Genesis 26:1-6 “Do Not Go Down to Egypt” part 2

Posted on March 20, 2011. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bryan E. Walker

 Read Genesis 26:1-6

Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. 2 And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”




  1. I.                   Exposition of 26:1-6 “Do Not Go Down To Egypt
    1. A.     Introduction, vs.1
      1. 1.      Baldwin, p. 108, “This chapter is the only one devoted entirely to Isaac, whose story is not only shorter but also less spectacular than that of either Abraham or Jacob. In many ways he is the bridge between the two, recapitulating the lessons learnt by Abraham, and passing on to his sons all that God had so far revealed of the family’s destiny and of God himself.”
      2. 2.      Vs.1 “Now there was a famine…” In a typical Moses fashion he begins with an idea that links with the previous story, 25:29-34, Esau was famished and in fact is so hungry that he bartered away his birthright to Jacob for a pot of lentil stew. “He ate and drank…Now there was a famine in the land.” Esau was, in all likelihood, not really about to die from starvation; the story emphasizes that he did not consider his spiritual birthright worth his desire as he focused on his physical desires. We will see this again in 26:34-35 as he marries against the will of his parents. This then gives us some bookends for the Isaac story of ch.26.
      3. 3.      The opening line from 26:1 also points us directly back to 12:10. Here Moses is deliberately comparing Isaac with Abraham. Droughts and the resulting famines were re-occurring events in Canaan. It seems that Isaac’s intention was to go down to Egypt just as Abraham had, but the LORD tells me not to go in vs. 2.
      4. 4.      For Israel in Moses’ day, they had to face a shortage of food and water early in their escape from Egypt. They left immediately after celebrating Passover, a feast, but by Ex.15, after crossing the Red Sea and watching God judge the Egyptian Army, they headed off into the wilderness and were out of water after traveling for three days. Ex.15:24 “And the people grumbled against Moses.”
      5. 5.      In Ex. 16:1-3 “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then, in vss.4ff the LORD rains bread from heaven, manna. So as a possible preaching point to the people of his day, Moses could have pointed to Isaac’s willingness to stay in Canaan in the famine.
      6. 6.      An application- some problems come up in every generation that are similar or even exactly the same. We can learn from the past, from history, from our parents. Had Isaac and Abraham talked about the famine, the trip down to Egypt, and how obtaining the slave girl, Hagar, worked out not so well?
      7. 7.      Application: is it even possible for our modern society to experience a famine? What could bring on a famine? How would you respond? How would a famine affect our church?
      8. 8.      Application: Is there a spiritual famine in our land? How can we prepare for or overcome a spiritual famine?


  The Lord elsewhere uses famine in a spiritual way, Amos 8:11-12   

11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,
“when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord.
12 They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord,
but they shall not find it.

  1. 9.      Why would Isaac, and before him, Abraham, go to Egypt during a famine? Kidner, p.153, “The promise was searching: to refuse the immediate plenty of Egypt for the mostly unseen (3a) and distant blessings (3b,4) demanded the kind of faith praised in Hebrews 11:9,10 and proved him a true son of his father- even though, like Abraham, he was to mar his obedience at once.”

10.  Francisco, p.202, “When famine came, Isaac seemed to be   heading for Egypt, as his father Abraham had done. When he had come as far as Gerar, he was hindered by God himself from going any further. This was his initial test of faith, not the adventure of following God to a land he did not know, but the endurance of remaining in that land when the going was hard. This was a more difficult test than the one initially faced by Abraham, for nothing is more difficult than to stay in one’s place to starve when there is grain in Egypt. Isaac met the test without a murmur and as a consequence became more prosperous than Abraham ever was (vv.12-16).”

11.  “besides the former famine”- many of the liberal critics of Scripture point to the similar stories of Isaac and Abraham- the famine, the deception about the wife-sister, the wells- and say that there could only be one actual event of these natures and that the several stories are the result of different traditions or sources. However, here in the text itself is a clue: the author specifically relates that this famine was different from the one in Abraham’s day. And we know that droughts were not uncommon, so there is absolutely no reason to not take this passage as being genuine. And it would be typical for people to head to Egypt because Egypt was the breadbasket of the Mediterranean. We will see another famine in Joseph’s days and the Lord will at that time send Jacob and his family to Egypt.

