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Genesis 26:1. The first famine that was in the days of Abraham.] This happened nearly an hundred years before the present one. Abimelech. Means, “My father, the king.” This was probably a standing official name. Even in David’s time a king of this country is called Abimelech. (1 Samuel 21:10. Comp. with Psalms 34:0)—
Genesis 26:5. Kept my charge.] Heb. “Kept my keeping,” i.e., My special commission.—
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 26:1-5
THE COVENANT RENEWED TO ISAAC
I. It was renewed to him in a time of trial. The life of Isaac had run an even course, for many years, undisturbed by great troubles and exciting events. At length, a famine arose in the land (Genesis 26:1), so that he is threatened by privation and want. His father, Abraham, had endured great trials before him, and he must not expect to escape. This famine would be a great trial to Isaac, not only as a physical calamity, but also as a trial to his faith in God’s word. He would be tempted to think lightly of the land of promise. Unbelief would suggest to him the thought that it was not worth waiting for. Exposed to such calamities it would prove but a sad heritage. The prospect was dark, but in the time of his deepest trial God appears to Isaac. Times of great trouble are times of great consolation. Divine help comes when all human efforts are exhausted.
II. It was renewed to him in the old terms, but resting on new grounds. The promises are essentially the same—though a little varied in their terms—as God had made to Abraham. The inheritance of the land—an innumerable posterity—the Divine presence and blessing—the assurance that the promise shall not fail—the same wide charity for the whole human race—these are virtually the same promises as those which had been long ago made to Abraham. But these rest now upon new grounds. Abraham was the beginning of the Church, and therefore God, in speaking to His servant whom He had called, rested upon His own Almightiness (Genesis 17:1). But the Church had already commenced a history in the time of Jacob. There was a past to fall back upon. There was an example to stimulate and encourage. There was someone in whom the power of God was manifested, and who had proved the truth of His word. Therefore to Jacob God rests His promises on the ground of his father’s obedience. Thus the Lord would teach Jacob that His attributes are on the side of the saints—that they possess Him only so far as they are obedient;—that he must not regard the promised blessings as a matter of course, to be given irrespective of conduct, but rather as, by their very terms, demanding obedience;—and that the greatness of his people could only arise from that piety and practical trust in God of which Abraham was such an illustrious example (Genesis 26:5). But while obedience, as a general principle, was commended to Isaac, yet regard is had to duty as it is special and peculiar to the individual. The Lord said to him, “Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of” (Genesis 26:2). To Abraham just the opposite command had been given. He was to leave his own country, but Jacob was to remain there. The particular duty was suited to the individual. God knows the strength of our temptations, and those weak points of our character when we are most likely to be overpowered. It was likely that the gentleness of Jacob’s character could not resist the perils and temptations of Egypt. He did not possess that strong energy and hardy virtue which distinguished his father. He who will not suffer those who trust in Him to be tempted above that they are able, spared Jacob what must have proved a disastrous trial. There is a special place of duty for each one. Different men require to be tried in different ways of obedience. The history of Isaac was, for the most part, a repetition of that of his father. He had the same general duties to perform, but yet with a special difference suited to his character. God knows where to place His servants.
