Isaac Went to Abimelech
king of the Philistines in Gerar

26: 1-5

DIG: How was Isaac like his father Abraham? Why was Isaac to stay in the Promised Land? What was ADONAI’s promise to Isaac? How would Isaac benefit by staying in the Land? How would the world benefit?

REFLECT: How many times have you made the same mistake twice? How does that happen? How can we obey God and keep His mitzvot, His regulations and His teachings?

Sometime after the two boys had grown to manhood, and Isaac (Hebrew: Yitz’chak) himself was at least eighty years old, he and Rebekah encountered a severe test of faith and obedience. We do not have as much information concerning Isaac’s life as we do for that of his father, so we do not know whether he had many earlier trials or not. In fact, this is the only chapter that is devoted to the events in Isaac’s life. Except for the experience on Mount Moriah, and his problem with Jacob and Esau, he seems to have led a peaceful and comfortable life up to this point.413

Now there was a famine in the land where Yitz’chak was living, probably near the well at Lahai-Roi. This was the second famine that is mentioned. There was a famine during Abraham’s time over a hundred years earlier (12:10), but this famine was starting to affect his flocks and herds. However, it wasn’t as bad near the Philistine coast so Isaac decided to move near Gerar. He might have continued all the way into Egypt, but ADONAI stopped him.

And Isaac went to Abimelech king of Gerar (26:1). This was not the same king as before (20:1-18, 21:22-34). Abimelech was a title for the king of Gerar, like Pharaoh was a title for the king of Egypt. There were no Philistines living in Gerar during Isaac’s lifetime, but they would eventually settle there and Gerar would become a Philistine city. The Philistines even kept the title of Abimelech for their kings (First Samuel 21:10-15; Psalm 34). Isaac had not left the borders of the Promised Land, which included Gerar, but he was thinking of going to Egypt.

In a sense Yitz’chak was just like his father. This reveals the fact that “like father, like son,” sins are carried from the father to the son. You can talk about the generation gap all you want, but there is no generation gap of sin. It just flows from one generation to another. The son makes very much the same mistakes the father did unless someone intervenes.414

So ADONAI intervened and appeared to Isaac. He had appeared to him over fifty years earlier on Mount Moriah with his father Avraham. He had spoken to Rebekah before the twins were born, and now He had spoken to Yitz’chak for the first time. God had not forgotten His promises to his father, but told Isaac the same thing He had told to Abraham,Do not go down to Egypt.” Isaac had not left the Land to get a bride and he was not to leave the Land now. Egypt represents the world, and as a result, could not be a place of blessing for the LORD. If he did not to repeat the same mistake, and live in the Land where ADONAI told him to live, he would be blessed beyond measure. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Avraham (26:2-3).

I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky (Hebrews 11:11-12) and will give them all these lands, and through the Offspring (using the Hebrew absolute singular here, meaning the Messiah), all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My mitzvot, My regulations and My teachings (26:4-5 CJB). Yes, the descendants of Abraham would be blessed because of him, but they would also have to exhibit faith and obedience in order to enjoy the promised blessings.

Not only are Avraham’s promises repeated here for Yitz’chak, but they were also expanded and enhanced. But as unthinkable as it would seem, and surely knowing what had happened to his father though his memory had grown dim, he fell into the very same sin. If the details sound familiar, there is an underlying reason.


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