12.  And Isaac went to Gerar- according to vs. 3 this land too will be given to his offspring. Wiersbe indicates that the geography seems to point to Isaac heading away from Egypt in order to get to Gerar because the last geographical reference for Isaac is Beer-Lahai-Roi in 25:11. Gerar is 75 miles NE from there, while Egypt would be SW. This may be assuming too much.

13.   “Abimelech king of the Philistines”- since at least 40 years had passed since Abraham had visited Abimelech (he and Sarah went before she was pregnant with Isaac) this is probably not the same man. Abimelech is a royal title given to their king. We don’t know for sure how old Isaac is at this point, but it is after his marriage to Rebekah at age 40, yet probably before having children at age 60.

14.  “the Philistines”- the action in this chapter takes place around the years of 2000-1700 B.C. and yet most scholars say the Philistines did not come into the region until about 1200B.C. and the invasion by the Sea Peoples. If this is a fairly secure date by archeology and history, so how do we explain this? The Philistines have been mentioned before (21:34; 10:14- they are related to the Casluhim and Caphtorim. See also Deut. 2:23). This could be one of the rare instances where we have a possible update to the story so that the people of either Moses’ day or during a later time would understand which people Isaac and Abraham had encountered in their current terms. This should not be considered an error in Scripture and we believe that some later updating of place names and people groups does not affect the veracity or inspiration of the text. However, archeology does show that the cities of the Philistines were occupied during Abraham and Isaac’s day and the Philistines could have arrived in earlier waves, trickles, much earlier than the records show. The Philistines are related to the “Sea Peoples” and possibly also to the Minoans of Crete or the earliest Greeks, the Mycenaeans.

15.  Walton&Mattthews, “Large numbers of Philistines entered Canaan after the invasion of the ‘Sea Peoples’ (1200 B.C.) broke Egyptian control over the area….Their mention in Genesis may reflect an earlier group that settled in Canaan prior to 1200 B.C., or it may be an anachronism based on their presence in the Gerar region in later periods (see Gen 21:32), earlier people of the vicinity being referred to by the name known to later readers.”

