וַיְהִי רָעָב בָּאָרֶץ מִלְּבַד הָרָעָב הָרִאשׁוֹן אֲשֶׁר הָיָה בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם וַיֵּלֶךְ יִצְחָק אֶל אֲבִימֶלֶךְ 26:1
מֶלֶךְ פְּלִשְׁתִּים גְּרָרָה
Gene. 26:1 Now there was a famine in the land different from the past famine that was in the time of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, of Gerar.
Abimelech? This must be the same Abimelech we were introduced to in Genesis 20 and 21. Or his son! If this chapter is in chronological order, then Isaac is over seventy years old. And Abraham met Abimelech when he was ninety. And Abraham died at the age of one hundred seventy-five (Gene. 25:7). That would make the original Abimelech at least eighty-five years older than when we first met him. But there’s a good possibility that this chapter is not chronological, that these events might even have occurred before Esau and Jacob were born. So the original Abimelech could have been alive and well. Also, why did Isaac go to Abimelech? To tell him that he was going to Egypt? According to the next verse, it looks like he was preparing to leave for there. Where was Gerar in relation to Beer-lahai-roi, the last place that we were told that Isaac had dwelled?
וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְהוָה וַיֹּאמֶר אַל תֵּרֵד מִצְרָיְמָה שְׁכֹן בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ 26:2
Gene. 26:2 But the Lord appeared to him and said, “You shall not go down to Egypt. Remain in the land that I will say to you.”
גּוּר בָּאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת וְאֶהְיֶה עִמְּךָ וַאֲבָרְכֶךָּ כִּי לְךָ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת כָּל הָאֲרָצֹת הָאֵל וַהֲקִמֹתִי אֶת 26:3
הַשְּׁבֻעָה אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ
Gene. 26:3 “Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and I will bless you, for I will give to you and to your seed all these lands and I will fulfill the oath that I swore to Abraham, your father.”
We find in this verse two first person imperfect verbs with non-inverting vavs (וְאֶהְיֶה, and I will be and וַאֲבָרְכֶךָּ, and I will bless you) and one first person perfect verb with an inverting vav (וַהֲקִמֹתִי:, and I will fulfill). It’s almost as if the scribe didn’t want to repeat himself again after the second time, so he included one tense-inverting vav. However, if this is the same scribe that recorded Genesis 12 and 24, he included three first person imperfect verbs with non-inverting vavs in one verse in each chapter: Gene. 12:2 and Gene. 24:47.
וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶת זַרְעֲךָ כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וְנָתַתִּי לְזַרְעֲךָ אֵת כָּל הָאֲרָצֹת הָאֵל וְהִתְבָּרְכוּ בְזַרְעֲךָ כֹּל 26:4
Gene. 26:4 “So I will increase your seed as the stars of the heaven, and I will give to your seed all these lands and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed by your seed,
[Return to Gene. 28:14]
Oddly enough, the scribe now includes two first person perfect verbs with inverting vavs (וְהִרְבֵּיתִי, So I will increase, and וְנָתַתִּי, and I will give). All of the six first person verbs in these two verses could have been imperfect with non-inverting vav prefixes.
עֵקֶב אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַע אַבְרָהָם בְּקֹלִי וַיִּשְׁמֹר מִשְׁמַרְתִּי מִצְוֹתַי חֻקּוֹתַי וְתוֹרֹתָי 26:5
Gene. 26:5 for the reason that Abraham listened to My voice and obeyed My charge, My commandments, My ordinances, and My laws.”
It appears from this verse that God chose Israel to be the people by which all the nations of the earth would be blessed because of Abraham’s faith and faithfulness. But an interesting aspect of this verse is the reference to commandments, ordinances, and laws. They had not yet been formulated. That had to wait until the time of Moses five hundred years later. Does this mean that God had given the Torah to Abraham orally before it was inscribed by Moses, and it was passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation after him? That’s a distinct possibility, but if this is true, Abraham must have received the Torah after God and the angels came to visit him in the desert in Genesis 18. Remember that Abraham served the men meat and milk at the same table, which was a violation of one of the most practiced laws in the Torah. However, later in Exodus I will refer to this verse again and present a different aspect of this incident. As an alternative at this point, may I suggest again that this verse might imply a later time for the scribe, perhaps caused by a lapse in judgment by him?
וַיֵּשֶׁב יִצְחָק בִּגְרָר 26:6
Gene. 26:6 So Isaac remained in Gerar.
וַיִּשְׁאֲלוּ אַנְשֵׁי הַמָּקוֹם לְאִשְׁתּוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲחֹתִי הִוא כִּי יָרֵא לֵאמֹר אִשְׁתִּי פֶּן יַהַרְגֻנִי אַנְשֵׁי 26:7
הַמָּקוֹם עַל רִבְקָה כִּי טוֹבַת מַרְאֶה הִוא
Gene. 26:7 And the men of the place asked him about his wife and he said, “She is my sister,” for he feared to say, “My wife (lest the men of the place should kill me over Rebekah, for she is beautiful to look at).”
