Genesis 26
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.

Isaac in the region of Abimelech at Gerar. The manifestation of God, and confirmed promise. His imitation of the maxim of his father. The exposure of Rebekah. The living figure of a richly blessed, patient endurance

CHAPTER 26:1–22

1And there was [again] a famine in the land, besides the first [previous] 1famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar. 2And the Lord [Jehovah] appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into 3Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: Sojourn [as a stranger] in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform [cause to stand] the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; 4And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give to thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed [bless themselves]; 5Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

6And Isaac dwelt in Gerar: 7And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he [thought he], the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon. 8And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time,1 that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife. 9And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety [certainly] she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said [I thought], Lest I die for her. 10And Abimelech said, What is this that thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly2 have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us. 11And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth [injures] this man or his wife shall surely be put to death. 12Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received [found. A. G.] in the same year an hundred fold: and [thus] the Lord blessed him: 13And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: 14For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him. 15For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped, them, and filled them with earth. 16And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.

17And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley [(brook) valley—wady.—A. G.] of Gerar, and dwelt there. 18And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after [like] the names by which his father had called them. 19And Isaac’s servants digged in the valley [at the bottom], and found there a well of springing [living] water. 20And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac’s herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Ezek [contention]; because they strove with him. 21And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah [enmity-adversary, Satan wells]. 22And he removed [brake up] from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth [wide room]; and he said, For now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.


1. The present chapter (genesis 26) is the only one devoted exclusively to traditions concerning Isaac. The former narratives were, on the one hand, interwoven with Abraham’s history, and, on the other, contained the beginnings of the history of Esau and Jacob. The section in the following chapter, but more fully given in the beginning of Genesis 28, forms a conclusion, in which the history of Isaac and that of his sons are considered as one. This is followed by Gen 35:27, like a melancholy echo extending over Isaac’s long and isolated life, during which Rebekah disappears from the scene, deeply grieved on account of her sons. We have here a vivid life-picture, taken from the midst of Isaac’s pilgrimage, and representing clearly the fact that Isaac’s composedness and, tranquillity draw after them pure blessings. This thought, however, pervades his whole history. He submits to suffer upon Moriah, and thus receives a mysterious theocratic consecration as a type of Christ. He waited for his bride until Abraham’s and Eliezer’s care procured one for him without his co-operation, and in this he fared well. During Rebekah’s long barrenness he seeks no remedy such as Abraham did in connection with Hagar, but finally resorts to prayer, and is richly compensated in the bestowal of twins. During the famine he does not go to Egypt, but, according to Jehovah’s instruction, remains in Canaan, and here, in the country of the Philistines, is most abundantly blessed. He receives in silence the censure of Abimelech for his deceptive statement respecting Rebekah. He is exiled, and departs from Gerar. He yields one well after another to the shepherds of the Philistines, ever receding, further and further; and yet the king of the Philistines applies to him for an alliance, as to a mighty prince. Finally Isaac knows how to reconcile himself to the strong deception prepared for him by Rebekah and Jacob, and even this pliancy of temper is blessed to him, in that he is thereby kept in the right theocratic direction. His passive conduct, too, at the marriage of his sons, renders the difference between the true Esau and the theocratic Jacob more distinct. His composure and endurance seem infirmities; these, however, with all weakness of temperament, are evidently supported by a power of the spirit and of faith. The moral power in it is the self-restraint whereby, in opposition to his own wishes, he gives up his hasty purpose to bless Esau. Isaac learned experimentally upon Moriah, that quietness, tranquillity, and confidence in the Lord have a glorious issue. This experience is stamped upon his whole career. If we judge him from the declarations concerning Rebekah at Gerar, he appears to be the timid imitator of his father; though the assuming of his father’s maxim in this respect may be explained from his modest, susceptible nature. But that he does not imitate his father slavishly, is seen especially from the fact of his quiet suffering without any resistance. This is made evident, too, by the fact that he does not, like Abraham, go to Egypt during the famine. Moreover, he does not take a concubine, as Abraham did; nor like him does he look to divine revelation for the decision respecting the lawful heir, but holds himself sure of it by reason of the transmitted right of the first-born. New and original traits appear in his transition to agriculture, as well as in his zealous digging of wells. The naming of the wells, taken away from him, has something of humor, such as is peculiar to tranquil minds. His pleasant disposition reveals itself not only in his preference of venison, but by his peculiar manner of preparing, for Abimelech of Gerar, and his friends, a feast, even after the gentle reproof, and before he made a covenant with him on the following day. In his vocation, however, as patriarch, he shows himself a man of spirit by building an altar unto the Lord, and calling upon his name (Gen 26:25). And while there are but two visions mentioned definitely during his life (Gen 26:3, Gen 26:24), still there follows a higher spiritual life, and, at the same time, a further development of the Abrahamic promise through the disposition he manifests in the blessing of his sons. Our section may be divided as follows: 1. Isaac’s sojourn in the country during the famine in consequence of an injunction of Jehovah. Renewed promise (Gen 26:1–6); 2. Isaac’s assertion that Rebekah was his sister (vers, 7–11); 3. Isaac’s prosperity; his exile from the city of Gerar, and his settlement in the valley of Gerar (Gen 26:12–17); 4. Isaac’s patience in what he endured from the Philistines, and its blessing (Gen 26:18–22). Knobel regards the present chapter as a Jehovistic supplement, mingled with Elohistic elements. [In regard to the numerous points of resemblance between Isaac and Abraham, Kurtz has shown (Gesch., p. 226) that these resemblances are not slavish imitations, but are marked by distinct peculiarities, and moreover, that these similar experiences are not accidental, but on the one hand, as the result of the divine providence, they flow from the same purpose and discipline with the father and the son, and on the other hand, as far as they are the result of human choices, they arise from an actual resemblance in their condition and hopes. Thus all believers in their experiences are alike and yet unlike.—A. G.]


