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Chapter 26 

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Isaac And Abimelech (ch. 26:1 - 34)


Verse 1 tells us that there was a famine in the land.  It also states that this is not the same famine that was in the land years earlier in Abraham's day.  You will remember that when Abraham left his homeland of Ur to go to Canaan, there was a famine in Canaan.  This famine drove Abraham to Egypt.  It is my thinking that Abraham failed to trust God in this famine. It appears that Isaac might have had the same temptation as his father had.


To me it is interesting that the text specifically states that the famine spoken of here is not the same famine in Abraham's day.  I find it interesting because liberal theologians suggest that it is the same famine.  The inclusion of these words almost make you think that Moses, and the Holy Spirit anticipated the liberal slant that would someday come to the Bible.   The same liberal scholars suggest that much of Genesis, that is, in connection with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are al the same event.  We will see Abimelech in this chapter.  We saw an Abimelech earlier in Abraham's day.  The liberal scholars say he is the same Abimelech.  As a matter of fact, it is the same story told in a different way, with the emphases on the word "story", meaning, it is not necessarily a true account of an historical event.  We will see that Isaac lies about his wife being his sister, just as his father Abraham did, and both lies were to an Abimelech.  Once again, the liberal scholars say there is only one event, just told in another way.  These people view the moral of the story more importantly than its historical accuracy.  I believe the event is historically accurate, and is just as important as the moral implications behind the event.  Sad to say that this same liberal theology is now entering the Evangelical  church under the guise of Post-Modernism. 


Concerning Abimelech, as noted earlier in previous chapters, this name was a title like the tile Caesar.   It was not a personal name.  This event, this Abimelech took place about 75 to 80 years after Abraham met up with the Abimelech in his day.


In verse 2 God told Isaac not to go to Egypt like his father Abraham did.  Why did God tell this to Isaac?  It might be possible that Isaac was contemplating going to Egypt and so God told him not to go.  Beyond this, God wanted him to stay in the place He would have them.  This was probably a test of faith, a test of obedience, and a test to help Isaac fear God.


In verse 3 God told Isaac "to stay in the land a while" and He would bless him.  Note here that the blessings spoken of here would come as a result of Isaac obeying God in the midst of hard times.  The Prosperity teaching would suggest that such blessings come from faith, but once again, as we saw with Abraham, obedience is the key to blessings.  Of course, you need faith, or trust in God to obey Him.  Still obedience here was the key to blessings.  IN Genesis 22 when Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac, obedience and the fear of God was the key for blessings then.  It still is.


Concerning Isaac being asked by God to stay in a land where there was a bad famine, this is an example that God does not always lead us on an easy path.  Just because things are going right for you does not mean you are in the will of God and being blessed by Him.  And, just because things might be going bad for you does not mean you are being cursed by God and are out of His will.  Clearly, Isaac was in a bad spot, and that is where God wanted him.   Too often Christians determine whether they are in God's will by how their life is going.  One's life is not the standard to judge the will of God, if that was so, the apostle Paul was out of God's will most of the time.  


Also in verse 3 we see that God reminds Isaac of the promises he made with Abraham concerning the land.  God says here that He will give these lands to Isaac's descendents.  As I have stated many times earlier, the final fulfillment of this promise will take place at the end of this age when Jesus returns to earth, captures this land for Himself, and hands it over to a repentant Israel.


Verse 4 continues on with the reminder of the Abrahamic Covenant.  Another promise in the covenant was the fact that Abraham's, and now Isaac's, descendents would be very numerous.  We also see the word "offspring" here, and as stated earlier, because of what Paul says in Galatians 3, the "offspring" is Jesus.  Isaac's offspring would be a blessing to all nations.  That began to take place with Jesus on the cross.  Jesus offers salvation to all nations, to all individuals, yet not all nations and individuals want His salvation.  Yet when Jesus returns, put all things under His feet, all nations of the earth will certainly be blessed because of His presence and rule on earth.


Verse 5 says that all this will happen to Isaac and his descendents because Abraham "obeyed' God.  Once again, the blessings are a direct result of obedience.  For this reason, Abraham has become a great man of God, although most of his life he did not exhibit this obedience.  It wasn't until God tested him with the request to sacrifice Isaac that Abraham finally became the man of God he should have always been.


