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.
Verse 1. - And there was a famine in the land (of Canaan), beside the first (i.e. first recorded) famine that was in the days of Abraham - at least a century previous (vide Genesis 12:10). And Isaac - who, since his father's death, had been residing at Hagar's well in the wilderness of Beersheba (Genesis 25:11) - went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar (cf. Genesis 20:1, 2; Genesis 21:22). Seventy or eighty years having elapsed since Abraham's sojourn in Gerar, it is scarcely probable that this was the monarch who then reigned.
And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:
Verse 2. - And the Lord (Jehovah, i.e. the God of the covenant and of the promise) appeared unto him, - only two Divine manifestations are mentioned as having been granted to the patriarch. Either the peaceful tenor of Isaac s life rendered more theophanies in his case unnecessary; or, if others were enjoyed by him, the brief space allotted by the historian to the record of his life may account for their omission from the narrative. Though commonly understood as having occurred in Gerar (Keil, Lange, Murphy), this appearance, is perhaps better regarded as having taken place at Lahai-roi, and as having been the cause of Isaac's turning aside into the land of the Philistines (Calvin) - and said, Go not down into Egypt - whither manifestly he had been purposing to migrate, as his father had done on the occasion of the earlier dearth (Genesis 12:10). Jacob in the later famine was instructed to go down to Egypt (Genesis 46:3, 4); Abraham in the first scarcity was left at liberty to think and act for himself. Dwell in the land which I will tell thee of (i.e. Philistia, as appears from the preceding verse).
Sojourn 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 the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;
Verse 3. - Sojourn in this land, - viz., Philistia (Murphy, Alford), though otherwise regarded as Canaan (Lange, Keil, Calvin) - and I will be with thee, and will bless thee. Of this comprehensive promise, the first part was enjoyed by, while the second was distinctly stated to, Abraham (cf. Genesis 12:2). God s presence with Isaac of higher significance than his presence with Ishmael (Genesis 21:20). For unto thee, and unto thy seed, will I give all these - הָאֶל, an archaism for הָאֵלֶּה (cf. Genesis 19:8, 25) - countries (i.e. Canaan and the surrounding lands), and I will perform the oath (vide Genesis 22:16) which I aware unto Abraham thy father.
And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
Verse 4. - And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven (vide Genesis 15:1-6), and will give unto thy seed all these countries (i.e. the territories occupied by the Canaanitish tribes); and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (cf. Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18).
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
Verse 5. - Because that Abraham obeyed (literally, hearkened to) my voice (a general description of the patriarch's obedience, which the next clause further particularizes), and kept my charge, custodierit custodiam (Calvin); observed my observances (Kalisch); the charge being that which is intended to be kept - my commandments, - i.e. particular injunctions, specific enactments, express or occasional orders (cf. 2 Chronicles 35:16) - my statutes, - or permanent ordinances, such as the Passover; literally, that which is graven on tables or monuments (compare Exodus 12:14) - and my laws - which refer to the great doctrines of moral obligation. The three terms express the contents of the Divine observances which Abraham observed.
And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:
Verse 6. - And Isaac dwelt in Gerar - as God had shown and enjoined him.
And 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, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.
Verse 7. - And the men of the place (i.e. the inhabitants of Gerar) asked him (literally, asked, or made inquiries; probably first at each other, though ultimately the interrogations might reach Isaac himself) of his wife (being in all likelihood fascinated by her beauty); and he said, - falling into the same infirmity as Abraham (Genesis 12:13; Genesis 20:2) - She is my sister: - which was certainly an equivocation, since, although sometimes used to designate a female relative generally (vide Genesis 24:60), the term "sister" was here designed to suggest that Rebekah was his own sister, born of the same parents. In propagating this deception Isaac appears to have been actuated by a similar motive to that which impelled his father - for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he (sc. to himself, the words describing the good man's secret apprehensions), the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; - the historian adding, as the explanation of his fears - because she was fair to look upon (vide Genesis 24:16).