1. Gen 26:1–6. Isaac’s abode in the country.—A famine.—It is distinguished from the famine in the history of Abraham. Isaac, following the example of his father, was on the point of going to Egypt, but is arrested by divine interposition. “Isaac’s history commences with the same trial as the history of Abraham” (Delitzsch). This frequent calamity of antiquity occurs once more in the history of Jacob.—Isaac went unto Abimelech.—Not the one mentioned Gen 20:21 (Kimchi, Schum, etc., Del.), but his successor (Knobel). The same may be said of Phichol (Gen 21:22). There is here, very probably, a different Abimelech, and with him another Phichol. The former is expressly called king. Upon this name Abimelech, as a standing title of the kings, compare the title to the 34th Ps. with 1 Sam. 21:11.—Gerar.—“The ruins of which, under the name of Kirbet-el-Gerâr, have been again discovered by Rowland, three leagues in a southeasterly direction from Gaza.” Del. Isaac intends to go to Egypt, but according to God’s instruction, he is to remain in Palestine as a stranger.—Go not down.—It is characteristic that Abraham received the first divine instruction to depart, Isaac to remain. God leads every one according to his peculiar necessities. Even in Canaan nothing shall be wanting to him.—All these countries.—Extending the promise beyond Canaan [or rather all the lands of the different Canaanitish tribes.—A. G.]—I will be with thee.—A promise of help, blessing, and protection, especially needed by Isaac.—I Will perform the oath.—As for God, the divine oath was absolutely firm, though, on the part of Abraham, it might have been obscured. But since Abraham, on his part, remained true to the covenant, it is renewed to the son by virtue of an oath, whilst in regard to the contents of the promise, it is even enlarged. The one land of Canaan is changed into many countries, the seed multiplied as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore, becomes stars only; and the blessing of the nations (Gen 22:18) becomes in his seed a voluntary blessing of the nations among themselves.—Because that Abraham.—Literally, for that. Abraham’s obedience is brought out conspicuously through the use of the richest deuteronomic terms. To the commendation of obedience in general, follows in strict derivation: 1. the charge; 2. the commandments; 3. the institutions; 4. the germ of the Thorah in the plural, ותורת. [He kept the charge of God, the special commission he had given him; his commandments, his express or occasional orders; his statutes, his stated prescriptions graven on stone; his law, the great doctrine of moral obligations. MURPHY, p. 874. His obedience was not perfect, as we know, but it was unreserved, and as it flows from a living faith, is thus honored of God.—A. G.] The motive of the promise emphasizes the humility and low position of Isaac. He must also, however, render the obedience of faith, if Jehovah’s blessing is to rest upon him, and, indeed, first of all, by remaining in the country. Abraham had to go to Egypt, Jacob must go to Egypt to die there, Isaac, the second patriarch, is not to go to Egypt at all. Notwithstanding the resemblance to the promise, Gen 22, the new here is unmistakable.

