INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS 26
This chapter treats of Isaac's removal to Gerar, occasioned by a famine, Genesis 26:1; of the Lord's appearance to him there, advising him to sojourn in that place, and not go down to Egypt; renewing the covenant he had made with Abraham, concerning giving that country to him and his seed, Genesis 26:2; of what happened unto him at Gerar on account of his wife, Genesis 26:7; of Isaac's great prosperity and success, which drew the envy of the Philistines upon him, Genesis 26:12; of his departure from hence to the valley of Gerar, at the instance of Abimelech; and of the contentions between his herdsmen, and those of Gerar, about wells of water, which caused him to remove to Beersheba, Genesis 26:16; of the Lord's appearance to him there, renewing the above promise to him, where he built an altar, pitched his tent, and his servants dug a well, Genesis 26:24; of Abimelech's coming to him thither, and making a covenant with him, Genesis 26:26; which place had its name from the oath then made, and the well there dug, Genesis 26:32; and lastly, of the marriage of Esau, which was a great grief to Isaac and Rebekah, Genesis 26:34.
And there was a famine in the land,.... In the land of Canaan, as the Targum of Jonathan expresses it:
besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham; of which see Genesis 12:10; which was an hundred years before this:
and Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines, unto Gerar; where his father Abraham had sojourned before he was born; and therefore the present king of this place can scarce be thought to be the same Abimelech that was king of it in Abraham's time; but it is highly probable that this Abimelech was the son of the former king, and that this was a common name to the kings of Gerar or the Philistines, as Pharaoh was to the kings of Egypt. Isaac came to this place from Lahairoi, where he had dwelt many years, see Genesis 24:62; which was at or near Beersheba, and was about eight miles from Gerar
And the Lord appeared unto him,.... In a vision or dream, when he was at Gerar:
and said, go not down into Egypt; as his father had done in the like case, and where Isaac thought to have gone, and the rather, as that was a fruitful country; and so the Targum of Jonathan,"and it was in the heart of Isaac to go down into Egypt, and the Lord appeared unto him, &c.'and charged him not to go thither; partly to try his faith in him, and dependence on his providence for support in this time of famine, and partly lest he should think of continuing there, and be unmindful of the promise of the land of Canaan to Abraham's seed:
dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of; even the land of Canaan, which he was now about to give him on account of the promise of it to Abraham and his seed, and to renew it to him and to his seed.
Sojourn in this land,.... The land of Canaan, where he now was; either in Gerar, which though in the land of the Philistines was a part of Canaan, the place of his present residence; or in any other part of it he should be directed to: however, by this it appears it was the pleasure of God that he should not go out of that land, and which Abraham his father was careful of, that he should not while he lived; see Genesis 24:6,
and I will be with thee, and I will bless thee; with his presence; with protection from all enemies; with a supply of all the necessaries of life; and with all spiritual blessings, and with eternal life and happiness:
for unto thee, and to thy seed, will I give these countries; inhabited at that time by the Philistines, Canaanites, and the several tribes of them:
and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; concerning the promise of the Messiah from him and his seed, the gift of the land of Canaan to them, and the multiplication of them, Genesis 22:16.
And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven,.... Meaning in the line of Jacob especially, if not only; from whom sprung twelve patriarchs, the heads of so many tribes, which in process of time became very numerous, even as the stars of heaven:
and I will give unto thy seed all these countries; which is repeated from Genesis 26:3 for the greater confirmation of it:
and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; meaning in the Messiah that should spring from him, see Genesis 22:18.
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice,.... In all things, and particularly in offering up his son at his command:
and kept my charge; whatever was given him in charge to observe; this, as Aben Ezra thinks, is the general, of which the particulars follow:
my commandments, my statutes, and my laws; whether moral, ceremonial, or civil and judicial; all and everyone which God enjoined him, he was careful to observe. Here seems to be something wanting, for the words are not to be joined with the preceding, as if Abraham's obedience was the cause of the above promises made to Isaac, or to himself: but this is mentioned rather as an example to Isaac, and to stir him up to do the like, as if it was said, because or seeing that Abraham thy father did so and so, do thou likewise.
And Isaac dwelt in Gerar. Continued there; in this he was obedient to the command and will of God.
