Isaac, like father like son
"Let me introduce my sister"1 A 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. 2 The LORD came to Isaac and told him, “Don’t go down to Egypt. I’ll tell you where to go. 3 Stay 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. 4 You 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. 5 I’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.”
6 Isaac settled in Gerar. 7 When 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. 8 Isaac stayed in Gerar a long time—long enough that Philistine King Abimelech, looking out his window one day, caught Isaac caressing Rebekah. 9 Abimelech 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.”
10 Abimelech 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.” 11 Abimelech made a public announcement: “I will execute anyone who lays a finger on this man or his wife.”
Water fight12 Isaac 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. 13 In time, Isaac became richer than ever before. 14 He had so much livestock—flocks and herds—and so many slaves that his Philistine neighbors got jealous. 15 They got jealous enough that they dumped dirt into the wells that his father’s servants had dug many years earlier.
16 Abimelech told Isaac, “You need to leave now. You’ve gotten too strong, and you have become a threat to our people.” 17 Isaac left, and settled in the Valley of Gerar. 18 Isaac 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. 19 Isaac’s servants also dug a new well in the valley. 20 Neighboring herders from Gerar got into an argument with Isaac’s herders, claiming, “This is our water!” Isaac named the well Argument.
21 Isaac’s herders dug another well. But the other herders argued over that one, too. Isaac named the well Hate. 22 Isaac 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.” 23 Later, Isaac moved his camp north to Beersheba.
24 That 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.” 25 Isaac 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 Abimelech26 Abimelech came from Gerar to pay Isaac a visit. The king brought along his advisor, Ahuzzath, along with his top general, Phicol. 27 Isaac greeted him with a question: “What are you doing here? You hate me enough that you made me leave.” 28 The 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.’ 29 Promise 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.” 30 Isaac served the men a meal, which they ate together.
31 The next morning the men got up early. Each one swore to honor their peace treaty. Isaac sent them on their way. 32 That same day Isaac’s servants showed up and said, “We have found water.” They had dug another well. 33 Isaac named the well Treaty.That’s why, to this very day, the name of the city where Isaac was camped is Beersheba. 34 When Esau was 40 years old he married two Hittites: Judith, the daughter of Beeri, and Basemath, the daughter of Elon. 35 These 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?