Isaac, like father like son
"Let me introduce my sister"1A drought devastated the land, just as it had done in the time of Isaac’s father, Abraham. Isaac moved his camp to Gerar, a Philistine town ruled by King Abimelech. 2The LORD came to Isaac and told him, “Don’t go down to Egypt. I’ll tell you where to go. 3Stay in this land as an immigrant. I’ll stay here with you and take good care of you. One day I will give all of these lands to your descendants, just as I promised your father Abraham. 4You are going to have more descendants than you could ever count—like stars in the sky. Those descendants will own this land and they will make this world a better place, blessing all the nations on earth. 5I’m going to make this happen because your father Abraham obeyed me, did everything I asked him to do, and respected my advice and my laws.”
6Isaac settled in Gerar. 7When men of the town asked Isaac about his wife, he said, “She’s my sister.” He did this because Rebekah was one attractive woman. He was afraid if he admitted she was his wife some guy would kill him to marry her. 8Isaac stayed in Gerar a long time—long enough that Philistine King Abimelech, looking out his window one day, caught Isaac caressing Rebekah. 9Abimelech called Isaac in and said, “This woman is your wife. And don’t be telling me she’s not! Why did you lie and tell everyone ‘She’s my sister’?” Isaac answered, “Because I thought someone would kill me and then take her for himself.”
10Abimelech said, “Do you have any idea what kind of danger you put us in? One of the people here could very well have had sex with your wife, thinking she was available. A sin like that could have brought a curse down on all of us.” 11Abimelech made a public announcement: “I will execute anyone who lays a finger on this man or his wife.”
Water fight12Isaac planted crops there in the area. He harvested a bumper crop—100 times more seeds than he planted. The LORD took good care of him. 13In time, Isaac became richer than ever before. 14He had so much livestock—flocks and herds—and so many slaves that his Philistine neighbors got jealous. 15They got jealous enough that they dumped dirt into the wells that his father’s servants had dug many years earlier.
16Abimelech told Isaac, “You need to leave now. You’ve gotten too strong, and you have become a threat to our people.” 17Isaac left, and settled in the Valley of Gerar. 18Isaac cleaned out the wells the Philistines had filled in—wells dug when his father Abraham was alive. Isaac gave the wells the same names his father had given them. 19Isaac’s servants also dug a new well in the valley. 20Neighboring herders from Gerar got into an argument with Isaac’s herders, claiming, “This is our water!” Isaac named the well Argument.
21Isaac’s herders dug another well. But the other herders argued over that one, too. Isaac named the well Hate. 22Isaac moved his camp and dug another well. It was quarrel-free. He named it Elbow Room. He said, “Finally, the LORD has given us enough elbow room to grow and make a good living.” 23Later, Isaac moved his camp north to Beersheba.
24That same night the LORD came to Isaac and said, “I am your father Abraham’s God. Don’t be afraid. I’m going to stay with you, take good care of you, and give you many descendants—in honor of my devoted servant Abraham.” 25Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the LORD. He made this place his camp, and had his servants dig another well.
Isaac’s contract with Abimelech26Abimelech came from Gerar to pay Isaac a visit. The king brought along his advisor, Ahuzzath, along with his top general, Phicol. 27Isaac greeted him with a question: “What are you doing here? You hate me enough that you made me leave.” 28The men said, “It’s obvious to us that your LORD is taking good care of you. So we agreed among ourselves, ‘Let’s make a peace treaty between our two groups of people.’ 29Promise not to hurt us in any way. After all, we haven’t done anything to hurt you. We sent you away in peace. Look at you now. You’re enjoying all the good things the LORD has been doing for you.” 30Isaac served the men a meal, which they ate together.
31The next morning the men got up early. Each one swore to honor their peace treaty. Isaac sent them on their way. 32That same day Isaac’s servants showed up and said, “We have found water.” They had dug another well. 33Isaac named the well Treaty.That’s why, to this very day, the name of the city where Isaac was camped is Beersheba. 34When Esau was 40 years old he married two Hittites: Judith, the daughter of Beeri, and Basemath, the daughter of Elon. 35These two women made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah.
In what is now southern Israel, possibly Tel Haror near Gaza.
Hebrew: Rehoboth, “room,” “space.”
Hebrew for “Well of the Treaty.”
There are striking parallels between some of the stories about Abraham compared to stories about his son Isaac. Bible experts have come up with two major theories to explain the similarity of the stories. What do you think of them?”
- “One theory—which perhaps most Christians don’t care for—is that when the ancient Jewish stories got passed along by word of mouth from one generation to the next, someone got a little confused over Abraham’s story.”
- “A more popular theory is that the Genesis writer picked up on the points of history that Abraham and Isaac had in common.”
How would it affect your confidence in the Bible if you became convinced that some of the stories in Genesis did not get passed along exactly as they happened, but that some details were garbled in the telling and retelling and copying and re-copying over the centuries?
Why do you think the Genesis writer included the rather sour news that Esau’s Hittite wives “made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah” (26:34-35)? After all, isn’t that what daughters-in-law do?”
LIFE APPLICATION. Some of the starring characters in the Bible get promises from God. Isaac gets the same promise his father got: “I’m going to stay with you, take good care of you, and give you many descendants” (26:24). Christians have a few promises of their own that show up in the New Testament. What are some of the promises you feel particularly attached to?