Here the first thing that suggests itself is the apparent contradiction of the promise given to Abraham, for instead of the land of abundance and rest Isaac found famine and unrest. Let us endeavour to understand that, and then we shall better understand this life of ours; for our life is to us a Canaan, a land of abundant promises, and especially so in youth. But we have not been long in this land of promise before we begin to discover that it falsifies itself, and then there arises in our mind the question that must have presented itself to Isaac, Has God broken His promise? We say God’s promise, because the promises of life are all permitted by Him. The expectation of happiness is God’s creation; the things which minister to happiness are scatterd through the world by God. But if we look deeper into it we shall perceive that God does not deceive us. True it is, that Isaac was disappointed; he got no bread, but he did get perseverance. He did want comforts, but with this want came content—the habit of soul-communion with God. Which was best, bread or faith? Which was best, to have abundance or to have God. Tell us, then, had God broken His promise? Was He not giving a double blessing, far more than He promised? And so it is with us. Every famine of the soul has its corresponding blessing; for, in truth, our blessed hours are not those which seem so at first; and the hours of disappointment, which we are tempted to look upon as dark, are the ones in which we learn to possess our souls. If, in the worst trial earth has, there does not grow out of it an honour which could not else have been, a strength, a sanctity, an elevation; if we do not get new strength, or old strength restored, the fault is ours, not God’s. In truth the blessed spots of earth are not those which at first sight seem so. The land of olive and vine is often the land of sensuality and indolence. Wealth accumulates and engenders sloth and the evils which follow in the train of luxury. The land of clouds and fogs and unkindly soil, which will not yield its fruit unless to hard toil, is the laud of perseverance, manhood, domestic virtue, and stately and pure manners. Want of food and of the necessaries of life, I had well nigh said that these things are not an ill, when I see what they teach; I had well nigh said I do not pity the poor man. There are evils worse than famine. What is the real misfortune of life? Sin, or want of food? Sickness, or selfishness? And when I see Isaac gaining from his want of food the heart to bear up and bear right onward, I can understand that the land of famine may be the land of promise, and just because it is the land of famine. And, secondly, we observe, respecting this famine, that the command given to Isaac differed from that given to Abraham and Jacob. Isaac evidently wished to go down to Egypt; but God forbade him (Genesis 26:2), although He permitted Abraham and commanded Jacob to go thither. The reason for this variety is to be found in the different character and circumstances of these men. In the New Testament we find the same adaptation of command to character. The man of warm feelings who came to Jesus was told “that the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” When the man from whom the legion of devils was cast out besought Jesus that he might be with Him, he received a similar rebuff; but the man of lukewarmness, who wanted to return to bury his father and mother, was not permitted for an instant to go back. The reason of the difference is this—that the man of impetuosity and forwardness needed to be restrained, while the lingering and slow man needed some active measure to stir him forward. It is almost certain that Abraham, being a wise man and a man of faith, was permitted by God to judge for himself, and that Isaac was required to turn back that he might learn the duty of trust; and that Jacob was commanded to go forth in order to cure his love of the world, and to teach him that life is but a pilgrimage. Hence we arrive at a doctrine: duties vary according to differences of character. The young, rich man had a call to give up all; that is not every man’s duty. One man may safely remain in a place of idleness and luxury, having a martyr’s spirit; whereas to another his own temperament, soft and yielding, says as with God’s voice, Arise for thy life; look not behind thee, escape to the mountains. Hence, too, we learn another lesson: the place in which we are is generally God’s appointed place for us to work in. Isaac was prohibited from going forth. He was commanded not to wait for another set of circumstances but to use those he had, not in some distant moment, but here, now, in the place of difficulty. And you: do not wait then for a more favourable set of circumstances; take them as they are, and make the best of them. Those who have done great things were not men who have repined that they were not born in another place or age, but those who did their work from day to day. It is not in moving from place to place that we find rest—in going down into Egypt because present circumstances seem unfavourable. No! Here where we are placed, even in the land of famine, in the dearth and darkness, we are to toil.—(Robertson.)
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
The trials of the righteous are essentially the same from age to age.
Famines were of frequent occurence in those partriarchal times, and for ages afterwards were among the chief national calamities. Hence the many promises to the righteous in such seasons of trial.
Since Jesus multiplied the bread, famine has become a rarer thing in all Christian lands. This is but the beginning of His power to heal the earth.
Genesis 26:2. Jehovah, for the first time, appears to Isaac and repeats to him the covenant promise.
Abraham in like circumstances had been permitted to go to the same country, and sojourn there during the extremity of the famine, yet this permission was denied to Isaac; perhaps because God forsaw that, from the native gentleness of his character, he would be less able than his father to encounter the perils and temptations with which he would meet among a people, from whose vices the more hardy virtue of Abraham himself had scarcely escaped unharmed. It would, indeed, have been easy for God to have armed him with a sufficient degree of inward fortitude to withstand the assaults to which his religious principles would be exposed; but this would have been a departure from the ordinary course of His moral government; and he consults his well-being at once more wisely and more kindly by sparing him the necessity of the conflict. When the heart and the general course of conduct is right, we may take it for granted that God will order His Providence with a special reference to our infirmities, so as graciously to anticipate and avert the evils into which we should otherwise have plunged ourselves.—(Bush).
The word “dwell” means strictly to “tabernacle, or dwell tent-wise.” Thus while Isaac is commanded to dwell in the land, yet he must be reminded that he is merely a sojourner. The time had not yet come for him fully to possess the land of promise. Thus the founders of the Jewish nation were men who were compelled to live by faith (Hebrews 11:9).
Genesis 26:3. To satisfy Isaac that he should never want a guide or a provider, the Lord renews to him the promises that had been made to his father Abraham. Times of affliction, though disagreeable to the flesh have often proved our best times. It is in this way that God is wont to arouse His sluggish servants to action by assuring them that their labour shall not be in vain. He does, indeed, claim at our hands, as a father from a son, a ready and unrecompensed service; but He is pleased by the exhibition of rich rewards to stimulate and quicken the diligence which is so prone to grow slack. This solemn renewal of the Covenant is distinguished by two remarkable features—
(1) The good things promised. “I will be with thee, and bless thee.” The sum and substance of the blessing is, the grant of the land of Canaan, a numerous progeny, and chief of all, the Messiah, in whom the nations should be blessed. On these promises Isaac was to live. God provided him bread in the day of famine, but he lived not on bread only, but on every word which proceeded out of the mouth of God.
(2) Their being given for Abraham’s sake. While all the essential good of the promise is assured to Isaac, and thus made a source of encouragement and comfort to him, any incipient rising of self-complacency is kept down by the intimation that it is rather to Abraham’s merit than to his own that he is to look as the procuring cause of such signal favour.—(Bush.)
I will be with thee,—the first draft and outline of the picture, afterwards filled up, of Immanuel, “God with us.”
Genesis 26:4-5. All the nations. In constancy of purpose the Lord contemplates, even in the special covenant with Abraham, the gathering in of the nations under the covenant with Noah and with Adam. (Genesis 9:9; Hosea 6:7.) Because Abraham hearkened to My voice in all the great moments of his life, especially in the last act of proceeding on the Divine command to offer Isaac himself. Abraham, by the faith which flows from the new birth, was united with the Lord, his shield, and exceeding great reward (Genesis 15:1); with God Almighty, who quickened and strengthened him to walk before Him, and be perfect (Genesis 17:1). The Lord his Righteousness worketh in him, and His merit is reflected and reproduced in him (Genesis 22:16; Genesis 22:18). Hence the Lord reminds Isaac of the oath which he had heard at least fifty years before confirming the promise, and of the declaration then made that this oath of confirmation was sworn because Abraham had obeyed the voice of God. How deeply these words would penetrate into the soul of Isaac, the intended victim of that solemn day. But Abraham’s obedience was displayed in all the acts of his new life. He kept the charge of God, the special commission He had given him; His commandments, His express or occasional orders, His statutes, His stated prescriptions, graven on stone, His laws, the great doctrines of moral obligation. This is that unreserved obedience which flows from a living faith, and withstands the temptations of the flesh.—(Murphy.)
Genesis 26:8. Sporting.] “That is, taking freedoms—using familiarities with her, such as exceeded those that were common between brothers and sisters.” (Bush.)—
Genesis 26:10. One of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife.] “Lightly” equivalent to “easily.” He intimates that the sin in that case would have been one of ignorance.—
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 26:6-11
ISAAC’S FALSE EXPEDIENT
The false position in which Isaac placed himself with the men of Gerar was intended by him as an expedient to save the virtue of his wife. The purpose in itself was good, but the means he used were unworthy of a man divinely called to a life of faith and duty. He sinned against the truth. There are certain circumstances in this history which throw light both on the nature of his fault and on the character of the population around him.
I. The temptation comes after a time of great blessing. The great promises which God had given to his father had just been renewed to Isaac. It would seem as if nothing but peace and tranquillity must follow such great blessings. We find, however, that they are followed by a time of great trials. And such is the experience of the saints of God in all ages. We are wise and happy if we can use the time of great blessing so as to gather strength for future trials.
II. He did not thrust himself in the way of temptation. Isaac contributed nothing to the temptation by his own conduct. He obeyed the command of God by not going down into Egypt, and by sojourning in the land. He was in the way of Providence and of duty. His temptation arose naturally from the circumstances in which he was placed.
III. He repeated the sin of his father, but incurs greater guilt. About eighty years before this time, Abraham and Sarah had made a similar compact (Genesis 20:13). It would appear that this was a common expedient with married people among strangers in those times of social insecurity. Isaac used his father’s expedient, but forgot the bitter failure by which it was followed. There was before him an example which suggested warning enough, and therefore by repeating this fault he incurred greater guilt.
IV. The treatment he received places heathen virtue in a favourable light. Abimelech assures Isaac that his fears were groundless (Genesis 26:10). Though these people were idolators they still retained some salutary fear of God, and regarded the violation of the marriage covenant as a sin of the worst type. Isaac ought to have had a more generous faith in his neighbours, and therefore he merits a similar reproof to that which was administered to his father (Genesis 20:9-11).
V. His deliverance shows that God protects His saints from the evils which they bring upon themselves. Isaac was delivered from the evils to which he had exposed himself. God used the virtue and integrity of Abimelech to protect him. The vain self-reliance and wicked policy of the old corrupt nature often bring God’s saints into trouble. They may be beaten back for a time, still they hold on their way.
The history of Uriah and David makes it easy to understand how such falsehoods came to be spoken; for in those unscrupulous days a stranger ran a risk of being put to death on some pretext that a royal tyrant might take his wife in marriage. We find that Abraham committed this very sin of lying twice before. Now in Isaac’s case this certainly would account for, though by no means excuse, his lie. He had before him the example of his father’s cowardly falsehood. And he copied it. We are thus ever prone to imitate the character of those we admire. Their very failings seem virtues; and hence comes a solemn consideration, that a good man’s faults are doubly dangerous; the whole weight of his authority is thrown into the scale; his very virtues fight against God. Another thing which will help to explain Isaac’s act is an idiosyncrasy of character. He was possessed of a kind of subtlety, an over-fine edge of mind; and the tendency of this is toward craft and cunning. Such characters see both sides of a question; go on refining and refining, weighing points of subtle casuistry, until at last they become bewildered, and can scarcely see the border line between right and wrong. It requires characters like Abimelech’s, rude, straightforward, to cut asunder the knot of their difficulties. Observe, again, how this tendency to falsehood through over-refinement is seen in Jacob also, Isaac’s son: thus it is that characters are handed down from father to son. Remark, too, another quality which accompanies such characters as Isaac’s—want of courage: “lest I die for her.” Contemplative men, who meditate at eventide, who are not men of action, want those practical habits which are oftentimes the basis of truthfulness. It is a want especially remarkable now. Never was there a day in which this tone of mind was more common, or more dangerous. Our day is not remarkable for devoutness; and the men who are so are not remarkable for manliness. They have somewhat of effeminacy in their characters—are tender, soft, wanting a firm, broad footing on reality. It is just to such minds as these that the Church of Rome offers peculiar attractions. She appeals to all that craves for awe, reverence, tenderness, mystery. Men get to live in mystery and shadows, and call it devoutness. Then in this borderland, between this reality and unreality,—this cloud region as it were,—truth itself melts away by degrees. Is it not an indisputable fact that, as soon as men leave our Church for Rome, their word is not to be trusted; that they get a double dealing spirit; a habit of casuistry, and of tampering with truth on plausible and subtle pretences which is a disgrace to Englishmen, not to say Christians! Therefore, let religious life strengthen itself by action. We want a more real life. A life merely prayerful, spent in dim religious lights, amidst the artistic parts of religion, architecture, chantings, litanies, fades into the unreal and merely imaginative soul passes into the false soul.—(Robertson.)
