BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
ISAAC DECEIVES ABIMELECH
It has been said that “fear” mocks “faith”, and that “faith” laughs in victory later on. Here in Genesis 26, verses 1-11, we see just such a case being played out, as now, Isaac is faced with the same test of faith that was given by GOD to his father Abraham, some 90 years earlier.
Here in this passage we see the many similarities that existed in the lives of Abraham and his son Isaac. First of all we see that a severe famine has struck the land where Isaac is living, just as it had once happened in Abraham’s time. And just like his father before him, Isaac moved to Gerar where the Abimelech ruled over the nation of the Philistines. It was there that the LORD appeared to Isaac and urged him not to go to Egypt, but rather, to stay in the land that HE had given to his father to live.
In this passage GOD is officially passing on the promise of HIS Covenant with Abraham, from Abraham to Isaac, and at one and the same time, HE is showing Isaac that he doesn’t have to be in Beer Lahairoi to hear from HIM. Here GOD makes the same “conditional” promise to Isaac that HE made to his father about 100 years earlier. GOD tells him that “if he does what HE says (obeys HIM), and stays in this land (where HE put him), HE will be with him and bless him, because of HIS solemn promise to Abraham, who listened to HIM and obeyed all of HIS requirements, commands, regulations, and laws”.
The obvious idea in this passage is that, the descendants of those who are obedient to GOD, will be extended the same blessings and benefits as their ancestors, if they too, are willing to exercise, a like, genuine faith in HIM, and remain obedient to HIM.
Faith in GOD casts away all fears, because “faith” and “fear” cannot co-exist together, not even for a moment. And when that faith is genuine and strong, we are able to overcome all spiritual, physical, and mental challenges. Remember, JESUS says that we only need to exercise “mustard seed faith” to move a mountain! And so, true faith will always seek to obey GOD’s words first.
And so Isaac abided there in Gerar, but like his father before him, he feared the men of Gerar, even though GOD had given him HIS promise that the future life of a nation would begin with his own offspring. And if that were the case, he would not lose his life in Gerar, and he did not have to let his fear of man cause him to sin (lie and deceive) for protection. GOD’s promise meant that, through HIS protection, Isaac would not leave this life until all that GOD said concerning him was fulfilled.
And so, by way of GOD’s intervention, as soon as Isaac arrived in Gerar, he was asked by the men of Gerar about his beautiful wife Rebekah. They wanted to know who she was to him. Fearing the men, more than HE believed GOD, Isaac lied and said that Rebekah was his sister, instead of telling the truth that she was his wife, thus, he put his marriage to her, and her chastity to him, in jeopardy. This could have had a disastrous result, as it could have forced Rebekah to commit adultery. And we see that, even the pagan Abimelech had established a law against adultery, and recognized it as a sin in his kingdom (v.10).
As the providence of the LORD would have it, one day the Abimelech peered out his window and saw Isaac fondling Rebekah. It was then that he knew that she was obviously his wife, and not his sister. And so he had Isaac brought before him and rebuked him harshly. Then, out of his fear and respect for the GOD of Isaac’s father, Abraham, the Abimelech publically proclaimed that anyone who harmed Isaac or Rebekah would be killed.
Isaac’s temporary lapse in faith, because of his fear, made a mockery of the covenant promise of GOD. He thereby failed the same test that his father, Abraham, first, failed before him. He tried to justify sin with “human ingenuity” in an attempt to protect himself, instead of depending on GOD’s promise of protection. He thought it was alright with GOD if he deceived an unbeliever. However, the person who seeks to represent GOD, as HIS witness, must be able to do so, first and foremost, through their righteous actions and behavior, before the world.
CONFLICT OVER WATER RIGHTS
Isaac remained in Gerar, and that same year, he raised bumper crops that produced up to 100 times the amount of the actual seeds that he planted. He became a lot richer and his wealth only continued to increase more and more. He, as a result, was able to acquire large flocks and herds of sheep and cattle. He also bought many more servants to help him with his work.
However, it is a fact of life that, with the success of some, always comes, the envy and jealousy of others. And so, as soon as the people of Philistine heard of and saw Isaac’s success in their land, they begin to try and destroy or ruin everything he had worked for by filling in all of the wells that he had dug there for the physical survival of his family and his animals (v.15).
