Genesis 26 (NRSV)
Isaac and Abimelech
Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar, to King Abimelech of the Philistines. 2The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; settle in the land that I shall show you. 3Reside in this land as an alien, and I will be with you, and will bless you; for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will fulfill the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. 4I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and will give to your offspring all these lands; and all the nations of the earth shall gain blessing for themselves through your offspring, 5because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
6So Isaac settled in Gerar. 7When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “My wife,” thinking, “or else the men of the place might kill me for the sake of Rebekah, because she is attractive” in appearance.”
Like father, like son . . .
8When Isaac had been there a long time, King Abimelech of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw him fondling his wife Rebekah.
I love how the King James Version puts this: the king looked out the window “and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.”
9So Abimelech called for Isaac, and said, “So she is your wife! Why then did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”
Isaac said to him, “Because I thought I might die because of her.”
10Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”
11So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall be put to death.”
Considering Isaac’s less-than-truthfulness with Abimelech: Is it ever acceptable in God’s eyes to do the wrong thing but for the right (at least you think it is right) reason? In your normal everyday life? In extraordinary circumstances?
12Isaac sowed seed in that land, and in the same year reaped a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him, 13and the man became rich; he prospered more and more until he became very wealthy. 14He had possessions of flocks and herds, and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him. 15(Now the Philistines had stopped up and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of his father Abraham.)
16And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”
17So Isaac departed from there and camped in the valley of Gerar and settled there. 18Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of his father Abraham; for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the names that his father had given them.
19But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, 20the herders of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herders, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the well Esek (meaning contention), because they contended with him. 21Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also; so he called it Sitnah (meaning enmity). 22He moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he called it Rehoboth (meaning broad places or room), saying, “Now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
Isaac dug three wells. After the first two, there were disputes and contention–so Isaac moved on. Finally, after digging the third well, there seemed to be enough room and water for everyone. Isaac was a peacemaker, kind to his enemies. Are you willing to accommodate others again and again and again?
Hebrews 13:14-16 (New International Version):
For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
HERE is “Let There be Peace on Earth” sung by The Harlem Boys’ Choir.
23From there he went up to Beer-sheba. 24And that very 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 and will bless you and make your offspring numerous for my servant Abraham’s sake.”
Here, for the first time, we see the title that would later become so familiar: “The God of your father Abraham.”
25So he built an altar there, called on the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
26Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army. 27Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?”
28They said, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you; so we say, let there be an oath between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you 29so that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.”
Proverbs 16:7 (New American Standard Bible)
When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
30So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. 31In the morning they rose early and exchanged oaths; and Isaac set them on their way, and they departed from him in peace.
32That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water!” 33He called it Shibah (meaning oath); therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba to this day.
First God comes to Isaac with further assurances that God’s blessing and presence will continue to be his; Isaac dug and well and found water. Then Abimelech, an earthly power, affirms and recognizes Isaac’s blessed status. Again Isaac finds water. He has moved from famine at the beginning of the chapter to abundance at the end.
–Linda B. Hinton
Esau’s Hittite Wives
34When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite; 35and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.