And the men of the place asked him of his wife,.... The inhabitants of Gerar inquired of Isaac who she was, whether she was his wife or not, or in what relation she stood in to him; this was not a mere civil inquiry, but what arose from the prevalence of lust in them towards her; and yet it was under some restraint, they being not so abandoned to their lusts as to exercise them upon any; not upon a man's wife, the sin of adultery being detestable to them, though that of fornication was made no account of by them:
and he said, she is my sister; herein imitating his father Abraham in his infirmity and unbelief, who in the same place had made such an answer to a like question concerning Sarah, Genesis 20:1; and which if Isaac knew of, as probably he did, one would wonder that he should fall into the same evil, and especially when he had not so much to say to support his assertion as Abraham had; for Rebekah was not so near akin to him as Sarah was to Abraham; and though cousins might be called sisters, yet this was mere dissimulation to call his wife sister, and was done with an intention to deceive, and therefore not justifiable:
for he feared to say, she is my wife; which was the real truth; but the fear of men, which brings a snare, led him to this, and from which good men are not always free:
lest, said he, that is, within himself, in his own mind; and so the Targum of Jonathan, he thought in his heart:
the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; that they might marry her, one or other of them; for, it seems, they had not so great a sense of the sin of murder, as of adultery:
because she was fair to look upon; which he feared would be a temptation to them, and stir up their impure desires after her, in order to gratify which he was afraid they would kill him; Rebekah retaining her beauty still, though she had been married in all probability forty years or more, see Genesis 24:16.
And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time,.... Perhaps some years: for though it is in the original, "when days were prolonged to him there"
that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window; in his own palace, near to which, in all likelihood, were the apartments that Isaac and Rebekah dwelt in; and this he did accidentally, and not out of curiosity, or with any intention to observe or pry into the behaviour and conduct of these two persons one towards the other:
and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife; laughing and joking with her, which by his motions and gestures, and the airs and freedoms he took, Abimelech could perceive were such as were not usual between brothers and sisters, though honest and lawful between man and wife; such as embracing her in his arms, and frequently kissing her, and the like.
And Abimelech called Isaac,.... Sent a messenger to desire him to come to him:
and said, behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and then perhaps told him of what he had observed that passed between them; which was a clear proof that they must be man and wife, or he would never have took such liberties with her:
and how saidst thou, she is my sister? what reason hadst thou for it? what could induce thee to say so?
and Isaac said unto him; not alleging, as Abraham did, any relation that was between them before marriage:
because I said; that is, within himself, for, he did not speak it out to others:
lest I die for her; for her sake, that another might have and enjoy her; it was fear of losing his life that led him to take such a step, and give out that she was his sister.
And Abimelech said, what is this thou hast done unto us?.... By entertaining suspicions and jealousies of us as bad men, and by exposing us to the temptation of committing iniquity; why hast thou dealt thus with us, and what have we done, or is in our character, that thou shouldest act after this manner?
one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife; it is much one or other had not before this time, not looking upon it criminal to have to do with a single woman, when they would not have meddled with another man's wife, Jarchi interprets this of Abimelech himself; and so the Targum of Jonathan, who perhaps had been thinking of taking her to his bed; and was "within a little"
and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us: been the occasion of their committing the sin of adultery, which was heinous in the eyes of Heathens, and of bringing on them the punishment due thereunto.
And Abimelech charged all his people,.... All his subjects throughout his kingdom, and particularly the inhabitants of Gerar, and more especially his courtiers and servants about him:
saying, he that toucheth this man or his wife; that does any injury to one either by words or deeds, or behaves immodestly to the other, or attempts to ravish her; this being sometimes used as a modest expression carnal knowledge of a woman; or that does either of them any harm or hurt in any respect whatever:
shall surely be put to death; this severe edict he published, in order to deter his subjects from using them ill, to which they might be provoked by Isaac's dissimulation, and by his evil suspicions of them.
Then, Isaac sowed in that land,.... In the land of Gerar; after matters were settled between him and Abimelech, and he had ordered his servants to do him no hurt, he sowed wheat or barley, or some such grain:
and received in the same year an hundred fold; in which he sowed it, and which many take to be a year of famine; and so it was the more extraordinary, that there should be such a plentiful crop produced on Isaac's ground, when there was such barrenness elsewhere: but it does not seem likely that it should be the same year of famine in which Isaac came to Gerar, since he is said to have been them a "long time", Genesis 26:8; before this sowing and plenty upon it were. This increase is far from being incredible; for Pliny
and the Lord blessed him; and prospered and succeeded all his endeavours; and this was the true reason of the fertility of the land he manured and sowed.
And the man waxed great,.... In substance, as well as in honour and glory, among men:
and went forward; in the world, and in the increase of worldly things:
and grew until he became very great: as he must needs be, since Abraham his father left him all that he had, who was very rich in cattle, in gold and silver, and had been increasing ever since; and especially since he came to Gerar, where he was gradually increasing, until he became to be exceeding great indeed, even the greatest man in all the country, yea, greater than King Abimelech himself, as it seems, from Genesis 26:16.
For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds,.... Many flocks of sheep, and herds of cattle, of oxen, asses and camels, in which the riches of men in those times and countries chiefly lay:
and great store of servants; to look after his flocks and herds, and fields; or "much husbandry"
and the Philistines envied him; for his prosperity and success, that his land should bring forth so plentifully, and that he should have such an increase of flocks, and herds, and servants, which made him so very significant great, and honourable.
For all the wells which his father's servants had digged, in the days of Abraham his father,.... For the watering of his flocks and herds, see Genesis 21:25,
the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth; that they might be of no use; and this they did through envy to him, and is mentioned as a proof of it.
And Abimelech said unto Isaac, go from us,.... Which was either said by way of advice, consulting Isaac's good, and the peace of his own kingdom; or else by way of command, enjoining him to depart, having a secret envy to him himself, or at least was jealous of his growing power and wealth:
for thou art much mightier than we; in riches or goods, as the Targum of Jonathan adds; or in number; his family being greatly increased, his servants numerous, many being born of them in his house; Abraham had three hundred and eighteen trained servants in his house, Genesis 14:14; how many Isaac had is not certain; they must be a large number for Abimelech to fear anything from them. Some choose to interpret the words, thou hast increased, or thou hast got much from us, and by us; and therefore it is high time for thee to be gone from us.
And Isaac departed thence,.... At once, peaceably and quietly, though to his loss and disadvantage, without taking himself either to argument or arms, in favour of himself; he departed immediately, as soon as he perceived his abode was disagreeable to the king and his people; which gives us a very agree, able idea of the calm and peaceable disposition of Isaac:
and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there; at some distance from the city of Gerar, as Jarchi observes. Josephus
And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father,.... This seems to refer to the same wells made mention of in Genesis 26:15, since it follows:
for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham; these were what Abraham's servants had dug, when he lived at Gerar, and which the Philistines durst not stop during his life; but when he was dead and particularly out of envy to Isaac his son, whom they observed to prosper much, they stopped them up, that he might have no benefit by them; for otherwise they would scarcely have stopped them, if he had not been upon the spot, but would have made use of them themselves. The opening of them again by Isaac seems to be done, as Jarchi observes, before he removed from Gerar to the valley, though it is here related; unless it can be thought that Abraham dwelt in the valley also, and had dug wells there, which the Philistines stopped up after his death, and Isaac opened when he came there; and if so one would think he should have had no occasion to have dug other new wells, as we find he afterwards did; besides, this seems to be out of the jurisdiction of the Philistines, and not in their power to have stopped them here; it seems therefore most probable that these were Abraham's wells at Gerar, and not in the valley. Origen
and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them; which he did out of respect to his father, to preserve the memory of his name, as well as to make his title and claim to them the more dear and certain.
And Isaac's servants digged in the valley,.... In the valley of Gerar, as the Septuagint version expresses it:
and found there a well of springing water; or "living water"
And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac's herdmen,.... About the well which was dug in the valley; and this shows it was near Gerar or at least was upon the border of the country, and so it was a disputable point to whom it belonged:
saying, the water is ours; though the well was dug by Isaac's servants, yet they laid claim to the water, pretending it was their ground, being on their borders:
and he called the name of the well Esek: which signifies "contention": the reason of the name follows:
because they strove with him; wrangled, contended, and disputed with him about whose right it was.
And they digged another well,.... That is, Isaac's servants:
and strove for that also; the herdsmen of Gerar disputed their right to that also, and strove to get it from them:
and he called the name of it Sitnah; which signifies "hatred", it being out of hatred and malice to him that they gave him so much trouble; from this word Satan has his name, and these men were of a diabolical spirit, envious, spiteful, and malicious.
And he removed from thence,.... A little further from their border, to cut off all pretence, and put a stop to all dispute and controversy for the future:
and digged another well; in the place he removed to:
and for that they strove not; it being at such a distance from their border, they could not have the face to claim any right to it:
and he called the name of it Rehoboth; which signifies broad and spacious, places, enlargements:
for now hath the Lord made room for us; for himself, his family, his herds, and flocks, and freed them, from those difficulties under which they laboured, and the straits into which they were brought through the contention of the herdsmen of Gerar:
and we shall be fruitful in the land; his flocks and his herds increase, having good pasturage and watering for them, and so he and his family be in prosperous circumstances.
