Genesis 26:1-25; 27:1-4 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. Describe the way in which Isaac handles the dispute over the wells. What godly attribute does he exhibit? See Genesis 26:12-22 (printed below)

Isaac planted crops in that land and that very year he reaped a hundredfold, because Jehovah blessed him (13) The man became rich; and his possessions increased until he had become very wealthy. (14) He had great flocks and herds, and a great many servants. And the Philistines envied him. (15) So all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of his father Abraham, the Philistines plugged up, filling them with dirt. (16) And Abimelech said to Isaac, Depart from us; for you have become much stronger than us. (17) So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the valley of Gerar, and settled there. (18) Isaac reopened the wells which had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, because the Philistines had plugged them up after the death of Abraham. He gave them the same names his father had given them. (19) When Isaac’s servants were digging in the valley they discovered there a source of spring water. (20) But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, The water belongs to us. So Isaac named the well, Esek, because they contended with him. (21) Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he named it Sitnah. (22) He moved on from there and dug yet another well. And they did not contend for it. So he named it Rehoboth, declaring, Now Jehovah has made room for us and we shall be fruitful in the land. (Genesis 26:12-22)

Isaac exhibits the attribute of Christ-like meekness in the incident described in Genesis 26:12-22. When the Lord causes Isaac to prosper, he becomes the object of the Philistines’ envy (verse 14). Motivated by malicious envy and fear, the Philistines plug up all the wells Isaac’s father, Abraham, had dug (verse 15). At the request of Abimelech, Isaac departs and resettled in the valley of Gerar—there he re-opens other wells previously dug by Abraham (verses 16-18). When Isaac discovers a source of spring water (verse 19), the herdsmen of Gerar claim the water as belonging to them (verse 20). Consequently, Isaac moves on and digs another well, but once again the herdsmen of Gerar raise a controversy, and for a second time Isaac relinquishes the water rights and moves on (verses 21-22). Rather than demanding his rights and setting off a full-scale war, Isaac displays a Christ-like meekness. All the while his confidence was in the Lord who was faithful to provide for him (note Genesis 26:22).

2. Based on the description of him given in Genesis 16:12 (printed below), how do you think Isaac’s half-brother, Ishmael, would have handled the dispute over the wells?

He shall be like a wild donkey among men. His hand shall be against every one, and every one’s hand against him; and he shall live in hostility towards all his brothers. (Genesis 16:12)

Isaac’s character and actions are in striking contrast to the description of Ishmael. Ishmael was “the tough guy;” in contemporary terms, you might picture him telling his social worker, “When I was still a kid, my father kicked me and my mom out of the house (Genesis 21:14). I grew up on the ‘streets’ of the wilderness, I learned to fend for myself and I take nothing from nobody!” It appears that his hard experiences early in life turned him into a rebel: hard, embittered, alienated, self-reliant, the complete opposite of Isaac. When confronted with the injustices described in Genesis 26:12-22, Ishmael would never have done what Isaac did.

3. Compare Isaac’s behavior with that of his father Abraham as described in Genesis 13:5-9 (printed below).

Now Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. (6)…because their possessions were so great, they could not live together. (7) There occurred a conflict between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle…(8) Then Abram said to Lot, I beg you, let there be no conflict between me and you, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. (9) Is not the whole land before you? I ask you, please separate yourself from me. If you will go to the left, then I will go to the right. Or if you will go to the right, I will go to the left. (Genesis 13:5-9)

When confronted with the disputes described in Genesis 26:12-22, Ishmael would never have done what Isaac did; but Isaac did exactly what Abraham had done before him The major difference between the two sons is that Isaac imitated the Christ-like meekness which he saw in his father, Abraham.

4. Does the godly attribute of Christ-like meekness mean that we should never protest against injustice? Note Genesis 21:25 (printed below)

Then Abraham rebuked Abimelech concerning the well that Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away from him. (Genesis 21:25)

Christ-like meekness does not mean that we may never protest against any injustice we might suffer; in Genesis 21:25 we find Abraham protesting the unjust treatment he suffered at the hands of Abimelech’s servants. But Christ-like meekness does mean that we do not take matters into our own hands; rather, when we are denied justice by legitimate means, we give our cause to God, as did our Lord Himself (cp. 1 Peter 2:23).

5. What does Isaac want to give to his son Esau (see Genesis 27:4, printed below?) Was his desire in accordance with God’s revealed will? See Genesis 25:23 (printed below)

Prepare for me some of the tasty food that I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat. Do this so that I may give you my blessing before I die. (Genesis 27:4)

Jehovah said to Rebekah, Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples coming from your bosom shall be separated. One people shall be stronger than the other, and the older (Esau) shall serve the younger (Jacob). (Genesis 25:23)

Genesis 27:1-4 relates an incident that occurred in the twilight years of Isaac’s life: his effort to bestow upon Esau the covenant blessing. Esau was the elder of Isaac’s twin sons, and he was also the son who was special to him (note Genesis 25:28), that is why Isaac sought to bestow upon him the covenant blessing. But at this point in his life, Isaac departed from a Christ-like meekness and sought to overrule God’s revealed will in favor of his own will. At the time of their birth, the Lord had revealed that it was His sovereign will that the covenant blessing should be bestowed upon the younger son, Jacob (Genesis 25:23).