Gen.26:12-17 “Isaac Sows, the Lord Blesses, Abimelech Fears”

Posted on April 3, 2011. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bryan E. Walker

Read: Genesis 26:12 And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him, 13 and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. 14 He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him. 15 (Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.) 16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”17 So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there.

Pray: Heavenly Father, we come to you this morning totally dependent upon your grace. We confess that we are all unworthy sinners, frail creatures of dust who will receive a wonderful confirmation of your covenant one minute, and willfully sin the next. We thank you for saving us through the life and death of your Son, Jesus Christ, our only hope.

We ask that your Holy Spirit would teach us today to sow in faith and sow abundantly. May the Word that You sow in our hearts bear a hundredfold! And may we then sow Your Word in the lives of others without fear, unhesitatingly, so that we could watch you, the Lord of the harvest, raise up many souls for your everlasting glory.

Lord, when persecution comes may we be strong and not weak. May we be a blessing to those all around us, but let us do so with a bold faith, confident in you, so that the world cannot scare us into uselessness. Amen.

Introduction: Last week we saw Isaac’s faith failure and this week we shall see God’s amazing grace to Isaac in spite of his sin. Today we shall examine God’s grace as he blesses Isaac in front of his enemies, then we will look at the response of the pagan Philistines to the Lord’s blessing of Isaac. In studying this text we want to avoid the trap of the health and wealth heretics, but we do not want to avoid the very real prosperity that can come to those who are in covenant with the Lord. The main idea is that the Lord will bless his own and the world will reject those who follow the Lord.

  1. I.                   Isaac Sowed in the Land
    1. A.     Comparison of Isaac to Abraham
      1. 1.      In this passage we see Moses again comparing Isaac to his father by stressing how wealthy and powerful he has become. In vss. 6-11 the comparison was the sinful bent towards lying about his wife and we saw how the Lord protected Rebekah just as He protected Sarah. Now, with the blessings of wealth there is a comparison to Abraham from 12:16 and 20:14. And there comes division over the wealth, just like in ch. 13 where there was conflict between Lot’s herdsmen and Abraham’s herdsmen.
    2. B.     Isaac Sowed
      1. 1.      And Isaac sowed in that land…” vs.12- this is the first mention of farming among the Patriarchs (Francisco, p.203), “With the sowing of his seed Isaac marked a new era in the Hebrew settlement of Canaan.” The last person mentioned as raising crops was Noah who planted grapes and proceeded to get drunk off of the wine.
      2. 2.      Calvin asks, p.64, “It may, however, be asked, how could Isaac sow when God had commanded him to be a stranger all his life?…purchasing of land was contrary to his peculiar vocation and to the command of God…” Calvin cites vs. 25 and Isaac’s pitching of his tent to show that he was still a sojourner, a nomad or Bedouin. Walton and Matthews, p.56, write, “It is not unusual for pastoral nomadic tribes to plant a crop or to harvest date palms along their usual line of march.”
      3. 3.      Proverbs 20: 4 The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;
        he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
      4. 4.      Application: we are called to provide for our families, but the spiritual application could also be to share our faith.

Psalm 126: 4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.

