Genesis 26


A famine in the land obliges Isaac to leave Beer-sheba and

go to Gerar, 1.

God appears to him, and warns him not to go to Egypt, 2.

Renews the promises to him which he had made to his father

Abraham, 3-5.

Isaac dwells at Gerar, 6.

Being questioned concerning Rebekah, and fearing to lose his

life on her account, he calls her his sister, 7.

Abimelech the king discovers, by certain familiarities which he

had noticed between Isaac and Rebekah, that she was his wife, 8.

Calls Isaac and reproaches him for his insincerity, 9, 10.

He gives a strict command to all his people not to molest either

Isaac or his wife, 11.

Isaac applies himself to husbandry and breeding of cattle, and

has a great increase, 12-14.

Is envied by the Philistines, who stop up the wells he had

digged, 15.

Is desired by Abimelech to remove, 16.

He obeys, and fixes his tent in the valley of Gerar, 17.

Opens the wells dug in the days of Abraham, which the Philistines

had stopped up, 18.

Digs the well, Ezek. 19, 20;

and the well Sitnah, 21;

and the well Rehoboth, 22.

Returns to Beer-sheba, 23.

God appears to him, and renews his promises, 24.

He builds an altar there, pitches his tent, and digs a well, 25.

Abimelech, Ahuzzath, and Phichol, visit him, 26.

Isaac accuses them of unkindness, 27.

They beg him to make a covenant with them, 28, 29.

He makes them a feast, and they bind themselves to each other

by an oath, 30, 31.

The well dug by Isaac's servants (ver. 25) called Shebah, 33.

Esau, at forty years of age, marries two wives of the Hittites, 34,

at which Isaac and Rebekah are grieved, 35.


Verse 1. There was a famine] When this happened we cannot

tell; it appears to have been after the death of Abraham.

Concerning the first famine, see Ge 12:10.

Abimelech] As we know not the time when the famine happened,

so we cannot tell whether this was the same Abimelech, Phichol,

&c., which are mentioned Ge 20:1, 2, &c., or the sons or other

descendants of these persons.

Verse 2. Go not down into Egypt] As Abraham had taken refuge in

that country, it is probable that Isaac was preparing to go

thither also; and God, foreseeing that he would there meet with

trials, &c., which might prove fatal to his peace or to his piety,

warns him not to fulfil his intention.

Verse 3. Sojourn in this land] In Gerar, whither he had gone,

Ge 26:1, and where we find he settled, Ge 26:6, though the

land of Canaan in general might be here intended. That there

were serious and important reasons why Isaac should not go to

Egypt, we may be fully assured, though they be not assigned here;

it is probable that even Isaac himself was not informed why he

should not go down to Egypt. I have already supposed that God saw

trials in his way which he might not have been able to bear. While

a man acknowledges God in all his ways, he will direct all his

steps, though he may not choose to give him the reasons of the

workings of his providence. Abraham might go safely to Egypt,

Isaac might not; in firmness and decision of character there was a

wide difference between the two men.

Verse 4. I will make thy seed-as the stars of heaven] A promise

often repeated to Abraham, and which has been most amply fulfilled

both in its literal and spiritual sense.

Verse 5. Abraham obeyed my voice] meimeri, my WORD.

See Ge 15:1.

My charge] misitmarti, from shamar, he

kept, observed, &c., the ordinances or appointments of God. These

were always of two kinds: 1. Such as tended to promote moral

improvement, the increase of piety, the improvement of the age,

&c. And 2. Such as were typical of the promised seed, and the

salvation which was to come by him. For commandments, statutes,

&c., the reader is particularly desired to refer to Le 16:15,

&c., where these things are all explained in the alphabetical

order of the Hebrew words.

