26 Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. 2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” 6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.
7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”
8 When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. 9 So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”
Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.”
10 Then Abimelek said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”
11 So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”
12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.
16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”
17 So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.
19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 20 But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. 21 Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 22 He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”
23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”
25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.
26 Meanwhile, Abimelek had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. 27 Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?”
28 They answered, “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the Lord.”
30 Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31 Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully.
32 That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, “We’ve found water!” 33 He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.
34 When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.
(Genesis 16:1-35 NIV)
As we walked through Chapter 25, we saw the death of Abraham and the birth of Isaac and Rebekah’s twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Even on their mother’s womb, there was a struggle going on that would last a lifetime.
As we begin Chapter 26, we see some familiar patterns repeat themselves in Isaac. Isaac learned a lot from his father, but not all patterns were positive. When a famine came upon the land, Isaac instinctively headed for Egypt, just like his father. When Isaac got to Gerar, on the border with Egypt, in the land of the Philistines, he stopped for a rest.
We can reasonably assume that Issac fully intended to go on to Egypt because the Lord intervened and told Isaac to stay in the land, that He would provide and bless him there. Isaac obeyed the Lord, and indeed, the Lord blessed him mightily (vv .12-14).
Isaac also repeated his father Abraham’s self-protective ways when he lied and told the men of Gerar that Rebekah was his sister rather than his wife. Even if Isaac was not protecting Rebekah, God was, and he used King Abimelech to call Isaac out. Verse 8 says the Isaac had lived in Gerar a long time – he had forced Rebekah to keep up the ruse, the story, the lie for years.
But the king happened to see Isaac caressing Rebekah, and he knew that something was not what it seemed to be. When King Abimelech confronted Isaac, he admitted his fear and the lies. The king intervened and protected both Isaac and Rebekah. This years-long lie probably affected their marriage, their family relationships, and their lives in general.
Despite all this, the Lord kept His promise to bless Isaac, even giving him a bumper crop of a hundred-fold harvest. The Philistines noticed and were jealous.
As the Philistines saw the Lord bless Isaac, their jealousy tuned to fear, and the king asked Isaac to leave the area. The previous king had invited Abraham to stay; this king un=invited Isaac and told him to move on.
Rather than demanding his rights or fighting to stay, Isaac moved on. He moved twice and tried to settle down, but the local herdsmen quarreled with Isaac’s servants and claimed the land and water as their own, even though Abraham had dug the wells they were using. The third time, no one argued with Isaac, so he settled there, near Beersheba.
Isaac took the sign of peace as from the Lord. And that very night, the Lord confirmed His blessing on Isaac by appearing to him and reaffirming His love for Isaac and His blessing upon him and his descendants.
The Lord further confirmed His blessing on Isaac by prompting King Abimelech to visit Isaac and seek a peace treaty with him. Abimelech had asked Isaac to leave out of fear of takeover, and now wanted to ask for a peace accord out of fear of retribution. Isaac showed his godly character and chose to forgive and live in peace with his neighbors.
Moses ends this chapter with a note about Esau and his bad choices, and the deep pain that it brought to Isaac and Rebekah. This insight sets the stage for Chapter 27.
While Isaac was not the swashbuckling adventurer like his father Abraham, he was a faithful man who sought to live at peace with those around him. Two Scripture passages come to mind as I think about Isaac’s interaction with others:
When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way,
he causes their enemies to make peace with them.
(Proverbs 16:7 NIV)
“And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
(Mark 6:11 NIV, Jesus speaking to His disciples)
May we be people, like Isaac, that exhibit the spirit and peace of Christ, standing firm in our beliefs and character, but trusting that the Lord will use even the “un-invites” in our lives for His glory and our good.