Genesis 26:1-5, “There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar. Then the Lord appeared to him and said: ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, commandments, statutes, and laws.’”
Context: Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob and Esau were born. Additionally, we also know the twin boys were 15 when Abraham died making Isaac at a minimum 75 when this “famine” settled into the promised land. It would appear Isaac’s plan was to travel through Gerar and ride things out in Egypt, but “the Lord appeared to him” and shut down his plans.
Genesis 26:6-9, “So Isaac dwelt in Gerar. And the men of the place asked about his wife. And he said, ‘She is my sister’; for he was afraid to say, ‘She is my wife,’ because he thought, ‘lest the men of the place kill me for Rebekah, because she is beautiful to behold.’ Now it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked through a window, and saw, and there was Isaac, showing endearment to Rebekah his wife. Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, ‘Quite obviously she is your wife; so how could you say, ‘She is my sister’?’ Isaac said to him, ‘Because I said, ‘Lest I die on account of her.’”
A couple of quick things… First, this is not the same “Abimelech” we were first introduced to back when Abraham originally traveled into the the region of Gerar in Genesis 20. Note: Abimelech was a title for a King similar to Pharaoh and not the name of a specific person.
Secondly, why would Isaac replicate the identical sin his father Abraham had committed back in Genesis 12 as well as when he’d originally traveled into Gerar? Though he hadn’t been alive to watch is dad pull of the sister/wife shuffle, there is no doubt he knew about it and even understood that it was wrong. Shouldn’t Isaac have known better?
Honestly… I don’t have a good answer. Isaac should have learned from the mistakes of his father. He should have been aware his natural tendency would be to cower in fear and instead make a choice to walk by faith. He should have told the truth trusting that God was both his the strength and protector. Why Isaac lied just like Ab I really don’t know.
And yet, I can say this… Learning from the mistakes of your parents is easier said than done. For example… Has there every been a moment you reacted to a kid, made a snide remark to your spouse, even developed a habit only for you to wake up one day and realize you’re doing the very thing your parents did and you swore you’d never be that way… That you’re immolating the very thing that drove you nuts about your mom or dad?
Please understand… From an applicational standpoint Isaac committing the exact same sin his father was notorious for should serve as a reminder that if you’re not focused on walking in the Spirit… Reckoning self dead so that the Spirit’s influence reigns supreme, your natural man will so easily emulate your parent’s shortcomings because of both your genetic heritage as well as learned behaviors. Your parents sins will often be your default apart from Jesus.
Genesis 26:10-14a, “And Abimelech said, ‘What is this you have done to us? One of the people might soon have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt on us.’ So Abimelech charged all his people, saying, ‘He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.’ Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous; for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants.”
Once again (and if I sound like a broken record there is a reason) we see yet another example of God’s unmerited favor - The Genesis of His Grace! We’re told directly following Isaac’s blunder what resulted? “The Lord blessed him!” God’s favor never wavered.
Amazingly, Isaac “sowed in that land” and ends up “reaping a hundredfold” in only one years time. With that type of return it really shouldn’t be a surprise that Isaac “prospered.” We’re told he “began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous.” The idea is that as his wealth grew so did his power and influence in the region.
Genesis 26:14b-18a, “So the Philistines envied him. Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth. And Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.’ Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there. And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham.”
Moses’ purpose in recounting this story was to demonstrate how little respect for covenants the Philistines had. Don’t forget back in Genesis 21, after recognizing God’s hand of blessing upon Abraham, Abimelech the king of the Philistines requested they enter into a treaty.
In Genesis 21:22-23 we read that Abimelech “spoke to Abraham, saying, ‘God is with you in all that you do. Therefore, swear to me by God that you will not deal falsely with me, with my offspring, or with my posterity; but that according to the kindness that I have done to you, you will do to me and to the land in which you have dwelt.’”
Moses is clear that immediately “after the death of Abraham” the Philistine people break the covenant by stopping up the wells of water that Abraham had dug and therefore owned. And here’s why they would do this… Because Abraham’s family under the patriarchal leadership of Isaac had become more powerful than the Philistine nation, filling up the wells with earth was an act of sabotage. They were trying to force Isaac out of the land.
Keep in mind, within nomadic cultures water was everything. Without it life was impossible for the herds and therefore ones survival would be in question. You see the purpose of Isaac re-digging the wells of his father was not one of nostalgia, but survival. Having a constant and continuous access point to living water was essential to life and vitality.
And yet, instead of fighting back, we’re told Isaac simply goes around the “Valley of Gerar” digging “again the wells of water” that had been previously owned by his father Abraham.
