1 There was a famine in the land, in addition to the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, to Gerar. 2The LORD appeared to him, and said, “Don’t go down into Egypt. Live in the land I will tell you about. 3Live in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you. For I will give to you, and to your offspring, all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. 4I will multiply your offspring as the stars of the sky, and will give all these lands to your offspring. In your offspring all the nations of the earth will be blessed, 5because Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my requirements, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
6 Isaac lived in Gerar. 7The men of the place asked him about his wife. He said, “She is my sister,” for he was afraid to say, “My wife”, lest, he thought, “the men of the place might kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to look at.” 8When he had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was caressing Rebekah, his wife. 9Abimelech called Isaac, and said, “Behold, surely she is your wife. Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”
Isaac said to him, “Because I said, ‘Lest I die because of her.’”
10 Abimelech 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 on us!”
11 Abimelech commanded all the people, saying, “He who touches this man or his wife will surely be put to death.”
12 Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year one hundred times what he planted. The LORD blessed him. 13The man grew great, and grew more and more until he became very great. 14He had possessions of flocks, possessions of herds, and a great household. The Philistines envied him. 15Now all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped, and filled with earth. 16Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”
17 Isaac departed from there, encamped in the valley of Gerar, and lived there.
18 Isaac dug again the wells of water, which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham. He called their names after the names by which his father had called them. 19Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found there a well of flowing#26:19 Or, living. Or, fresh. water. 20The herdsmen of Gerar argued with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek,#26:20 “Esek” means “contention”. because they contended with him. 21They dug another well, and they argued over that, also. So he called its name Sitnah.#26:21 “Sitnah” means “hostility”. 22He left that place, and dug another well. They didn’t argue over that one. So he called it Rehoboth.#26:22 “Rehoboth” means “broad places”. He said, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.”
23 He went up from there to Beersheba. 24The LORD appeared to him the same night, and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you, and will bless you, and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.”
25 He built an altar there, and called on the Lord’s name, and pitched his tent there. There Isaac’s servants dug a well.
26 Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his friend, and Phicol the captain of his army. 27Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me, and have sent me away from you?”
28 They said, “We saw plainly that the LORD was with you. We said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, even between us and you, and let’s make a covenant with you, 29that you will do us no harm, as we have not touched you, and as we have done to you nothing but good, and have sent you away in peace.’ You are now the blessed of the LORD.”
30 He made them a feast, and they ate and drank. 31They rose up some time in the morning, and swore an oath to one another. Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace. 32The same day, Isaac’s servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.” 33He called it “Shibah”.#26:33 Shibah means “oath” or “seven”. Therefore the name of the city is “Beersheba”#26:33 Beersheba means “well of the oath” or “well of the seven” to this day.
34 When Esau was forty years old, he took as wife Judith, the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath, the daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35They grieved Isaac’s and Rebekah’s spirits.
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Isaac and Abimelech. 1#The promise of land and numerous descendants given to Abraham (12:1–3; 15; 17; 22:17–18) is renewed for his son Isaac. The divine blessing to Isaac is mentioned also in vv. 12, 24, and 29. #Gn 12:10–20. There was a famine in the land, distinct from the earlier one that had occurred in the days of Abraham, and Isaac went down to Abimelech, king of the Philistines in Gerar.#Gn 12:10. 2The Lord appeared to him and said: Do not go down to Egypt, but camp in this land wherever I tell you. 3Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands, in fulfillment of the oath that I swore to your father Abraham.#Gn 12:7; 15:18; Ex 32:13; Ps 105:9; Sir 44:22; Heb 11:9. 4I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and I will give them all these lands, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth will find blessing—#Gn 12:3; 22:17–18; 28:14; Ex 32:13. 5this because Abraham obeyed me, keeping my mandate, my commandments, my ordinances, and my instructions.
