Genesis 26:18-33 “You Are Now the Blessed of the LORD”
Sunday, April 10th, 2011
Bryan E. Walker
Read Gen. 26:18-33
18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. 19 But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, 20 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him. 21 Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. 22 And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” 25 So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
26 When Abimelech went to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army, 27 Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?” 28 They said, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you. So we said, let there be a sworn pact between us, between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, 29 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.” 30 So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. 31 In the morning they rose early and exchanged oaths. And Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace. 32 That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they had dug and said to him, “We have found water.” 33 He called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.
- I. Vss.18-22 Isaac Turns the Other Cheek
- A. Undoing the World’s Misdeeds, v. 18
- 1. Isaac digs again his father’s wells- The Philistines had filled in Abraham’s wells out of spite and envy. Mathews points out, p.409, that these wells belonged to Abraham and that Isaac had a legitimate claim on them since they were called by Abraham’s name. Again the timeline here is difficult: vs. 18 indicates that Abraham had died, so the twins might be in their late teens to early twenties by this time. So how long was he in Gerar if he went there in vs. 1 and no mention of his boys is made and Abimelech believes the lie perpetrated by Isaac that Rebekah is his sister?
- 2. Although the Philistines feared Isaac, v.16, they are not afraid to persecute Isaac and Abraham in this manner. To fill in a well in this semi-arid land is one of the worst things you can do.
- 3. Notice that Isaac, in the face of opposition, chose to dig again the wells of his father, Abraham. He did not let the opposition stand. He went about the hard work of clearing those wells. He did not quit and run, he dug.
- 4. Which wells are we talking about? The location of these wells is not specifically given. Some commentators (like Wenham, p.192) seem to think it is the well mentioned in 21:25ff. But that well seems to be Beersheba, 20 miles from Gerar, while the indication here is of other wells, plural, closer to Gerar. Hamilton seems to agree that these were different wells than the one mentioned in ch.21 (p.201).
- 5. Hamilton writes, p.201, “To his credit Isaac does not respond with anger against those who plugged his father’s wells. Instead, he quietly goes about the business of redigging and reopening these wells. That Isaac named these wells using the names his father had already given to them would be one way in which Isaac would claim ownership over them.”
- 6. Application: Rom. 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Heb.12:14 “Strive for peace with everyone”. Matt.5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” And 5:38ff 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” And in Matthew 10 we find this, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” How do we balance living peaceably with the world while also protecting ourselves and being prudent? When is it right to stand up for yourself and when should you turn the other cheek? Don’t forget that Jesus allowed his disciples to carry swords for personal defense and even said there would be a time to buy a sword if you didn’t have one, and Paul used his legal rights time and time again as a Roman citizen.
- 7. It would seem that Isaac may have been living along the lines of those verses!
- B. Contention with the World, v.19-20
- 1. Isaac’s servants dug a new well in the valley of Gerar the herdsmen of Gerar claimed the water as their own. Isaac named the well eseq– Contention, or Quarrel, because they strove with him over the water. This calls to mind the problem between Abraham’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot in ch.13 and it may also point forward to the quarrels of Israel at Meribah, Ex.17:7 and Num. 20:13 as the word for quarrel in vs.20a, is related to Meribah, r-y-b.
- 2. The world will contend with each other and with the Church over just about anything. There seems no limit to the ways contentions and strife, discord and disunion can afflict us. Here in America I think that the Church has more contention within its ranks than we have from the world! I know that the church I pastored could be called a contentious church; they would grumble and complain, fight and disagree over everything.
- 3. When the world contends with the church, there are times when we should just quietly move on and try to stay out of the fray, but there may be times when we should contend with them. The book of Joshua shows the ”Onward Christian Soldiers” side.
- C. The Adversary, v.21
- 1. The next well dug by Isaac’s men was argued over by the men of Gerar again, so Isaac named it sitnah which is related to the word for Adversary, Satan.
- 2. This certainly reminds us of our Adversary the Devil. 1Peter 5: 8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
- 3. Again we see Isaac peaceably moving on. Isaac’s generosity here is a reminder of how Abraham treated Lot in ch.13.When we are secure in Christ we can, at times, peaceably remove ourselves from trouble and persecution. In Gal.5:22-23 we find that peace is one of the fruit of the Spirit; we should cultivate that peace so that those who know us see the peace of Christ that passes understanding in our lives (Phil.4:7).
