Isaac and Abimelech

1 There was a famine in the land, subsequent to the earlier famine that occurred1 in the days of Abraham.2 Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines at Gerar. 2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt;3 settle down in the land that I will point out to you.4 3 Stay5 in this land. Then I will be with you and will bless you,6 for I will give all these lands to you and to your descendants,7 and I will fulfill8 the solemn promise I made9 to your father Abraham. 4 I will multiply your descendants so they will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and I will give them10 all these lands. All the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants.11 5 All this will come to pass12 because Abraham obeyed me13 and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”14 6 So Isaac settled in Gerar.

7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he replied, “She is my sister.”15 He was afraid to say, “She is my wife,” for he thought to himself,16 “The men of this place will kill me to get17 Rebekah because she is very beautiful.”

8 After Isaac18 had been there a long time,19 Abimelech king of the Philistines happened to look out a window and observed20 Isaac caressing21 his wife Rebekah. 9 So Abimelech summoned Isaac and said, “She is really22 your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister?” Isaac replied, “Because I thought someone might kill me to get her.”23

10 Then Abimelech exclaimed, “What in the world have you done to us?24 One of the men25 might easily have had sexual relations with26 your wife, and you would have brought guilt on us! 11 So Abimelech commanded all the people, “Whoever touches27 this man or his wife will surely be put to death.”28

12 When Isaac planted in that land, he reaped in the same year a hundred times what he had sown,29 because the Lord blessed him.30 13 The man became wealthy.31 His influence continued to grow32 until he became very prominent. 14 He had33 so many sheep34 and cattle35 and such a great household of servants that the Philistines became jealous36 of him. 15 So the Philistines took dirt and filled up37 all the wells that his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham.

16 Then Abimelech said to Isaac, “Leave us and go elsewhere,38 for you have become much more powerful39 than we are.” 17 So Isaac left there and settled in the Gerar Valley.40 18 Isaac reopened41 the wells that had been dug42 back in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up43 after Abraham died. Isaac44 gave these wells45 the same names his father had given them.46

19 When Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well with fresh flowing47 water there, 20 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled48 with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water belongs to us!” So Isaac49 named the well50 Esek51 because they argued with him about it.52 21 His servants53 dug another well, but they quarreled over it too, so Isaac named it54 Sitnah.55 22 Then he moved away from there and dug another well. They did not quarrel over it, so Isaac56 named it57 Rehoboth,58 saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we will prosper in the land.”

23 From there Isaac59 went up to Beer Sheba. 24 The Lord appeared to him that night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” 25 Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped60 the Lord. He pitched his tent there, and his servants dug a well.61

26 Now Abimelech had come62 to him from Gerar along with63 Ahuzzah his friend64 and Phicol the commander of his army. 27 Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me? You hate me65 and sent me away from you.” 28 They replied, “We could plainly see66 that the Lord is with you. So we decided there should be67 a pact between us68 – between us69 and you. Allow us to make70 a treaty with you 29 so that71 you will not do us any harm, just as we have not harmed72 you, but have always treated you well73 before sending you away74 in peace. Now you are blessed by the Lord.”75

30 So Isaac76 held a feast for them and they celebrated.77 31 Early in the morning the men made a treaty with each other.78 Isaac sent them off; they separated on good terms.79

32 That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. “We’ve found water,” they reported.80 33 So he named it Shibah;81 that is why the name of the city has been Beer Sheba82 to this day.