וַיְהִי כִּי אָרְכוּלוֹ שָׁם הַיָּמִים וַיַּשְׁקֵף אֲבִימֶלֶךְ מֶלֶךְ פְּלִשְׁתִּים בְּעַד הַחַלּוֹן וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה יִצְחָק 26:8
מְצַחֵק אֵת רִבְקָה אִשְׁתּוֹ
Gene. 28:8 And it happened when he had been there a long time that Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out from the window and saw that, behold, Isaac was playing with Rebekah, his wife.
וַיִּקְרָא אֲבִימֶלֶךְ לְיִצְחָק וַיֹּאמֶר אַךְ הִנֵּה אִשְׁתְּךָ הִוא וְאֵיךְ אָמַרְתָּ אֲחֹתִי הִוא וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו 26:9
יִצְחָק כִּי אָמַרְתִּי פֶּן אָמוּת עָלֶיהָ
Gene. 26:9 And Abimelech called to Isaac and said, “Surely, behold, she is your wife. So how do you say, ’She is my sister?’” And Isaac said to him, “Because I said, ‘Lest I would die over her.’”
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲבִימֶלֶךְ מַה זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ לָּנוּ כִּמְעַט שָׁכַב אַחַד הָעָם אֶת אִשְׁתֶּךָ וְהֵבֵאתָ עָלֵינוּ אָשָׁם 26:10
Gene. 26:10 And Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? For one of the people had almost lain with your wife and would have brought guiltiness upon us.”
Very interesting! Adultery was sinful to Abimelech! Was it only to Abimelech, or to all the Philistines? Or did the scribe mistakenly put these words into Abimelech’s mouth so as to make the story plausible (again implying a later time for the scribe)? Or was he promulgating an established connection with the similar story about Abraham and Sarah when they went to Egypt (Gene. 12:14 ff)? In any case, something is strange here. Where are Esau and Jacob at this point? They have not been mentioned since Gene. 25:34. They must have been with Isaac and Rebekah. Why hadn’t they given away the fact that Isaac and Rebekah were married? These questions support a conclusion that this chapter is indeed out of chronological order (see v. 26:1).
וַיְrצַו אֲבִימֶלֶךְ אֶת כָּל הָעָם לֵאמֹר הַנֹּגֵעַ בָּאִישׁ הַזֶּה וּבְאִשְׁתּוֹ מוֹת יוּמָת 26:11
Gene. 26:11 And Abimelech charged all the people saying, “He who lays a hand on this man or on his wife shall surely be put to death.”
Are we seeing a result of the Lord’s blessing of Isaac? Probably.
וַיִּזְרַע יִצְחָק בָּאָרֶץ הַהִוא וַיִּמְצָא בַּשָּׁנָה הַהִוא מֵאָה שְׁעָרִים וַיְבָרְכֵהוּ יְהוָה 26:12
Gene. 26:12 Then Isaac sowed in that land and the Lord blessed him that it delivered a hundred fold in the same year.
וַיִּגְדַּל הָאִישׁ וַיֵּלֶךְ הָלוֹךְ וְגָדֵל עַד כִּ יגָדַל מְאֹד 26:13
Gene. 26:13 And the man increased and he grew greater and greater, to a degree that was very great.
וַיְהִילוֹ מִקְנֵה צֹאן וּמִקְנֵה בָקָר וַעֲבֻדָּה רַבָּה וַיְקַנְאוּ אֹתוֹ פְּלִשְׁתִּים 26:14
Gene. 26:14 And he had possession of flocks and possession of herds and a great household, that the Philistines envied him.
וְכָל הַבְּאֵרֹת אֲשֶׁר חָפְרוּ עַבְדֵי אָבִיו בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיו סִתְּמוּם פְּלִשְׁתִּים וַיְמַלְאוּם עָפָר 26:15
Gene. 26:15 But all the wells that the servants of his father had dug in the time of Abraham, his father, the Philistines had closed them and made them full of earth.
It seems appropriate, in the light of v. 26:18 below, to use the past perfect tense for the Hebrew סִתְּמוּם, which is normally translated as closed them.
But more important, this verse leads to the suspicion that this chapter is not out of chronological order, since it appears that Abraham has been dead for a while. So Isaac was indeed at least seventy-five years old, Esau and Jacob had been born, and were perhaps at least teenagers, and we may be dealing with the original Abimelech’s son. I haven’t mentioned this before, but the name Abimelech can mean my father was king. This chapter, like many others, is surely mysterious, and displays undertones of a hidden story or message that is waiting to be revealed.