  1. B.     Vs.2 Do Not Go Down to Egypt
    1. 1.      “And the LORD appeared to him and said,” The LORD “said” to Abram in 12:1 “Go” and in 12:7 at Shechem the LORD “appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” So, like his father Abraham, Isaac receives some type of a theophany and a command concerning the Promised Land.
    2. 2.      “Do not go down to Egypt…” The implication is for Isaac to not do what his father had done. Scripture nowhere comes right out and says that what Abram did in going to Egypt was wrong, but Moses’ very subtly implies that in ch. 12 and how ch. 16 relates to ch. 12 and now here in 26. During a famine going to Egypt was normal, that is where the food was. God is telling Isaac to not do what is normal.
    3. 3.      Joyce Baldwin takes a different view-(pp.108-9) “When food became scarce he had the choice, which had earlier faced Abraham, of making either for Egypt, irrigated by the Nile, or for the coast of Canaan, with its higher rainfall. Isaac made for the nearer of the two, and at this time of trouble and perplexity the Lord appeared to him. First the Lord confirmed that Isaac had been right not to go to Egypt. Gerar was where the Lord would be with him to bless him, and, moreover, this territory, which others owned and ruled, would one day be given to his descendants…”
    4. 4.      Application: taking care of one’s family is a God-given role for the husbands and fathers and following Jesus does not mean canceling out our common sense. Nonetheless, sometimes the Lord calls us to an act of faith that does not make sense to the world. In this instance it is to abstain from doing what makes sense.
    5. 5.      Application: genuine faith will always be tested by circumstances, the devil, and our own inner sinful desires. God tests us to mature us and conform us to the image of his Son, the world and the devil tempts us to destroy our faith. Wiersbe labels these six verses “The temptation to run” (p.15). Wiersbe says this was Isaac’s first serious test of faith, but I would differ. I think the first test was Rebekah’s barrenness. Wiersbe writes, “The safest place in the world is in the will of God, for the will of God will never lead us where His grace can’t provide for us. Unbelief asks, ‘How can I get out of this,’ while faith asks, ‘What can I get out of this?”
    6. 6.      Application: just as Isaac may have been tempted to go to Egypt, have you ever been on the borderline between faith and unbelief, between obedience and disobedience? Are there any “gray zones” in our faith where we are not sure if what we are doing is right or not? What about Paul’s argument in Romans 14?
    7. 7.      “Dwell in the land of which I shall tell you.” Whereas the first command was prohibitive- Do not go- the second is positive- Dwell in the land. The Heb. is sakan and means to live, settle, dwell and it is often used to describe the presence of God amongst his people (e.g. Exodus25:8).
    8. C.     Vs.3  “I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham”
      1. 1.      “Sojourn in this land” Notice the rapid cadence of these three exhortations: Do not go, dwell, sojourn! This word is gur meaning to inhabit or sojourn is used frequently in Genesis. It is used of aliens who are sojourning in a land that is not their own. Isaac, though born in the land is yet a foreigner, not a Canaanite nor a Philisitine.
      2. 2.      Application: here once again is the idea that we as people of faith, are to be sojourners, resident aliens, this world is not our home, we await a better place. We are but passing through. But, see below for how a sojourner is to behave!
      3. 3.      “and I will be with you” The LORD promises his blessed presence to Isaac; he will not be left alone. Hamilton says that this is the first instance of this promise to the Patriarchs, p.193. See also 31:3; Es 3:12; Josh 1:5; Judges 6:16; 1Kngs 11:38; Psalm 23:4 and Matt. 28:20.
      4. 4.      Application: If God is for us who can be against us?! Rom. 8:31.
      5. 5.      And will bless you- this hearkens back to 12:2. Application: see Eph.1: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us  for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known  to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
      6. 6.      “for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands” there is the promise of offspring and descendants again (keep in mind this is prior to he and Rebekah having the twins). The land is obviously settled by others so this promise requires much faith. It will in fact take a conquering warrior, Joshua, and an army of Israelites to lay claim to the Promised Land.
      7. 7.      “I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham” God is reassuring Isaac that the oath made with Abraham will be adhered to and passed down to him.
    9. D.    Vs.4 “Offspring…offspring…offspring”
      1. 1.      “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven”– this clearly looks back to chs. 15 when the LORD appeared to Abram and took him out of the tent at night and said, “Look toward heaven and number the stars, if you are able to number them…so shall your offspring be…” (15:5) and ch.22:17f “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies , and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
      2. 2.      “will give to your offspring all these lands” notice this is doubled for emphasis.
      3. 3.      “in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” repeats the promise to Abraham in 12:3.
      4. 4.      Application: and yet, despite the many blessings from the Jews, the biggest being Christ, they are the most hated and vilified group of people in our world. Anti-Semitism is on the rise. We Christians ought to stand with the Jews, defend the Jews, and share the Gospel with the Jews.
    10. E.     Vs. 5 “Because Abraham Obeyed My Voice”
      1. 1.      Again this is referring back to 22:17f- pointing to the sacrifice of his son at Moriah, and it points us to the gospel because all of our inheritance, God’s covenant with us, our inheritance (heaven) is all based upon the obedience and sacrifice of Christ, God’s son, on the same Mt. Moriah 2,000 yrs later (ago).obeyed my voice…charge…commandments…statutes, laws- this passage looks back to ch.17 and the circumcision passage in language. Mathews writes, p.405, “By employing covenant terminology, the author depicts the complete  obedience of Abraham as the ideal for Israel in the land who must observe the Sinaitic covenant (e.g. Lev.26:3; Deut.4:40; 30:16). Lev.26:3 “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them,”; Deut. 4:40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.” 30:1620 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God  that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules,  then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
      2. 2.      Sailhamer, 1990, P.186, “Abraham ‘kept my requirements [mismarti], my commands [miswotay], my decrees [huqqotay] and my laws [wetorotay]’ (v.5). It is remarkable that this is precisely the way in which obedience to the Sinai covenant is expressed in Deuteronomy 11:1: ‘Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements [mismarto], his decrees [huqqotayw], his laws [mispatayw] and his commands [miswotayw].’”
      3. 3.      Calvin, p.60, on verse 5, “Moses does not mean that Abraham’s obedience was the reason why the promise of God was confirmed and ratified to him; but from what has been said before, (chap.xxii.18,) where we have a similar expression, we learn, that what God freely bestows upon the faithful is sometimes, beyond their desert, ascribed to themselves; that they, knowing their intention to be approved by the Lord, may the more ardently addict and devote themselves entirely to his service; so he now commends the obedience of Abraham, in order that Isaac may be stimulated to an imitation of his example.”
      4. 4.      Application- to what extent are we to obey the Laws, statutes, commandments and word of the Lord? Certainly we agree with Paul from Gal 3: 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify  the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”  12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit  through faith.
      5. 5.      We understand that we are not in this covenant with Christ because we have kept the law, this is a covenant of grace received by faith. It is Christ who kept the law for us. But after we have been born again, with the new heart that the Holy Spirit has given us, we now are repulsed at our sin and long for the holiness of Christ. Therefore, we do seek to know and obey the Law, Commandments, Statutes and the Word of God out of love and a desire to become Christ like, to bring glory and honor to the Lord. We seek to obey as an act of worship and to thank him for saving us, not to save ourselves. Therefore his laws are not a burden to us, but rather a joy.
      6. 6.      The threefold purpose of the Law is to (1) reveal our sin and drive us to Christ as our only hope; (2) show the believer what pleases God and how we can grow in sanctification for God’s glory, (3) provide some general guidelines for an orderly society.
      7. 7.      So Isaac settled in Gerar- Isaac obeyed the Lord. Vs 8 shows that he stayed here for a long time.