34 When83 Esau was forty years old,84 he married85 Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, as well as Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 They caused Isaac and Rebekah great anxiety.86

126:1tn Heb “in addition to the first famine which was.” 226:1sn This account is parallel to two similar stories about Abraham (see Gen 12:10-20; 20:1-18). Many scholars do not believe there were three similar incidents, only one that got borrowed and duplicated. Many regard the account about Isaac as the original, which then was attached to the more important person, Abraham, with supernatural elements being added. For a critique of such an approach, see R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, 47-62. It is more likely that the story illustrates the proverb “like father, like son” (see T. W. Mann, The Book of the Torah, 53). In typical human fashion the son follows his father’s example of lying to avoid problems. The appearance of similar events reported in a similar way underscores the fact that the blessing has now passed to Isaac, even if he fails as his father did. 326:2sn Do not go down to Egypt. The words echo Gen 12:10, which reports that “Abram went down to Egypt,” but state the opposite. 426:2tn Heb “say to you.” 526:3tn The Hebrew verb גּוּר (gur) means “to live temporarily without ownership of land.” Abraham’s family will not actually possess the land of Canaan until the Israelite conquest hundreds of years later. 626:3tn After the imperative “stay” the two prefixed verb forms with prefixed conjunction here indicate I will be with you and I will bless you. The promise of divine presence is a promise to intervene to protect and to bless. 726:3tn The Hebrew term זֶרַע (zera’) occurring here and in v. 18 may mean “seed” (for planting), “offspring” (occasionally of animals, but usually of people), or “descendants” depending on the To you and to your descendants. The Abrahamic blessing will pass to Isaac. Everything included in that blessing will now belong to the son, and in turn will be passed on to his sons. But there is a contingency involved: If they are to enjoy the full blessings, they will have to obey the word of the Lord. And so obedience is enjoined here with the example of how well Abraham obeyed. 826:3tn The Hiphil stem of the verb קוּם (qum) here means “to fulfill, to bring to realization.” For other examples of this use of this verb form, see Lev 26:9; Num 23:19; Deut 8:18; 9:5; 1 Sam 1:23; 1 Kgs 6:12; Jer 11:5. 926:3tn Heb “the oath which I swore.”sn The solemn promise I made. See Gen 15:18-20; 22:16-18. 1026:4tn Heb “your descendants.” 1126:4tn Traditionally the verb is taken as passive (“will be blessed”) here, as if Abraham’s descendants were going to be a channel or source of blessing to the nations. But the Hitpael is better understood here as reflexive/reciprocal, “will bless [i.e., pronounce blessings on] themselves/one another” (see also Gen 22:18). Elsewhere the Hitpael of the verb “to bless” is used with a reflexive/reciprocal sense in Deut 29:18; Ps 72:17; Isa 65:16; Jer 4:2. Gen 12:2 predicts that Abram will be held up as a paradigm of divine blessing and that people will use his name in their blessing formulae. For examples of blessing formulae utilizing an individual as an example of blessing see Gen 48:20 and Ruth 4:11. Earlier formulations of this promise (see Gen 12:2; 18:18) use the Niphal stem. (See also Gen 28:14.) 1226:5tn The words “All this will come to pass” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied for stylistic reasons. 1326:5tn Heb “listened to my voice.” 1426:5sn My charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. The language of this verse is clearly interpretive, for Abraham did not have all these laws. The terms are legal designations for sections of the Mosaic law and presuppose the existence of the law. Some Rabbinic views actually conclude that Abraham had fulfilled the whole law before it was given (see m. Qiddushin 4:14). Some scholars argue that this story could only have been written after the law was given (C. Westermann, Genesis, 2:424-25). But the simplest explanation is that the narrator (traditionally taken to be Moses the Lawgiver) elaborated on the simple report of Abraham’s obedience by using terms with which the Israelites were familiar. In this way he depicts Abraham as the model of obedience to God’s commands, whose example Israel should follow. 1526:7sn Rebekah, unlike Sarah, was not actually her husband’s sister. 