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 26:6-7. Gerar was probably a commercial town trading with Egypt, and therefore Isaac’s wants during the famine are here supplied. “The men of the place” were struck with the appearance of Rebekah, “because she was fair.” Isaac, in answer to their inquiries, pretends that she is his sister, feeling that his life was in peril, if she was known to be his wife. Rebekah was at this time not less than thirty-five years married, and had two sons upwards of fifteen years old. She was still however in the prime of life, and her sons were probably engaged in pastoral and other field pursuits.—(Murphy.)
The beauty of Rebekah exposed Isaac to great risk and brought him into this trouble. Thus every earthly good has some vanity attached to it.
This incident teaches us, that in swerving at all from the strict path of duty, we may be furnishing a precedent to others of whom we little dream. No man knows, in doing wrong, what use will be made of his example.—(Bush.)
Genesis 26:8. There is here no Divine interference: all is human detection and human foresight. There is no further meaning in this verse than appears in the words. What passed was no more than is related, but was enough to justify the king’s inference,—(Alford.)
Genesis 26:9. But why was this a necessary inference? Might not Isaac justly have subjected himself to evil imputations? Might he not have been guilty of great crimes under the covert of his alleged relationship to Rebekah? The answer to this is highly creditable to the patriarch. It is clear that his general deportment at Gerar had been so uniformly upright and exemplary, that Abimelech knew not how to entertain an ill opinion of his conduct; and though his words were inconsistent with his conduct in the present instance, yet, judging from his whole deportment, he comes to the conclusion rather that his words had been somehow false, than that his actions had been wrong. Such is usually the paramount influence of a good life.—(Bush.)
Jacob feared for his own safety. Such quiet, calculating men often lack courage.
Genesis 26:10. A just reproof for those who by their lack of manly and straight-forward conduct expose others to sin.
The sin which the king of Gerar intimates might have been brought upon his people would have been strictly one of inadvertence or ignorance on his part. His words show, however, that it was a deeply fixed persuasion in the minds of heathen nations that the violation of the marriage covenant was a sin of deep die, and one which merited, and was likely to draw after it, the Divine indignation.—(Bush.)
Genesis 26:11. The righteous indignation of Abimelech was worthy of a good king. On the other hand, the timid policy of Isaac was unworthy of a servant of God.
Genesis 26:13. Went forward.] Heb. “Went or walked, going;” i.e., “Became increasingly greater.” The Heb. term for walk is frequently used in the sense of continued increase.
Genesis 26:20. Strove.] Heb. “They oppressed him.”—
Genesis 26:21. Strove for that also.] This is a different word from the former, and signifies contended. Situah. From the term Satan, meaning accusation.
Genesis 26:22. Rehoboth.] Meaning space, enlargement.—
Genesis 26:26. Ahuzzath.] Called here “one of his friends,” by which we are to understand his priry counsellor. Phichol. Probably an official name for the commander-in-chief. But Grove (Biblical Dict.) says that it is a Philistine name, of the meaning of which we are ignorant.—
Genesis 26:33. And he called it Shebah; therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba unto this day.] “He called the well Sheba (oath), in commemoration of the oath here made, thus confirming the name given the town by Abraham on the like occasion. (Genesis 21:31.) It is not here said that the place now first took its name, but that it retained its name under this new confirmation up to the writer’s day. It was rather the well that was named by Abraham ‘Beer-sheba,’ meaning ‘Well of an oath.’ Now the name was again given to the well, and was therefore fixed upon the city.” (Jacobus)—
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 26:12-33
THE PROSPERITY OF ISAAC
We have here a picture of the prosperity of the patriarch, and also of the blessings and dangers of that condition.