  1. 5.      Jeremiah told the exiles in Jer.29: 4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
  2. 6.      The exiles were going to be in Babylon for 70 years, they were sojourners in a land that is not their own. Yet the Lord wanted them to prosper in the land and to pray for that land, even though it was not their own they were to plant gardens and eat the produce, build houses and multiply there. In short, the Abrahamic covenant and blessing were to be in place even in exile. Be blessed and be a blessing.
  3. 7.      Apply: in Christianity there has always been a millenarian streak that says, “Jesus is coming, don’t invest in the future or plan ahead!” but should we work hard, and seek the Lord’s blessings in this world as well as staking our hope for eternal life on Christ alone?
  4. II.                The LORD Blessed him
    1. A.     Reaped a hundredfold
      1. 1.      The idea of a hundredfold harvest is miraculous. It is deliberately contrasted with the famine in vs.1 to show clearly the Lord’s blessing and miraculous provision.
      2. 2.      Keil & Delitzsch, p.174 “As Isaac had experienced the promised protection (“I will be with thee”, v.3) in the safety of his wife, so did he receive while in Gerar the promised blessing. He sowed and received in that year (a hundred measures” i.e., a hundred-fold return. This was an unusual blessing as the yield even in very fertile regions is not generally greater than from twenty-five to fifty-fold….Agriculture is still practiced by the Bedouins, as well as grazing…so that Isaac’s sowing was no proof that he had been stimulated by the promise of Jehovah to take up a settled abode in the promised land.”
      3. 3.      This blessing of a hundredfold harvest may be taking place at the same time as Isaac is continuing to perpetuate the lie that Rebekah is his sister because vs. 8 indicates he had been there a long time before he was found out, and the gathering of wealth can take several years. But if the hundredfold increase took place while the lie was going on, or after, the fact is that the Lord blessed a liar and a coward in Isaac. What we see here is God’s amazing grace to a sinner who doesn’t deserve his salvation nor the blessings God has given. Just like us. We are all sinners like Isaac, maybe with different sinful tendencies, but all sinners, undeserving of the air we breathe. God gives grace to sinners.
      4. 4.      For the people of Moses’ day it would point to the fruitfulness of the Promised Land and the faithfulness of God. If God did this for the patriarch, he will do it for you in order to make his name great. Moses’ people were receiving manna daily and could well understand the blessings of God. Yet, when faced with conquering the Promised Land with all its bounty and blessings, they ended up deciding to go back to Egypt after all. They all died in the wilderness for scorning the provision of God. 
      5. 5.      In Mark 4:1-20, the Parable of the Sower, Jesus refers to a sowing that yields “thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold”. In the parable the sower sows the “Word”. The various soils represent types of people who hear the Word. I don’t think it is wrong then to look at this situation with Isaac and seek a spiritual application. Wherever we are we should sow the Word, especially if we are in pagan Gerar during a famine of hearing the word (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. 6.      Maybe we aren’t reaping a hundredfold because we aren’t even sowing? 
  2. B.     He Became Very Wealthy
    1. 1.      In light of the health and wealth heretics today, are we uncomfortable with Isaac becoming “very wealthy”? Does extreme wealth amongst Believers bother us? Do we consider that, in comparison to the rest of the world, we might just be wealthy? A wealthy Christian with a generous heart can be a huge blessings to others, but lots of normal, faithful hardworking Christians who give steadily can also have a huge impact. WE do need a biblical theology of work, money, thriftiness, giving, and leisure.
    2. 2.      Ross writes, p.466, “A literal reading of the text shows the repetition of the word ‘great’ [root gadal]: ‘And the man became great and continually became greater until he became very great. This greatness is then explained by the subsequent verse, which enumerates his possessions…”
    3. 3.      Ross rightfully says next: The expositor must be careful in applying a passage such as this one. A narrative report that God blessed someone in a certain way is no guarantee that he will do so for all. In fact, wisdom literature later dealt with the problem of why the righteous at times suffer and face poverty and famine.” Overall, however, if you look at the Christian West you can see that it is substantially more productive and wealthier than the rest of the world. It is no accident. Christian doctrine promotes good virtues and freedom, hard work, thrift and generosity. Though individual Christians may be poor, a society that is built upon a Judeo-Christian worldview tends to be more successful across the board than other societies.
    4. 4.      But didn’t Isaac start out wealthy? Gen. 25:5 “Abraham gave all he had to Isaac.” And Abraham was considered to be very wealthy as well, so Isaac has increased the wealth he inherited from his father.
    5. 5.      “flocks and herds and many servants…” compare with 24:35 The Lord has greatly blessed my master, and he has become great. He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male servants and female servants, camels and donkeys. 36 And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old, and to him he has given all that he has.

Count your Blessings
Words by Johnson Oatman jr, 1897

Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your blessings
See what God has done
Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your many blessings
See what God has done
When upon life’s billows
You are tempest tossed
When you are discouraged
Thinking all is lost
Count your many blessings
Name them one by one
And it will surprise you
What the Lord has done

Are you ever burdened
With a load of care
Does the cross seem heavy
You are called to bear
Count your many blessings
Every doubt will fly
And you will be singing
As the days go by
When you look at others
With their lands and gold
Think that Christ has promised
You His wealth untold
Count your many blessings
Money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven
Nor your home on high
So, amid the conflict
Whether great or small
Do not be discouraged
God is over all
Count your many blessings
Angels will attend
Help and comfort give you
To your journey’s end

  1. 6.      Matt. 6:19-24; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 16:19-31; John 19:38-42; Acts 4:32-37; Rom.13:7; 1Cor.10:31; 2Cor.9:6-5; Gal.2:15-16; Eph.1:3-14; Phil.4:6-7; Col.3:22-4:1; 1Thess.4:9-12; 2Thess.3:6-12; 1Tim. 5:3-9, 17-18; 2Tim. 3:1-5; Titus 1:7-9; Philemon; Heb. 13:1-6; James 2:1-9;