1626:7tn Heb “lest.” The words “for he thought to himself” are supplied because the next clause is written with a first person pronoun, showing that Isaac was saying or thinking this. 1726:7tn Heb “kill me on account of.” 1826:8tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 1926:8tn Heb “and it happened when the days were long to him there.” 2026:8tn Heb “look, Isaac.” By the use of the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”), the narrator invites the audience to view the scene through Abimelech’s eyes. 2126:8tn Or “fondling.”sn The Hebrew word מְצַחֵק (mÿtsakheq), from the root צָחַק (tsakhaq, “laugh”), forms a sound play with the name “Isaac” right before it. Here it depicts an action, probably caressing or fondling, that indicated immediately that Rebekah was Isaac’s wife, not his sister. Isaac’s deception made a mockery of God’s covenantal promise. Ignoring God’s promise to protect and bless him, Isaac lied to protect himself and acted in bad faith to the men of Gerar. 2226:9tn Heb “Surely, look!” See N. H. Snaith, “The meaning of Hebrew ‘ak,” VT 14 (1964): 221-25. 2326:9tn Heb “Because I said, ‘Lest I die on account of her.’” Since the verb “said” probably means “said to myself” (i.e., “thought”) here, the direct discourse in the Hebrew statement has been converted to indirect discourse in the translation. In addition the simple prepositional phrase “on account of her” has been clarified in the translation as “to get her” (cf. v. 7). 2426:10tn Heb “What is this you have done to us?” The Hebrew demonstrative pronoun “this” adds emphasis: “What in the world have you done to us?” (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 24, §118). 2526:10tn Heb “people.” 2626:10tn The Hebrew verb means “to lie down.” Here the expression “lie with” or “sleep with” is euphemistic for “have sexual relations with.” 2726:11tn Heb “strikes.” Here the verb has the nuance “to harm in any way.” It would include assaulting the woman or killing the man. 2826:11tn The use of the infinitive absolute before the imperfect makes the construction emphatic. 2926:12tn Heb “a hundredfold.” 3026:12tn This final clause explains why Isaac had such a bountiful harvest. 3126:13tn Heb “great.” In this context the statement refers primarily to Isaac’s material wealth, although reputation and influence are included. 3226:13tn Heb “and he went, going and becoming great.” The construction stresses that his growth in possessions and power continued steadily. 3326:14tn Heb “and there was to him.” 3426:14tn Heb “possessions of sheep.” 3526:14tn Heb “possessions of cattle.” 3626:14tn The Hebrew verb translated “became jealous” refers here to intense jealousy or envy that leads to hostile action (see v. 15). 3726:15tn Heb “and the Philistines stopped them up and filled them with dirt.” 3826:16tn Heb “Go away from us.” 3926:16sn You have become much more powerful. This explanation for the expulsion of Isaac from Philistine territory foreshadows the words used later by the Egyptians to justify their oppression of Israel (see Exod 1:9). 4026:17tn Heb “and he camped in the valley of Gerar and he lived there.”sn This valley was actually a wadi (a dry river bed where the water would flow in the rainy season, but this would have been rare in the Negev). The water table under it would have been higher than in the desert because of water soaking in during the torrents, making it easier to find water when digging wells. However, this does not minimize the blessing of the Lord, for the men of the region knew this too, but did not have the same results. 4126:18tn Heb “he returned and dug,” meaning “he dug again” or “he reopened.” 4226:18tn Heb “that they dug.” Since the subject is indefinite, the verb is translated as passive. 4326:18tn Heb “and the Philistines had stopped them up.” This clause explains why Isaac had to reopen them. 4426:18tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 4526:18tn Heb “them”; the referent (the wells) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 4626:18tn Heb “called names to them according to the names that his father called them.” 4726:19tn Heb “living.” This expression refers to a well supplied by subterranean streams (see Song 4:15). 4826:20tn The Hebrew verb translated “quarreled” describes a conflict that often has legal ramifications. 4926:20tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 5026:20tn Heb “and he called the name of the well.” 5126:20sn The name Esek means “argument” in Hebrew. The following causal clause explains that Isaac gave the well this name as a reminder of the conflict its discovery had created. In the Hebrew text there is a wordplay, for the name is derived from the verb translated “argued.” 5226:20tn The words “about it” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. 