Verse 6 simply says, "so Isaac stayed in Gerar."  He obeyed God.  I suppose if God spoke to us as He did to Isaac and Abraham, we might say that we would find it easy to obey God as well.  Well, that may or may not be the case.


We see "like father, like son" in verse 7.  Abraham lied twice that we know of about his wife being his sister, although in fact she was his half sister.  Here Isaac lied about his wife for the same reason Abraham lied about Sarah, and both lies were to the Abimelech, king of the Philistines.  Rebekah was very good looking and Isaac feared men would kill him so they could take Rebekah, so he just simply told everyone that she was his sister.


Here again, we see the frailty of man.  Isaac was able to trust God by staying in a land ravaged by famine, but he couldn't trust God to protect him from wild men while in the land.  You would think that if God could protect  Isaac from death due to starvation, He could protect him from any kind of hostile attack that would lead to death.


In verse 8 we note that Isaac stayed in this land for "a long time".  Earlier in the chapter God told him to stay for a while.  So he certainly obeyed God on this point. 


Isaac's lie gets exposed in verses 8 and 9.  Abimelech was looking down from his window.  Usually kings and those in authority would live on the most elevated land.  This was partly due to prestige and also protection.  So Abimelech was looking down out of his window and he saw Isaac "caressing" Rebekah.  This obviously was more than simply touching.  It was some kind of sexual touching, and some suggest that Abimelech saw the couple actually in the process of having sex.  That told Abimelech right away that Rebekah was not Isaac's sister, but his wife, so Abimelech called Isaac in to give account of himself.  Isaac confessed that he had lied and that Rebekah was his wife and that he was afraid of someone killing him to get to his wife.  This is exactly the same fear the Abraham had.


Abimelech's response is interesting.  He told Isaac that because everyone thought that Rebekah was single and thus available, that some man might have slept with her and in the process brought guilt on them.  Isaac lie to protect himself could have caused undue guilt on someone else.  This suggests that Abimelech and the Philistines did have some sense of morality and marriage fidelity.  You might think that all the pagan nations were strictly immoral, and to a degree that was true, but still in some places and cultures there were some moral standards to be upheld.  Many of these moral standards allowed men to have a wife, and even wives, but there was a distinction between a wife and concubines.  Men could have concubines, but they and their children were clearly second class people.  What  Abimelech appears to be saying is that some man might have taken Rebekah to be his wife.  That would have been wrong, but it would not have been wrong if a man had taken her to be his concubine, yet if the concubine was someone else's wife, that would be wrong..   


When we fail to tell the truth, that can have many repercussions.  Other people can respond to your lie, thinking it was truth, and the things they do might not necessarily be good.  One small lie can lead to many problems by many people.  Your lie could actually cause someone to sin, and this is what Abimelech was suggesting to Isaac.   


Once getting this out in the open, in verse 11, Abimelech gives an order to kill any one who molests either Isaac or Rebekah.  Once again, the man of God, even though caught in a lie, has found protection, and I would suggest, protection from the Lord.  Of course God would have protected Isaac anyway.  He really didn't have to lie.   I've said this before, but I think we can view the nation of Israel in the same light.  They can be caught in a lie, not living as they should, but because of the promises God made to Abraham, God will not leave them on their own forever. 


Verse 12 simply says that God blessed Isaac by giving him a hundredfold of crops.   I think God's blessing on Isaac and his people had more to do with they being God's chosen people that Isaac fully trusting in God, although I'm not discounting Isaac's trust didn't have anything to do with the blessing.  Like all of us, Isaac's trust in God wavered at times, but God still blessed him, and will bless us as well.  But, my point here is that God through the Abrahamic Covenant had committed Himself to the descendents of Abraham, so I believe this blessing had something to do with the covenant promises as well.


Besides trust and the covenant, as stated before, Isaac obeying and fearing God had lots to do with being blessed by God.   Faith as so often is taught by prosperity teachers, is not the full story when receiving God's blessings.  Along with faith comes obedience and fearing God.  They are just as important. 


In verses 13 through 15 we see that Isaac became very wealthy.  He would have been more wealthier than his father Abraham.  Remember, Abraham was wealthy in his own right, and he gave all that wealth to Isaac.  So Isaac had his inherited wealth as well as the wealth he had accumulated.   He was so rich that the Philistines began to despise him.  They actually filled in all of Isaac's wells with dirt.  These wells were dug by his father Abraham.  The Philistines did not want Isaac around. 


