12 Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him.
13 The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous;
14 for he had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him.
15 Now the Philistines had stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, and they had filled them with earth.
16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”
17 Then Isaac departed from there and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.
18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them.
19 Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there.
20 But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they quarreled with him.
21 Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah.
22 And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
23 Then he went up from there to Beersheba.
24 And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.”
25 So he built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
26 Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath, one of his friends, and Phichol the commander of his army.
27 And Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?”
28 But they said, “We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you. So we said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you,
29 that you will do us no harm, since we have not touched you, and since we have done nothing to you but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.’ ”
30 So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank.
31 Then they arose early in the morning and swore an oath with one another; and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.
32 It came to pass the same day that Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.”
33 So he called it Shebah. Therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.
The wells of Genesis have significant names and are associated with significant events: (1) Beer-lahai-roi, “the well of Him who liveth and seeth me” (Genesis 16:14; 24:62; 25:11). (2) Beeer-sheba, “the well of the oath” or “covenant” (Genesis 21:25-33; 22:19; 26:23-25; 46:1-5). (3) Esek, “contention” (Genesis 26:20). (4) Sitnah, “hatred” (Genesis 26:21). Esek and Sitnah were Isaac’s own attempts at well-digging. Afterward he dwelt by the old wells of his father. and (5) Reho-both, “enlargement” (Genesis 26:22). Upon Isaac’s return to Beer-sheba, the Lord made Himself known. —Schofield, page 39-40.
In verse 12 occurs the first mention of seed-sowing in the Bible, along with the information that the Lord blessed it with a hundredfold increase. Seed-sowing is frequently used in the New Testament as symbolic of witnessing; and it is noteworthy that the first mention is in the familiar parable of the sower, in which the good seed likewise brought forth a hundredfold (Matthew 13:23).
Isaac at this point prospered so greatly that his power began to eclipse even that of Abimelech and the Philistines. His herds and flocks, the richness of his crops, the increasing number of his servants, became so great that the envy of the Philistines, already vexed because of Abimelech’s protection of him, finally led to retaliation.
An adequate supply of water was, of course, absolutely necessary for Isaac’s operation; and this was obtained from the man wells dug by Abraham, his father, in the Philistine country. The Philistines decided to plug up all these wells and to force him out of their country. Abimelech himself called on Isaac to depart from their land, since he had become more powerful than his own nation. — Morris, page 422.
Isaac could have resisted this demand, since the earlier Abimelech had given his father the right to dwell anywhere in the land he might choose (Genesis 20:15), and since the wells belonged to Abraham by right of construction. Also he might well have been able to defeat the Philistines colonists in battle, if it had come to that, since he now had ample manpower.
Isaac chose to let them have their way. He moved away, therefore, from the capital, going east and further up the valley of Gerar. Here there were other wells which Abraham had constructed, but these had already been plugged up when Abraham died. … Isaac embarked on a program of reopening these wells … He used the same names Abraham had given them.
In addition, his servants dug another well, evidently lower in the valley, and this turned out to be an artesian well, a well of “living water.” The Philistine herdsmen, however, claimed this water belonged to them … Rather than argue the point, Isaac instructed his own herdsmen to let them have the well and to dig another farther up the valley. He gave the first well the ironic name of Esek (the “Quarrel Well”). They proceeded to dig the second well, but the men of Gerar followed them there and demanded that well also.
Isaac then named it Sitnah (the “Hatred Well”) and again gave it to them. He moved much further away this time, beyond any region to which the Philistines had any reasonable claim. Finally, this time the men from Gerar no longer followed him; so the new well he dug was called Rehoboth (“the Well of Ample Room”). Isaac left some of his flocks and herds in this location, with their herdsmen, while he himself went on still farther. — Morris, page 423.
While the well-digging was under way at Beersheba, a delegation of the Philistines again appeared—this time none less than King Abimelech himself, along with his chief captain Phichol and another man. … They knew Jehovah was blessing Isaac and that he was growing stronger all the time. Now that he was out of their land, they decided it was the policy of wisdom to stay on good terms with him. … They proposed a mutual nonaggression treaty, somewhat like the one Abraham and the earlier Abimelech had made on this same spot nearly a century before. Isaac was quite agreeable, especially after his recent encounter with God.
As they were departing … Isaac’s servants came to him with the happy news that the well they were digging had struck a good supply of water. It was appropriate that the well be called “the Well of the Oath” (Beersheba), not only because of the pact signed that day, but also because of the similar covenant and name assigned the place by Abraham long ago. No doubt Isaac had in mind God’s great covenant, which He had confirmed to him here. — Morris, page 425.
Isaac at length makes his way from amongst the Philistines, and gets up to Beersheba. “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 the, and will bless thee.'” Mark, it was not the Lord’s blessing merely, but the Lord Himself. And why? Because Isaac had left the Philistines, with all their envy and strife and contention, behind, and gone up to Beersheba. Here the Lord could show Himself to His servant. The blessings of His liberal hand might follow him during his sojourn in Gerar, but His presence could not there be enjoyed. To enjoy God’s presence, we must be where He is, and He certainly is not to be found amid the strife and contention of an ungodly world; and hence, the sooner the child of God gets away from all such, the better. It is a very common error to imagine that we serve the men of this world by mixing ourselves up with them in their associations and ways. The true way to serve them is to stand apart from them in the power of communion with God, and thus show them the pattern of a more excellent way.
The true way to act on the hearts and consciences of the men of the world is to stand in decided separation from them, while dealing in perfect grace toward them. — Mackintosh, page 264-265.
The patriarchal parallels continue: just as Abram’s “chain of sin” in Genesis 12:10-20 was followed in chapter 13 by the depiction of strife between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen over the land’s resources, so too in this present passage we are told that the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac over the preciously rare Middle Eastern commodity—water. To his credit, though Isaac’s entourage undoubtedly outnumbers and outpowers the Canaanite herdsmen (since he would have inherited, inter alia, the formidable fighting force of Abram described in Genesis 14:14-15), he patiently moves on from each disputed site until he found a location that the herdsmen did not quarrel over. Then, just as to his father Abram (see Genesis 13:14-17; 15:1), God subsequently affirms His covenant protection and provision for Isaac, in exemplary response to which the patriarch built an altar … and called upon the name of the Lord. — Wechsler, pages 227-228.
That this is the same Abimelech who interacted with Abraham—which view we incline to—is supported by the following observations: (1) the name of the commander of his army—i.e., Phicol—is the same in both accounts (see Genesis 21:22); (2) the life-span of man at this point is in the 200-year range (i.e., Terah died at 205 years; Abraham at 175, and Isaac at 180), which is perfectly consistent with a reign of 80-plus years; and (3) the initiative and wording of Abimelech’s covenant with Isaac is very similar—at points even identical—to that expressed by Abimelech in Genesis 21:22-23. More importantly, this passage stands as a testimony to God’s absolute, gracious sovereignty in evangelism, for here—just as in chapter 21—the patriarch fails to exhibit the confident trust and righteous behavior of a believer in the True God—even common human decency, doing what most people in general know “ought to be done” (see Genesis 20:9). And yet in both instances the one most directly sinned against (Abimelech) affirms, on his own initiative, not only a covenant of peace with the failed evangelist, but also the supreme sovereignty and gracious character of his God! Indeed, that Abimelech’s appreciation—and perhaps faith in—the True God has been deepening since his encounter with Abraham is tantalizingly suggested by the fact that, whereas he only employs the general term “God” (Elohim) in his meeting with Abraham, he here refers to Him when talking to Isaac by His covenant name “Yahweh.” — Wechsler, pages 228-229.
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