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲבִימֶלֶךְ אֶל יִצְחָק לֵךְ מֵעִמָּנוּ כִּי עָצַמְתָּ מִמֶּנּוּ מְאֹד 26:16
26:16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go from us, for you are more powerful than we.”
Verses 26:15 and 26:16 are the first instances of anti-Israel prejudice in the bible, and perhaps, in the world. It didn’t take long to show its ugly existence.
וַיֵּלֶךְ מִשָּׁם יִצְחָק וַיִּחַן בְּנַחַל גְּרָר וַיֵּשֶׁב שָׁם 26:17
26:17 So Isaac went from there and encamped in the valley of Gerar and dwelled there.
In v. 26:6 we learned that Isaac dwelled in Gerar. Here we are told that he left Gerar and dwelled in, probably, a nearby valley. The suggestion here is that Abimelech was king only of the city of Gerar.
וַיָּשָׁב יִצְחָק וַיַּחְפֹּר אֶת בְּאֵרֹת הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר חָפְרוּ בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיו וַיְסַתְּמוּם פְּלִשְׁתִּים 26:18
אַחֲרֵי מוֹת אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקְרָא לָהֶן שֵׁמוֹת כַּשֵּׁמֹת אֲשֶׁר קָרָא לָהֶן אָבִיו
26:18 And Isaac abided; then he redug the wells of water that they had dug in the time of Abraham, his father, which the Philistines had closed after the death of Abraham, and he called their names after the names which his father had called them.
וַיַּחְפְּרוּ עַבְדֵי יִצְחָק בַּנָּחַל וַיִּמְצְאו ּשָׁם בְּאֵר מַיִם חַיִּים 26:19
26:19 And the servants of Isaac dug in the valley and found a well of living water there.
The phrase living water found at the end of the verse probably refers to fresh and clean or moving water. However, it’s not likely that moving water would be found in a well. So I have to conclude that the phrase means fresh clean water. [Return to Levi. 14:5]
וַיָּרִיבוּ רֹעֵי גְרָר עִם רֹעֵי יִצְחָק לֵאמֹר לָנוּ הַמָּיִם וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם הַבְּאֵר עֵשֶׂק כִּי הִתְעַשְּׂקוּ עִמּוֹ 26:20
26:20 But the herdsmen of Gerar contended with the herdsmen of Isaac saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek because they quarreled with him.
The name Esek, עֵשֶׂק, is the fourth from last word and can be translated as contention.
וַיַּחְפְּרוּ בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת וַיָּרִיבוּ גַּם עָלֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ שִׂטְנָה 26:21
26:21 And they dug the next well and they also strove for that; so he called its name Sitnah.
The name שִׂטְנָה, Sitnah, the last word in the verse, can mean enmity. It’s derived from the noun which means Satan.
וַיַּעְתֵּק מִשָּׁם וַיַּחְפֹּר בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת וְלֹא רָבוּ עָלֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ רְחֹבוֹת וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי עַתָּה 26:22
הִרְחִיב יְהוָה לָנוּ וּפָרִינוּ בָאָרֶץ
26:22 And he removed from there and dug the next well, and they did not strive for that, so he called its name Rehovoth and he said: “For now the Lord has made room for us and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
The name Rehovoth, רְחֹבוֹת, fourth word from the end of the top line, can mean broad expanses.
וַיַּעַל מִשָּׁם בְּאֵר שָׁבַע 26:23
26:23 And he went up from there to Beer-sheba.
וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְהוָה בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא וַיֹּאמֶר אָנֹכִי אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ אַל תִּירָא כִּי אִתְּךָ אָנֹכִי 26:24
וּבֵרַכְתִּיךָ וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶת זַרְעֲךָ בַּעֲבוּר אַבְרָהָם עַבְדִּי
26:24 And the Lord appeared to him in the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham, your father. You shall not fear, for I am with you and I will bless you and I will increase your seed for the sake of Abraham, My servant.”
The strong implication here is that the Lord appeared to Isaac in a dream. There are also two first person perfect verbs with inverting vavs in this verse, וּבֵרַכְתִּיךָ, and I will bless you, and וְהִרְבֵּיתִי, and I will increase.
וַיִּבֶן שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ וַיִּקְרָא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה וַיֶּט שָׁם אָהֳלוֹ וַיִּכְרוּ שָׁם עַבְדֵי יִצְחָק בְּאֵר 26:25
26:25 And he built there an altar and he called on the name of the Lord and he pitched there his tent and the servants of Isaac dug a well there.