In verse 16 we learn that Abimelech told Isaac to move on because he had become too powerful for them.  Verse 17 states that Isaac did as requested.  This shows us something about the nature of Isaac.  He must have been a gentle type man.  We saw his sensitive side when he mourned his mother's death.  He was a very powerful man at this point.  He could have easily just told Abimelech to get lost.  If a battle would have occurred, Isaac would have won.  Isaac wasn't a fighter.  To avoid the fight he left to another place and reopened wells that Abraham had made there, that the Philistines had filled in as well after Abraham died.


In verses 19 through 22 we see Isaac had built two fresh new wells where he relocated, but those who had already been residing in the area quarreled with him.  They felt that was their water because they were in that area before Isaac had moved in.  You can see how nomadic herdsmen could easily find themselves in dispute with one another as they moved from place to place.


Isaac decided to leave that area, like he left Abimelech's area of residence earlier without any incident.  Once again, we see the somewhat passive nature of Isaac here.  He doesn't seem to be a fighter.  He simply moves on and prevents any conflict.  He builds a third well once he moved on and their he settled without any problems. 


In verses 23 and 24 we see God speaking to Isaac again, re-affirming the Abrahamic Covenant.   God tells Isaac not to be afraid.  He also tells Isaac that He is the "God of Abraham."  We see this phrase a lot in Genesis, and actually throughout the Bible.   Elohim is the God of Abraham.  Why would God address Himself like this?  I believe the reason is that all nations on the earth in those days were polytheistic.  They believed in more than one god.  So to distinguish Elohim from all these other Gods, one way to do this is to say that He is the God of Abraham. 


On a more personal note, being the God of Abraham would be especially important to Isaac.  When he hears the heavenly voice, God makes sure that Isaac understands who he is listening to.  He is the God that spoke the covenant to his father.      


God told Isaac that He would indeed bless him with many descendents.  This is the re-affirmation of  part of the covenant spoken to Abraham.  I use the word "spoken" because God spoke the covenant to Abraham.  He did not "make" the covenant with him.  God made the covenant with Himself as we have clearly seen in earlier chapters. 


The next phrase is interesting.  God says that He will increase Isaac's descendents because of Abraham.  It was not because of Isaac.  The reason for this is because God spoke the covenant to Abraham, and Abraham proved that he believed what God had told him when he was willing to sacrifice Isaac on the altar.  This is why so much attention is given to Abraham, both in the Old Testament and also in the New Testament.  So when thinking in terms of Jesus returning to earth, and restoring the nation of Israel to what God wanted all along, we must think in terms of Jesus doing these things as a product of God promising these things to Abraham.  God doesn't necessarily restore Israel for their own sake, but for the sake of Abraham. 


The Jewish leadership in Jesus' day were always claiming to be children of Abraham and that they were serving the God of Abraham.  John 8 is all about this.  Jesus tells them that they aren't really Abraham's children because they don't have the faith of Abraham, and they don't obey God as Abraham did.  In fact, Jesus said that their father was the devil, not Abraham.  We see how Jesus felt about the Jews, and the satanic influence that controlled Jewish society.  This satanic influence is part of the story and history of the Jews throughout the Old and New Testaments.


Verse 25 tells us that God built an altar, worshiped the Lord, pitched his tent, and a servant dug a well.  Every time we see God speaking to either Abraham or Isaac, the first thing they do afterwards is they build an altar to worship.  Of course, we don't build altars today because things have changed in New Testament times.   The altar was the cross.  We can't build an altar better than that altar.  Jesus was the sacrifice.  There is nothing more to sacrifice.  We certainly can't match Jesus' sacrifice.  Yet Paul, in Romans 12:1 and 2 says that the best act of worship we can perform today is to present ourselves to God as living sacrifices.  We do know harm to ourselves, but we live, each and every day by handing our lives over to Jesus .  This is true worship for New Testament Christians.


