Vs 1: In this chapter we will look primarily at Isaac’s interactions with King Abimelech and the Philistines. We are told there was a “Famine in the land” - The former famine is the one spoken of in Chapter 12 when Abraham and Sarai went to Egypt. The story of Isaac and Rebekah have many similarities to Abraham’s and Sarah's adventures except they did not go to Egypt. Isaac instead goes to Gerar to Abimelech the King of the Philistines (a side note, it is believed this is not the same Philistines spoken of in Judges and Samuel for the “real Philistines” did not come to Canaan until 1200 B.C.) These Philistines were relatively peaceful and did not war with Isaac.
Vs 2 – 5: “The LORD appeared to him…” The LORD (YHWH) makes an appearance to Isaac and specifically tells him not to go to Egypt (like his father did). Generally when a famine occurred people would go to Egypt. God tells him to dwell in the land that God will show him. Not only is he to go but God says He is going to go with him. Notice God does not say he will go before him or after him, but WITH him AND he will BLESS him. This statement is huge because it is Isaac’s guarantee for success. Since God will go with him he will be successful regardless of the circumstances. This statement in itself should have comforted and assured Isaac that wherever he went or whatever crisis he faced God would be with him. Not only will God be with him but he will also bless him. God’s divine presence will be with him wherever he is and will protect him in all situations.
God continues with reiterating the blessing of his father Abraham PLUS all nations will be blessed. This is the first time God makes this specific statement in regards to blessing the nations. I love how God’s promise keeps getting better and better; not because it needed to be “new and improved” but because of Abraham’s obedience and God’s kindness he will do more than bless Abraham, Isaac and their offspring… He will also bless the nations because of them. Isn't God’s grace a marvelous thing?
Vs 6 – 8: Isaac settles in Gerar (this would be a great memory verse for those who have a hard time memorizing scripture). It is in the next couple of verses we see that even when God himself promises to be with and protect Isaac his faith and trust waivers. Isaac was afraid to tell the men of Gerar that Rebekah was his wife because she was beautiful. He does not know what the people of this area are like and he doesn’t trust that they will be kind to him or may even kill him if they only knew she was his wife. He quickly forgets that God led him to this place, He was with him and He was going to bless him. There was no need for Isaac to be deceptive because God had made a promise. Regardless he makes a bad choice and lies about Rebekah being his wife and claims she is his sister. This lie soon becomes a point of tension. Ironically deception becomes an even bigger issue in the years to come with his son Jacob.
“Had been there a long time…” Apparently Isaac and Rebekah have been in the area for some time without issue. Interestingly nobody has made an advance toward Rebekah and she remains a single woman. So it seems Isaac’s fears were unfounded. One day the king was looking out his window and sees Isaac “laughing” (ESV) or most bibles read, “Caressing” his wife Rebekah. The ESV translates it “laughing” because the Hebrew word used here is taken from the root word that means laughter. Either way the implication is that something intimate is happening that should only be shared by husband and wife.
Vs 9 – 11: King Abimelech is a God fearing man. His response to Isaac shows that he knows his deception was wrong and it could have potentially led to someone taking Rebekah as his wife and committing adultery with her. Abimelech apparently has contempt for sin.
He tells the people of Gerar that they are not to touch Isaac and his wife. Anybody who does will be killed.
Vs 12 - 16: During the famine Isaac sowed and reaped a hundredfold. This is written to show that God was indeed blessing and providing for Isaac as he had promised. His successful harvest just solidified the fact that He did the right thing by trusting God and not going to Egypt. His success is yet another indicator of divine blessing. He became an influential man in the land. The NET Bible says, “His influence continued to grow until he became a prominent man.” His success and possessions were so great that people began to envy him which did ultimately lead to aggressive measures. The Philistines filled all of the wells that his father had dug probably out of spite and jealousy of Isaac’s blessing (unbeknownst to the king). His wealth and possessions also worried King Abimelech as he tells Isaac to leave their land because he was becoming too powerful.
Vs 17 - 22: Isaac leaves and settles in the valley of Gerar. It is here that he realizes that the wells his father dug were filled; so he has them dug up again. Once they found water some herdsmen came and fought with Isaac and his clan and demanded that the wells belong to them. Isaac decided not to fight back and we are not sure if he chose not out of cowardice or out of the desire to keep the peace. He names the well Esek because there was contention at this well. By all rights the wells belonged to Isaac but he did not retaliate and instead went out and dug another well with pretty much the same response. He named the second well Sitnah which means enmity. He digs up a third well and no fights break out and he named it Rehoboth which means room or broad places.
Vs 23 – 25: The LORD appears again to Isaac at Beersheba and assures him of his promise. Isaac responds by building an altar and worshiping God. His servants also dig a well and name it Shibah (Oath) and the name of the city that is located there is called Beersheba (Vs 32,33).
Vs 26 – 31: Abimelech came to Isaac with his adviser and commander of the army to make a treaty with Isaac. Obviously Isaac is a bit reluctant or cautious with their visit since Abimelech recently kicked him out of his land. Isaac asks why they have come to him since they made it clear they hated him. Abimelech’s response is important for us to note, “We plainly see the LORD has been with you…” Isaac’s success, material possessions and way he lived his life clearly indicated that God was walking with him. His faith was evident and the Philistines wanted what he had. They wanted to be allies because they saw the God Isaac served was blessing him and they wanted that for themselves.
Isaac makes them a feast and exchange oaths. He sent the king and his men away in peace. It is here in this passage we now see the promise of God fulfilled in Isaac as he has become a blessing. Since the oath is done Abimelech is indirectly securing a blessing on him and his people.
I can’t help but notice when God is involved in whatever affairs of his chosen people good things happen. They may not always be easy to face or endure but when God is with his people his will is accomplished. The key passage I want to drive home today is “I will be with you…” When God declares that he will be with you then you can rest assured that He will be with you. Here are three observations in this passage.
 Wenham, G. J. (1998). Vol. 2: Genesis 16 - 50. Word Biblical Commentary (188). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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