- Locate the passage
Genesis 26 seems to be an interruption of the flow of thought between Genesis 25 and 27. In this chapter, the focus is on Isaac and not on Jacob. Like Genesis 34 (which also interrupts the Jacob Cycle) and 38 (which interrupts the Joseph cycle), this chapter seems to awkwardly impede the narrative flow. Yet, the significance of this chapter is that God has promised Isaac that the Covenant flows through him and that God’s presence will be with him (26:3; 24). This divine promise of the “with-ness” of God is the one distinguishing component of God’s promise to Isaac that was not a part of God’s promise to Abraham.
This passage is narrative. It records the instructions from the Lord to Isaac, the conversations between the men of Gerar and Isaac, and Abimelech’s rebuke of Isaac.
- Determine the structure of the passage
26:1-6 – God promises Isaac his faithfulness
26:7-11 – Isaac responds to God’s promise with fear instead of faith
- Exegete the passage
Genesis 26 contains a number of striking parallels between Abraham and Isaac.
- Both Abraham and Isaac receive God’s promise of blessing (ironically, immediately in the text before their deceit).
- Both Abraham and Isaac were impacted by a famine.
- Both Abraham and Isaac had wives who were described as “beautiful.”
- Both Abraham and Isaac lied to the king of Gerar (who is also named “Abimelech” in both accounts) claiming that their wives were their sisters.
- Both Abraham and Isaac prospered in the land
- Both Abraham and Isaac had disputes with Abimelech over wells they dug.
- Both Abraham and Isaac built altars to worship the Lord
- Both Abraham and Isaac entered into a covenant with the king of Gerar
- For both Abraham and Isaac, the 2nd born son was the child of promise.
- For both Abraham and Isaac, their 1st born son married outside of their family
Gen. 26:1-11 resembles both incidents in which Abraham lied about Sarah (Gen. 12:10-20 and 20:1-18). However, three differences stand out. First, Sarah actually was Abraham’s sister; Rebekah was not Isaac’s sister. Second, Sarah was actually taken to the king of Gerar’s house; Rebekah was not taken. Third, the king of Gerar financially blessed Abraham after the Patriarch lied about Sarah (Gen. 20:14); the text does not record that Isaac received any financial recompense from the king of Gerar (because Rebekah was not taken).
Genesis 25 describes how Jacob obtained the birthright from his brother and Genesis 27 details his deception in order to obtain the blessing. This chapter reveals that the real blessing of the land which Jacob seems to desire, would not come ultimately from his father, but from the Lord. It is his blessing that matters.
26:2 – A theophany
- The Lord appeared to Isaac.
- See other uses of this word in the form of a theophany – Gen. 12:7; 17:1; 18:1; 26:24; 35:9). The root of this Hb. word is ra’ah, which means to see. Thus, the implication is that this theophany was some kind of a vision.
26:2 – Do not go
- Gen. 12:10 – The Lord did not instruct Abraham to go down to Egypt. Abraham seems to have gone there out of fear. Note that the immediate next pericope shows Abraham returning to the land from which he should not have left. Isaac was to avoid the error of his father in going down to Egypt.
- Abraham was instructed by God to go to a land “which I will show you” (Gen. 12:1) and Isaac was to live in the land “of which I shall tell you” (26:2).
- When God first called Abraham, He called him to go; when God first called Isaac, he called him to stayWenham, Gordon J. Genesis 16-50, Word Biblical Commentary vol 2 (Dallas: Word Books, 1994), 189..
- But, if I believe God told me to stay, I should trust that He will provide.
26:3-5 – The Lord’s Covenant Promise to Isaac
- Note the distinguishing features of God’s promise to Isaac that were not a part of God’s promise to Abraham
- I will be with you (cf. 26:24)
- Because Abraham obeyed
26:6 – Isaac was obedient to the direction of the Lord and
26:7 – Isaac lies to the “men of the place” rather than asking his wife to lie for him. He lies out of fear for safety because he knows Rebekah is “beautiful.”
- Like his father, Isaac was willing to risk his wife’s danger for his own safety.
26:8-10 – the king of Gerar witnessed Isaac showing affection to his wife. He rebukes Isaac, because although she was not taken as another man’s wife, it could have happened.
- The Lord protected Rebekah from danger, despite the carelessness of her husband.
26:10 – “What have you done?”
- This is almost the exact same question in Hebrew that Abimelech asked Abraham (Cf. Gen. 20:9)
26:11 – Like Pharaoh did after Abraham lied to him (Gen. 12:20) and Abimelech seems to have done after Abraham lied to him (Gen. 20:8), the king of Gerar commands his men not to harm Rebekah.
- Let the structure of the text drive the sermon
Exp. This passage begs the question, “what kind of circumstances would it take for you not to trust in God?” Isaac faces famine, enemy territory, and fear. But instead of responding in faith, he responded in fear.
- Living by faith
- Isaac avoided the sin of his father when he obeyed God and did not go to Egypt
- But, if I trust God to lead, I must also trust Him to provide and protect
- Living by fear
- Isaac gave in to the same sin as his father when he lied out of fear
- Living in Faith and not in Fear
- When God’s presence and promise isn’t enough for me
- When “I am with you” is trumped by “they might hurt me.”
- Sin passed on
- Though Isaac doesn’t even have the lame rationalization as his father, since Rebekah wasn’t actually his sister
- What kind of legacy am I leaving behind for my children?
- In the end, Isaac, like his father before him cursed the people he was supposed to bless; and brought “guilt” (26:10) on those to whom he was intended to proclaim “forgiveness.”
- You can trust God for the direction of your life
- You can trust God for the protection of your life (and your wife!)
|↑1||Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 16-50, Word Biblical Commentary vol 2 (Dallas: Word Books, 1994), 189.|