In verse 26 we see Abimelech again.  He comes to visit Isaac with his personal advisor and the head of his armed forces who is called Phicol.   When we saw Abimelech and Abraham dealing with each other, that Abimelech's leader of the armed forces was called Phicol as well.  For this reason, some people suggest that this Abimelech is the same Abimelech that Abraham dealt with.  The problem with this is that by this time, seventy five or eighty years had passed and it is questionable if that Abimelech was still alive.   We do know that Abimelech is not a personal name.  It is a title, like the title Caesar or Pharaoh.  The question thus is asked, "was Phicol also a title and not a personal name?"  I'm not sure anyone can really answer that question. 


In verse 27 it appears that Isaac was very surprised.  He asked Abimelech why he had come to see him since he was so hostile towards him earlier.  I think this shows the quiet nature of Isaac as well.  If he had been a rough and tough man, I think he would been a bit hostile himself when he saw Abimelech, but he wasn't.


In verses 28 and 29 Abimelech states why he came for the visit.  He was simply afraid of Isaac and his people even though they had moved away, so he wanted to make a treaty with them, just as he, or the last Abimelech,  made a treaty with Abraham.  


Abimelech recognized that the Lord, that would be the God of Abraham as He became to be known, was with Isaac and his people.  This should have been the way it was throughout Old Testament, and even New Testament Jewish history.  In the Law of Moses, that was not yet penned in Isaac's day, God told Israel that if they obeyed Him, they would be the head and not the tale.  They would be the envy of all nations.  The Philistines recognized that Isaac and his people were more powerful than they, that they were a people to be reckoned with.  Thus the reason for their fear and their proposal.  They wanted to work out the treaty while the two peoples were living in relative peace.


Once again, we see the graciousness of Isaac in verse 30.  He made the Philistines a feast and they all ate and drank.  Many of us might have been vindictive and drove the Philistines away in retaliation for driving them away years earlier.  After the feast, the next day, verse 32 tells us that Abimelech and Isaac made an oath with one another and Isaac sent the Philistines away in peace.  There were no hard feelings on the part of Isaac. 


Although more space in Genesis is given to Abraham and to Jacob than it is to Isaac, this one chapter says a lot about the man.  He does seem to be a gentle and gracious man, even towards those who didn't really like him.


The peace treaty with Abimelech was a blessing from God.  Peace is always a blessing, no matter the circumstances around the peace.  Verses 32 and 33 show another blessing from God.  Water was very important in those days in that area, because there were few rivers, streams, and lakes.  Isaac's servants had built another well and they discovered water. 


In verse 34 we see the wandering nature of Esau.  He married two Hittite girls.  The text states that both Isaac and Rebekah were very grieved about this.  This would have gone against the ways of God that God wanted for the children of Israel .  They were not to marry the people living in the land of Canaan, while the Hittites were one of these groups of peoples.  They were to marry within their own extended family to keep the purity of the children of Israel, but this has always been one of the most predominant problems Israel had in Old Testament days.  They were told not to marry pagan wives, but they did.  From this point on, Esau's descendents would have been a mixture, a mixture of the line of Abraham with pagan peoples.  Here we see the beginning of problems between those in Jacob's lineage and those in Esau's lineage.  Esau's people became the Edomites who often were in conflict with Israel.  Such things always happen when God's people disobey Him and go their own way.  We should keep this in mind.  It is an example for us. 


I believe the church has always had the same problems that the Jews had in Old Testament times.  We've married ourselves to worldliness.  We've adopted worldly ways of doing things and worldly philosophies.  The result of this is a mixture between God's ways and the world's ways of thinking.  It is a watering down process.  After a few generations of this watering down, what you have in Christianity is not what once was, and is not what God wants either.   


When it comes to Christians marrying, the same problem is seen today.  Often a Christian will get married to a non-Christian.  That should never be.


When Abraham had his servant go and find a wife for Isaac years earlier, the stipulation was that the girl had to be from Abraham's extended family back in Ur .  The girl could not be a resident of the land of Canaan.  Isaac surely knew this, and he would want the same for his sons.  It appears that Esau found his own wife.  It was not an arranged marriage, as it was with Isaac and Rebekah which might also have been part of the reason why Isaac and Rebekah were upset with Esau's decision.     


In verse 35 we see that a town was named after a well belonging to Isaac.  That was often the case.  You notice in this chapter that Isaac named the wells he and his servants dug.  Water was very important back then because there were no lakes and rivers in the area.  Like in other parts of the world, communities would be built by the source of water, and in this case that was wells.  Therefore, the names of towns were often named after the name of the well it drew water from.    


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