- 4. How to apply this? With people, individuals you encounter, at work, out and about, in the neighborhood, who do things to irritate you, slight you, insult you, etc., we should seek peace. But I think that when laws are broken, danger of bodily injury or serious crime exists, we can speak out, defend ourselves and others, call the police, etc. In Isaac’s situation brought to today, if you are a landowner and someone is stealing your water we have legal recourse and we should use it. In world situations, national situations, of great injustice, the Church and individual Christians should not be silent. The Church did speak out against slavery, and slavery was abolished in England and then America. But we sat silently in the early days of the legalization of abortion. The Church should have spoken out many years prior to 1973. Today, the Church should speak out against the oppression that exists under islam and the expansion of islam into America with its oppression of women and its sharia law. The Church should speak out against the destruction of our economy by the government spending a hundred billion a month more than it takes in. Indebtedness leads to oppression. But while the Church speaks out against evil, it should also exercise great compassion upon those locally, who are poor and hungry.
- D. The LORD Makes Room for Isaac, v.22
- 1. The name of the well is Rehoboth meaning open spaces or room. This well was uncontested and Isaac had peace at last.
- 2. He is anticipating more fruitfulness now that he rid of the quarrelsome men from Gerar.
- A. Undoing the World’s Misdeeds, v. 18
- II. Vss.23-33 The World Recognizes the Lord’s Blessings Upon Isaac
- A. Vss. 23-25 The Covenant Is Confirmed Again
- 1. From Rehoboth Isaac now journeys to Beersheba SE of Gerar. Beersheba is the traditional southern boundary of the Promised Land.
- 2. The LORD appeared to him, v.24 God first confirms that he is the God of Abraham and then he says, “Fear not”. This is some kind of a theophany and is likely quite terrifying. God promises his presence with Isaac and yet another promise of blessing (see vs. 26:2, 12) making this the Third Promise of Blessing in the chapter, a remarkable emphasis. It is again linked with Abraham.
- 3. Fear not- how often do we rob ourselves of blessings here and now, and future rewards in heaven, because of fear? Fear of man robs us of our boldness, dampens our joy in the Lord, and causes us to not speak the gospel, not proclaim the truths of God’s Word. How many evils go unrighted because of our timidity? How many lost people do not hear the gospel because of man-fear, fear of simple rejection or fear that we might not have the answers to the questions they might ask?
- 4. the same night- that night he moved to Beersheba, no more than about 20 miles from Gerar to the SE. The last place we knew him to be prior to the famine and the move to Gerar was in Beer-lahai-roi, 25:11.
- 5. He came home and the Lord appears, thus signifying his approval perhaps.
- 6. What is Isaac’s response to this theophany? “So he built an altar there”. Here again we see him portrayed as being like his father. The proper response to the promises and blessings of God is worship. Too often our response to blessings is, “More please!” Worship should be at the heart of everything we do, our first response.
- 7. Application: do we respond to the blessings and promises of God with appropriate worship? How could we better our response?
- 8. pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well. Isaac’s response began with worship, building an altar and calling on the name of the Lord, but then moved into faith based action as he pitched his tent and dug yet another well, claiming the land promised to him by God. Mathews writes, p.412, “Three actions by Isaac show his determination to remain in the land and the object of God’s favor. He first erected an altar of worship, which passed on the tradition and worship of his father (12:7,8; 13:4,18; 22:9). Second, ‘pitching his tent’ meant he established his residence in the vicinity (cf. 12:8; 33:19; 35:21; Judg 4:11). Third, his servants sought water for his new habitation, digging a well.”
- B. Vss26-31, The World Acknowledges the LORD Is with Isaac
- 1. Prov.16:7 When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
- 2. Abimelech went to him- this was a surprise visit it seems, as Isaac’s response was, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?” They did seem to treat Isaac disrespectfully, but Isaac did lie to them about his wife for a long time and he was prospering in a miraculous manner in their midst. They operated out of fear and jealousy and spitefully fought over the water. So why DOES Abimelech suddenly show up and seek a peace treaty? The only evidence that the text gives us comes from Abimelech’s own mouth, “We see plainly that the LORD has been with you.” This could be a bit of remorse on his part for how his people treated Isaac, Abimelech’s conduct has been exemplary. It could be that when Isaac moved away, they experienced some kind of a disaster that they linked with the departure of Isaac and the Lord’s blessings with him.