2. Gen 26:7–11. Isaac’s assertion respecting Rebekah. In the declaration of Isaac, the event here resembles Abraham’s experience, both in Egypt and at Gerar, but as to all else, it differs entirely. With regard to the declaration itself, it is true that Rebekah was also related to Isaac, but more distantly than Sarah to Abraham. It is evident from the narrative itself that Isaac is not so seriously threatened as Abraham, although the inquiries of the people at Gerar might have alarmed him. It is not by a punishment inflicted upon a heathen prince, who perhaps might have abducted the wife, but through the intercourse of Isaac with Rebekah that the true relation became known. That the Abimelech mentioned in this narrative is the same person who, eighty years before, received Sarah into his harem, appears plausible to Kurtz and Delitzsch, since it may be taken for granted that as a man gray with age he did not send for Rebekah and take her into his harem. We reject these as superficial grounds. The main point is, that Isaac appears in this narrative as a very cautious man, while the severe edict of Abimelech seems to suppose a solemn remembrance in the king’s house of the former experience with Abraham. The oath that follows seems also to show that the new Abimelech avails himself of the policy of his father, as well as Isaac. The windows in old times were latticed openings for the light to enter, as found in the East at the present day.

3. Gen 26:12–17. Isaac’s prosperity and exile.—Then Isaac sowed.—Besides planting trees, Abraham was yet a mere nomad. Isaac begins to pursue agriculture along with his nomadic life; and Jacob seems to have continued it in a larger measure (Gen 37:7). “Many nomads of Arabia connect agriculture with a nomadic life (see BURKHARDT: Syrien, p. 430, etc.).” Knobel. This account agrees well with the locality at Gerar. The soil of Gaza is very rich, and in Nuttar Abu Sumar, a tract northwest of Elysa, the Arabs possess now storehouses for their grain (see ROBINSON, i. p. 291, 292). Even at the present time, in those countries (e.g., Hauran), the soil yields a very rich produce (BURKHARDT: “Syria,” p. 463). Knobel. [The hundred-fold is a large and very rare product, and yet Babylonia is said to have yielded two hundred and even three hundred fold. HEROD., i. p. 193; MURPHY, p. 375.—A. G.] “The exigency of the famine induced Isaac to undertake agriculture, and in the very first year his crops yielded a hundred-fold (שְׂעָרִים). The agriculture of Isaac indicates already a more permanent settlement in Palestine; but agriculture and the occupation of the nomadic life were first engaged in equally by the Israelites in Egypt, and it was not until their return from Egypt that agriculture became the predominant employment.” Delitzsch.—And the Philistines envied him.—Hostilities began in their filling with earth the wells that Abraham dug at Gerar, and which therefore belonged to Isaac. This very act is already an indirect expulsion, for without wells it is not possible that Isaac should live a nomadic life at Gerar. [The digging of wells was regarded as a sort of occupancy of the land, and as conferring a kind of title to it; and hence perhaps the envy of the Philistines.—A. G.] “This conduct was customary during wars (2 Kings 3:25; Is. 15:6), and the Arabs fill with earth the wells along the route of the pilgrims if they do not receive the toll asked by them (TROILO: Orientalische Reisebeschreib., p. 682; NIEBUHR: ‘Arab.’ p. 362).” Knobel.—Go from us.—Abimelech openly vents his displeasure against Isaac. He banishes him from his city, Gerar, and from his country in the narrower sense.—In the valley of Gerar.—The undulating country Gurf-el-Gerâr, through which flows a wady (RITTER: Erdk. xiv. p. 804). Constantine erected a monument in this valley (SOZOM. 6, 32).

