Genesis 26:6-35 New Dog, Old Tricks

Like father, like son. Isaac used Abraham’s ruse on Abimelech, in spite of the “honesty” treaty.

Because of the famine in the land Isaac moved his camp to Gerar, as his father had once done. Out of fear he pulled another of Abraham’s tricks out for use; he called his wife his sister.

Isaac must have heard the stories of his father’s CYA (cover your assets) move. Abraham used this trick twice, that we are told of, in his wanderings. But apparently the stories didn’t contain the warnings or consequences that they should have, in my opinion. Maybe the stories glossed over the strained relationships but focused on the wealth obtained in the end.

In Abraham’s telling of this “white lie” there was a kernel of truth. He and Sarah shared a father. But in Isaac’s telling it was FAR from the truth. They were cousins for certain but NOT brother and sister by any stretch of the imagination. So why didn’t Isaac call her his cousin? Is it because the close bond between brother and sister, with one being protector over the other? This same closeness doesn’t necessarily apply to cousins. Some are VERY close but that is not the general rule.

Isaac’s choice of “relationship” put him in a place of protector but not impediment for those possibly seeking Rebekah’s attentions. He could steer suitors away by placing roadblocks in their path to her without being that ultimate roadblock himself. Apparently this worked because the men who initially asked him about her were mollified and kept at bay.

But as any lie will ultimately be, Isaac’s deceit was found out. It was uncovered by the one man who had also been taken in by this same lie many years before; Abimelech. He recognized the closeness beyond brother and sister that was exhibited in Isaac and Rebekah’s behavior. He saw an intimacy that went beyond brother and sister bounds. We aren’t told exactly what it was he saw that clued him in. Maybe it was a physical touch or a look in their eyes. Could it have been the content of their conversation that invoked the laughter? Was it possibly even the distance between their bodies? Whatever it was, it was unmistakable to Abimelech.

As soon as Isaac was found out Abimelech called him to account for his behavior. We aren’t told how long it was between Isaac and company arriving in Gerar and Abimelech’s discovery. The time lag in the truth wasn’t even Abimelech’s concern. The fact that Isaac put his people in danger of sin was. And this was a danger that he was personally familiar with.  I’m certain it brought back very vivid memories of his own danger. It probably brought back memories too of his and Abraham’s covenant not to deal falsely with one another and for their descendants to do the same. It hasn’t even been one generation on Abimelech’s part and here the problem comes again. Didn’t Abraham tell his sons about this promise? It involved them too.

Rather than calling Isaac up short on his father’s promise he confronts him on the account of sin that could have been brought down on his people by Isaac himself. “Why would you do this to us? What have we ever done to you?” Instead of driving Isaac away from his kingdom for Isaac’s sin, Abimelech sent an order of protection out. “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death” (verse 11b).

Notice here the language Abimelech uses. He didn’t say that HE would execute anyone who “touches” Isaac and Rebekah. He also doesn’t say anything about harassing them or interfering with their plans. I’m assuming though that those things were implied in this statement though.

Isaac and Rebekah lived in the land for at least a year without incidence. Everything Isaac touched prospered. He grew rich because God blessed him. He already had everything that Abraham had left him and now he was even more wealthy. He had amassed a large number of people in his camp too. So many that the Philistines “envied” him. They also appeared to be afraid of him. I believe that is the biggest reason Abimelech sent Isaac away.

In every area of the world water is a precious commodity. It is life itself for everything. Without it nothing survives. Later on we will see God providing water from some unexpected places but for now it is dependent on man’s labor to uncover it. Abraham moved around a lot and wherever he moved he too had to find water. Abraham and Abimelech’s people got into it over water on at least one occasion. Abraham even paid Abimelech as a testament to the fact that he had dug one specific well. But that didn’t stop the Philistines from filling up the wells Abraham’s men dug. They probably did this to make things hard for Abraham to stay in their country. They appeared to believe that ALL the water, above or below ground in their region belonged to them. I would say they were asserting “mineral rights” over their homeland. They treated Isaac no better. It didn’t matter that Abimelech told them not to “touch” Isaac or Rebekah. What mattered was getting them “off their land.”