Here in this passage we see the people of Gerar clearly violating the king’s evict that they “not do any harm to Isaac and Rebekah” (v.11). Strangely though, we see in verse 16 that, the Abimelech, instead of enforcing his own edict, asks Isaac to leave the area, because he had “become too rich and powerful for us”. And so we see that even the king, if not jealous himself, at least feared the sudden success of Isaac, and probably viewed it as a threat to his own lifestyle and throne.
Isaac, at the request of the Abimelech, moved to the nearby valley area of Gerar and resided there. He re-opened the wells there that the Philistines had filled in with dirt after the death of Abraham, and he renamed the wells, the same names that his father had given them. In addition, Isaac’s shepherds began to dig new wells and they even found a new gushing spring there in the valley.
However, the local Philistines came down to the valley and claimed the new gushing spring as their own, and they argued back and forward with Isaac’s shepherds. As a result, Isaac named his well there “Esek”, which means “dispute”, and he left it to the Philistines.
Later on Isaac’s shepherds dug another well, and again, there was a fight over it, and once again Isaac named the well and ceded it over to Philistine shepherds also. He named that well “Sitnah”, which means “opposition”.
Refusing to let the Philistines wear him down, Isaac dug yet a third well, and this time, they left him alone. Isaac named the third well “Rehoboth”, which means “room”, and he said, “at last the LORD has made room for us, and we will be able to thrive here”.
Even though Isaac never fought back in a physical way, psychologically, he frustrated and wore out his opposition and caused them to give up themselves, over time. It is that same kind of strategy that we saw Martin Luther King used in the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties here in the United States.
Some time after his psychological victory over the Philistines, Isaac moved back to Beersheba where he grew up, and it was there that the LORD appeared to him a second time, on the very first night of his arrival. There GOD re-affirmed his promise to Isaac with these encouraging words;
“I AM the GOD of your father, Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I AM with you and will bless you. I will give you many descendants, and they will become a great nation. I will do this because of MY promise to Abraham, MY servant”
Here GOD is letting Isaac know that, wherever he goes, whether it be Beer Lahairoi, Gerar, or back at Beersheba, HE was with him, as long as he maintains his faith and trust in HIM, and obeys all of HIS precepts. Then Isaac built an altar to the LORD and worshiped HIM there. He set up camp there in Beersheba, and his servants dug yet another well.
A TREATY WITH ABIMELECH
After the conflicts over water rights had waned, the Abimelech saw an opportunity for a treaty to be reached between himself and Isaac. And so, he went to see Isaac, bringing with him, his adviser, Ahuzzath, and his army commander, the Phicol as witnesses. Isaac, who was a bit leery, asked him in so many words, if he had come in peace. The Abimelech replied, “We can plainly see that the LORD (of your father) is with you. So we decided we should have a treaty, a covenant between us. Swear that you will not harm us, just as we did not harm you. We always treated you well, and we sent you away in peace. And now look at how the LORD has blessed you!”
And even though it seemed as if the Abimelech was taking credit for the LORD’s blessings upon him, Isaac accepted his offer of peace (he “prepared a table before himself in the presence of his enemies”) and they ate and drank in preparation for a treaty ceremony the next day.
Early the next morning they each (Isaac and the Abimelech) took a solemn “oath of nonaggression” toward each other, and then Isaac sent them away. That same day Isaac’s servants came to him excited about a new gushing well they had just found. Encouraged by the peace agreement that he had just made with the Philistines, Isaac named the new well “Shibah”, which means “oath” or “seven” because they had made a treaty by solemn oath, just as his father Abraham had done when he named the place where they now lived, “Beersheba”.
This chapter ends with a wonderful segue into the next chapter (chapter 27), as it highlights the disappointment of Isaac and Rebekah in their oldest son, Esau. Here it says that, when Esau was 40 years old he married, not one, but two Hittite women, Judith, the daughter of Beeri, and Basemath, the daughter of Elon, a double whammy against the plan of GOD.
These two women made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah, and it showed how unfit Esau was to inherit the blessings of Isaac, even though he was the eldest son, the traditional recipient of the bulk of the father’s inheritance. This short passage goes a long way in explaining why GOD would later allow the blessings of Isaac to bypass Esau, and be bestowed upon Jacob, even though Isaac would foolishly attempt to give it to Esau anyway (Vs.34-35).
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander