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Genesis 26


Isaac Settles in Gerar Isaac and Abimelech Stories About Isaac Isaac Lives at Gerar Isaac at Gerar
26:1-5 26:1-5 26:1-5 26:1-5 26:1-6
26:6-11 26:6-11 26:6-11 26:6-9a  
26:12-17 26:12-16 26:12-16 26:12-15 26:12-14
        The Wells Between Gerar and Beersheba
Quarrel Over the Wells 26:17-22 26:17-22    
      26:19-20 26:19-22
26:23-25  (24) 26:23-25 26:23-25 26:23-25 26:23-24  (24)
Covenant With Abimelech     The Agreement Between Isaac and Abimelech The Alliance with Abimelech
26:26-33 26:26-33 26:26-33 26:26-27 26:26-30
      Esau's Foreign Wives The Hittite Wives of Easu
26:34-35 26:34-35 26:34-35 26:34-35 26:34-35



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



1Now there was a famine in the land, besides the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. So Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines. 2The Lord appeared to him and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land of which I shall tell you. 3Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. 4I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws."

26:1 "Now there was a famine in the land" This is very similar to the occurrences in Genesis 12:10 that forced Abraham to leave the Promised Land.

▣ "So Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines" The Philistines were a mercenary people from the islands of the Aegean. They attempted to invade Egypt, but were repulsed and so they settled in the southwestern coast of Palestine, somewhere around 1200 b.c. Because the name Abimelech is mentioned earlier in Gen. 21:22, this must have been the common name to denote all of the Philistine kings. This is similar to the use of Hadad in Syria and Pharaoh in Egypt.

It is surely possible that

1. there were earlier Philistine tradesmen in Canaan

2. that a Canaanite group merged with the Philistines and this name is an anachronism

3. Philistines are listed in Gen. 10:6-20 coming from Ham and the Canaanites, not Japheth (Islands of the Aegean). It is possible the name refers to several groups associated with Palestine/Canaan (NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 1049).


26:2-3 YHWH's appearance to Isaac has several directives and promises.

1. "do not go down to Egypt," v. 2, BDB 432, KB 434, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. "stay in the land," v. 2, BDB 1014, KB 1496, Qal imperative

3. "sojourn in this land," v. 3, BDB 157, KB 184, Qal imperative

4. "I will be with you," v. 3, BDB 224, KB 243, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense

5. "I will bless you," v. 3, BDB 138, KB 159, Piel imperfect used in a cohortative sense

6. "I will give all these lands," v. 3, BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense


26:2 "and the Lord appeared to him and said, 'Do not go down to Egypt'" This may have been because of Abraham's experience in Egypt or because Isaac needed to trust God for provision in the Promised Land.

26:3 "I will be with you and bless you" This again is a reaffirmation, not only of God's presence (cf. 28:15; 31:3), but His blessings and a reaffirmation of the covenant.

▣ "and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham" This is a reference to God's special promises to Abraham which are found in Genesis 12,15,17 and 22.

The verb "establish" (BDB 877, KB 1086, Hiphil perfect) is used several times in Genesis.

1. to establish or ratify a covenant, cf. 6:18; 9:9,11; 17:7,19,21

2. give effect to or confirm the covenant, 26:3 (note Lev. 26:9; Deut. 8:18)


26:4 There seem to be three specific promises mentioned: (1) abundant descendants; (2) land (cf. 12:7; 15:18-19; 17:7-8; 26:1-5; 28:10-15; 35:12); and (3) all the nations of the earth would be blessed through Isaac and his descendants.

▣ "as the stars of heaven" This had been mentioned earlier to Abraham in Gen. 15:5 and 22:17. The other two metaphors used by God to describe their fruitfulness were the sand of the sea and the dust of the earth.

▣ "all these lands" This was part of the promise to Abraham (cf. 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:8).

"all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" This phrase is literally interpreted "shall bless themselves." There are two distinct verbal forms of this promise. The Niphal is found in Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 28:14. It is also quoted in the NT in Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8. Genesis 26:4 is in the Hithpael, which is found only here and in Gen. 22:16-18 and should properly be translated "shall bless themselves." In truth, there is little difference between "bless themselves" and "shall be blessed." As a matter of fact the Septuagint translation makes no distinction between these verbal forms at all. The obvious, tremendous blessing is that through Abraham and his children God was seeking to bless the entire world. God chose one man to choose a nation to choose a world. We must keep in mind that the Jews were chosen, not for a special blessing, but as an instrument for the redemptive blessing to come to all men. Israel was always meant to be a kingdom of priests (cf. Exod. 19:5-6). See Special Topic at 12:3.

26:5 "because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" The two verbs in this verse emphasize the human aspect of the covenant (cf. 12:1; 17:1,9-14; 22:16; 26:3-5).

1. "obeyed" (lit. "hear so as to do"), BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperfect

2. "kept," BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal imperfect

Both denote ongoing action.