5326:21tn Heb “they”; the referent (Isaac’s servants) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 5426:21tn Heb “and he called its name.” The referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 5526:21sn The name Sitnah (שִׂטְנָה, sitnah) is derived from a Hebrew verbal root meaning “to oppose; to be an adversary” (cf. Job 1:6). The name was a reminder that the digging of this well caused “opposition” from the Philistines. 5626:22tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 5726:22tn Heb “and he called its name.” 5826:22sn The name Rehoboth (רְהֹבוֹת, rehovot) is derived from a verbal root meaning “to make room.” The name was a reminder that God had made room for them. The story shows Isaac’s patience with the opposition; it also shows how God’s blessing outdistanced the men of Gerar. They could not stop it or seize it any longer. 5926:23tn Heb “and he went up from there”; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 6026:25tn Heb “called in the name of.” The expression refers to worshiping the Lord through prayer and sacrifice (see Gen 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 21:33). See G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 1:116. 6126:25tn Heb “and they dug there, the servants of Isaac, a well.” 6226:26tn The disjunctive clause supplies pertinent supplemental information. The past perfect is used because the following narrative records the treaty at Beer Sheba. Prior to this we are told that Isaac settled in Beer Sheba; presumably this treaty would have allowed him to do that. However, it may be that he settled there and then made the treaty by which he renamed the place Beer Sheba. In this case one may translate “Now Abimelech came to him.” 6326:26tn Heb “and.” 6426:26tn Many modern translations render the Hebrew term מֵרֵעַ (merea’) as “councillor” or “adviser,” but the term may not designate an official position but simply a close personal friend. 6526:27tn The disjunctive clause is circumstantial, expressing the reason for his question. 6626:28tn The infinitive absolute before the verb emphasizes the clarity of their perception. 6726:28tn Heb “And we said, ‘Let there be.’” The direct discourse in the Hebrew text has been rendered as indirect discourse in the translation for stylistic reasons. 6826:28tn The pronoun “us” here is inclusive – it refers to the Philistine contingent on the one hand and Isaac on the other. 6926:28tn The pronoun “us” here is exclusive – it refers to just the Philistine contingent (the following “you” refers to Isaac). 7026:28tn The translation assumes that the cohortative expresses their request. Another option is to understand the cohortative as indicating resolve: “We want to make.’” 7126:29tn The oath formula is used: “if you do us harm” means “so that you will not do.” 7226:29tn Heb “touched.” 7326:29tn Heb “and just as we have done only good with you.” 7426:29tn Heb “and we sent you away.” 7526:29tn The Philistine leaders are making an observation, not pronouncing a blessing, so the translation reads “you are blessed” rather than “may you be blessed” (cf. NAB). 7626:30tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 7726:30tn Heb “and they ate and drank.” 7826:31tn Heb “and they got up early and they swore an oath, a man to his brother.” 7926:31tn Heb “and they went from him in peace.” 8026:32tn Heb “and they said to him, ‘We have found water.’” The order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons. 8126:33sn The name Shibah (שִׁבְעָה, shivah) means (or at least sounds like) the word meaning “oath.” The name was a reminder of the oath sworn by Isaac and the Philistines to solidify their treaty. 8226:33sn The name Beer Sheba (בְּאֵר שָׁבַע, bÿer shava’) means “well of an oath” or “well of seven.” According to Gen 21:31 Abraham gave Beer Sheba its name when he made a treaty with the Philistines. Because of the parallels between this earlier story and the account in 26:26-33, some scholars see chaps. 21 and 26 as two versions (or doublets) of one original story. However, if one takes the text as it stands, it appears that Isaac made a later treaty agreement with the people of the land that was similar to his father’s. Abraham dug a well at the site and named the place Beer Sheba; Isaac dug another well there and named the well Shibah. Later generations then associated the name Beer Sheba with Isaac, even though Abraham gave the place its name at an earlier time. 8326:34tn The sentence begins with the temporal indicator (“and it happened”), making this clause subordinate to the next. 8426:34tn Heb “the son of forty years.” 8526:34tn Heb “took as a wife.” 8626:35tn Heb “And they were [a source of ] bitterness in spirit to Isaac and to Rebekah.”