I. His prosperity was evidently due to the Divine blessing. His prosperity was wonderful. “Thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold,” is the range of fertility in that land. Thus the yield of Isaac’s land reaches the highest degree of productiveness. In ordinary cases the return is not greater than twenty-five or thirty fold. All this prosperity was due to the blessing of God.
1. Such was the position of the sacred historian. He who relates this history, after describing the prosperity of this man, adds, “And the Lord blessed him.” (Genesis 26:12.)
2. It was evident to Isaac himself. His prosperity, the rest he enjoyed from his enemies, and room to enlarge in, he ascribed all to God. (Genesis 26:22.)
3. It was evident to his enemies. They were constrained to acknowledge that God was with him. The impression made by Abraham’s character still lived in history, and they saw that the son was also a friend of God and enjoyed His presence and favour. (Genesis 26:28.)
II. His prosperity made him a mark for envy. We are told that “the Philistines envied him.” His prosperity was not without alloy. Every blessing of this world is accompanied by some disadvantage or evil. Civilisation is a blessing, but we lose thereby some of the virtues and natural endowments of simpler times. Great possessions are a blessing, but they often rob us of our quiet and repose, and they bring us new anxieties. High station in society is a blessing, but it oftens renders a man the object of jealousy. He becomes public property, and he is robbed of his peace. We have to pay a price for every earthly good.
III. His prosperity served to develop the virtues of his character. Bacon has said that, “Prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.” And human experience shows that such are the usual effects of these conditions. But in the case of Isaac there were virtues that shined out in his prosperity.
1. The virtue of patience. The Philistines carried their envy into action. They stopped up the wells which he had inherited from his father. (Genesis 26:15.) But he met all this envy by patience. When persecuted in one place he fled to another. He removed from well to well. (Genesis 26:18-22.) (a.) His patience was victorious. It won upon his enemies. The Philistines were, at length wearied out. They came round, and asked for a treaty. (Genesis 26:28-30.) (b.) His patience won the Divine approval. The Lord appeared to him and renewed the old promises. He was assured of perpetual protection and guidance.
2. The virtue of forgiveness. He had suffered a grievous wrong, but he forgave it on the entreaty of Abimelech. This was not the easy virtue of a man who has no strong feelings and who is soon won over. He keenly felt the wrong. His sense of honour was wounded, he smarted under the indignity. It was principle, and not a weak feeling, that made him forgive. So it was with our Lord Himself, who while He could forgive in the greatness of His love, could yet feel indignity and shame under the cruel taunts and ingratitude of His enemies. He could say, “Why smitest thou Me?” “Are ye come out against me as against a thief with swords and with staves.?”
3. The virtue of reverence. He set up an altar for the worship of God and pitched his tent there as if he would dwell in the Lord’s house. (Genesis 26:25.) He bears a public testimony to the obligation of religion. Many a man forgets God with increasing prosperity, but it was not so with Isaac. With him it served to deepen the feeling of reverence and to strengthen every duty of piety. He kept up the old traditions of his father. (Genesis 26:33.) When he opened again the wells which Abraham had digged he called them by the old names. (Genesis 26:33.) This would remind him to follow in his father’s faith and footsteps.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 26:12-13. It is a further stage in progress when a wandering tribe changes from a pastoral to an agricultural people. In this advance we see the preparation of the chosen people to become a great nation.
Genesis 26:14. Here again we see how vanity attaches to every earthly good; prosperity begets envy, and from envy proceeds injury.—(Fuller.)
Envy is the constant companion of prosperity, as David felt and complained. Succoth and Peniel contemn Gideon, out of envy of his victory; Joseph’s brethren cannot abide him, because more favoured of his father. Korah maligneth Moses; Saul, David; the Pharisees, our Saviour; their malice wilfully crossing their consciences.—(Trapp.)