There is a real (and purposeful) tension between God's free grace given to one human/nation to call all humans/nations (cf. the unconditional action of God in Gen. 15:12-21) and the recurring mentioning of obedience (i.e., the conditional nature of God's promises). Both are true! Human performance does not bring fallen humans into Divine acceptance. However, once we have had an encounter with Him, we cannot be unaffected, unchanged (cf. Eph. 1:4; 2:8-9,10). The goal of God is a righteous people to bring the nations to Himself. The danger is a free grace with no conditions and a merited grace with many conditions. The New Covenant of Jer. 31:31-34 and Ezek. 36:22-38 show us the waya new heart, a new mind, a new spirit. God's external code becomes an internal mandate.

The listing of "charge" (BDB 1038), "commandments" (BDB 846), "statutes" (BDB 349), and "laws" (BDB 435) is found only here in the early books of Genesis - Numbers, but appears often in Deuteronomy. See Special Topic: Terms for God's Revelation following the next paragraph.

This seems to be an allusion to Gen. 15:6. In this account, Abraham's belief that he would have a child was taken by God as an act of faith and was reckoned unto Abraham as righteousness. This significant OT passage is used as the theological underpinnings by the Apostle Paul for the doctrine of justification by grace through faith, explicated so beautifully in Romans 4 and Galatians 2-3. The word "laws" here is the first use of the term "Torah" (BDB 435), which is a Hebrew word meaning "teachings" or "guidelines." This term came to be the title for the first five books of Moses.

Notice the repetition of the personal pronoun!

SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION (using Deuteronomy and Psalms)

6So Isaac lived in Gerar. 7When the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, "She is my sister," for he was afraid to say, "my wife," thinking, "the men of the place might kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is beautiful." 8It came about, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out through a window, and saw, and behold, Isaac was caressing his wife Rebekah. 9Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, "Behold, certainly she is your wife! How then did you say, 'She is my sister'?" And Isaac said to him, "Because I said, 'I might die on account of her.'" 10Abimelech said, "What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us." 11So Abimelech charged all the people, saying, "He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death."

26:7 "She is my sister, for he was afraid to say, 'my wife'" Some see this as a cultural element related to the Nuzi Tablets, where a man actually adopted his wife. If that is the case then Isaac is telling the truth. But, it seems that Isaac is simply following in the footprints of his father (cf. Gen. 12:13; 20:2, 12). In Abraham's case this was a half-truth, but in Isaac's it is uncertain because in this verse (and v. 9) his action is attributed to his personal fear. It shows a lack of faith on Isaac's part because God had promised to be with him and protect him. Yet, in the midst of Isaac's unbelief, as with Abraham, God was faithful.

26:8 "Isaac was caressing his wife Rebekah" This term "caressing" (BDB 850, KB 1019, Piel participle) is from the same root as the name for Isaac, which means "to laugh" or "to play" (BDB 850, cf. Gen. 17:17,19; 18:12; 21:6,9). Here it has a sexual connotation as it does in Gen. 39:17 and Exod. 32:6. Some translations use the term "fondling."

26:10 "And Abimelech said" Both the Abimelech of Abraham's day and the Abimelech of Isaac's day come across as much more morally and ethically sensitive than the Patriarchs. This may imply that at this stage of history the Canaanites had some degree of spirituality.

26:11 YHWH's protection is behind this decree!

The phrase "shall surely be put to death" reflects a Qal infinitive absolute and a Hophal imperfect verb of the same root (BDB 559, KB 562), which was a grammatical way to show intensification.

12Now Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the Lord blessed him, 13and the man became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy; 14for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him. 15Now all the wells which his father's servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines stopped up by filling them with earth. 16Then Abimelech said to Isaac, "Go away from us, for you are too powerful for us." 17And Isaac departed from there and camped in the valley of Gerar, and settled there.

26:12-14 Note the blessings.

1. reaped a hundredfold, v. 12

2. became rich and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy, v. 13

3. had flocks and herds, v. 14

4. had a great household, v. 14

The second item in #2 is a Qal infinitive absolute and Qal imperfect verb of the same root (BDB 229, KB 246), which denotes intensity.

The third item in #2 is an adjective and verb of the same root (BDB 152, KB 178, Qal perfect).

26:12 "the Lord blessed him" This is a direct theological recognition that it was God and not Isaac's husbandry that was the source of blessing.

26:14 "the Philistines envied him" This is the verb (BDB 888, KB 1109, Piel imperfect) "to be jealous."

1. they stopped up Abraham's wells, v. 15

2. they sent Isaac away, v. 16

Isaac's prosperity was intended to help the Philistines come to YHWH, but instead it caused jealousy and resentment.

26:15 "Philistines stopped up" As Isaac grew, both in numbers and wealth, he became a source of fear for the Philistines. They show their distress and fear by stopping up Isaac's wells. Knowing that Isaac was a herdsmen, lack of water would force him to move away. This section of chapter 26 shows us the patience and faith of Isaac. Much of his personality type can be discerned by how he handles this tension over water rights.

Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the same names which his father had given them. 19But when Isaac's servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing water, 20the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac, saying, "The water is ours!" So he named the well Esek, because they contended with him. 21Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over it too, so he named it Sitnah. 22He moved away from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rehoboth, for he said, "At last the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land."