Genesis 26:18b-25, “Isaac called the wells by the names which his father had called them. Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there. But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, ‘The water is ours.’ So Isaac called the name of the well Esek (“contention”), because they quarreled with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah (“hatred”).
And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth (“room”), because he said, ‘For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.’
Then Isaac went up from there to Beersheba. And the 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 My servant Abraham’s sake.’ So Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.”
Isaac finally decides to leave Rehoboth and travel north ultimately returning to “Beersheba” which had been a region Abraham and Sarah had spent years dwelling. We’re also told upon his arrival “the Lord appeared to Isaac the same night” and reiterated all the promises He’d first given him when he’d begun his journey south on account of the famine.
I love the fact that in response to God’s incredible grace and favor we’re told Isaac “built an altar there, called on the name of the Lord, pitched his tent, and dug a well.” Though Isaac had been given so much it was his relationship with God he treasured the most.
Genesis 26:26-29, “Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath, one of his friends, and Phichol the commander of his army. And Isaac said to them, ‘Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?’ But they said, ‘We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you. So, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you, that you will do us no harm, since we have not touched you, and since we have done nothing to you but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.’”
What a group of snakes! “We have done nothing to you but good and have sent you away in peace” is nothing shy of fake news! They’d been envious of Isaac’s prosperity, had filled in his father’s wells forcing him to re-dig them for survival, they’d even contested the new wells he’d dug even after leaving the area when they asked him to! They were guilty of sabotage.
I’m sure in this very moment Isaac wanted to say… “I can't stand it - I know you planned it… I’m gonna set it straight, this watergate… I - can’t stand rocking when I'm in here… Because your crystal ball ain't so crystal clear… So while you sit back and wonder why… I got this paining thorn in my side… Oh my God, it's a mirage… I’m tellin’ y’all it's sabotage!”
Genesis 26:30-35, “So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. Then they arose early in the morning and swore an oath with one another; and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace. It came to pass the same day that Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, ‘We have found water.’ So he called it Shebah. Therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day. When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah.”
Chapter 26 closes on a low note… Though God had instituted marriage in Genesis to be a heterosexual, covenantal relationship between one man and one woman, Esau does something terrible… Aside from the fact he took a wife from the “Hittite” people as opposed to going back to Abraham’s family to find a wife like his father Isaac, Esau takes two wives.
Note: While some of the great heroes of the faith will marry more than one woman, though He seems to allow it, polygamy was never sanctioned by God. In actuality polygamy is not only an insult to the equality of the genders central to the divine blueprint for humanity, but it makes the oneness essential for the marriage union completely impossible.
Because we’re told in Hebrews 12:16 that Esau was a “fornicator” or literally a sexually perverted person, it would seem his sexual appetite was completely self-serving. In Esau’s case (and this will contrast him from Jacob) he married not for love, but for pleasure. As such his sexual appetite could not be satisfied by only one woman, but required two.
There should be no surprise that this entire situation proved to be “a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah.” The implications being this marriage was not something Esau’s parents were approving of and his actions were therefore in direct defiance to their wishes.
Genesis 27:1-4, “Now it came to pass, when Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, ‘My son.’ And he answered him, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Behold now, I am old. I do not know the day of my death. Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me. And make me savory food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die.’”
Before we continue let me take a second and establish some context for this chapter… First, what occurs takes place about 37 years following the close of chapter 26. Though we’re told “Isaac was old” and was fearful he might die at any moment, ironically he would end up living another 43 years. Isaac’s currently 137 which was the age his brother Ishmael died. He’ll live to the ripe old age of 180. Also note: This makes both Esau and Jacob 77.
Secondly, it’s important to keep in mind that not only had God been clear the “birthright” and “blessing” were Jacob’s and not Esau (though he was older), but Esau had already sold the birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup. Though he intends to bless Esau after he goes out to kill some game and make him some food, Isaac knows this is in defiance to God’s will.
Genesis 27:5-10, “Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt game and to bring it. So Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, ‘Indeed I heard your father speak to Esau, saying, ‘Bring me game and make savory food for me, that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you. Go now to the flock and bring me from there two choice kids of the goats, and I will make savory food from them for your father, such as he loves. Then you shall take it to your father, that he may eat it, and that he may bless you before his death.’”
Genesis 27:11-13, “And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, ‘Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.’ But his mother said to him, ‘Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.’”