Genesis 26:15. In those countries a good well of water was a possession of immense value; and hence in predatory wars it was always an object for either party to fill the wells with earth or sand in order to distress the enemy. Had the Philistines merely forced their way to these wells and drank of them, it might have been encased; but to stop them was an act of downright barbarity, and a gross violation of the treaty of peace which had been made between a former Abimelech and Abraham (Genesis 21:25-31). But envy considers that which is lost to another as gained to itself, and not only delights in working gratuitous mischief, but will even punish itself, in a measure, to have the malicious satisfaction of doing a still greater injury to an enemy.—(Bush.)
Genesis 26:16-17. Abimelech understood the temper of his people and therefore he sought to persuade Isaac to remove. He used the language of compliment and flattery. Isaac might have stood upon his ground and urged the rights of the covenant made with his father. But he was a man of peace, and choose rather to forego a right than enter into a quarrel. He acted upon the maxim of the wise man,—“yielding, pacifieth great offences.”
A little with peace and quietness is better than much with envy and contention.—(Fuller.)
Genesis 26:18. It is a pious duty to keep up the memorials of the great and good.
It seems wherever Abraham went, he improved the country; and wherever the Philistines followed him, their study was to mar his improvements, and that for no other end than the pleasure of doing mischief. Isaac, however, is resolved to open these wells again. Their waters would be doubly sweet to him for their having been first tasted by his beloved father; and to show his filial affection still more, he “called their names after the names which his father had called them.” Many of our enjoyments, both civil and religious, are the sweeter for being the fruits of the labour of our fathers; and if they have been corrupted by adversaries since their days, we must restore them to their former purity.—(Fuller.)
Genesis 26:19-20. Isaac’s servants also digged new wells, and which occasioned new strife. While we avail ourselves of the labours of our forefathers, we ought not to rest in them without making farther progress, even though it expose us to many unpleasant disputes. Envy and strife may be expected to follow those whose researches are really beneficial, provided they go a step beyond their forefathers. But let them not be discouraged: the wells of salvation are worth striving for, and after a few conflicts, they may enjoy the fruits of their labours in peace.—(Fuller.)
Genesis 26:21-22. We are told that he met the envy with patience, and removed from well to well. At last the Philistines desisted. Thus patience wears the world out. Endurance, meekness, the Gospel spirit, this is the only true weapon against the world. Hence, Christianity can have no addition. It is final. There is nothing beyond this—“Love your enemies.” Isaac, like Christ, had conquered by meekness.—(Robertson.)
Genesis 26:23-24. There is shed abroad in his heart that deep peace which is most profound in the midst of storm. God was with him. The waves which lash the surface of the sea are only on the surface; below, the depths are calm. And Isaac quietly leaving place after place felt the deeps of his soul untouched. What was the loss of a well, or ten wells, to him with whom God was, for his portion, his exceeding and all-sufficient great reward.—(Robertson.)
“God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Therefore Isaac is assured that his father has not perished by death, that he is not clean gone for ever with the breath which he gave up. God’s covenant with his friend was not annulled.
This is the same person as the Angel of the Covenant who appeared to Moses in Horeb, in the burning bush (Exodus 3:2) and is therefore the Messiah. Abraham was the man of faith, Isaac the man of endurance, and Jacob was the man of prayer. God is God to each believer in his peculiar circumstances. Isaac is here promised the blessing for Abraham’s sake. This is the actual working of the household covenant. God has so displayed Himself in all the history of the Church as a covenant God to the families of His people.—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 26:25. He called upon the name of the Lord that had made room for him; and now, by His presence and promise, comforted him. Let the streams of God’s bounty lead us, as the watercourse doth, either to the spring upward, or downward to the main ocean, to the source and fountain whence they flow. Let God taste of the fruit of His own planting. We are no better than brute beasts, if, contenting ourselves with a natural use of the creatures, we rise not up to the Author; if, instead of being temples to His praise, we become graves of His benefits. Isaac first built an altar, and then digged a well.—(Trapp.)
Every dwelling-place of the godly should be a sanctuary.