Baldwin, Joyce G. The Bible Speaks Today series, The Message of Genesis 12-50. Inter-Varsity Press, 1986 (pp.108-109.)

Boice, James Montgomery. Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, Vol.2 Genesis 12:1-36:43. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1985 (pp.270-275).

Calvin, John. The Geneva Series of Commentaries. Genesis. Translated and edited by John King, 1847. Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh, Scotland 1965 (originally published in Latin, 1554. 2 volumes in one, (vol. 2 pp.55-60.)

Francisco, Clyde T. The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol.1, Revised, General Articles, Genesis-Exodus, “Genesis” pp.201-202. Broadman Press: Nashville, TN. 1973.

Hamilton, Victor P. New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI 1995 (p.189-198.)

Keil, C.F. Keil&Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, vol.1, Pentateuch “The First Book of Moses (Genesis)” translated by James Martin. Hendrickson: Peabody, Mass. (Reprinted from the English edition originally published by T&T Clark, Edinburgh 1866-91). (p.173).

Kidner, Derek. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Genesis: an Introduction and Commentary. Inter-Varsity Press: Downers Grove, ILL. 1967 (pp.152-153).

Ross, Allen P. Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI. 1996 (pp.453-461)

Sailhamer, John H. NIV Compact Bible Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 1994 (p.39).

______________ The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. Volume 2 Genesis-Numbers, “Genesis”. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 1990 (pp.184-7).

Walton, John H. and Matthews, Victor H. The IVP Bible Background Commentary, Genesis-Deuteronomy. InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill.1997 (p.56).

Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI 1991 (pp.365-372).

Wenham, Gordon J. Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 2, Genesis 16-50. Word Books: Dallas, TX 1994 (pp.181-197.)

Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Authentic: Exhibiting Real Faith in the Real World, Genesis 25-50. ChariotVictor: Colorado Springs, CO. 1997 (pp.15-17).


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