4. Gen 26:18–22. Isaac’s patient behavior under the violation of his rights by the Philistines. The wells.—Digged again the wells.—Behind his back too, the Philistines filled the wells which Abraham dug. Knobel infers from verse 29 that the hostile conduct of the Philistines was not mentioned in the more ancient record! The discoveries of the wells (Gen 26:19, 21), too, must be regarded as identical with the digging again, Gen 26:18!—The quarrels about the wells seem to be connected with views respecting the boundaries of Isaac’s place of exile. He is driven further and further by them. “Quarrels about watering-places and pastures are common among the Bedouins (see 13:7; Exod. 2:17; BURKHARDT: ‘ Syria,’ p. 628, and ‘Bedouins,’ p. 118). Among the ancient Arabs, also, severe contests arose about watering-places (HAMASA, i. p. 122 f. 287). In many regions the scarcity of water is such that the Bedouins rather offer milk than water as a beverage (SEETZEN, iii. p. 21).” Knobel. Isaac yields without any resistance; still he erects a monument to the injustice he suffered. The name of the second well, שִׂטְנָה, from the verb שׂטן, brings to view an enmity malignant and satanic.—A well of springing water.—Running water (Lev. 14:5, etc.).—Rehoboth (ample room).—The third well was probably situated beyond the boundaries of Gerar; for it is previously said that he had removed from thence, i.e., from the valley of Gerar. The name Rehoboth indicates that now by the guidance of Jehovah he had come to a wide, open region. Ruhaibeh, a wady, southwest from Elusa, and discovered by Robinson (i. 291 ff.‎), together with the extended ruins of the city of the same name, situated upon the top of a mountain, remind us of this third well (STRAUSS: ‘Sinai and Golgotha,’ p. 149).” Delitzsch. Robinson also discovered further north, in a wady, what was perhaps the Sitnah of Isaac. Ruhaibeh is situated about three hours in a southerly direction from Elusa and about eight and a half from Beer-sheba, where the main roads leading to Gaza and Hebron separate from each other.


1. DELITZSCH: “This chapter (26) is composed of these seven short, special, and peculiarly colored narratives, which the Jehovist arranged. One purpose runs through all: to show, by a special narration of examples running through the first forty years of Isaac’s independent history, how even the patriarch himself, though less distinguished in deeds and sufferings, yet under Jehovah’s blessing and protection comes forth out of all his fearful embarrassments and ascends to still greater riches and honor.” His life, however, is not “the echo of the life of Abraham;” but Isaac’s meekness and gentleness indicate rather a decisive progress, which, like his pure monogamy, was a type of New Testament relations.

2. The events related in the present section belong undoubtedly to a time when Esau had not reached the development of all his powers, for otherwise this stately and powerful hunter would scarcely have submitted so quietly to the infringements of his rights by the Philistines.

3. The two visions which mark the life of Isaac are entirely in accordance with his character and his point of view. In the first, Jehovah addresses him: Go not down into Egypt; in the second: Fear not. The promises, however, which he receives, are further developments of the Abrahamic promise. For Isaac, moreover, Jehovah’s promises become a divine oath, i.e., a confidence of faith in him built upon a rock.

4. The three famines occurring in the history of the three patriarchs constitute the fixed manifestations of one of the great national calamities of antiquity, from which the pious have to suffer together with the ungodly; but in which the pious always experience the special care of the Lord, assuring them that all things work together for good to them that love God.

5. Isaac’s imitation of his father in passing his wife for his sister, incurs the more severe censure of history than the same actions of Abraham, and it has this time for its result the gradual expulsion from Gerar. This ignominy, too, must have the more inclined him to yield patiently to the infringements of his rights by the Philistines; and thus he is again blessed with the freedom of a new region, so that the word is fulfilled in him: Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.

