Vs 1: In this chapter we will look primarily at Isaac’s interactions with King Abimelech and the Philistines. We are told there was a “Famine in the land” - The former famine is the one spoken of in Chapter 12 when Abraham and Sarai went to Egypt. The story of Isaac and Rebekah have many similarities to Abraham’s and Sarah's adventures except they did not go to Egypt. Isaac instead goes to Gerar to Abimelech the King of the Philistines (a side note, it is believed this is not the same Philistines spoken of in Judges and Samuel for the “real Philistines” did not come to Canaan until 1200 B.C.) These Philistines were relatively peaceful and did not war with Isaac.
Vs 2 – 5: “The LORD appeared to him…” The LORD (YHWH) makes an appearance to Isaac and specifically tells him not to go to Egypt (like his father did). Generally when a famine occurred people would go to Egypt. God tells him to dwell in the land that God will show him. Not only is he to go but God says He is going to go with him. Notice God does not say he will go before him or after him, but WITH him AND he will BLESS him. This statement is huge because it is Isaac’s guarantee for success. Since God will go with him he will be successful regardless of the circumstances. This statement in itself should have comforted and assured Isaac that wherever he went or whatever crisis he faced God would be with him. Not only will God be with him but he will also bless him. God’s divine presence will be with him wherever he is and will protect him in all situations.
God continues with reiterating the blessing of his father Abraham PLUS all nations will be blessed. This is the first time God makes this specific statement in regards to blessing the nations. I love how God’s promise keeps getting better and better; not because it needed to be “new and improved” but because of Abraham’s obedience and God’s kindness he will do more than bless Abraham, Isaac and their offspring… He will also bless the nations because of them. Isn't God’s grace a marvelous thing?
Vs 6 – 8: Isaac settles in Gerar (this would be a great memory verse for those who have a hard time memorizing scripture). It is in the next couple of verses we see that even when God himself promises to be with and protect Isaac his faith and trust waivers. Isaac was afraid to tell the men of Gerar that Rebekah was his wife because she was beautiful. He does not know what the people of this area are like and he doesn’t trust that they will be kind to him or may even kill him if they only knew she was his wife. He quickly forgets that God led him to this place, He was with him and He was going to bless him. There was no need for Isaac to be deceptive because God had made a promise. Regardless he makes a bad choice and lies about Rebekah being his wife and claims she is his sister. This lie soon becomes a point of tension. Ironically deception becomes an even bigger issue in the years to come with his son Jacob.
“Had been there a long time…” Apparently Isaac and Rebekah have been in the area for some time without issue. Interestingly nobody has made an advance toward Rebekah and she remains a single woman. So it seems Isaac’s fears were unfounded. One day the king was looking out his window and sees Isaac “laughing” (ESV) or most bibles read, “Caressing” his wife Rebekah. The ESV translates it “laughing” because the Hebrew word used here is taken from the root word that means laughter. Either way the implication is that something intimate is happening that should only be shared by husband and wife.
Vs 9 – 11: King Abimelech is a God fearing man. His response to Isaac shows that he knows his deception was wrong and it could have potentially led to someone taking Rebekah as his wife and committing adultery with her. Abimelech apparently has contempt for sin.
He tells the people of Gerar that they are not to touch Isaac and his wife. Anybody who does will be killed.
Vs 12 - 16: During the famine Isaac sowed and reaped a hundredfold. This is written to show that God was indeed blessing and providing for Isaac as he had promised. His successful harvest just solidified the fact that He did the right thing by trusting God and not going to Egypt. His success is yet another indicator of divine blessing. He became an influential man in the land. The NET Bible says, “His influence continued to grow until he became a prominent man.” His success and possessions were so great that people began to envy him which did ultimately lead to aggressive measures. The Philistines filled all of the wells that his father had dug probably out of spite and jealousy of Isaac’s blessing (unbeknownst to the king). His wealth and possessions also worried King Abimelech as he tells Isaac to leave their land because he was becoming too powerful.