Verse 7. He said, She is my sister] It is very strange that in

the same place, and in similar circumstances, Isaac should have

denied his wife, precisely as his father had done before him! It

is natural to ask, Did Abraham never mention this circumstance to

his son? Probably be did not, as he was justly ashamed of his

weakness on the occasion-the only blot in his character; the son,

therefore, not being forewarned, was not armed against the

temptation. It may not be well in general for parents to tell

their children of their former failings or vices, as this might

lessen their authority or respect, and the children might make a

bad use of it in extenuation of their own sins. But there are

certain cases, which, from the nature of their circumstances, may

often occur, where a candid acknowledgment, with suitable advice,

may prevent those children from repeating the evil; but this

should be done with great delicacy and caution, lest even the

advice itself should serve as an incentive to the evil. I had not

known lust, says St. Paul, if the law had not said, Thou shalt not

covet. Isaac could not say of Rebekah, as Abraham had done of

Sarah, She is my sister; in the case of Abraham this was literally

true; it was not so in the case of Isaac, for Rebekah was only his

cousin. Besides, though relatives, in the Jewish forms of

speaking, are often called brothers and sisters, and the thing may

be perfectly proper when this use of the terms is generally known

and allowed, yet nothing of this kind can be pleaded here in

behalf of Isaac; for he intended that the Gerarites should

understand him in the proper sense of the term, and consequently

have no suspicion that she was his wife. We have already seen

that the proper definition of a lie is any word spoken with the

intention to deceive. See Ge 20:12.

Verse 8. Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.] Whatever

may be the precise meaning of the word, it evidently implies that

there were liberties taken and freedom used on the occasion, which

were not lawful but between man and wife.

Verse 10. Thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.] It

is likely that Abimelech might have had some knowledge of God's

intentions concerning the family of Abraham, and that it must be

kept free from all impure and alien mixtures; and that

consequently, had he or any of his people taken Rebekah, the

Divine judgment might have fallen upon the land. Abimelech was a

good and holy man; and he appears to have considered adultery as a

grievous and destructive crime.

Verse 11. He that toucheth] He who injures Isaac or defiles

Rebekah shall certainly die for it. Death was the punishment for

adultery among the Canaanites, Philistines, and Hebrews.

See Ge 38:24.

Verse 12. Isaac sowed in that land] Being now perfectly free

from the fear of evil, he betakes himself to agricultural and

pastoral pursuits, in which he has the especial blessing of God,

so that his property becomes greatly increased.

A hundred-fold] , meah shearim, literally, "A

hundred-fold of barley;" and so the Septuagint, εκατοστευουσαν

κριθην. Perhaps such a crop of this grain was a rare occurrence

in Gerar. The words, however, may be taken in a general way, as

signifying a very great increase; so they are used by our Lord in

the parable of the sower.

Verse 13. The man waxed great] There is a strange and

observable recurrence of the same term in the original:

vaiyigdal haish vaiyelech haloch

vegadel ad ki gadal meod, And the man was GREAT; and he went,

going on, and was GREAT, until that he was exceeding GREAT. How

simple is this language, and yet how forcible!

Verse 14. He had possession of flocks] He who blessed him in

the increase of his fields blessed him also in the increase of his

flocks; and as he had extensive possessions, so he must have many

hands to manage such concerns: therefore it is added, he had

great store of servants-he had many domestics, some born in his

house, and others purchased by his money.

Verse 15. For all the wells-the Philistines had stopped them] In

such countries a good well was a great acquisition; and hence in

predatory wars it was usual for either party to fill the wells

with earth or sand, in order to distress the enemy. The filling up

the wells in this case was a most unprincipled transaction, as

they had pledged themselves to Abraham, by a solemn oath, not to

injure each other in this or any other respect. See Ge 21:25-31.

Verse 16. Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.] This

is the first instance on record of what was termed among the

Greeks ostracism; i.e., the banishment of a person from the state,

of whose power, influence, or riches, the people were jealous.

There is a remarkable saying of Bacon on this subject, which seems

to intimate that he had this very circumstance under his eye:

"Public envy is an ostracism that eclipseth men when they grow too

great." On this same principle Pharaoh oppressed the Israelites.

The Philistines appear to have been jealous of Isaac's growing

prosperity, and to have considered it, not as a due reward of his

industry and holiness, but as their individual loss, as though his

gain was at their expense; therefore they resolved to drive him

out, and take his well-cultivated ground, &c., to themselves, and

compelled Abimelech to dismiss him, who gave this reason for it,

atsamta mimmennu, Thou hast obtained much wealth among

us, and my people are envious of thee. Is not this the better

translation? for it can hardly be supposed that Isaac was

"mightier" than the king of whole tribes.

Verse 18. In the days of Abraham] Instead of bimey, in

the days, Houbigant contends we should read abdey, servants.

Isaac digged again the wells which the servants of Abraham his

father had digged. This reading is supported by the Samaritan,

Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate; and it is probably the true one.