6. Isaac and Abimelech, sons of their respective fathers, and yet having each a peculiar character according to their individual and finer traits.

7. Isaac, and the signs that appear of a willingness to struggle bravely for the faith, though still subject to his natural infirmities and obscured by them.

8. Isaac’s energy in his agricultural undertakings and in the diligent digging of wells.

9. The filling of the wells with earth, as taken in a spiritual sense, indicates an old hatred of the Philistines towards the children of God.

10. And thou shouldst have brought guiltiness upon us. The idea of guilt is the extension of culpability over the future of the sinner; and frequently (as e.g. in public offences) more or less even to those around us. Participation of sin is participation in its corrupting and ruinous results.


To the whole chapter. How the promises of Abraham descend upon Isaac: 1. As the same promises; 2. as newly shaped in their development and confirmation.—Incidents of a life of faithful suffering and rich with blessings, as presented in the history of Isaac: Isaac during the famine; in danger at Gerar; as exposed to the jealousy of the Philistines; during the exile; in the strife about the wells; in the visit of Abimelech; in the marriage of Esau.—How Isaac gradually comes out of his difficulty: 1. From Gerar to the valley of Gerar; 2. from the valley of Gerar to Rehoboth; 3. from Rehoboth to Beer-sheba.—Isaac as a digger of wells, a type also of spiritual conduct: 1. In digging again the wells of the father that are filled with earth; 2. in digging new wells.—Isaac and Abimelech, or the sons in relation to their fathers: 1. Resemblance; 2. difference.—The blessing of Isaac in his crops (at the harvest-festival).—Malignant joy, a joy moat destructive to the malignant man himself. [Wordsworth, who finds types everywhere, says: “Here also we have a type of what Christ, the pure Isaac, is doing in the church. The wells of ancient truth had been choked up by error, but Christ reopened them and restored them to their primitive state and called them by their old names,” etc., p. 115.—A. G.]

STARKE: (What Moses narrates in this chapter appears to have happened before Esau and Jacob were born (see Gen 26:7). [More probably when they were about fifteen years old, after Abraham’s death.—A. G.] Regarding the Philistines and Philistia, see Dictionaries.) The reason why God did not permit Isaac to go to Egypt is not given, yet it may have been that Isaac might experience the wonderful providence and paternal care of God toward him. Some (Calvin) assign the reason, that Isaac, because not as far advanced in faith as his father Abraham, might have been easily led astray by the idolatrous Egyptians (the result shows, however, that it was unnecessary this time).—I will give all these countries. Thy descendants through Esau shall receive a great part of the southern countries, lying between Canaan and Egypt.

Gen 26:5. It does not follow from these four terms, which were frequently used after the law was given upon Mt. Sinai, that Abraham already possessed the law of Moses, as the Jews assert. Had this been the case, no doubt he would have transmitted it to his children. Moses, however, chooses these expressions, which were in use in his time, in order to point out clearly to the people of Israel how Abraham had submitted himself entirely to the divine will and command, and earnestly abstained from everything to the contrary in his walk before God. To these four terms there are sometimes added two more, viz., rules and testimonies.—OSIANDER: There are no calamities in the world from which even the pious do not sometimes suffer. The best of it, however, is that God is their protection and comfort (Ps. 91:1).—We are to remember the divine promises, though ancient and general, and apply them to ourselves.—CRAMER: We are to abide by God’s command, for his word is a light unto our path (Ps. 119:105).—Thus God sometimes permits his people to stumble, that his care over them may become known.—To Gen 26:10. From this we see that the inhabitants of Gerar, notwithstanding their idolatry, were still so conscientious that they considered adultery a crime so great as to involve the whole land in its punishment.—CRAMER: Comely persons should be much more watchful of themselves than others.—The woods have ears and the fields eyes, therefore let no one do anything thinking that no one sees and hears him.—Strangers are to be protected. (Since Isaac possessed no property, perhaps he cultivated with the king’s permission an unfruitful tract of land, or hired a piece of ground.)—It is the worst kind of jealousy if we repine at another’s prosperity without any prospect of our own advantage.