Genesis 26:26-27. True meekness does not arise from insensibility. The meek keenly feel the wrongs and indignities committed against them.
Isaac, while they acted as enemies, bore it patiently, as a part of his lot in an evil world; but now that they want to be thought friends, and to renew covenant with him, he feels keenly, and speaks his mind. We can bear that from an avowed adversary which we cannot bear from a professed friend; nor is it any transgression of the law of meekness and love plainly to signify our strong perception of the injuries received, and to stand on our guard in dealing with those who have once acted unfairly.—(Bush.)
Genesis 26:28. The world pays an involuntary tribute of respect and admiration to good men. This is the crown of glory which society places upon their head.
Genesis 26:29. They had shown acts of hospitality to Isaac at first; but their kindness soon turned to hatred, and their hatred to persecution. Men magnify the few acts of kindness they have done for others, but forget the many wrongs they have committed against them.
“Thou art now the blessed of the Lord.” This explains the one-sidedness of the covenant. Isaac needed no guaranty from them as Jehovah was with him. This clause may refer to his being under the Divine protection, and therefore safe, or as being sufficiently provided for not to make account of the injury done him by the servants. Or it may express the king’s salaam at the conclusion of the treaty pronouncing him blessed, or supposing he makes the treaty as proposed, calling him blessed of Jehovah.—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 26:30-31. It was a large-hearted generosity which was content to admit so poor a plea. He who would work out great purposes of charity towards mankind must be prepared to make large allowances.
This reconciliation between Isaac and Abimelech was pledged in a feast. They both sware unto one another; so is our reconciliation with God pledged in the Christian feast of the Lord’s Supper.—(Robertson.)
Genesis 26:32. Blessings follow quickly in the path of a large-hearted charity. As Isaac forgave them for depriving him of his wells (rather than quarrel with them), so the Lord opened to him another well for his need the same day.—(Jacobus.)
Genesis 26:33. Beer-Sheba unto this day. So it was before; but the name was almost worn out, the well being stopped up. Isaac therefore now names it, and so preserves it for a monument of God’s mercy to his father and to himself.—(Trapp.)
Genesis 26:34. The daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite.] These were the children of Heth, with whom Abraham dealt in the purchase of Machpelah.—
Genesis 26:35. Grief of mind.] “Greek, Were contentious with. Chald. Were rebellious and stubborn against. Jer. Targ. They served God with a strange service—were idolaters. Heb. They were a bitterness of spirit to Isaac and to Rebekah—a standing grief, not only because of their heathen descent, but also because of their uncongenial tempers. They brought only trouble into the family.” (Jacobus.)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 26:34-35
I. It was in accordance with his character. The manner in which he disposed of his birthright showed a man prodigal and careless of consequences. He carried this disposition with him thoughout life, and his marriage was no exception to the general course of his conduct. Given certain dispositions and propensities, and answering circumstances, and a man’s actions may be predicted with tolerable certainty. Esau in the matter of his marriage did what we might naturally expect such a man to do.
II. It was irreligious.
1. It was against the interests of the Church of God. He married women who belonged to a heathen nation,—the Hittites whom God had cursed, and who were steeped in crime and corruption. This was an unholy alliance, most certain to lower the tone of his own character and to injure the prospects of the Church of God. As a fact of history he was the father of a nation who through long centuries were the perpetual enemies of Israel.
2. It was a transgression of duty towards his parents. He was old enough to be free from the direct control of his parents—to act and choose for himself. But he ought not to have acted contrary to their wish, especially when that wish was reasonable and righteous. His conduct was a “grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.” It may truly be said, that one of the greatest griefs of this sad world is the grief caused by children to their parents.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 26:34-35. Esau had got acquainted with this tribe in his hunting expeditions. They belonged to a family gone in transgression and apostacy from God. The two wives chosen from such a stock were a source of great grief to the parents of Esau. The choice manifested his tolerance at least of the carnal, and his indifference to the spiritual.—(Murphy.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 26". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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