Verse 19. A well of springing water.] beer mayim

chaiyim, A well of living waters. This is the oriental phrase for

a spring, and this is its meaning both in the Old and New

Testaments: Le 14:5,50; 15:30; Nu 19:17; Cant. So 4:15. See also

Joh 4:10-14; 7:38; Re 21:6; 22:1. And by these scriptures we find

that an unfailing spring was an emblem of the graces and

influences of the Spirit of God.

Verse 21. They digged another well] Never did any man more

implicitly follow the Divine command, Resist not evil, than Isaac;

whenever he found that his work was likely to be a subject of

strife and contention, he gave place, and rather chose to suffer

wrong than to have his own peace of mind disturbed. Thus he

overcame evil with good.

Verse 24. The Lord appeared unto him] He needed especial

encouragement when insulted and outraged by the Philistines; for

having returned to the place where his noble father had lately

died, the remembrance of his wrongs, and the remembrance of his

loss, could not fail to afflict his mind; and God immediately

appears to comfort and support him in his trials, by a renewal of

all his promises.

Verse 25. Builded an altar there] That he might have a place

for God's worship, as well as a place for himself and family to

dwell in.

And called upon the name of the Lord] And invoked in the name

of Jehovah. See Clarke on Ge 12:8; "Ge 13:15".

Verse 26. Abimelech went to him] When a man's ways please God,

he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him; so Isaac

experienced on this occasion. Whether this was the same Abimelech

and Phichol mentioned Ge 21:22, we cannot tell, it is possible

both might have been now alive, provided we suppose them young in

the days of Abraham; but it is more likely that Abimelech was a

general name of the Gerarite kings, and that Phichol was a name of


Ahuzzath] The Targum translates this word a company, not

considering it as a proper name: "Abimelech and Phichol came with

a company of their friends." The Septuagint calls him οχοζαθο

νυμφαγωγος, Ochozath, the paranymph, he who conducts the bride to

the bridegroom's house. Could we depend on the correctness of

this version, we might draw the following curious conclusions from

it: 1. That this was the son of that Abimelech the friend of

Abraham. 2. That he had been lately married, and on this journey

brings with him his confidential friend, to whom he had lately

intrusted the care of his spouse.

Verse 27. Seeing ye hate me] He was justified in thinking thus,

because if they did not injure him, they had connived at their

servants doing it.

Verse 28. Let there be now an oath betwixt us] Let us make a

covenant by which we shall be mutually bound, and let it be

ratified in the most solemn manner.

Verse 30. He made them a feast] Probably on the sacrifice that

was offered on the occasion of making this covenant. This was a

common custom.

Verse 31. They rose up betimes] Early rising was general among

the primitive inhabitants of the world, and this was one cause

which contributed greatly to their health and longevity.

Verse 33. He called it Shebah] This was probably the same well

which was called Beersheba in the time of Abraham, which the

Philistines had filled up, and which the servants of Isaac had

reopened. The same name is therefore given to it which it had

before, with the addition of the emphatic letter he, by which

its signification became extended, so that now it signified not

merely an oath or full, but satisfaction and abundance.

The name of the city is Beer-sheba] This name was given to it

a hundred years before this time; but as the well from which it

had this name originally was closed up by the Philistines,

probably the name of the place was abolished with the well; when

therefore Isaac reopened the well, he restored the ancient name of

the place.

Verse 34. He took to wife-the daughter, &c.] It is very likely

that the wives taken by Esau were daughters of chiefs among the

Hittites, and by this union he sought to increase and strengthen

his secular power and influence.

Verse 35. Which were a grief of mind] Not the marriage, though

that was improper, but the persons; they, by their perverse and

evil ways, brought bitterness into the hearts of Isaac and

Rebekah. The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, and that of

Jerusalem, say they were addicted to idol worship, and

rebelled against and would not hearken to the instructions either

of Isaac or Rebekah. From Canaanites a different conduct could

not be reasonably expected. Esau was far from being spiritual,

and his wives were wholly carnal.

THE same reflections which were suggested by Abraham's conduct

in denying his wife in Egypt and Gerar, will apply to that of

Isaac; but the case of Isaac was much less excusable than that of

Abraham. The latter told no falsity; he only through fear

suppressed a part of the truth.

