Week of April 20, 2008
Bible Verses:† Genesis 26:1-6,12-22.
Biblical Truth: Godís people must persevere in the face of societyís opposition to them.
Understanding Godís Plan: Gen. 26:1-6.
† Now 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. † The Lord appeared to him and said, ďDo not go
[1-3]† The words famine and Abimelech
bring to mind Abrahamís sojourns in
[4-5]† This second mention of numerous descendants and inherited lands not only emphasizes these two important promises, but also repeats the two essential factors that make a people a great nation, providing the platform for the realization of the third promise, a blessing for the nations. I will multiply is part of the standard promissory rhetoric, coupled with the metaphor of innumerable stars, the language plainly relives the Moriah incident [22:17]. Occupation of all these lands is equivalent to the language gate of their enemies heard at Moriah [22:17]. The identity of the peoples who are in mind may be those already named in 15:18-21, where the similar language to your descendants I have given this land [15:18] introduces a catalog of nations. Because Abraham obeyed Me is virtually identical to 22:18, pointing to the sacrifice of Isaac as the event foremost in mind. The remaining statutory language of the verse resonates with the covenant of circumcision that required specific statutory compliance [17:7,9].
In this passage we find Isaac following in his fatherís
footsteps when confronted by the famine. This includes committing the same two
sins that Abraham committed. First, Isaac intends to escape the famine by
leaving the promise land and going to
It is a strange thing. God had appeared to Isaac to say that he would bless him. He said that He would make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, that He would give him all the lands promised to his father Abraham, and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. Yet here was Isaac, worrying whether God could preserve his life in the Philistinesí territory. Strange? Yes, but no stranger than our own failure to trust God to care for us. We acknowledge Godís sovereign power and ability to keep all His promises, yet when trouble comes, we fear for our safety and often sin because of that fear. This episode ends in a manner almost identical to that of the earlier episode involving Abraham. Abimelech, who here was more upright than Isaac, rebuked him [26:10]. This reaction from Abimelech is probably due to the strong warning he received from God in Genesis 20:7 concerning Sarah.
Unwanted by Society: Gen. 26:12-16.
† Now Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the Lord blessed him, † and the man became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy;  for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him. † Now all the wells which his fatherís servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines stopped up by filling them with earth.  †Then Abimelech said to Isaac, ďGo away from us, for you are too powerful for us.Ē †††[NASU]
[12-14]† The passage describes Isaacís wealth according to a plentiful harvest and numerous livestock. Multiplying livestock and servants characterized the wealth of Abraham and Jacob. But the notion of abundant crops is unusual when Genesis describes the wealth of the patriarchs. This feature of Isaacís wealth is in keeping with the chapterís emphasis on the land promise, but it also explains the tension that his farming created with his neighbors. The semiarid state of the region required a diversified economy for survival, involving animal husbandry and dry farming. Migratory groups settled seasonally near more sedentary centers whose contacts produced at times disputes over water rights and grazing tracts. This explains the strain that Isaacís arrival placed on the limited resources in the region. Two aspects made the bumper crop remarkable: first, the return was a hundred times the seed invested, and it occurred immediately the first year. The bounty proved that the Lord had blessed Isaac, indicating the first step toward the fulfillment of the promises revealed in verses 3-4. That the mighty Philistines became envious further heightens the immense wealth that the passage depicts.
[15-16]† The action of the Philistines threatened
Isaacís herds by cutting off treasured water resources. That they destroyed all
of the wells indicates the intensity of their anger. Twice the name Abraham as the father of Isaac appears
[15,18] hinting at the parallel between the two men but also showing that the
son had valid claim to the water [21:25-30]. The means of stopping up the wells
was filling them with dirt. Since the wells could be redug, this could only
slow down Isaacís progress and discourage his herdsmen. Abimelech expelled
Isaac because of his numerical strength. The term rendered powerful occurs only twice more in the Pentateuch, referring to the
frightening increase of Hebrew children born in
Undeterred by Opposition:† Gen. 26:17-22.
† And Isaac departed from there and camped in
consented to the demand of the king. From
there is a recurring term in the chapter, calling attention to the repeated
migrations and discoveries by Isaac [8, 17, 19, 22, 23, 25]. Despite Isaacís
retreat to the
Questions for Discussion:
1.††††††††† Why did God instruct Isaac to stay in the land of promise instead of going down to Egypt during the famine?
2.††††††††† After receiving such wonderful promises from God, why would Isaac give in to his fears and sin against God by not trusting Him? Why is it that we can trust God in one area of our lives but have great difficulty trusting Him in another area? What areas of your life do you struggle to trust Godís provision instead of being controlled by your fear?
3.††††††††† Because Isaac had obeyed God by not going down to Egypt, God now gave a hundredfold harvest in the midst of the famine [26:12-13]. How do the Philistines react to the tremendous material blessings that God gives to Isaac? How does Isaac respond to the demands of the Philistines? What does 26:22 tell us about Isaacís mindset during these dealings with his enemies? What can we learn from these events concerning
how to deal with adversities in our lives?
Genesis 12-36, James Boice, Baker.
Genesis 11:27-50:26, Kenneth Mathews, NAC, Broadman.
Genesis 16-50, Gordon Wenham, Nelson.