And he went up from thence to Beersheba. From the place he last, removed unto Beersheba; the famine being over, he returns to the place where he and his rather formerly lived, Genesis 21:33.
And the Lord appeared to him in the same night,.... The first night he came to Beersheba, in a dream or vision, in which the Lord was represented as speaking to him:
and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father; though he was dead, he remembered the covenant he made with him, and the promises he made unto him: and besides, though Abraham was dead as to his body, yet alive in his soul; for God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, Matthew 22:32,
fear not; any future famine, nor want of any good things, nor any enemies, the Philistines his neighbours, who had driven him from their country, and had harassed him from place to place:
for I am with thee, and will bless thee; and if God is with his people, they have nothing to fear from men; and if he blesses them, they are blessed, and no curse can light upon them:
and multiply thy seed, for my servant Abraham's sake; who was a faithful, diligent, servant of his; whose service was, not forgotten by him, but would be rewarded in a way of grace, though not of debt.
And he builded an altar there,.... At Beersheba, where his father Abraham had planted a grove before, and very probably had built an altar also, though it might not be now standing, Genesis 21:33,
and called upon the name of the Lord; and gave him thanks for all his mercies to him; for the care he had taken of him, and provision he had made for him and his during the time of famine; and for the protection and preservation of him in Gerar; and for his deliverance of him out of the hands of envious, malicious, and unreasonable men; as well as prayed unto him for present and future mercies, for providential care of him and his; and for communications of special grace, and for meetness for eternal glory; all which every good man daily prays to God for:
and pitched his tent there: intending to take up his abode and settle there:
and there Isaac's servants digged a well; in order to find water for the family, and for the flocks and herds; and which was necessary to be done, as they perceived their master designed to fix his habitation here; wells of water being of great moment and consequence in those hot and desert countries, as the above contentions about them abundantly show.
Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar,.... After Isaac was settled at Beersheba, and was still increasing in his family and substance, of which Abimelech very probably was informed; and fearing lest he should resent his being sent out of his country by him, and the ill treatment he met with afterwards from the herdmen of Gerar in the valley about the wells, and should employ his riches and power against him, and fall upon him, and take his kingdom from him, he took a journey from Gerar to Beersheba, to pay Isaac a visit, and make a covenant with him: and
Ahuzzath one of his friends; Jarchi and Jonathan take Ahuzzath for an appellative, and interpret it of a collection or company of his friends, which the king took along with him to attend him in his journey: but it seems rather to be the proper name of a man, who was very intimate and familiar with the king, and always kept him company, and so went along with him to Beersheba:
and Phichol the chief captain of his army; his general, as the other was his principal counsellor or prime minister. There was one of this name, and in the same office, in the days of Abraham, and who attended the then present king, who also was called Abimelech on a like account as here, Genesis 21:22; but as the one affair was at the distance of an hundred years or more from the other, it is probable, that as this Abimelech might be the son of that Abimelech that lived in the times of Abraham, so this Phichol might be the son of him that lived then, and who succeeded his father in his office; though some think that Phichol is the name of an office, and signifies "the mouth of all", by whom the addresses of the people were made to the king; but this is not likely, since he is described by his office as general of the army; which is very different from the master of the ceremonies, or anything of that kind, and plainly shows it to be the name of a man.
And Isaac said unto them, wherefore come ye to me,.... What is the meaning of this visit? what has brought you hither? it cannot be from affection and friendship to me:
seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you? the latter he mentions as a proof of the former; they envied his prosperity, and hated him on that account, and therefore expelled him their country, or at least would not suffer him to dwell among them; and still more glaring proofs were given of the hatred of the men of Gerar to him, not only by stopping up his father's wells, but by striving and contending with him about those he dug in the valley after he was gone from them; one of which he called "Sitnah", from their hatred of him.
And they said, we saw certainly that the Lord was with thee,.... Not only while he was among them, by the fruitfulness of the land he sowed, by the increase of his family, his flocks and herds, but also since he was gone from them, in the valley of Gerar, and now in Beersheba:
and we said; one to another, assembled in privy council, in which this affair was talked over and debated:
let there now be an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee: what was between us and thy father, or between thine ancestors and ours, let it be renewed and confirmed before us; so Onkelos and Jarchi; see Genesis 21:23,
and let us make a covenant with thee; the articles of which follow.