And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.
Verse 8. - And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time (literally, when were prolonged to him there the days), that Abimelech king of the philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife - i.e. caressing and using playful liberties with her, which showed she was not a sister, but a wife - παίζοντα (LXX.), jocantem (Vulgate).
And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.
Verse 9. - And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said (sc. in my heart, or to myself), Lest I die for her.
And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.
Verse 10. - And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lain with thy wife, - literally, within a little (cf. Psalm 73:2; Psalm 119:87) one of the people might have lain with thy wife - and thou shouldest - i.e. (within a little) thou mightest - have brought (or caused to come) guiltiness upon us (cf. Genesis 20:9, where חַטָּאָה is used instead of אָשָׁם).
And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.
Verse 11. - And Abimelech charged all his (literally, the) people, saying, He that toucheth - in the sense of injureth (cf. Joshua 9:19; Psalm 105:15) - this man or his wife shall surely be put to death. The similarity of this incident to that related in Genesis 20. concerning Abraham in Gerar may be explained without resorting to the hypothesis of different authors, The stereotyped character of the manners of antiquity, especially in the East, is sufficient to account for the danger to which Sarah was exposed recurring in the case of Rebekah three quarters of a century later. That Isaac should have resorted to the miserable expedient of his father may have been due simply to a lack of originality on the part of Isaac; or perhaps the recollection of the success which had attended his father's adoption of this wretched subterfuge may have blinded him to its true character. But from whatever cause resulting, the resemblance between the two narratives cannot be held as destroying the credibility of either, and all the more that a careful scrutiny will detect sufficient dissimilarity between them to establish the authenticity of the incidents which they relate.
Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him.
Verse 12. - Then Isaac sowed in that land, - viz., Philistia. Though a distinct advance on the purely nomadic life pursued by Abraham, this did not imply fixed property in, or even permanent settlement on, the soil, "but only annual tenancy" thereof. Robinson (1. 77) mentions a colony of the Tawarah Arabs, about fifty families, living near Abu Zabel, in Egypt, who cultivated the soil and yet dwelt in tents. "The Biblical patriarchs were not mere Bedawin wanderers, like those who now occupy the Eastern deserts. They had large herds of cattle, which genuine Bedawins have not; they tilled the ground, which these robbers never do; and they accommodated themselves, without difficulty or reluctance, to town and city when necessary, which wild Arabs cannot endure" ('Land and Book,' p. 296) - and received in the same year an hundred-fold - literally, an hundred measures, i.e. for each measure of that which he sowed; an exceptional return even for Philistia, though "the country is no less fertile than the very best of the Mississippi Valley" ('Land and Book,' p. 557); and Arab grain stores at Nuttar-abu-Sumar, in the vicinity of Gaza, still proclaim the remunerative yield of its harvests (Robinson, vol. 1. p. 292). Herodotus (1. 193) speaks of two and three hundred-fold as having been reaped on the plain of Babylonia; but in Palestine the usual rate of increase was from thirty to a hundred-fold (vide Matthew 13:23). The reading "an hundred of barley" (LXX., Syriac, Michaelis) is not to be preferred to that in the Textus Receptus. And the Lord blessed him - as he had promised (ver. 3).
And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:
Verse 13. - And the man waxed great, - like his father before him (cf. Genesis 24:1, 35) - and went forward, - literally, went going, the verb followed by the infinitive expressing constant growth or progressive increase (cf. Genesis 8:3; Genesis 12:9; Judges 4:24) - and grew until he became very great - "as any other farmer would who reaped such harvests" ('Land and Book').
For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him.
Verse 14. - For he had (literally, there was to him) possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: - γεώργια πολλά (LXX.), i.e. much husbandry, the abstract being put for the concrete, "implying all manner of work and service belonging to a family, and so servants and tillage of all sorts" (Ainsworth); but the reference rather seems to be to the number of his household, or domestic slaves, plurimum familiae (Vulgate) - and the Philistines envied him. The patriarch's possessions (mikneh, from kanah, to acquire) excited jealous feeling (from root kana, to burn) in the breasts of his neighbors (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:4).
