Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) 2004
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GENESIS 26:1-5 (The Abrahamic covenant renewed for Isaac)
26:1 A previous famine in the land of Canaan had resulted in Abraham’s disastrous move into Egypt (12:10-19). When Isaac faced another famine he went to the Philistine King Abimelech of Gerar. This was where Abraham had previously resided (20:1-20; 21:22-34).
26:2-3 The LORD (yahwah often transliterated as Yahweh) appeared personally to Isaac, as he did on at least two occasions to Abraham (17:1;18:1). Isaac was told not to go down into Egypt. He was to remain inside the limits of the land promised to Abraham (12:1, 5; 13:14-15; 15:16-20; 17:8; Gerar was north-west of Beersheba, which was the southern limit of the land).
26:4-5 The LORD also repeated the two other covenant promises given to Abraham. “I will make of you a great nation, and will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing . . . and in you all families of the earth shall be blessed” (12:2-3; 15:4-5; 17:5-6; 22:17-18). Paul saw the implications of the promise that all nations would be blessed through the faith of Abraham when he wrote : “What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is righteousness through faith” (Romans 9:30). At the Council of Jerusalem James used the same promise to argue that Gentiles (people of other nations) did not need to be circumcized to become full members of the new churches (Acts 15:14-19).
GENESIS 26:6-11 (Isaac lied by suggesting that Rebekah was his sister)
26:6-7 Moral flaws are often passed on from father to son, and Isaac repeated Abraham’s deceit by pretending that his wife was his sister (20:1-6). But whereas Abraham’s deception was a half truth, Rebekah was the daughter of Isaac’s cousin (22:20-23).
26:8-11 Abimelech saw Isaac fondling Rebekah, and knew she was the Patriarch’s wife. When Isaac gave his excuse, Abimelech pointed out how disastrous that kind of deceit might have been.
GENESIS 26:12-22 (Conflict with the Philistines over the wells Abraham had dug)
26:12-13 Seed could yield 30 to 60 times the amount of harvested grain, but a hundredfold was unusual (see Jesus’ parable of the Sower, Mark 4:8). Isaac rapidly became very wealthy.
26:14-18 The native Philistines tried to drive out the foreigners by filling in their wells (21:25-30). And finally Isaac with all his wealth was asked to move away from the vicinity of Abimelech’s capital in Gerar. So he moved some distance to the border just north of the Wadi Besor (1 Samuel 30:9-10) which still marks the boundary with Egypt. This was the isolated southern area of the Kingdom of Gerar where Abraham had lived (20:1). Isaac had the wells opened up again and renamed them by the names Abraham had given.
26:19-22 Abimelech’s herdsmen kept quarreling over the ownership of these wells, and Isaac had to keep moving till finally he was allowed to retain the well of Rehoboth (meaning broad places, plenty of room). Isaac was very conscious of the fact that the LORD had given him a place for his flocks to water.
GENESIS 26:23-35 (Finally there is a peace treaty between Isaac and the Philistines).
26:23-24 But evidently there was only a temporary respite and Isaac moved 25 miles, 40 km, east to Beersheba, as his father had done (21:31-33). The very night he arrived the LORD appeared to him again (see comments on 26:2-3). He encouraged Isaac by repeating the promise he had made (see comments on 26:4).
26:25 On at least four occasions Abraham expressed his faith and gratitude by building an altar for a sacrificial meal with his family (see comments on 12:7; 13:4, 18; 21:33). Isaac had the faith to submit to his father offering him as a sacrifice (22:9), and he had the faith to pray for his wife to conceive after twenty years of barrenness (25:20-21, 26). But this is the first record of Isaac building an altar to celebrate God’s care and provision. It may indicate that at the age of at least 80 (compare 25:20-21, 26, 29) he was finally willing to respond to the LORD in grateful faith. The New Testament calls this “a sacrifice of praise to God” (Hebrews 13:15, as in Psalm 107:22; 116:17; )
26:26-29 When Abimelech again saw God’s astonishing blessing on Isaac, he led a delegation to make a covenant of non-agresssion between his Philistines and the Jewish people. These were an earlier wave of Sea Peoples from North Africa via Crete and Cyprus. It is possible that this agreement no longer applied to the later wave of Philistines three hundred years later (see Exodus 13:17; Joshua 13:2-3; Judges 3:3; 10:7; 13:1; 16:23-30).
26:30-31 As was the custom, a peace treaty was sealed by a feast, and a solemn exchange of oaths the next morning.
26:32 After the departure of Abimelech and his delegation, water was found in the well of Beersheba. It was originally dug by Abraham (21:30-31) and later stopped up by the Philistine herdsmen (26:15, 18). Abraham had called the well Beersheba (well of the oath) in memory of his agreement with the Philistines. Evidently that agreement had been broken, and Isaac renamed the well Beersheba (well of the oath), as a reminder of the renewed agreement.
Note: In the present discussions about the Promised Land the Jewish claim to the land goes back to the promises made to Abraham (12:1, 7; 13:14-15; 15:16, 18; 17:8). But the only part of the land that Abraham owned was the family burial place in Hebron by the Cave of Machpelah (23:17-20). This agreement with Abimelech the Philistine King gave Isaac the title to Beersheba in the extreme south of the area of the Promised Land later defined as the narrow strip of territory from Dan to Beersheba (Joshua 19:47; Judges 18:29; 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20; 2 Samuel 3:10; 1 Kings 4:25)
26:33-35 This verse is really the introduction to the next chapter. Esau was Jacob’s twin, who sold his birthright (se notes on 25:21-34). Whereas Rebekah sent Jacob 500 miles, 800 km, north to marry into Abraham’s family in Haran (27:43-46), Esau married two Canaanite women, who were a pain to Isaac and Rebekah.
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