- 3. There has tended to be a prosperity that is related to the Jews historically that has engendered the same kind of hate. Wherever the Jews have gone in the world, they have tended to be an industrious and prosperous people, earning the scorn and wrath of those around them due to their peculiar culture and religion, but also due to their prosperity. Even today amongst the world and anti-Semites there are constant references to the Jewish bankers, Jewish Hollywood elites or Media elites- all rich and powerful. This antipathy towards the descendants of Isaac is irrational and based on fear, envy, and godlessness. One can look at Israel today with its modern, prosperous and technological society with much liberty and compare it with what the land was like 65 years ago, and with what the lands around them are like.
- 4. Application- it seems to me that Abimelech can represent the way the world looks at Christians today. They benefit from the blessings God pours out on his people. Those who practice what the Bible teaches will be more honest, thrifty and industrious and therefore more successful over the long haul. The world hates us for our faith, but recognizes the prosperity that comes with it. After persecution or diluting our faith, the blessings diminish and then they may come running after us for a treaty. You can look at the financial trouble of the West and America today and realize that we are in such bad shape because we have been foolish and have strayed from God’s principles of finances and money.
- 5. We see plainly that the LORD has been with you- as Christians we are to be “the light of the world” Matt. 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
- 6. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
- 7. We are to be imitators of Christ 1Cor.11:1.
- 8. The old hymn “Let Others See Jesus in You” While passing thro’ this world of sin,
and others your life shall view,
Be clean and pure without, within;
Let others see Jesus in you.
Let others see Jesus in you,
Let others see Jesus in you.
Keep telling the story, be faithful and true;
Let others see Jesus in you.
2. Your life’s a book before their eyes,
They’re reading it thro’ and thro’
Say, does it point them to the skis,
Do others see Jesus in you?
3. Then live for Christ both day and night,
Be faithful, be brave and true,
and lead the lost to life and Christ.
Let others see Jesus in you.
- C. Vss. 32-33, From Famine to Water
- 1. God shows his grace to Isaac again in a way that communicates his approval as the day that Abimelech’s entourage departs with a peace treaty, Isaac’s men find a new well.
- 2. The flow of the story has gone from “there was a famine in the land” to “We have found water”.
- 3. Sailhamer, 1990, p.188, “The whole depiction of Isaac in this narrative, then, shows that he, like Abraham, enjoyed the firstfruits of God’s blessing- even though it resulted in and took place amid bitter contention with those among whom they lived. Clearly the narrative intends to point to the patriarchs as those whose lives most clearly pictured the kind of blessing God intended his people to enjoy. At the same time, these narratives point to the stark reality that even the fathers did not enjoy the full blessing. They too had to face adversity; but they trusted God, and he blessed them amid the conflict.”
- 4. “Just as the Lord had spoken to Abraham after he had separated from Lot (13:14-17) and renewed his promise of land and great prosperity, so now with Isaac, after he had returned to Beersheba, the Lord appeared and renewed the promise (vv.23-24). For a third time it is said that the Lord would bless Isaac (vv.2, 12). Like his father, Abraham (12:7; 13:3-4), Isaac responded by building an altar and worshiping God (v.25).”
- 5. “Just as Abimelech and his people came to Abraham and acknowledged to him, ‘God is with you’ (21:22), seeking to enter a covenant with him, so now Abimelech has come to Isaac, acknowledging that ‘the Lord is with you,’ and seeking to enter a covenant (26:28). Isaac, like Abraham before him, was the source of blessing to those nations who sught him out. Isaac, like Abraham, trusted God and lived ‘in peace’ (besalom) with his neighbors (v.31).
- A. Vss. 23-25 The Covenant Is Confirmed Again
Conclusion: Moses is preaching to his people that the promises made to Abraham were confirmed in Isaac and that if the Israelites of his day would likewise trust in the LORD, he will bless them abundantly and give them the land and peace with those who oppose them. For the Christian today we simply ask, Do Others See Jesus in You?
Aharoni, Yohanan and Avi-Yonah, Michael. The Macmillan Bible Atlas, rev.ed. Macmillan Publishing Company: New York, 1977 (plate #26).
Mathews, Kenneth A. The New American Commentary vol.1B Genesis 11:27-50:26. Broadman&Holman: Nashville, TN 2005 (pp.407-414.)
Ross, Allen P. Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis. Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI. 1996 (pp.462-470.)
Sailhamer, John. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. Volume 2 Genesis-Numbers, “Genesis”. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI. 1990 (pp.188-189).
______________ The NIV Compact Bible Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.1994 (p.40).
Wenham, Gordon J. Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 2, Genesis 16-50. Word Books: Dallas, TX 1994 (pp.191-196.)