are altogether in order between husband and wife, but would hardly be considered permissible between brother and sister. V.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. V.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. The reproof which Abimelech administered was well merited on Isaac’s part, and his excuse that he feared to be put to death on her account was very lame. The Lord’s promise is that He will keep those that trust in Him in all their ways, that is, as long as they conduct themselves in conformity with His Word. The weakness of Isaac is related as a warning to us. V.11. And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death. The bad experience of the people in the king’s house upon the occasion of Abraham’s sojourn in Gerar, although three fourths of a century ago, had not been forgotten, hence the strictness of the in junction on Abimelech’s part, which obtained for both Isaac and Rebekah the greatest security, the Lord thus holding His protecting hand over them in spite of their weakness. V.12. Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him. That was an extraordinary blessing of the Lord that Isaac literally found a hundred measures for every measure of grain sowed by him. V.13. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great. There was no stop, no interruption in his progress in accumulating wealth. V.14. For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants; and the Philistines envied him, jealous of the blessing which the Lord poured out upon him. V.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. The hostilities which grew out of the envy in the hearts of the Philistines began with their filling up the wells at Gerar, to which Isaac held title, with earth. V.16. And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we. To the act of spite was added the direct expulsion by the Philistine king, the reason being that Isaac had become mightier in wealth and power than the Philistines cared to see. Thus the believers of all times are obliged to endure acts of jealousy and open enmity on account of the blessing which the Lord lays upon them; and they must learn to suffer cheerfully for His sake.
The enmity of the Philistines. — V.17. And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. He left the city of Gerar and the domain of the Philistines in the narrower sense, putting up his encampment farther to the west, in the undulating country toward the mountains. V.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, thus disregarding the covenant which had been made between them and Abraham, chap. 21, 22–30. And he called their names after the names by which his father had called them. Having gone over the field often while his father was yet alive, Isaac was familiar with the entire country. V.19. And Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water, one which was filled with water from a living spring, not a mere cistern for rain water, as most of the wells were. V.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 (contention) , because they strove with him. V.21. And they digged an other well, and strove for that also; and he called the name of it Sitnah (hatred). Isaac suffered all this injustice and harm with the greatest patience and forbearance, preferring to endure rather than to inflict injury, as he probably might have done. V.22. And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth (widths, wide expanses) ; and he said, for now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land. This camp was located still farther to the west, and entirely outside of Philistine jurisdiction, on the extreme southern boundary of Canaan. V.23. And he went up from thence to Beersheba, a matter of some twenty miles to the north. V.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. In the midst of the persecution which Isaac was then enduring this encouragement came with all its uplifting strength. The believers are strangers and pilgrims on earth and as such are subjected to many indignities, but the Lord’s assurance of His everlasting presence is always the one certain prop for their faith. V.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 here followed the custom of his father Abraham in building an altar and proclaiming the name of Jehovah, in establishing the worship of the true God, not only for his own household, but also for all with whom he came in contact. Every time when believers experience the blessing, protection, and help of the Lord, they turn to Him with all the greater zeal and love and praise His holy name.
The covenant between Isaac and Abimelech. — V.26. Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzaath, one of his friends, and Phichol, the chief captain of his army. In this case the Philistine king brought not only the general of his army, but also his prime minister, or private counselor. V.27. And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you? V.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, v.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. Though there were evidently selfish motives behind their proposal, since their chief concern was to gain the friendship of Isaac and obtain security for themselves, yet the Lord made use of these motives to shield and protect His servant. V.30. And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink. Isaac was fully aware of his power and importance as a wealthy nomad prince, and made use of the situation to his advantage, without letting it appear that he was granting a favor. V.31. And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another, the oath, in this case, including an imprecation; and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace. Thus was a new covenant established which safeguarded the interests of Isaac. V.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. Apparently the one well which Abraham’s servants had dug, chap. 21, 30, was no longer sufficient for the needs of Isaac’s immense herds, and therefore the report of the servants was highly welcome. V.33. And he called it Shebah (an oath) ; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba unto this day. History here repeated itself, and the name of the city was given for the double reason, just as the two wells at Bir-es-Saba to this day vouch for the correctness of this account.
The marriage of Esau. — V.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. Esau gave proof of the state of his mind toward his parents in taking this important step without asking either their counsel or consent. It is strange, indeed, if marriages contracted in this manner turn out well for all concerned. V.35. Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah. They were literally a bitterness of spirit to them, they caused them many a bitter hour, their heathen descent itself being mortifying, and their heathen belief and conduct agreeing with their ancestral traditions. Where temporal, fleshly factors are decisive in the matter of marriage, the chances are that true happiness will not live in such a home. Christian young people will not think of entering upon this most important step without the knowledge and consent of their parents.