November 18, 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.4: Trouble about Rebekah. (Gen. 26:6-11).                                                                                                                           

 

 

Gen. 26:6-11 (KJV)

 

6 And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:

7 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.

8 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.

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, Lest I die for her.

10 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.

11 And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.

 

 

Introduction

 

Issac could flee from famine, but when he put himself into a situation that offered no escape, he had to turn to deception and lies to protect himself. Abraham committed this same sin twice, once in Egypt (Genesis 12:14-20) and once in Philistia (chapter 20). Remember, faith is living without scheming; and telling lies seems to be one of humanities favorite ways to escape responsibility.

 

 

Commentary

 

6 And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:

 

Gerar is to the south. Abraham and Isaac both lived in the southern part of that land. Actually, Abraham had come into the land up north to Shechem, but he ended up living down in the southern part at Hebron, the “place of communion.”

 

 

7 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.

 

Isaac is repeating the sin of his father. God had warned him not to go to Egypt; so he didn’t go there but went to Gerar instead. In Gerar he must have seen men casting glances toward Rebekah; so he says to her, “You tell them you are my sister, not my wife.” When Isaac was asked about the woman that was with him, like his father Abraham before him, he said she was his sister[1]. But when Abimelech saw Isaac caressing Rebekah (vv. 8), he knew she was his wife. The difference between Abraham and Isaac is that Abraham told half a lie and Isaac told a whole lie. Why did Isaac lie? Because he was afraid his pagan host would kill him in order to obtain his beautiful wife. His life was evidence of his unbelief; for if he had claimed the covenant promise when he prayed for children (Genesis 25:21), why couldn’t he claim that same covenant promise to protect himself and his wife?

 

There is nothing about Isaac’s denial that should be imitated, or even excused. The sacred Historian is impartial and He has recorded it as a warning to believers, and to show that righteousness doesn’t come by the Law, but by faith in Christ.

 

 

8 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[2] with Rebekah his wife.

 

Abimelech observed, perhaps from his window, Isaac and Rebekah “horsing around,” laughing and playing, or perhaps they were kissing and hugging, showing more affection for each other than a person would express to his sister. It is clear from verses 10 and 11 that the king knew that the penalty for adultery was death, and that was probably what he was planning after seeing Isaac’s beautiful sister (at least Isaac lead him to believe she was his sister). This incident would remind Israel of the importance of preserving marriage for the future of the nation. When that mainstay goes, a society crumbles (if Isaac’s marriage would have ended, there would have been no Israelite society). For proof of this, you don’t have to look any farther than American society today. There are too many homes without fathers and too many children and young men are acting like criminals simply because they have no male influence in their lives and God is irrelevant to them. America needs to turn to God in order to salvage our nation.

 

This Abimelech was not the same person that Abraham encountered in his day, since nearly one hundred years elapsed between the two incidents. Abimelech was the common name of the Philistine kings. Abimelech himself discovered Isaac’s lie, charged him with fraud, showed him how frivolous his excuse was, and what might have been the unpleasant consequences of it. And then to convince him how groundless and unjust his jealousy of them was, he took him and his family under his particular protection, forbidding any injury to be done to Isaac or his wife, upon the penalty of death.

 

 

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, Lest I die for her.

 

When he found himself in difficulty, Isaac was tempted to run and to lie; and we face this same temptation today. Isaac succumbed to the temptation and was found out. It’s a sad day when unconverted people like Abimelech publicly expose God’s servants for telling lies. What an embarrassment to the cause of truth.

 

The choice of words in verses 9-11 is interesting. It is as if Moses was writing that Isaac’s lapse of faith—going to Gerar and calling his wife his sister—made a mockery of the great promise embodied in his mane. Isaac should have taken more seriously the covenant promises just given to him (Genesis 26:2-5).

 

So Isaac, like Abraham, received God’s great promise, but in fear he deceived Abimelech and made a mockery of the promised blessing. Fear mocks faith; faith boldly laughs in triumph. But a person who truly believes God’s promises obeys His statutes, precepts, and commands.

 

 

10 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.

 

Isaac had put these people in danger of committing a sin, a sin for which the penalty was death (v. 11).

 

When people lie or don’t keep their word, the foundations of society begin to shake and things start to fall apart. Happy homes, lasting friendships, thriving businesses, stable governments, and effective churches all depend on truth for their success.

 

 

11 And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.

 

A pagan king imposing the death penalty on anyone troubling Isaac or Rebekah suggests God was at work to preserve His chosen seed (see Genesis 26:28, 29). Israel’s great king wrote, He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm" (Psalm 105:14, 15).

 

Abimelech became a very good friend of Isaac’s. Isaac had the respect of the community, just as Abraham had had. Both of them were outstanding men. I mention that here because from the rest of the chapter we might not get the impression that Isaac is an outstanding man.

 

 

 

[1] Isaac’s was the greater sin, because he knew what had twice happened to his father, and Rebekah was not his sister. Abraham told a half-truth while Isaac blatantly lied.

[2] The word translated “sporting with” comes from the same Hebrew root as the name “Isaac,” which means “to laugh” or “to play” (see Genesis 17:17; 18:12-13, 15; and 21:6). While we commend them for their love, Isaac and Rebekah were engaging in expressions of affection that were better kept in the privacy of their home.

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