6#This scene is the third version of the wife-in-danger story (cf. chaps. 12 and 20). The mention of the famine in 26:1 recalls the famine in 12:10; the name Abimelech, king of the Philistines in Gerar, recalls 20:2. The deception, according to all the stories, is the claim that the wife is a sister. This story (from the Yahwist source) departs from the two previous accounts in that the wife is not taken into the harem of the foreign king. So Isaac settled in Gerar. 7When the men of the place asked questions about his wife, he answered, “She is my sister.” He was afraid that, if he called her his wife, the men of the place would kill him on account of Rebekah, since she was beautiful. 8But when they had been there for a long time, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out of a window and saw Isaac fondling his wife Rebekah. 9He called for Isaac and said: “She must certainly be your wife! How could you have said, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac replied, “I thought I might lose my life on her account.” 10“How could you have done this to us!” exclaimed Abimelech. “It would have taken very little for one of the people to lie with your wife, and so you would have brought guilt upon us!” 11Abimelech then commanded all the people: “Anyone who maltreats this man or his wife shall be put to death.”
12#The dispute is over water rights. In a sparsely watered land, wells were precious and claims on water could function as a kind of claim on the land. Scholars generally judge the account of the dispute over water rights and its settlement by a legal agreement between Isaac and Abimelech to be a Yahwist version of the similar story about Abraham in 21:22–34. Here, Abimelech realizes that Isaac has brought blessing to his people and thus desires a covenant with him. The feast in v. 30 is part of the covenant ceremony. Isaac sowed a crop in that region and reaped a hundredfold the same year. Since the Lord blessed him, 13#Jb 1:3. he became richer and richer all the time, until he was very wealthy. 14He acquired flocks and herds, and a great work force, and so the Philistines became envious of him. 15#Gn 21:25–31. The Philistines had stopped up and filled with dirt all the wells that his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham. 16So Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us; you have become far too numerous for us.” 17Isaac left there and camped in the Wadi Gerar where he stayed. 18Isaac reopened the wells which his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham and which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death; he gave them names like those that his father had given them. 19But when Isaac’s servants dug in the wadi and reached spring water in their well, 20the shepherds of Gerar argued with Isaac’s shepherds, saying, “The water belongs to us!” So he named the well Esek,#Esek: “quarrel.” because they had quarreled there. 21Then they dug another well, and they argued over that one too; so he named it Sitnah.#Sitnah: “opposition.” 22So he moved on from there and dug still another well, but over this one they did not argue. He named it Rehoboth,#Rehoboth: “wide spaces,” i.e., ample room to live; site is probably SW of modern day Beer-sheba. and said, “Because the Lord has now given us ample room, we shall flourish in the land.”
23From there Isaac went up to Beer-sheba. 24The same night the Lord appeared to him and said: I am the God of Abraham, your father. Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for the sake of Abraham, my servant.#Gn 46:3. 25So Isaac built an altar there and invoked the Lord by name. After he had pitched his tent there, Isaac’s servants began to dig a well nearby.
26#Gn 21:22–31; Prv 16:7. Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath, his councilor, and Phicol, the general of his army. 27Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have driven me away from you?” 28They answered: “We clearly see that the Lord has been with you, so we thought: let there be a sworn agreement between our two sides—between you and us. Let us make a covenant with you: 29you shall do no harm to us, just as we have not maltreated you, but have always acted kindly toward you and have let you depart in peace. So now, may you be blessed by the Lord!” 30Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31Early the next morning they exchanged oaths. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace.
32That same day Isaac’s servants came and informed him about the well they had been digging; they told him, “We have reached water!” 33He called it Shibah;#Shibah: the place name Shibah is a play on two Hebrew words, shebu‘ah, “oath,” and shwebaa‘, “seven.” In v. 31, they exchanged oaths. hence the name of the city is Beer-sheba to this day. 34#These verses from the Priestly source introduce the next section on Esau’s loss of his right as firstborn by suggesting a motivation for this in Isaac’s and Rebekah’s dislike for Esau’s Canaanite wives. When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith, daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath, daughter of Elon the Hivite.#Gn 27:46. 35But they became a source of bitterness to Isaac and Rebekah.
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