Bibl. Tub.: God blesses his people extraordinarily in famine. CRAMER: Success creates jealousy; but let us not be surprised at this; it is the course of the world.

Gen 26:17. To suffer wrong, and therein to exercise patience, is always better than to revenge oneself and do wrong.—Christian, the Holy Scriptures are also a well of living water; draw therefrom incessantly.—Bibl. Tub.: The jealousy and artifice of enemies cannot prevent or restrain the blessing which the Lord designs for the pious.


1[Gen 26:8.—When the days were drawn out.—A.G.]

2[Gen 26:10.—כִּמְעַט within a little; it lacks but little, as the Chaldee renders.—A.G.]

And he went up from thence to Beersheba.

Isaac in Beer-sheba. Treaty of Peace with Abimelech

CHAPTER 26:23–33

23And he went up from thence to Beer-sheba. 24And the Lord appeared unto him the same [first] night, and said, I3 am the God of Abraham thy father; fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake. 25And he builded an altar there, and called upon [witnessed to] the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent4 there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.

26Then [and] Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath [possession, occupant] one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain [see Gen 21:22, commander] of his army. 27And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me [have treated me with hatred], and have sent me away from you? 28And they said, We saw certainly5 that the Lord was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us [on both sides], 29 even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee; That6 thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art [thus art thou] now the blessed of the Lord. 30And he made, them a feast, and they did eat and drink. 31And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace. 32And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac’s servants came and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water. 33And he called it Shebah [seven; here in its signification: oath]: therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba unto this day.


To Beer-sheba.—The former residence of Abraham (Gen 21:33), and Isaac’s former station for his flocks.—The appearance of Jehovah.—A night vision; a form which now enters more definitely into the history of the patriarchs.—The God of Abraham, thy father.—In this way Jehovah reminds him of the consistency of his covenant faithfulness, but especially of his covenant with Abraham.—Fear not.—This encouraging exhortation no doubt refers to the disposition of Isaac. Abraham needed such an encouragement, after having exposed himself to the revenge of the Eastern kings on account of his victory over them. Isaac needs it because of his modest, timid disposition, and on account of the enmity of the Philistines, by whom he was driven from place to place. Perhaps his heart foreboded that Abimelech would yet follow him. He consecrates his prolonged sojourn at Beer-sheba by the erection of an altar, the establishment of a regulated worship, and by a fixed settlement.—Then Abimelech went to him.—By comparing this covenant act with that between Abraham and Abimelech of Gerar, the difference appears more strikingly. Abimelech, in the present chapter, is accompanied not only by the chief captain of his army, but also by his friend, i.e., Ahuzzath, his private counsellor. Isaac animadverts on his hatred, but not like Abraham, on the wells that had been taken away from him (see Gen 21:25). Even in the boasting assertion of Abimelech respecting his conduct toward Isaac—which the facts will not sustain—we recognize, apparently, another Abimelech, less noble than the former. This appears also in his demand of the imprecatory oath (אלה). It is also peculiar to Isaac that he permits a banquet, a feast of peace as it were, to precede the making of the covenant. The same day, after the departure of Abimelech, the servants, who had commenced some time before to dig a new well, found water. Their message seems to be a new reward of blessing, immediately following the peaceable conduct of Isaac. Isaac names this well as Abraham had done the one before (Gen 21:31); thus the name Beer-sheba is given to it also. [It is not said that this name was here given for the first time; but as the covenant concluded was the renewal and confirmation of the covenant of Abraham with the previous Abimelech, so the name is the renewal and confirmation of that given by Abraham. The same name is appropriate to both occasions.—A. G.] The existence of both these wells bears witness to the credibility of this fact. Keil. Knobel, of course, regards this as an entirely different tradition. But Delitzsch remarks: To all appearance, Isaac, in the naming of this well, followed the example of his father in naming the well situated near it; since in other cases he renewed the old names of the wells.—BUNSEN: To swear, to the Hebrew, signifies, “to take sevenfold,” or, “to bind oneself to seven holy things, referring to the Aramaic idea of God as Lord of Seven; i.e., of the seven planets (Sun, Moon, Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn).” The remembrance of the seven sacrifices or pledges of the covenant, is far more probable, unless the expression is to be regarded as signifying a seven-fold degree of ordinary certainty.