וַאֲבִימֶלֶךְ הָלַךְ אֵלָיו מִגְּרָר וַאֲחֻזַּת מֵרֵעֵהוּ וּפִיכֹל שַׂר צְבָאוֹ 26:26
26:26 Now Abimelech came to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath, his friend, and Phicol, the captain of his army.
וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יִצְחָק מַדּוּעַ בָּאתֶם אֵלָי וְאַתֶּם שְׂנֵאתֶם אֹתִי וַתְּשַׁלְּחוּנִי מֵאִתְּכֶם 26:27
26:27 And Isaac said to them, “Why do you come to me since you hate me and you have sent me away from you?”
וַיֹּאמְרוּ רָאוֹ רָאִינוּ כִּי הָיָה יְהוָה עִמָּךְ וַנֹּאמֶר תְּהִי נָא אָלָה בֵּינוֹתֵינוּ בֵּינֵינוּ וּבֵינֶךָ וְנִכְרְתָה 26:28
26:28 And they said, “Plainly we see how the Lord is with you, so we would say, ‘Let there be then an oath between us, between us and you, and let us make a covenant with you
Two more first person imperfect verbs with a non-inverting vav appear in this verse, וַנֹּאמֶר, so we would say, and וְנִכְרְתָה, and let us make.
אִם תַּעֲשֵׂה עִמָּנוּ רָעָה כַּאֲשֶׁר לֹא נְגַעֲנוּךָ וְכַאֲשֶׁר עָשִׂינוּ עִמְּךָ רַק טוֹב וַנְּשַׁלֵּחֲךָ בְּשָׁלוֹם 26:29
אַתָּה עַתָּה בְּרוּךְ יְהוָה
26:29 in case you might do evil with us. As we have not touched you and as we did to you only good and sent you away in peace, you then are blessed of the Lord.’”
So we find that Abimelech knew of the Lord, and respected His dominion. There’s also another rare first person imperfect verb with an inverting vav prefix here, וַנְּשַׁלֵּחֲךָ, and sent you away.
וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם מִשְׁתֶּה וַיֹּאכְלוּ וַיִּשְׁתּוּ 26:30
26:30 And he made a feast for them and they ate and drank.
I believe that this episode is intended to emphasize the contrast between the spirituality and dynamism of Abraham’s life with that of Isaac’s. Note the vague but strange similarity between the visit of angels and God to Abraham (Gene. 18:2) and this one of Abimelech and two of his aides to Isaac.
וַיַּשְׁכִּימוּ בַבֹּקֶר וַיִּשָּׁבְעוּ אִישׁ לְאָחִיו וַיְשַׁלְּחֵם יִצְחָק וַיֵּלְכוּ מֵאִתּוֹ בְּשָׁלוֹם 26:31
26:31 And they rose up in the morning and they swore, each man to his brother, and Isaac sent them away and they departed from him in peace.
וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא וַיָּבֹאוּ עַבְדֵי יִצְחָק וַיַּגִּדוּ לוֹ עַל אֹדוֹת הַבְּאֵר אֲשֶׁר חָפָרוּ וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ מָצָאנוּ 26:32
26:32 And it happened in the same day that the servants of Isaac came and they told him concerning the well that they had dug, and they said to him, “We have found water.”
וַיִּקְרָא אֹתָהּ שִׁבְעָה עַלכֵּן שֵׁם הָעִיר בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה 26:33
26:33 And he called it Shibah. Therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba until this day.
The name Shibah, שִׁבְעָה, can mean oath.
וַיְהִי עֵשָׂו בֶּן אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה וַיִּקַּח אִשָּׁה אֶת יְהוּדִית בַּת בְּאֵרִי הַחִתִּי וְאֶת בָּשְׂמַת בַּת אֵילֹן 26:34
26:34 Now Esau was forty years old when he took a wife, Judith, the daughter of Beeri, the Hittite, and Basemath, the daughter of Elon, the Hittite.
The story line brings back Isaac’s son, Esau, at this point as preparation for a popular Genesis episode to be related in the next chapter.
וַתִּהְיֶיןָ מֹרַת רוּח לְיִצְחָק וּלְרִבְקָה 26:35
26:35 And they were a bitterness of spirit to Isaac and to Rebekah.
They were apparently unhappy that Esau had not taken wives from their people. But nothing is known for sure. In any case, we may suspect from v. 26:34 that Isaac was now 100 years old. Their twins were born when Isaac was sixty years old (Gene. 25:26).
I have a theory about this chapter. I believe there are two distinct periods described and the first one is out of chronological sequence. The first period is described at the outset in vss. 26:1 to 26:11. Indeed Isaac was younger, the boys hadn’t been born yet, and this is the original Abimelech. The second period is found beginning with v. 26:14 and continuing to the end of the chapter. The transition between the two periods, perhaps a span of more than forty years, is presented in vss. 26:12 and 26:13.
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