In our study of Genesis chapter twenty six, we look at Isaac's reaction to some of the tests that his father had faced.
Now there was a famine in the land - besides the previous famine in Abraham's time - and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar.
In chapter 12, we saw that a famine afflicted the land during Abraham's time and he went to Egypt. Now, we see that another famine is affecting the land but this time Isaac stayed in Canaan but went to the coast where the Philistines lived. We are reminded that the Philistines were pagans and, in fact, would become enemies of Israel.
The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, 'Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.'
Isaac must have been planning on going down to Egypt like Abraham had done but the Lord stepped in to stop him. Isaac was promised that, if he trusted in the Lord, he would not only be taken care of but he would not have to worry. (That is the meaning of "blessed".) He was reminded of the fact that he had inherited the promises that God had made to Abraham. So, he was faced with a test of his faith (trust) in the promises of God.
'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.' So Isaac stayed in Gerar.
Isaac was reminded of his father's faithfulness and the fact that blessings flowed from his trust in God. Isaac stood up to the test and stayed in Canaan. Surely, Abraham would have told his son of the time that he failed and went to Egypt. This testimony would have built Isaac's faith and prepared him for this test.
When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, 'She is my sister,' because he was afraid to say, 'She is my wife.' He thought, 'The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.'
Here, we see that Isaac did not trust God to protect him and Rebekah and so he fell into the same sin that his father had committed (Genesis 12). Abraham had told a half-truth while, with Isaac, it is a total lie.
When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, 'She is really your wife! Why did you say, "She is my sister"?' Isaac answered him, 'Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.'
The king saw Isaac and Rebekah together and knew they were married. He immediately asked Isaac why he had lied. This is a reminder to us that, as God's children, even the world expects us to be different. We also need to remember that fear of anything but God is not of God. Isaac's fear arose from his lack of faith (trust) in God.
So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: 'Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.'
We must remember that Abimelek was a pagan and yet he ordered the protection of Isaac and Rebekah. This can only be the favor of God and it is interesting to note that this favor is granted even while Isaac had lied (sinned).
Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy.
Isaac was successful in all that he did and he became very rich. He would have already had more than most men as he received his inheritance from Abraham who was very wealthy. Why would God bless a liar? Even though he had sinned, Isaac was still God's chosen servant and his blessing would have been a witness to the Philistines.
He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. So all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.
Isaac was so blessed by God that the Philistines became jealous. Instead of asking themselves why he was so prosperous, they gave in to envy and filled in his wells. This reminds us of the fact that the gospel was proclaimed to us (the Gentiles) so that the Jews might become jealous.
Then Abimelek said to Isaac, 'Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.'
This same type of thing happened to Abraham in Egypt (see Genesis 12). When those around us see our Father at work in our lives, they can either choose to accept or reject Him.
So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.
Throughout the Bible, water is a picture of the word of God. When faced with the trials of his father, Isaac went back to the roots of his faith. This is a reminder to us, as Christian parents, of the importance of sharing our faith walk with our children. This prepares them for the trials that they will face in their walk with the Lord.
Isaac's servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, 'This water is ours!' So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, 'Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.'
Isaac was a man of peace and patience as his servants dug wells but the water caused disputes. Instead of fighting for his rights, Isaac moved on until nobody contested his rights. It is interesting to note that he dug three wells and the number three is associated with the earthly display of God's will for men. As Christians, we are often called upon to give up some of our comforts and rights in order to advance the gospel of peace. When those who oppose us ask us how we can do so, we have the opportunity to tell them about the peace we have found through Jesus Christ.
From there he went up to Beersheba. That night the Lord appeared to him and said, 'I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.' Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.
Isaac had moved around searching for peace and finally the Lord appeared to him and blessed him. It is then that he put down roots and settled at Beersheba. We see that he was blessed because of the legacy of faith left by his father and must ask ourselves if we are leaving such a legacy for our children. We see this put into action as Isaac built an altar there which was something that Abraham had done many times.
Meanwhile, Abimelek had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. Isaac asked them, 'Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?' They answered, 'We saw clearly that the Lord was with you; so we said, "There ought to be a sworn agreement between us" - between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the Lord."'
The same people that had sent him away came to Isaac and asked for a treaty. They had sent him away thinking that distance would be enough to protect them but now they realized just how blessed he was by God. In the same manner, everything that God gives us should be used to glorify God. Our success in whatever we attempt can be an excellent way of provoking people to ask questions about our faith.
Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went peacefully. That day Isaac's servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, 'We've found water!' He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." Isaac had agreed to live in peace and then was told that his servants had found water.
When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.
The Hittites were descendants of Canaan who were cursed by God (see Genesis 9). Although Isaac and Rebekah were blessed by God, Esau tried to marry into wealth and power as the Hittites had a great empire. Esau not only married one Hittite but even went so far as to marry two Hittite women. In effect, Esau was rejecting his heritage and chasing the flesh.