Genesis Chapter 26
In chapter 25 the attention moved pretty quickly from Abraham and then down to Esau and Jacob. In this chapter we come back in and focus in on the current generation of promise, Isaac and Rebekah.
There was a famine in Beer-lahai-roi where Isaac and Rebekah lived. It was similar to the famine in Abraham's time when they fled to sojourn in Egypt (Gen. 12). Isaac went to Gerar where Abimelech, the king of Philistines was. There the LORD appeared to him and said the following:
“Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (Gen. 26:2-5, my emphasis)What did Isaac do? He obeyed and settled in Gerar. The men there asked him about Rebekah and he said she was his sister, because he feared they would kill him because of her. After he was there a long time Abimelech, king of the Philistines saw Isaac and Rebekah laughing, so he confronted Isaac asking why he lied. Isaac told him, and Abimelech conveyed that someone could have slept with her and brought guilt upon the people. This is very similar to the two episodes almost identical to this that Abraham had been involved in (Gen. 12 and even more like Gen. 20). Here again, God makes His covenant with Isaac, and then Isaac is faced with a trial and seems to be taking things into his own hands to preserve his life in order to fulfill the covenant on his own. He ends up sinning against God, himself, his family, and the people in the community that he did this in. So Abimelech warned the people not to touch Isaac or his wife or they will be put to death.
So they settled there, and Isaac farmed and harvested without losing any (remember this is amazing because they are in the midst of a famine!). The LORD blessed him and he became rich to the point that even Philistines served him. Abimelech finally asked him to go away from there because Isaac was so much mightier than him.
Isaac left then and camped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. He redug the wells that his father dug but that had been filled back in. When Isaac's servants dug and found a spring of water, named Esek (meaning "contention"), a fight quarrel broke out between Isaac's herdsmen and the herdsmen of Gerar. So they dug another, named Sitnah (meaning "enmity"), but a fight broke out over that one too. So they dug a third well and no fight broke out, so they named it Rehoboth (meaning "broad places" or "room").
From the Valley of Gerar Isaac went up to Beersheba. The LORD appeared to him that night and said the following:
“I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham's sake.” (Gen. 26:24)
Here again, similar to his father Abraham, God re-affirms his covenant to Isaac. Because of this he built an altar there in Beersheba, and "called up on the name of the Lord," (Gen. 26:25) pitched his tent, and his servants dug a well there. By saying he, "called upon the name of the LORD," it basically means that he is worshipping the one true and living God. The altar was a place of worship, probably where sacrifices were made as well. He's clearly doing what his father taught him (Gen. 12:7, 8; 13:18; 22:9) in regard to the proper manner men may approach and engage in relationship to Yahweh. Calling upon the name of the LORD brings back to mind the worship people engaged in during Seth's time (Gen. 4:26), Abraham's worship of Yahweh (Gen. 12:8; 13:4), and even the New Testament church's worship of Jesus the Christ as being Yahweh (1 Cor. 2).
Abimelech then went to Isaac from Gerar with his adviser, Ahuzzath, and the commander of his army, Phicol. Isaac asked why they came, and they said it was because they have seen that the LORD is was with him. They wanted to make a covenant with Isaac, not unlike the covenant Abraham made with Abimelech in Genesis 21:17 (it's difficult to tell if this is the same Abimelech, it probably wasn't and it was the name of whomever reigned the same kingdom). So they made a covenant with Isaac that he would not harm them in the same way that they have not harmed him. Isaac made them a feast and they made the covenant, so they all departed in peace.
The same day Isaac's servants came to him to inform him that they found water and dug another well, and he called it Shibah (meaning "oath"), and to this day that Moses wrote this Beersheba was still there. In fact there is still a Beersheba in Gaza.
The chapter ends outlining Isaac's son, Esau's marriage at age 40 to Judith the daughter of Beeri, and the daughter of Elon the Hittite, Basemath, and how they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.
Did you notice the four descriptions of God in this passage? (1) The LORD appeared, (2) the LORD blessed, (3) the LORD appeared, and (4) the LORD was with. This is no passive God. He is meticulously working to reveal Himself to His people. He will not sit back and not receive the credit and the glory that He is due as He works in this world. He will reveal Himself in some fashion, and here we see this as He constantly appears to His chosen one, Isaac. Further, He is working to bless his covenantal chosen one, Isaac. And last He was with his chosen one. If we are reconciled to God through Christ, we can have this kind of hope by being knit into God's chosen covenantal family. We can know that He has appeared to us through Christ, and now in His Word. We know that He will bless us as heirs of the promise of eternal life in His joy, but primarily through the reconciliation we have because Jesus died for our sins. We can know that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is for us, not against us if we are in His covenant. Praise God!
The specific salvation-historical point of this in Isaac's life is that the covenant promise has been passed down to him and those who would come from his immediate family, namely Jacob. Then the chapter ends by showing us the one who is not of God's elect, Esau, and how his marriage to Judith and Basemath made Isaac and Rebekah's life very bitter. We see here that Esau seems to have married without family involvement, and into a fully polygamous situation, and further he married among the Canaanites, not from the Hebrews. He is marrying into the Hittites who are part of the forbidden Canaanites, those forbidden by God (at least in the patriarchal days). It's interesting that despite the bitterness that Esau caused, Isaac still wanted to give him the blessing, in the next chapter. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here, again, we see that neither Isaac, nor Esau are the promised Messiah that was to come, but next we'll see that our focus is drawn the blessing given to Jacob in Genesis 27.