1. A good man has a right to expect God's blessing on his

honest industry. Isaac sowed, and received a hundred-fold, and he

had possession of flocks, &c., for the Lord blessed him. Worldly

men, if they pray at all, ask for temporal things: "What shall

we eat? what shall we drink? and wherewithal shall we be

clothed?" Most of the truly religious people go into another

extreme; they forget the body, and ask only for the soul! and yet

there are "things requisite and necessary as well for the body as

the soul," and things which are only at God's disposal. The body

lives for the soul's sake; its life and comfort are in many

respects essentially requisite to the salvation of the soul; and

therefore the things necessary for its support should be earnestly

asked from the God of all grace, the Father of bounty and

providence. Ye have not because ye ask not, may be said to many

poor, afflicted religious people; and they are afraid to ask lest

it should appear mercenary, or that they sought their portion in

this life. They should be better taught. Surely to none of these

will God give a stone if they ask bread: he who is so liberal of

his heavenly blessings will not withhold earthly ones, which are

of infinitely less consequence. Reader, expect God's blessing on

thy honest industry; pray for it, and believe that God does not

love thee less, who hast taken refuge in the same hope, than he

loved Isaac. Plead not only his promises, but plead on the

precedents he has set before thee. "Lord, thou didst so and so to

Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to others who trusted in thee;

bless my field, bless my flocks, prosper my labour, that I may

be able to provide things honest in the sight of all men, and have

something to dispense to those who are in want." And will not God

hear such prayers? Yea, and answer them too, for he does not

willingly afflict the children of men. And we may rest assured

that there is more affliction and poverty in the world than either

the justice or providence of God requires. There are, however,

many who owe their poverty to their want of diligence and economy;

they sink down into indolence, and forget that word, Whatsoever

thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; nor do they consider

that by idleness a man is clothed with rags. Be diligent in

business and fervent in spirit, and God will withhold from thee no

manner of thing that is good.

2. From many examples we find that the wealth of the primitive

inhabitants of the world did not consist in gold, silver, or

precious stones, but principally in flocks of useful cattle, and

the produce of the field. With precious metals and precious

stones they were not unacquainted, and the former were sometimes

used in purchases, as we have already seen in the case of Abraham

buying a field from the children of Heth. But the blessings which

God promises are such as spring from the soil. Isaac sowed in the

land, and had possessions of flocks and herds, and great store of

servants, Ge 26:12-14.

Commerce, by which nations and individuals so suddenly rise and

as suddenly fall, had not been then invented; every man was

obliged to acquire property by honest and persevering labour, or

be destitute. Lucky hits, fortunate speculations, and adventurous

risks, could then have no place; the field must be tilled, the

herds watched and fed, and the proper seasons for ploughing,

sowing, reaping, and laying up, be carefully regarded and

improved. No man, therefore, could grow rich by accident. Isaac

waxed great and went forward, and grew until he became very great,

Ge 26:13.

Speculation was of no use, for it could have no object; and

consequently many incitements to knavery and to idleness, that

bane of the physical and moral health of the body and soul of man,

could not show themselves. Happy times! when every man wrought

with his hands, and God particularly blessed his honest industry.

As he had no luxuries, he had no unnatural and factitious wants,

few diseases, and a long life.

O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint,


O thrice happy husbandmen! did they but know their own mercies.

But has not what is termed commerce produced the reverse of all

this? A few are speculators, and the many are comparatively

slaves; and slaves, not to enrich themselves, (this is

impossible,) but to enrich the speculators and adventurers by whom

they are employed. Even the farmers become, at least partially,

commercial men; and the soil, the fruitful parent of natural

wealth, is comparatively disregarded: the consequence is, that

the misery of the many, and the luxury of the few, increase;

and from both these spring, on the one hand, pride, insolence,

contempt of the poor, contempt of GOD'S holy word and

commandments, with the long catalogue of crimes which proceed from

pampered appetites and unsubdued passions: and on the other,

murmuring, repining, discontent, and often insubordination and

revolt, the most fell and most destructive of all the evils that

can degrade and curse civil society. Hence wars, fightings, and

revolutions of states, and public calamities of all kinds. Bad as

the world and the times are, men have made them much worse by

their unnatural methods of providing for the support of life. When

shall men learn that even this is but a subordinate pursuit; and

that the cultivator. of the soul in the knowledge, love, and

obedience of God, is essentially necessary, not only to future

glory, but to present happiness?

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