26:18 "he gave them the same names which his father had given them" This is simply keeping the family tradition or it may have been a religious act relating to the covenant with his father.

26:20-22 "Esek. . .Sitnah. . .Rehoboth" This is a series of three wells which were used to show what was happening in Isaac's relationship with his neighbors.

1. the first well means "contention" (BDB 796)

2. the second well means "enmity" (BDB 966 II)

3. the third well means "broad places" (BDB 932), which is a Hebrew idiom to represent rest and peace and happiness


26:22 "At last the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land" Isaac had the manpower to easily overcome the Philistines, but he chose to wait in faith, on God who had made him a promise. The name of the third well and "room" are the same (BDB 932).

23Then he went up from there to Beersheba. 24The Lord appeared to him the same night and said,
"I am the God of your father Abraham;
Do not fear, for I am with you.
I will bless you, and multiply your descendants,
For the sake of My servant Abraham."
25So 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.

26:23 "Then he went up from there to Beersheba" This is a site in the southern area of the Judean wilderness which was an important sojourning camp for Abraham (cf. Gen. 22:19).

26:24 "The Lord appeared to him the same night and said" This is the second time YHWH appears to Isaac (cf. v. 2). Here it was in a dream at night (cf. 15:5,12; 21:12,14; 22:1-3; 26:24). Many of the revelations in Genesis are recorded in poetry, as is v. 24 (cf. 12:1-3; 15:1,18; 17:1-2,4-5; 35:10,11-12).

"I am the God of your father Abraham" Notice how YHWH and Elohim are parallel (cf. Gen. 2:4). This is a more formal and complete revelation than v. 2. It is structured similarly to God's revelations to Abraham.

"Do not fear, for I am with you" What a great promise (also note 15:1; 21:17; 46:3).

"for the sake of My servant Abraham" This is a special honorific title used for Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and David. It may be the origin of the Pauline phrase, "a slave of Jesus Christ."

26:25 The sites of YHWH's personal revelations became sacred places. Altars were built in these places and they became places of worship, prayer, and sacrifice (cf. 8:20; 12:7,8; 13:4,18; 22:9).

▣ "dug a well" Water is a precious commodity in these semi-arid lands. Isaac patiently waited for YHWH's help and direction. The several successful wells mentioned in this context show YHWH's presence and blessing.

26Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with his adviser Ahuzzath and Phicol the commander of his army. 27Isaac said to them, "Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?" 28They said, "We see plainly that the Lord has been with you; so we said, 'Let there now be an oath between us, even between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, 29that 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.'" 30Then he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. 31In the morning they arose early and exchanged oaths; then Isaac sent them away and they departed from him in peace. 32Now it came about on the same day, that Isaac's servants came in and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, "We have found water." 33So he called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.

26:26 "Abimelech. . .Phicol" Although these names are exactly the same as in Gen. 21:22, it has been about 75-80 years and obviously cannot refer to the same men. From the introduction to Psalm 34 it seems obvious that these are titles instead of proper names.

26:27 Obviously Isaac still felt the pain and embarrassment of being expelled!

26:28 "We see plainly that the Lord has been with you" There are several grammatical features of this verse.

1. "plainly see," this is a Qal infinitive absolute and Qal perfect verb of the same root (BDB 906, KB 1157), which denotes "it was plain that"

2. "let there now be an oath," BDB 224, KB 243, Qal jussive; the word "oath" (BDB 46) is found only here and 24:41 (twice), even v. 31 is a different word (BDB 989). It can mean oath or curse (e.g., Num. 5:21,23,27; Deut. 29:12,14,19,20,21). It implies "may one be cursed if they do not keep the oath."

3. "let us make a covenant," BDB 503, KB 500, Qal cohortative

This is the theological purpose of the blessing of the Patriarchs. It was not to give them more physical things, but to show others their unique relationship to YHWH (cf. v. 29c).

26:30 "he made them a feast" The normal procedure for cutting or sealing a covenant was a fellowship meal.

26:32-33 "they had dug a well . . .'we have found water'. . .Shibah" Obviously these wells had physical and spiritual significance. They mark the blessing of God in the life of Isaac. Verse 33 may be a rival etymology for the name Beersheba (i.e., "may it be given," BDB 988) in Gen. 21:31, where the name is explained as "the well of oath" or "the well of seven." Shibah may be a way of referring to the "oath." The Hebrew words "seven" and "swear" are quite similar. Quite often in the OT the etymologies are popular rather than technical and, therefore, may have two popular origins.

34When Esau was forty years old he married Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite; 35and they brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah.

26:34-35 These two verses really set the stage for chapter 27, particularly v. 46. The author is weaving elements into this account that will later have great theological significance (i.e., cause Isaac and Rebekah to send Jacob back to Haran to find a wife).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1.  Is the Abimelech of Genesis 21 the same as the one in Genesis 26?

2.  What is the origin of the Philistines?

3.  Why did both Abraham and Isaac claim that their wives were their sisters?

4.  What is the purpose of so many wells being alluded to in this chapter?

5.  Explain the ancient rites of a covenant feast and how it impacts biblical revelation.


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