1. Isaac’s holy elevation of soul at his return from the country of the Philistines to his old home, Beer-sheba, crowned by a promise and a glorious appearance of God.

2. The divine promise renewed; see above.

3. Isaac at Beer-sheba. He builds an altar to the Lord before a tent for himself. In the establishment of the worship of Jehovah, in this testimony to him, as he calls upon his name, and in his preaching, he is a worthy heir of his father.

4. Human covenants are well established, if a divine covenant precedes and constitutes their basis.

5. Isaac in his yielding, his patient endurance and concessions, a terror to the king.

6. Isaac’s feast of peace with Abimelech, a sign of his great inoffensiveness.

7. The solemnity of the well, and on the same day with the feast of peace, or, the blessing of noble conduct.

8. Abraham prefers to dwell in the plains (Moreh, Mamre), and he planted trees. Isaac prefers to reside at wells, and he is fond of digging wells.


See the Doctrinal and Ethical paragraphs. The rich contents of the term: God of Abraham. It declares: 1. That the eternal God has made a covenant with us imperishable beings (Luke 20:37, 38); 2. the continuity, the unity, the unchangeableness, of the revelation of Jehovah through all times and developments; 3. the transmission of the hereditary blessing from the believing father to the believing children.—How the expression, in the history of the patriarchs, fear not (Gen 15:1; 26:24; 28:15), goes through the whole scriptures until it reaches its full development in the angelic message of the birth of Christ (Luke 2:10), and at the morning of his resurrection.

STARKE: CRAMER: God always supports his church, and builds it everywhere (Isa. 51:6). Whatever a Christian undertakes, he ought to undertake in the name of the Lord (Col. 3:17). When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him (Prov. 16:7; Gen. 33:4).—Lawful alliances and oaths are permitted (Deut. 6:13).—GERLACH: At this place, remarkable, already, during the life of Abraham, the Lord renews the assurance of his grace, as afterwards to Jacob (Gen 46:1); whilst, in the consecration of individual places, he connected himself with the child-like faith of the patriarchs, and satisfied the want to which it gave rise.

SCHRÖDER: The least thing we sacrifice for the sake of God, he repays, by giving us himself (Berl. Bib.). Whenever Jehovah calls himself God of Ahraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he shows, thereby, in each day’s revelation of himself to Israel, the ground and occasion of the same in the revelation that is past—thus connecting the new with the old, while presenting the grace shown to the posterity, as a necessary consequence of that which he had covenanted to their fathers’ fathers. True religion is essentially historical; history (not fanciful myths) is its foundation and limits. God is our God, because he has made himself our God by repeated acts in history. In the kingdom of God everything develops and progresses; there is no past without a future, nor a future without a past.—Abraham received the promise respecting the Messiah in the name of all the faithful; if, now, Isaac and every believer be blessed for the sake of Abraham, he is blessed merely for the sake of the promise that was given to Abraham, and, therefore, for the sake of Christ (Roos).—Isaac is mindful of his sacerdotal office, as soon as he takes up his abode (Berl. Bib.).—The Abimelech mentioned here is more cunning than his father, for he pretends to know nothing about the taking away of Isaac’s wells by his servants (Luther).—Such is the course of the world. Now insolent, then mean. He who wishes to live in peace with it (which is true of all believers) must be able to bear and suffer (Roos).—The Abimelech of Gen 21 uses Elohim, a word proper to him; the one in the present chapter, not caring much about the affair, says Jehovah, because he constantly heard Isaac make use of this divine name. He accommodates himself to the feast of Isaac, as Laban in Gen 24 (Rom. 12:20; Jos. 9:14; 2 Sam. 3:20; Isa. 25:6; Luke 14:17.)—The divine blessing of this conciliatory and humble love, did not exhaust itself in temporal things. Isaac contended and suffered for the sake of wells; as to the wells which he digged soon after his arrival at Beer-sheba, it happened on the very day he made the covenant and swore, etc.—The relation, of which the name Beer-sheba was the memorial, had ceased to exist. But by the repetition of the fact, the name regained its significance and power, and was the same as if now given for the first time (Hengstenberg).