Vs 17 - 22: Isaac leaves and settles in the valley of Gerar. It is here that he realizes that the wells his father dug were filled; so he has them dug up again. Once they found water some herdsmen came and fought with Isaac and his clan and demanded that the wells belong to them. Isaac decided not to fight back and we are not sure if he chose not out of cowardice or out of the desire to keep the peace. He names the well Esek because there was contention at this well. By all rights the wells belonged to Isaac but he did not retaliate and instead went out and dug another well with pretty much the same response. He named the second well Sitnah which means enmity. He digs up a third well and no fights break out and he named it Rehoboth which means room or broad places.
Vs 23 – 25: The LORD appears again to Isaac at Beersheba and assures him of his promise. Isaac responds by building an altar and worshiping God. His servants also dig a well and name it Shibah (Oath) and the name of the city that is located there is called Beersheba (Vs 32,33).
Vs 26 – 31: Abimelech came to Isaac with his adviser and commander of the army to make a treaty with Isaac. Obviously Isaac is a bit reluctant or cautious with their visit since Abimelech recently kicked him out of his land. Isaac asks why they have come to him since they made it clear they hated him. Abimelech’s response is important for us to note, “We plainly see the LORD has been with you…” Isaac’s success, material possessions and way he lived his life clearly indicated that God was walking with him. His faith was evident and the Philistines wanted what he had. They wanted to be allies because they saw the God Isaac served was blessing him and they wanted that for themselves.
Isaac makes them a feast and exchange oaths. He sent the king and his men away in peace. It is here in this passage we now see the promise of God fulfilled in Isaac as he has become a blessing. Since the oath is done Abimelech is indirectly securing a blessing on him and his people.
I can’t help but notice when God is involved in whatever affairs of his chosen people good things happen. They may not always be easy to face or endure but when God is with his people his will is accomplished. The key passage I want to drive home today is “I will be with you…” When God declares that he will be with you then you can rest assured that He will be with you. Here are three observations in this passage.
- When God walks with you there is no need to fear. Time and time again God assures his people when He is with them there is no need to fear. This still rings true today. This is why it is important to remain in fellowship and close relation with God. When God guides you he assures you that there is no need to fear because he is sovereign and in control. For me personally I know there are times in my life where God calls me to do some things that I may have been afraid to do but God assured me he is with me. One example is when our family moved to Wisconsin to take on the position as a pastor. I will admit I was nervous, reluctant and scared to uproot my family from the very comfortable and established life we had in PA. However in our move I was certain and remain certain God was with my family and I that there is no need to fear or worry because he is with us and guiding us, regardless of where we are today.
- When God walks with you there is success. This is the reason we are not to fear. Whenever God is involved success follows. Now I don’t want you to get hung up on the word success. I know many view success as having a lot of money, a nice house, a good job and bright future. Certainly these are some results of success but in the Kingdom realm monetary success is not always a sign of God’s blessing. I believe the kind of success God will give his people is in direct relation their relationship to him. Matthew 22:34 – 37 talks about loving God and loving others. When all is said and done have you loved God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? Have you loved your neighbor as yourself? If the answer is yes then you have lived a successful life. God has been your guide, Jesus is your life and salvation and the transformation you experienced through Jesus Christ has caused you to live a life showing love to God and others.
- When God walks with you it is evident to those around you. Do people want what you have? Is Jesus evident in your life Monday through Sunday? When God walks with you you are changed from the inside out. The way you talk, treat others, conduct business, and live out daily life will certainly point people to the God you serve and the Jesus who is in you. The ultimate hope and goal is that people would see Jesus in you and want what you have. People notice something about you that is different from the rest of the world and they want that for themselves. When God is present and evident in your life you will display love in the proper way, extend grace and forgiveness in ways you didn’t think you could and your outlook on life will be one of victory and blessing because the God who is with you is the God of victory and blessing. I assure you that this third point is imperative to each and every one of us. Throughout the years the number one reason I have heard people say they want nothing to do with God is because of the actions of his people. Many Christians actions do not convey love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, and even victory. They display just the opposite. I think we have all been on the receiving end of a negative encounter with a Christian. I pray that this would not be the case for you or me. I pray that the God who IS with you, will be displayed in you and evident to those around you. May you be a blessing to others because of Jesus in you.
 Wenham, G. J. (1998). Vol. 2: Genesis 16 - 50. Word Biblical Commentary (188). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.