For 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.
Verse 15. - For all the wells which his father's servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father (vide Genesis 21:30), the philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth. This act, commonly regarded as legitimate in ancient warfare, was practically to Isaac an act of expulsion, it being impossible for flocks and herds to exist without access to water supplies. It was probably, as the text indicates, the outcome of envy, rather than inspired by fear that Isaac in digging and possessing wells was tacitly claiming the ownership of the land.
And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.
Verse 16. - And Abimelech said unto Isaac (almost leading to the suspicion that the Philistine monarch had instigated the outbreak of hostilities amongst his people), Go from us (a royal command rather than a friendly advice); for thou art much mightier than we. The same apprehension of the growing numbers and strength of Isaac's descendants in Egypt took possession of the heart of Pharaoh, and led to their enslavement (vide Exodus 1:9).
And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.
Verse 17. - And Isaac - perhaps not without remonstrance, but without offering resistance, as became a saint (Matthew 5:5; Romans 12:17, 18; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 3:9) - departed thence (i.e. from Gerar), and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, - a valley or nahal meant a low, flat region watered by a mountain stream. The Wady Gerar has been identified with the Joorf-el-Gerar, the rush or rapid of Gerar, three hours south-east of Gaza - and dwelt there.
And 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 the names by which his father had called them.
Verse 18. - And Isaac digged again - literally, returned and digged, i.e. re-dug (cf. 2 Kings 20:5) - the wells of water, which they (the servants of Abraham) had digged in the days Of Abraham his father; - from which it appears that Abraham had digged other wells besides that of Beersheba (Genesis 21:31) - for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: - which was a violation of the league into which Abimelech had entered with the patriarch (vide Genesis 21:23) - and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them - and with which Isaac was sufficiently acquainted.
And Isaac's servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water.
Verse 19. - And Isaac's servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water. Literally, living water (cf. Leviticus 14:5, 6; Zechariah 14:8; Revelation 21:6).
And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac's herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him.
Verse 20. - And the herdmen of Gerar - i.e. Abimelech's servants (Genesis 21:25) - did strive with Isaac's herdmen, - as Lot's with those of Abraham (Genesis 13:7) - saying, The water is ours: - literally, to us (belong) the waters - and he called the name of the well Esek ("Strife"); because they strove with him - the verb being עָשַׂק, to strive about anything.
And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah.
Verse 21. - And they digged another well (Isaac having yielded up the first), and strove for that also: - "The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water" (Proverbs 17:14) and he called the name of it Sitnah - "Contention" (from שָׂטָן, to lie in wait as an adversary; whence Satan); probably in Wady-es-Shutein, near Rehoboth (vide infra).
And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the LORD hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.
Verse 22. - And he removed from thence (yielding that too), and digged another well; and for that they strove not (perhaps as being beyond the boundaries of Gerar): and he called the name of it Reheboth; - i.e. "Wide spaces" (hence "streets," Genesis 19:2); from רָחַב, to be or become broad; conjectured to have been situated in the Wady Ruhaibeh, about eight and a half hours to the south of Beersheba, where are still found a well named Bir-Rohebeh and ruins of a city of the same name (Robinson, vol. 1. p. 289; Thomson, 'Land and Book,' p. 558) - and he said, For now the Lord hath made room (literally, hath made a broad space) for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.
And he went up from thence to Beersheba.
Verse 23. - And he (viz., Isaac) went up from thence (Rehoboth, where latterly he had been encamped) to Beer-sheba - a former residence of Abraham (Genesis 21:33), situated "near the water-shed between the Mediterranean and the Salt Sea" (Murphy), hence approached from the low-lying wady by an ascent.
And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said, I 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.