3[Gen 26:24.—אָנֹכִי The pronoun is emphatic—I the God, etc.—A. G.]

4[Gen 26:25.—‏‏יַיֶט. Not the usual word for the pitching a tent, see verse.17. The term may be chosen with reference to the permanence of his abode, or the increase of his family and retinue.—A. G.]

5[Gen 26:28.—Lit., Seeing we have seen.—A. G.]

6[Gen 26:29.—Lit., If thou shalt. The usual Hebrew form of an imprecation or oath.—A. G.]

And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:

Isaac’s sorrow over Esau’s marriage with the daughters of Canaan

CHAPTER 26:34, 35

34And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith [celebrated?] the daughter, of Beeri7 [heroic son? Fontanus?] the Hittite, and Bashemath [lovely, בֹּשֶׂם, fragrance, spicy] the daughter of Elon [oak-grove, strength] the Hittite: 35Which were a grief of mind8 [a heart-sorrow] unto Isaac and Rebekah.


Esau was forty years old.—Isaac, therefore, according to Gen 25:26, was about 100 years.—According to Gen 28:9, he took Mahalath as his third wife, together with the two mentioned here. These names are mostly different, as to form, from those of Gen 36:2, etc. The points of resemblance are, first, the number three; secondly, the name of Bashemath; third, the designation of one of them as the daughter of Elon, the other as a daughter of Ishmael. In respect to the dissimilarities and their solution, see KNOBEL, p. 278, on Gen 36; DELITZSCH, 505; KEIL, 229.—Which were a grief of mind.—Lit.: “a bitterness of spirit.” Their Canaanitish descent, which, in itself, was mortifying to Esau’s parents, corresponds with the Canaanitish conduct. It is characteristic of Esau, however, that, without the counsel and consent of his parents, he took to himself two wives at once, and these, too, from the Canaanites. Bashemath, Ahuzzath, Mahalath (Gen 28:9) are Arabic forms.


1. Esau’s ill-assorted marriage a continuance of the prodigality in the disposal of his birthright.

2. The threefold offence: 1. Polygamy without any necessary inducement; 2. women of Canaanitish origin; 3. without the advice, and to the displeasure of his parents.

3. The heart-sorrow of the parents over the misalliance of the son.—How it produced an effect in the mind of Rebekah, different from that produced in the mind of Isaac.


See Doctrinal and Ethical paragraphs.

STARKE: LANGE: Children ought not to marry without the advice and consent of their parents.—CRAMER: Next to the perception of God’s wrath, there is no greater grief on earth than that caused by children to their parents.—GERLACH: Esau may be regarded as a heathen, already and before his expulsion from the line of blessing.—CALWER Handb.: Took two wives. Opposed to the beautiful example of his father.—In addition to the trials undergone up to this time, domestic troubles are now added. It is very possible that this act of disobedience toward God and his parents, of which Esau became guilty by his marriage, matured the resolution of Rebekah, to act as related in Gen 27.—SCHRÖDER: The notice respecting Esau, serves, preëminently, to prepare for that which follows (Esau’s action). A self-attestation of his lawful expulsion from the chosen generation, and, at the same time, an actual warning to Jacob.—Lamentation and grief of mind appeared when he was old, and had hoped that his trials were at an end (Luther).


7[Gen 26:34.—Beeri, of a well.—A. G.]

8[Gen 26:35.—The margin, lit., bitterness of spirit.—A. G.

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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