Isaac and Abimelech, Genesis 26:1-33

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” –Matthew 5:9

You may read Genesis 26:1-33 here: Bible Gateway.

Genesis 26 precedes Genesis 25:21-34 chronologically. Layman’s Bible Commentary points out: “If Isaac and Rebekah had Jacob and Esau by this point, the fact that they were husband and wife would have been obvious. Here, the promised seed is with Isaac and Rebekah, but no child has yet been born.”

Like Father, Like Son   fowl-language-comics-do-as-i-say-28bc8d56e19b08188b1883b1fc8deeb2

While Isaac is mentioned in other chapters, he is the main character in Genesis 26. The following parallels emerge between Isaac and his father, Abraham, in their life events:

  • Isaac travels to Gerar—the land of the Philistines—when famine strikes (vs. 1-6). This is the same area Abraham and Sarah journeyed after Sodom’s destruction (20:1).
  • Due to famine, Isaac plans on travelling to the same place that Abraham went: Egypt (12:10-20).
  • The Lord appears to Isaac—telling him not to go to Egypt—and uses the same covenant language that He used with Abraham (12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:18-21; 17:6-8, 16; 22:17-18).
  • In fear of losing his life, Isaac lies about Rebekah’s identity just as Abraham withheld the truth of Sarah’s full identity. (The Abimelech in verse 8, however, is most likely the son or grandson of the Abimelech that ruled Gerar in Abraham’s day).
  • As Abraham and Isaac’s prosperity grew, both needed more space and water for their flocks. Abraham sought peace when disputes broke out between Lot’s herdsmen and his herdsmen. Likewise, Isaac avoids escalating conflicts when Gerar’s contentious herdsmen plug the first two wells he and his men dug.

The names of the wells in verses 20-22 reflect the situations. Esek means “argument” in Hebrew, a reminder of the conflict its discovery created. Sitnah comes from a Hebrew verbal root meaning “to oppose; to be an adversary,” and signals that the digging of this well causes opposition from the Philistines. Rehoboth comes from a verbal root meaning “to make room,” and reminds all how God has made room for them. Since he finally has a well that is uncontested, Isaac might logically have decided to stay there. Instead, he moves on to Beersheba (26:33).” –Layman’s Bible Commentary

Isaac’s second revelation from God is in Beersheba (vs. 23-25). God reviews the promises He gave earlier (vs. 2-5) and stills Isaac’s fears. In response, Isaac builds an altar and worships God. The fact that he settles in Beersheba seems to indicate God’s pleasure in his relocation from the Philistine region.

Verses 26-33 end on a sweet note. King Abimelech  approaches Isaac with a peace treaty as he acknowledges God’s blessings on Isaac. Not one to miss an opportunity to make peace, Isaac throws a celebration for him.

Reflect

Isaac followed Abraham’s life pattern. We should be intentional in what we model to our children. Do our words, attitudes, and actions reflect Christ?

The Philistines grew jealous of Isaac’s success. How can we guard ourselves from the misery of divisive jealousy? Consideration of the consequences of an angry reaction—perhaps loss of a relationship or job—and thankfulness for what we have is a great starting point.

By plugging up Isaac’s wells, Gerar’s herdsmen were declaring war. But Isaac compromised his father’s former wells and moved on. Would we be willing to compromise a valuable item or important position for the sake of peace?

Isaac’s pursuit of peace spread godly influence and won Abimelech’s respect. Are we willing to forgive and meet our enemy’s attempt to make amends?

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