Verse 24. - And the Lord appeared unto him the same night (i.e. the night of his arrival at Beersheba), and said (in a dream or vision), I (the pronoun is emphatic) am the God (the Elohim) of Abraham thy father (the language is expressive not alone of the covenant relationship which subsisted between Jehovah and the patriarch while the latter lived, but also of the present continuance of that relationship, since Abraham, though dead, had not ceased to he): fear not (cf. Genesis 15:1, in which the same encouraging admonition is addressed to Abraham after his battle with the kings), for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed - a repetition of promises already given to himself (vide vers. 3, 4) - for my servant Abraham's sake - a reason declaring God's gracious covenant, and not personal merit, to be the true source of blessing for Isaac.
And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac's servants digged a well.
Verse 25. - And he (i.e. Isaac, in grateful response to the Divine Promiser who had appeared to him) builded an altar there, - the first instance of altar building ascribed to Isaac; "those erected by his father no doubt still remaining in the other places where he sojourned" (Inglis) and called upon the name of the Lord, - i.e. publicly celebrated his worship in the midst of his household (vide on Genesis 12:7, 8) - and pitched his tent there (the place being now to him doubly hallowed by the appearance of the Lord to himself as well as to his father): and there Isaac's servants digged a well - a necessary appendage to a flockmaster's settlement.
Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army.
Verse 26. - Then (literally, and) Abimelech went to him from Gerar, - the object of this visit was to resuscitate the alliance which had formerly existed between the predecessor of Abimelech and Abraham (Genesis 21:22-32); yet the dissimilarity between the two accounts is so great as to discredit the hypothesis that the present is only another version of the earlier transaction - and Ahuzzath one of his friends, - מֵרֵעֵהוּ; neither ὁ νυμφαγωγὸς αὐτοῦ (LXX.), nor a suite or number of his friends (Onkelos), nor one of his friends (A.V.); but his friend, and probably his privy councilor (Keil, Kalisch, Murphy), whose presence along with the monarch and his general marks the first point of difference between the present and the former incident - and Phichol (vide Genesis 21:22) the chief captain of his army.
And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?
Verse 27. - And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore - מַדּוּעַ, contr, from מָה יָדוּעַ, what is taught? - for what reason (cf. τί μαθών) - come ye to me, seeing (literally, and) ye hate me, and have sent me away from you? While animadverting to the personal hostility to which he had been subjected, Isaac says nothing about the wells of which he had been deprived: a second point of difference between this and the preceding narrative of Abraham's covenant with the Philistine king.
And they said, We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee;
Verse 28. - And they said, We saw certainly - literally, seeing we saw, i.e. we assuredly perceived, or, we have indeed discovered (vide Ewald's 'Hebrews Synt.,' § 312). Abimelech and his ministers first explain the motive which has impelled them to solicit a renewal of the old alliance - that the Lord was with thee: - the use of Jehovah instead of Elohim, as in Genesis 21:22, does not prove that this is a Jehovistic elaboration of the earlier legend. Neither is it necessary to suppose that the term Jehovah is a Mosaic translation of the epithet employed by Abimelech (Rosenmüller). The long-continued residence of Abraham in Gemr and Beersheba afforded ample opportunity for Abimelech becoming acquainted with the patriarch's God. The introduction of Jehovah into the narrative may be noted as a third point of dissimilarity between this and the previous account - and we said, Let there he now an oath - i.e. a treaty secured by an oath or self-imprecation on the transgressor (cf. Genesis 24:41; Deuteronomy 29:11, 13) - betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, - a farther particularization of the parties to the covenant for the sake of emphasis - and let us make a covenant with thee. The phrase "to cut a covenant," here used in a so-called Jehovistic portion of the history, occurs in Genesis 21:27, 32, which confessedly belongs to the fundamental document.
That 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 now the blessed of the LORD.