    III.             Abimelech Fears Isaac

  1. A.     The Philistines envied him
    1. 1.      The word for envy in Hebrew is qana and can mean an intense jealousy in the negative sense, or passionate zeal in the positive sense. Motivation is the key here as jealousy is all about ME, myself and I, I want what you have; selfishness. The Philistines see a newcomer move in, prosper, lie about his wife, and become very rich. They grew resentful, jealous, even fearful.
    2. 2.      They began doing things like filling in the wells that Abraham had dug years before. To fill in a well in a semi-arid to arid environment is really a devastating thing. The flocks and herds depended on that water. Wenham points out, p.191, that when Abraham had a problem with the Philistines and the water rights, he went to Abimelech and said something; here, Isaac says nothing.
    3. 3.      Abimelech says, “Go away…” Wenham writes, p.191, “Here the more passive Isaac apparently says nothing, despite the treaty made by his father, and eventually Abimelek expels him merely because ‘you have become too powerful for us’ a term used only here and in Exod. 1:7,20 of the Israelites in Egypt. The Egyptian Pharaoh would later say, ‘Get away from me,’ just as Abimelek  said to Isaac.” Again we see that through language and the story, Moses is seeking to encourage his people who face similar trials.
    4. 4.      Look back at the treaty between Abimelech and Abraham in 21:22-24. That treaty is about Abraham treating Abimelech and his descendants decently, not the other way around. Abraham was stronger than Abimelech and they both knew it. Isaac is also strong, but he either doesn’t know it or he is just timid.
    5. 5.      Apply- How does the World look at Christians? Weak? As a pathetic joke? If they judge us from the TV preachers…As inconsequential? As a threat? Why do communist regimes and muslims persecute Christians? I think it is out of fear because they know that with Christianity there comes freedom and justice and both islam and communism are not open to freedom and justice.
    6. 6.      Apply- How do your co-workers, lost friends and family, neighbors see you? John 13: 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” But at the same time we have to be careful because the world defines love differently from the Bible. The world cannot see that God’s Holiness is never compromised by God’s love, in his essence, in Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, in the Word or in His people. We are to love one another, and love the lost, while also hating evil, confronting evil with the truth in love.
    7. 7.      Apply- the world should see us as being loving, but with fire in our eyes in regards to evil. They should see us living out the fruit of the spirit and living our lives with such excellence that we prosper as Isaac prospered, but instead of with fear, with love and a strong conviction of the Truth that the world rejects. When the world rejects us and tells us to “Depart!” it should be at their great expense and loss. Christians should be the Best of citizens and the most productive and caring.
  2. B.     Isaac Departed
    1. 1.      So Isaac departed from there…is he just being meek or is he being weak?
    2. 2.      encamped- the word is used for Israel a lot in their journeys; another link between Moses’ people and the patriarch.
    3. 3.      in the valley of Gerarhe did not move that far away.

 Conclusion: I think that all too often the Church exchanges meekness for weakness. We allow our sins and inconsistencies to steal away our hundredfold harvests that the Lord is eager to bless us with. Without drifting into a prideful theology of Glory or the Church Victorious, (we do need to always keep the theology of the Cross and suffering central), we should not cower behind the gospel. The Old Testament has much to inform the New Testament Church with the book of Joshua. We need to be strong and courageous and claim every place where we set our feet, yet while marching as to war we do so with love for the lost and humility in our souls as fellow sinners. The gospel needs to be proclaimed boldly and we should not hesitate to call evil out and confront the lies with the Truth. When we live our lives in the power of the Spirit we not be told by the Abimelechs to depart. And if they stop up our wells it will be to their own hurt for our wells will be the best wells around and we will be sharing the water.


 Baldwin, Joyce G. The Bible Speaks Today series, The Message of Genesis 12-50. Inter-Varsity Press, 1986 (107-111.)

Boice, James Montgomery. Genesis: An Expositional Commentary,Vol.2 Genesis 12:1-36:43. Zondervan, 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. vol. 2:pp. 64-66)

 Francisco, Clyde T. The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol.1, Revised, General Articles, Genesis-Exodus, “Genesis” pp.101-288. Broadman Press: Nashville, TN. 1973, (p. 203).

Hughes, R. Kent. Preaching the Word series, Genesis: Beginning & Blessing. Crossway Books: Wheaton, Ill. 2004 (pp.339-346.)

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. 174).

Kidner, Derek. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Genesis: an Introduction and Commentary. Inter-Varsity Press: Downers Grove, ILL. 1967 (pp.153-4.)

Ross, Allen P. Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI. 1996 (pp.462-467.)

Sailhamer, John. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. Volume 2 Genesis-Numbers, “Genesis”. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 1990 (pp.184-189).

______________ The NIV Compact Bible Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.1994 (pp.11-62).

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


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