That thou wilt do us no hurt,.... Neither to our persons nor properties, to our kingdom and subjects, by invading our land, and seizing on our kingdom, all which was feared from Isaac's growing wealth and power:
as we have not touched thee; not done the least injury to him, to his person, family, and substance, but suffered him to go away with all he had untouched:
and as we have done unto thee, nothing but good; by royal authority, or by the command and direction of the king and his nobles; for as for the stopping up the wells his father's servants had dug, and the controversy that was about those in the vale, and the trouble Isaac had on that account, these things were not by the order of the king and council, and perhaps without their knowledge:
and have sent thee away in peace; no one being suffered to do any injury to him, or molest him in carrying off everything that belonged unto him:
thou art now blessed of the Lord; so it appeared by the prosperity he was attended with, and by the Lord's protection of him, and the constant and continual favours he was bestowing on him; and this induced Abimelech and his nobles to seek to cultivate friendship, and be on good terms with him. De Dieu gives a different sense of these words, and considers them in the form of an oath or imprecation,"if thou shouldest do us any hurt, seeing we have not touched thee, &c. be thou now accursed of the Lord,'taking the word used in a contrary sense, as in Job 1:5 1 Kings 21:10.
And he made them a feast,.... Made a feast like a king, for the king and his grandees; he treated them in a generous way, according to their dignity, and agreeable to his own disposition and substance:
and they did eat and drink; freely, cheerfully, and in a friendly manner; for both having spoken their minds, they agreed to bury all former things oblivion, and live in peace and friendship; though this feast was not on account of the covenant made between them, as is observed by some interpreters, but as an hospitable act, and a token of good will; for the covenant and the oath confirming it seem to be made next morning, as follows:
And they rose up betimes in the morning,.... Abimelech and his friends, in order to return home, and Isaac to take his leave of them, and both to make the covenant between them in form, and confirm it by an oath, for which the morning was the fitter time; when the mind is quite free and composed, and attentive to what is done, as so solemn a transaction should be performed with the utmost attention and seriousness:
and swore one to another; to live in amity and friendship, and not distress and disturb each other:
and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace; he took his leave of them in a friendly manner, and they departed well pleased with the reception they had met with, and the success they had had, having agreed on and settled articles of peace to mutual satisfaction.
And it came to pass the same day,.... That the above things were transacted:
that Isaac's servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged; they had dug it before Abimelech came to Isaac, but they had not had an opportunity of acquainting him with it until he was gone, and then they came to give him an account of it, what sort of a well it was, and how it answered their expectations and wishes; and which in those countries was a very great blessing, and served very much to recommend a place to dwell in:
and said unto him, we have found water; not only had dug a well, but they had found plenty of water, and that which was good; or otherwise it would not have been worth while to have troubled Isaac with the account of it.
And he called it Sheba,.... Which, according to Jerom, signifies "fulness", as if it had its name from the abundance of water in it; but rather it signifies an "oath", and was so called from the oath, which he and Abimelech had just took to one another; and these circumstances meeting together, the taking of the oath, and the account of the well:
therefore the name of the city is Beersheba unto this day; that is, the well of the oath: it had been so called by Abraham an hundred years ago or more; but now upon this occasion it was renewed and confirmed, and so continued until the times of Moses, and many ages after.
And Esau was forty years old,.... The same age his father was of when he married, Genesis 25:20,
when he took to wife Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite; Josephus
and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite; whom Aben Ezra takes to be the same with Adah, and so does Josephus; and in this they may be right, since the name of her father, and his nation or tribe, agree, Genesis 36:2. The fathers of these two women are represented by Josephus as men of great power and authority among the Canaanites, as very probably they were. Esau had another wife of the same name with this last, but she was daughter of Ishmael, and sister of Nebajoth, Genesis 36:3; for he had more wives than those; these were his two first, who very probably were not taken together, but one after another, though it may be but at a short distance from each other.
Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac, and to Rebekah. The marriage of them itself was a trouble to them, it being contrary to their will that any of their children should marry with the Canaanites, and those the worst sort of them, the Hittites; it having been the care of Abraham, the father of Isaac, that his son should not marry with them, and laid a strict injunction on his servant not to take a wife for his son from among them; and which was an example to be followed in later times, and which Esau very likely was not ignorant of: and besides this, the women themselves he took for wives were very disagreeable on all accounts, partly because of their religion, being idolaters, and partly by reason of their temper and behaviour, being proud, haughty, and disobedient; as all the three Targums intimate.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Genesis 26". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany