November 10, 2014

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART III: HISTORY OF ISAAC AND JACOB. (Genesis 25:19-36:43)

Topic #A:ISAAC'S FAMILY AND SOME TROUBLES. (Genesis 25:19-26:35)                                                                                           

 

 


Lesson III.A.3: The Promises Extended to Isaac. (Gen. 26:1-5).                                                                                                                           

 

 

Gen. 26:1-5 (KJV)

 

1 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.

2 And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:

3 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;

4 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;

5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

 

 

Introduction

 

This chapter is about Isaac. In fact, it is the only chapter that is really about Isaac, and it just isn’t very thrilling. All he does is dig wells. It is surprising how little information Genesis offers about Isaac, in contrast to the many chapters devoted to Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph; but as I studied for this commentary I found that it contains a message from God. In fact, it is a very important message, and Paul stated it very accurately: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). This is a chapter that teaches patience, and some of us need that—certainly I am in that category. Yet we would not have you get the impression that patience is all that God wants of us. The Lord also had men like Abraham, like Jacob, like Joseph, and like David, men who were real go-getters and who were aggressive. God can use that also. But the life of Isaac has a great message for many of us. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 2:16, 17). In this chapter (26), Isaac, the beloved son has the covenant confirmed to him. Then we find him dropping into the same sin of unbelief as his father Abraham had done. Finally, we find him digging wells in the land of Gerar. This doesn’t seem to be very exciting but there is a message here for us; so let’s be sure not to miss it.

 

 

Commentary

 

1 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.

 

True faith is always tested, either by temptation within us or trials around us (James 1:1-18), because a faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted. God tests us to bring out the best in us, but Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us. In one form or another, each new generation must experience the same tests as previous generations, if only to discover that the enemy doesn’t change and that human nature doesn’t improve.

 

When Abraham arrived in Canaan, he found famine in the land, and faced his first serious test of faith (Genesis 12:10-13:4). His solution was to abandon the place God had chosen for him, the place of obedience, and, along with lot, to run to Egypt, thus establishing a bad example for his descendants who were prone to imitate him. The safest place in the world is in the will of God, for the will of God will never lead us where His grace can’t provide for us. Unbelief asks, “How can I get out of this,” while faith asks, “What can I get out of this?”

 

When Isaac faced this problem of a famine, he decided to go to Gerar[1], the capitol city of the Philistines[2], where he would live temporarily and get help from Abimelech. Isaac and Rebekah were probably living at Beer-lahai-roi at that time (Genesis 25:11), which means they traveled with their family and flocks about seventy-five miles northeast to get to Gerar. Even after arriving at Gerar, Isaac and Rebekah may have been tempted to go south to Egypt, though God had warned them not to consider that possibility (v. 2).

 

Isaac’s parallels to Abraham are numerous:

  1. A famine (12:10)
  2. A plan to go to Egypt (12:11)
  3. The stay in Gerar (20:1)
  4. Out of fear calling his wife his “sister” (12;12, 13; 20:2, 11)
  5. The wife’s beauty (12:11, 14)
  6. Abimelech’s concern about committing adultery (20:4-7)
  7. Abimelech’s rebuke (20:9, 10)

 

This Abimelech was probably not the same Abimelech as in chapter 20, for the events were almost ninety years apart. It is not impossible that Abimelech was a title (like Pharaoh or Caesar), for Achish (1 Samuel 21:10) was also known as Abimelech.

 

2 And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:

 

Isaac was on the verge of deciding to move on to Egypt to seek more plentiful food and pasturage, when the Lord appeared to him in a special theophany[3]. “The Lord” said to Isaac, “Go not down into Egypt?” Why did God say that to Isaac? Well, he had an example before him of his father who had run off down to the land of Egypt. This reveals the fact that “like father, like son,” sins are carried from father to son. You can talk about the generation gap all you want, but there is no generation gap of sin. It just flows from one generation to the other. Generally, the son makes very much the same mistakes that the father did, unless something intervenes.

 

Here again recurs the emphasis, so often seen in Genesis, upon God’s guidance in events, which is often not perceived, but always present. To Isaac it seemed that the obviously sensible thing was to go down to Egypt. In the land where he found himself there was a famine; in Egypt there would be food. Why should he stay where he was and be hungry, when he could go down to Egypt and be satisfied? But in the crowded civilization of Egypt he and all he represented would have been lost. God’s purpose was that the people of whom Isaac would be the predecessor (or, “forefather”) must develop its destiny in a more rugged land. If Abraham’s descendants had not stayed in Canaan, Israel as a people might never have emerged.

 

So, in verses 3 and 4, God gives definite instructions to Isaac at the time of famine. And he confirms the covenant he had made with Abraham.

 

 

3 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;

 

Abraham was now gone. He was dead! What would happen to God’s promises to him? Very simply, the promise would continue right on after his death. This chapter stresses by persuasive means that the promise continued to Isaac.

 

God permitted Isaac to remain in Philistia and promised to bless him. God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be greatly multiplied and one day would possess all those lands. Thus Isaac had a right to be there as long as God approved. (See Genesis 12:2-3; 13:16; 15:5; 17:3-8; 22:15-18)

 

 

4 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;

 

God says to Isaac, “Don’t leave this land, don’t go down to Egypt. I want to confirm with you the covenant which I made with Abraham.” And He repeats the threefold promise:

(1)  The land—“I will give unto thy seed all these countries.”

(2)The nation—“I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven”

(3)The blessing—“And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed”

 

 

5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

 

At this point God had not yet given the Mosaic Law; Abraham was not under the Mosaic system. God blessed Isaac for Abraham’s sake (v. 24), just as He has blessed believers today for the sake of Jesus Christ. However, the important thing is that, when God told Abraham something, he believed God and acted upon it. He demonstrated his faith by action. When you believe God, you act upon His promises. Faith is what you act on. Faith is something you step out on. Abraham believed God, and God counted it to him for righteousness. God is now telling Isaac that He wants him to be that same kind of man. The basic idea in 26:1-11 is that the descendants of the obedient servant Abraham would be blessed because of him, but they too had to exercise faith in order to enjoy the promised blessings. Genuine faith in God’s promises engenders a fearless walk with Him; but to cower in fear endangers the blessing and makes a mockery of faith.

 

The obedience of one man brought blessings to his descendants, and it was evidence of that faith, whereby, as a sinner, he was justified before God. The Lord gave the Abrahamic promises to Isaac (God’s presence, His blessing, possession of the land, and posterity as numerous as the stars (See 12:2, 3; 15:5-8; 17:3-8; 22:15-18; 28:13, 14). All this, God said, was because Abraham obeyed Me (lit. “obeyed My voice) and kept My requirements, My commands, My decrees, and My Laws. These are standard terms in the legal literature of the Old Testament. Abraham learned that true faith obeys God’s words.

 

Although Abraham was commended for his deeds, the Abrahamic covenant was an unconditional covenant grounded in God’s sovereign will (Leviticus 26:44, 45).

 

 

 

 


[1] A small settlement on the road to Egypt, about eleven miles southeast of Gaza.

[2] This tribe of people who originally sailed the Mediterranean Sea became fierce enemies of Israel when they settled along the southwest coast of Palestine. Though friendly to Isaac, they were forerunners of hostile descendent enemies.

[3] A manifestation or appearance of God to a person. In the Old Testament, God is depicted as appearing in human form, in natural calamity, in a burning bush, a cloud, or a gentle breeze—forms often associated with the divine "name" or "glory" (originally a visible halo accompanying the divine appearance). Old Testament theophanies are presented as actual historical events or as prophetic visions with symbolic overtones.

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