Isaac, because of famine, goes to Gerar. (Verse 1-5.)
He denies his wife and is reproved by Abimelech. (Verse 6-11.)
Isaac grows rich, The Philistines’ envy. (Verse 12-17.)
Isaac digs wells God blesses him. (Verse 18-25.)
Abimelech makes a covenant with Isaac. (Verse 26-33.)
Esau’s wives. (Verse 34,35.)
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;
[Gen 13:16, Exod 32:13, Num 23:10, Deut 1:10, 1st Chron 27:23, Jer 33:22, Rom 4:16, Heb 11:12]
5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
[Gen 22:12, James 2:21]
“laws” = torah, God’s Divine Law. This is the first use of the Hebrew word “torah” in the Bible, well before Moses and Sinai.
During the famine in Abraham’s day (chapter 20) Abraham also went to Gerar and it was there that he said that his wife Sarah was his sister and Abimelech took her unto himself to marry but God intervened. It was also here that Abraham picked up a maid for Sarah named Hagar. Gerar was a place of testing and Abraham failed miserably there and his son did not learn from his father’s mistakes, in fact, he is about to repeat one.
6 And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:
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.
this lie on Isaac’s part was quite the family problem – see Genesis chapter 20; at least Abraham told a “half-lie” – Issac had no grounds at all for his lie
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.
[Gen 12:18, Gen 20:9]
11 And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.
I sometimes wonder if Abraham told Isaac to do that if he ever got into a similar situation, or if Isaac remembered his father’s stories and thought it was a good idea at the time. God again allowed Abimelech to discover the truth behind these lies.
Satan no doubt filled Isaac’s mind with this silly notion as he did with his father on two occasions which neither achieved Satan’s goal of corrupting the seed. What a reputation the first two Jews had amongst the Philistines?
12 Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him.
[Gen 24:1, Job 42:12, Prov 3:16, Mark 10:30]
“hundredfold” – this is the term the Bible uses when referring to the maximum blessing possible – compare Matt. 13:23 and 19:29
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.
[Gen 37:11, Eccl 4:4]
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.
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.
[Esek = contention]
21 And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah.
[Sitnah = accusation, opposition]
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.
[Rehoboth = width, avenue, or street]
23 And he went up from thence to Beersheba.
[thence – from that time, date, or place]
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.
As his father Abraham did, so Isaac dug wells. Wells meant life to those who possessed them, and they almost always became a source of contention amongst the local inhabitants.
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;
[Gen 21:22, Isa 8:10. Gen 21:27]
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.
[Gen 24:31, Judges 17:2, Ruth 3:10]
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.
[betimes – early, before it is late]
compare with the same type of league or treaty that these same men made with Isaac’s father, Abraham, in 21:22-32
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 Beersheba unto this day.
[Shebah = perfect, or seven]
This well is still there today, and just as it was in Isaac’s day, so it is today that the children of Abraham are still contending with its neighbors over every inch of land that was promised to Abraham
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:
[Gen 28:1, Gen 28:8, Gen 36:2, Heb 12:16]
35 Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.
Esau eventually married four wives: Judith the daughter of Beeri; Adah (also called Bashemath) the daughter of Elon; Bashemath the daughter of Ishmael in 28:9; and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah in 36:2. These wives were a grief to Isaac and Rebekah because they were women of the heathen about them rather than women from “their country.”
The Hittites were one of the ten Nations that possessed the land that God had promised to the descendants of Abraham in Genesis 15:20 and for Esau to take two of these women as his wives was to go against his own family’s future.
These marriages would not turn out to be a good union for his brother Jacob and their descendants as they would become known as the Edomites. The Ammonites and Moabites were Lot’s descendants.
Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.
Verse 1-5 – Isaac had been trained up in a believing dependence upon the Divine grant of the land of Canaan to him and his heirs; and now that there is a famine in the land, Isaac still cleaves to the covenant. The real worth of God’s promises cannot be lessened to a believer by any cross providences that may befall him. If God engage to be with us, and we are where he would have us to be, nothing but our own unbelief and distrust can prevent our comfort. The obedience of Abraham to the Divine command, was evidence of that faith, whereby, as a sinner, he was justified before God, and the effect of that love whereby true faith works. God testifies that he approved this obedience, to encourage others, especially Isaac.
Verse 6-11 – There is nothing in Isaac’s denial of his wife to be imitated, nor even excused. The temptation of Isaac is the same as that which overcame his father, and that in two instances. This rendered his conduct the greater sin. The falls of those who are gone before us are so many rocks on which others have split; and the recording of them is like placing buoys to save future mariners. This Abimelech was not the same that lived in Abraham’s days, but both acted rightly. The sins of professors shame them before those that are not themselves religious.
Verse 12-17 – God blessed Isaac. Be it observed, for the encouragement of poor tenants who occupy other people’s lands, and are honest and industrious, that God blessed him with a great increase. The Philistines envied Isaac. It is an instance of the vanity of the world; for the more men have of it, the more they are envied, and exposed to censure and injury. Also of the corruption of nature; for that is an ill principle indeed, which makes men grieve at the good of others. They made Isaac go out of their country. That wisdom which is from above, will teach us to give up our right, and to draw back from contentions. If we are wrongfully driven from one place, the Lord will make room for us in another.
Verse 18-25 – Isaac met with much opposition in digging wells. Two were called Contention and Hatred. See the nature of worldly things; they make quarrels, and are occasions of strife; and what is often the lot of the most quiet and peaceable; those who avoid striving, yet cannot avoid being striven with. And what a mercy it is to have plenty of water; to have it without striving for it! The more common this mercy is, the more reason to be thankful for it. At length Isaac digged a well, for which they strove not. Those that study to be quiet, seldom fail of being so. When men are false and unkind, still God is faithful and gracious; and his time to show himself so is, when we are most disappointed by men. The same night that Isaac came weary and uneasy to Beer-sheba, God brought comforts to his soul. Those may remove with comfort who are sure of God’s presence.
Verse 26-33 – When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him, Proverbs 16:7. Kings’ hearts are in his hands, and when he pleases, he can turn them to favour his people. It is not wrong to stand upon our guard in dealing with those who have acted unfairly. But Isaac did not insist on the unkindnesses they had done him; he freely entered into friendship with them. Religion teaches us to be neighbourly, and, as much as in us lies, to live peaceable with all men. Providence smiled upon what Isaac did; God blessed his labours.
Verse 34,35 – Esau was foolish in marrying two wives together, and still more in marrying Canaanites, strangers to the blessing of Abraham, and subject to the curse of Noah. It grieved his parents that he married without their advice and consent. It grieved them that he married among those who had no religion. Children have little reason to expect God’s blessing who do that which is a grief of mind to good parents.