Amazingly, while Isaac is in defiance to the will of God, Esau is reneging on an agreement where he’s already sold the birthright, Rebekah is scheming around her husband’s back, now Jacob rounds out the dysfunction. Understand, Jacob’s concern isn’t deceiving his father in order to receive the blessing. The concern he expresses to his mother Rebekah is getting caught in the deceit and therefore being cursed by his father as a result.
Genesis 27:14-17, “And Jacob went and got two choice kids of the goats and brought them to his mother, and his mother made savory food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.
Genesis 27:18-20, “So he went to his father and said, ‘My father.’ And he said, ‘Here I am. Who are you, my son?’ Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.’ But Isaac said to his son, ‘How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?’ And he said, ‘Because the Lord your God brought it to me.’”
Let’s count up Jacob’s lies: (1) “I am Esau your firstborn…” No. He was Jacob the younger. (2) “I have done just as you told me…” No. Isaac’s instructions had not been given to Jacob. (3) “Arise, eat of my game…” Nope. Rebekah cooked up the meal. (4) “The Lord your God brought to me” the game… Um… Jacob had gone into Isaac’s flocks to pick out two goats.
Genesis 27:21-23, “Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.’ So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.
Genesis 27:24-29, “Then Isaac said, ‘Are you really my son Esau?’ Jacob said, ‘I am.’ He said, ‘Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, so that my soul may bless you.’ So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come near now and kiss me, my son.’ And Jacob came near and kissed Isaac; and he smelled the smell of his clothing and blessed Jacob and said: ‘Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed. Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!’”
Genesis 27:30-33, “Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also had made savory food, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, ‘Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that your soul may bless me.’ And Isaac said to him, ‘Who are you?’ So Esau said, ‘I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.’ Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, ‘Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him - and indeed he shall be blessed.’”
Genesis 27:34-36, “When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, ‘Bless me - me also, O my father!’ But he said, ‘Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing.’ And Esau said, ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!’ And he said, ‘Have you not reserved a blessing for me?’”
Genesis 27:37-38, “Then Isaac answered and said to Esau, ‘Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?’ And Esau said to his father, ‘Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me - me also, O my father!’” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept.
Genesis 27:39-41, “Then Isaac answered and said to Esau: ‘Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass, when you become restless, you shall break his yoke from your neck.’ So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which Isaac blessed him, and Esau said, ‘The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’”
Genesis 27:42-46, “And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, ‘Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. And stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury turns away, until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him; then I will send and bring you from there.
Why should I be bereaved also of you both in one day?’ And Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth (Heth was one of the sons of Canaan who’d became the Hittites - Genesis 10); if Jacob takes a wife of the daughters of Heth, like these who are the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?’”
Genesis 28:1-9, “Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother's father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother's brother. May God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may be an assembly of peoples; and give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit the land In which you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham.’
So Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Padan Aram, to Laban the son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau. Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Padan Aram to take himself a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan,’ and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and had gone to Padan Aram. Also Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan did not please his father Isaac. So Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.”
In closing I want to make a few observations about this story from the macro-perspective: First, here’s the problem with the entire situation… The blessing was already Jacob’s meaning there was no way Isaac could give it to Esau! The fact is that even if Isaac had been successful in doing what he planned, God wouldn’t have honored it anyway.
Don’t forget, the blessing (who was chosen to be part of the Messianic line) was something only God could bestow! For example: Abraham was content with giving the blessing to his son Ishmael, but God had chosen Isaac to be the recipient instead. Even though Isaac seems bent on giving it to his favorite son Esau, God had chosen Jacob!
Because of this Rebekah and Jacob’s actions are equally deplorable. Sure, Rebekah acted because she feared Isaac was going to make a mistake with far-reaching consequences, but her fear was fundamentally based in a lack of faith… That somehow Isaac was going to mess up God’s plan. She acted in deceit when she should have trusted God.
You see God didn’t need Rebekah and Jacob’s help to accomplish His will. God wasn’t at the mercy of Isaac. Jacob HAD received the birthright because God said so! The favor had been given and no man (not even Isaac) could reverse it. Once again instead of trusting God to fulfill His promises this mother and son greatly erred attempting to help Him out.
Sadly, everyone’s actions would carry with them tragic consequences… Esau ends up hating his brother Jacob and their relationship would be fraught with problems moving forward. No doubt Rebekah’s deceit would yield negative results in her marriage. Beyond this, though Jacob is sent away to allow Esau time to cool off, this short stay ends up lasting 20 years. Rebekah will never see her son again and Isaac won’t see him till he’s on his death bed.
And yet, while all of this is true and the severe consequences for not trusting God to work God’s way were real, what’s incredible is that God ends up using all this dysfunction to accomplish His purposes anyway! What another awesome manifestation of God’s grace.
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