Verse 29. - That thou wilt do us no hurt, - literally, if thou wilt do us evil (sc. thy curse come upon thee!); the force being to negative in the strongest way possible any intention of injury (cf. Genesis 21:23) - as we have not touched thee, - i.e. injured thee; which was not true, as they, through their servants, had robbed Isaac of at least two wells - and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, - Abimelech's estimate of his own behavior, if exceedingly favorable to himself, is at least natural (vide Proverbs 16:2) - and have sent thee away in peace (without open violence certainly, because of Isaac's yielding, but scarcely without hostility): thou art now the blessed of the Lord. Regarded by some as an instance of adroit and pious flattery, these words are perhaps better understood as explaining either why Isaac should overlook the injuries which they had done to him (Calvin, Bush), or why he should grant them the oath which they desired (Ainsworth), - he requiring no guarantee of safety from them, since Jehovah was on his side (Murphy), - or why they had been stirred up to seek his favor and alliance (Rosenmüller).
And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink.
Verse 30. - And he made them a feast, - so Lot did to the angels (Genesis 19:3). There is no mention of any banquet in the case of Abraham's covenant, which may be noted as another point of difference between the two transactions. A similar entertainment accompanied Jacob's covenant with Laban (Genesis 31:54); while in the Mosaic system the sacrificial meal formed an integral part of the regularly-appointed sacrificial worship (Leviticus 7:15, 31; Deuteronomy 12:7, 17; vide Kurtz, 'Sacrificial Worship,' § 79) - and they did eat and drink.
And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.
Verse 31. - And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another - literally, a man to his brother. On the derivation of the verb to swear from the word for seven, see Genesis 21:23 - and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.
And 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.
Verse 32. - And it came to pass the same day (i.e. the day of the treaty), that Isaac's servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, - the operation of sinking this well had probably commenced on the day of Abimelech s arrival at Beersheba (vide ver. 25). Almost immediately on the king's departure the well-diggers returned to the patriarch's encampment to report the success of their operations - and said unto him, We have found water. The LXX., mistaking לו, to him, for לֹא, not, read, "We have not found water;" the incorrectness of which is sufficiently declared by what follows.
And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beersheba unto this day.
Verse 33. - And he called it Shebah ("Oath;" which he would certainly not have done had it not been a well): therefore the name of the city (which ultimately gathered round the well) is Beersheba - i.e. the well of the oath (vide Genesis 21:31). Isaac must have perfectly understood that the place had been so named by his father three quarters of a century previous; but either the name had been forgotten by others, or had not come into general use amongst the inhabitants, or, observing the coincidence between his finding a well just at the time of covenanting with Abimelech and the fact that his father's treaty was also connected with a well, he wished to confirm and perpetuate the early name which had been assigned to the town. It is not certain that this was Abraham s well which had been rediscovered; the probability is that it was another, since at Bir-es-Sheba two wells are still in existence (vide Genesis 21:31) unto this day - an expression used throughout Genesis to describe events separated from the age of Moses by several centuries (vide Genesis 19:37, 38; Genesis 22:14; Genesis 32:32).
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:
Verse 34. - And Esau was forty years old - literally, a son of forty years; the age of Isaac when he married Rebekah (Genesis 25:20) - when he took to wife Judith (Jehu-dith, "Celebrated," "Praised," if Shemitic; but the name is probably Phoenician) the daughter of Beeri - ("of a well"? "The Well-finder," vide Genesis 36:24) - the Hittits, and Bashemath ("Sweet-smelling," "Fragrant") the daughter of Elon the Hittite) - adding to them afterwards Maha-lath the daughter of Ishmael, and sister of Nebajoth (Genesis 28:9). On Esau's wives vide Genesis 36:2, 3.
Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.
Verse 35. - Which were a grief of mind (literally, bitterness of spirit) unto Isaac and to Rebekah - possibly because of their personal characters, but chiefly because of their Canaanitish descent, and because in marrying them Esau had not only violated the Divine law which forbade polygamy, but also evinced an utterly irreligious and unspiritual disposition.