1-6 The LORD Appears to Isaac 7-11 Lie of Isaac 12-22 Wells of Water 23-33 Covenant of Isaac with Abimelech 34-35 Esau and his Wives
The LORD Appears to Isaac

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.” 6So Isaac lived in Gerar.

Isaac never left the land like Abraham, he never went to Egypt. He has been in the neighborhood of it, in Gerar, that is the part of the land where the Philistines have a say. He goes to Gerar because there is hunger in the land. Hunger is often a trial from God to see how we react (cf. Gen 12:1010Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.; Rth 1:11Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons.), to see where our heart is. Blessings carry the danger of forgetting their source, which is God.

Isaac moves into the sphere of influence of the Philistines, who are a picture of the nominal Christians. With this he repeats the mistake of his father Abraham (Gen 20:11Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negev, and settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar.). If his trust had been in the LORD, he would not have gone there. Isaac stays in the border area. There the LORD appears to him and tells him what He will give him. He does not have to go to the Philistines. The LORD reminds him of the blessing he has in the land which he has sworn to Abraham to give him.

He also confirms the promise, and now to Isaac personally, that his descendants will be like the stars of heaven. The promise is based on Abraham’s obedience to God’s orders, above all that he offered his son, a picture of Christ’s offer. Despite everything the LORD says, he remains in Gerar.

Lie of Isaac

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.”

That Isaac is not in the right position is clear from his denial of his relationship with Rebekah. This is also the result with Abraham, if he is not there where God has sent him. The picture of Abraham denying his relationship with Sarah is the picture of someone who gives up the living by grace. Isaac’s denial of his relationship with Rebekah gives the picture of someone who abandons the principles of the church.

Isaac who adapts to the life of Gerar, the Philistines, is the picture of someone who adapts to the life of the nominal Christians. Life on earth occupies a large place, while the heavenly life of the church is not lived.

Yet he is ‘caught’ in his true relationship with Rebekah. In his heart he has not given up that connection. A ‘secret’ confession is not appropriate for a Christian, nor is it appropriate for Isaac. Inner desires and outer behavior should match. What the mouth confesses should reflect what is present in the heart. Isaac is reprimanded for it, which means a reproach to him.

Wells of Water

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. 18Then 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.”

It is remarkable that the LORD blesses Isaac in Gerar. He has His aim with that. It is His way of letting Isaac leave Gerar.

Because of his many possessions there is jealousy among the Philistines and battle for wells of water. The wells dug up by his father Abraham have been stopped up by the Philistines. Wells of water, a picture of the versatile Word of God, from which believers have drawn in the past, are stopped up by filling them with earth, the things of life. When life is full of all that the world has to offer, there is no desire to read the Bible, the well of water is stopped up. Also what believers in earlier days have dug up for us from God’s Word and written down in comments, remains closed for us. There is no interest in God’s Word or in books that explain and apply God’s Word.

Isaac digs the stopped-up wells again. In this way it is also possible for us to reopen closed wells in personal faith. Then we must first remove from our lives ‘the earth’, with which the wells have been stopped up. That means that the earthly things that fill our lives no longer have that dominant place.

This opens the way to make use of what others have discovered and dug from the Word (Job 8:8,108“Please inquire of past generations,
And consider the things searched out by their fathers.
10“Will they not teach you [and] tell you,
And bring forth words from their minds?
). Although we have to make use of the light of previous times, that does not mean that we have dwell there. We will have to do our own research, by which the knowledge will increase (Dan 12:44But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”). The discoveries we make then are new to us, but they are the same things that believers have discovered in earlier times. The truths we learn from God’s Word must always be mentioned by the same names – “he gave them the same names which his father had given them” – neither give them another meaning.

If the digging of wells takes place in the land of the Philistines, Christianity, where nominal Christians are in charge, quarrel is the result. Nominal Christians claim the truth, but then indeed their own idea about the truth, while they reject the truth of God’s Word. If we come up with the truth of God’s Word, they will quarrel over it.

In order not to have that quarrel anymore, separation is necessary. Isaac moves from there and goes somewhere else. As a result, he digs another well and they do not quarrel over it. He acknowledges in this the good hand of the LORD and gives the well a name that speaks of the room given to him by the LORD. Separate from evil means to break free from human bonds in order to serve the LORD in freedom by the power we may draw from His Word in ever new ways.

Covenant of Isaac with Abimelech

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. 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.

When Isaac has separated himself from the Philistines, he leaves their country and goes to live in Beersheba, just across the border in the far south of the promised land. There the LORD appears to him, there he is encouraged by the LORD, there he builds an altar, there he pitches his tent, and there his servants dig a well. The appearance of the LORD and what He says to Isaac makes Isaac a worshipper (altar), a conscious pilgrim (tent) and a seeker of more of the truth (digging a well). What a special recovery after his deviation!

If Isaac lives with the Philistines, there are reproaches against him. His life does not testify there that the LORD is with him. After he has separated himself from the Philistines, there is recognition from the side of the Philistines that the LORD is with him (cf. Pro 16:77When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Esau and his Wives

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.

Esau resembles Cain. Both state that they take themselves a wife. Both Adam and Isaac receive his wife from the LORD. Esau chooses his wife from one of the nations of the land of whom the LORD says He will destroy them and drive them out (Exo 23:23,2823For My angel will go before you and bring you in to [the land of] the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.28I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you.; 33:22I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.; 34:1111“Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.). This shows that the birthright does not play any role for him, he does not take it into account.

Esau’s own will in the choice of his wife(s) is a great sorrow for his parents. Today it is also a great sorrow for many parents when their children in their partner’s choice do not care about all they have heard about this from God’s Word at home.

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