After Isaac had been asked to leave by Abimelech, every place he dug a well or recovered one of his father’s wells, the Philistines would put up a fuss about it. I find it interesting that Isaac didn’t dispute them over this nor did he fight them over the water. He simply moved a little further away and dug another well. I don’t know how long this went on before he was far enough away from the people to satisfy their hearts, but Isaac just kept moving until the fighting stopped. Maybe the Philistine herdsmen thought he wouldn’t find water where he was at. They might have thought they had placed him in a position of certain failure, but they were dead wrong.

Isaac had obeyed God during the famine. He had stayed away from Egypt during the famine. He wasn’t wholly without fault, as we mentioned his deceit earlier. But he was trying to follow God’s laws. And he went wherever God led him. And God rewarded him. I’m sure Isaac appreciated God blessing the works of his hands but, to me, the best reward was the personal visitation Isaac received. God gave him a personal promise to bless and multiply what he had. This promise though was initiated with Abraham and Isaac was a beneficiary to it through his father. God would keep His word to Abraham but it was up to Isaac to join him in that promise through obedience to God. Isaac cemented his relationship with God by building an altar on the spot where God had appeared to him. This was a personal commitment, one not flowing from the coattails of his father. Now the God of Abraham was truly the God of Isaac.

I find it intriguing how Abimelech came after Isaac. Isaac might have been far enough away that the herdsmen were satisfied but he wasn’t beyond Abimelech’s ability to notice what was going on in Isaac’s camp. He saw the same evidence he had seen in Abraham’s camp that convinced him that the Lord was on their side. We aren’t told what that “evidence” was but it was enough to cause Abimelech to go visit both camps.

“We see plainly that the Lord has been with you” (verse 28a). This pact was a little different from the one Abimelech negotiated with Abraham. The first was one of “truth” and this was one of “peace.” Abraham’s covenant was also to include future generations where this one is with Isaac and company alone. This “peace” treaty would not be binding on any of Isaac’s descendants.

I wonder if Abimelech’s words about his conduct towards Isaac had raised any eyebrows. Did Isaac consider telling Abimelech about the wells and the herdsman’s conduct? Abimelech claimed no knowledge of any incident when Abraham brought up the same subject with him. Was Abimelech truly that blind to the activities of his people or was he playing dumb? He knew of Isaac’s activities. Didn’t he wonder why Isaac moved so often? So Abimelech’s statement of “we have not touched you and done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace” (verse 29b) is very suspect to me. He did send Isaac away without a fight. His people also didn’t physically “touch” Isaac. And any actions taken by Abimelech’s herdsmen Isaac was able to resolve without violence. But I would not call what was going on “doing good” to anyone. Why was this behavior overlooked or deemed acceptable? Maybe Abimelech figured they were about even for the lie that Isaac pulled on him.

Isaac made Abimelech and company a feast but he didn’t agree to his proposal until morning. He “slept on it” instead. Was this on purpose? Was it part of the customs of the land? Or was it to give God time to speak to him? I hope it was the latter. That is something that we ALL need to learn to do; giving God a chance to speak.

I’ve been caught in the middle of something the last few days that I wish ALL the people involved would take time to “sleep on” before acting. I’m including myself in that company. I’m also including myself in the company of Isaac where he didn’t answer harshly back or try to get even when someone dealt wrongly with him. Nor did he bare tales about such offenses. That last one applies too much to me and my situation. I have resolved to saying; “Wow”, “You don’t say”, and “Hmm” to tales brought to me from now on. NO MORE getting caught in between by “sharing” the tales brought to me, even with the one they are about. I personally prefer not to even hear the tales but that’s not likely to happen any time soon. But what I feel I have been directed to do, beyond what I’ve already mentioned, is to pray over my property for God’s peace to settle on all who come here and to anoint my fence posts. I haven’t done that yet but I’m hoping God will honor Crisco oil as much as any other kind. The prayers from my couch have already begun having effect. Now I just need to follow through with the rest of what I was shown, “stick-tites” and stickers be damned!

Father God, I want to be like Isaac in the sense that those observing even from a distance can see Your hand in my life. I want to learn his spirit of removing himself from conflict when there are other options. I know I can’t always flee my problems but the ones that I can avoid simply by walking away, GIVE ME MY WALKING SHOES! Help me know which battles to walk away from, which to make agreements over, and which to stand my ground over. I guess that’s a lot like the serenity prayer. I just looked it up so I could post it in my prayer here and discovered there is a LOT more to that prayer than I knew. I want to accept all of its challenge for my life Lord!

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