Sunday, December 5, 2010

Genesis 26:12-22 Isaac Flourishes and Neighbors Fume

These verses indicate that the blessing of God was indeed upon Isaac.  He sows crops and the returns are a hundredfold.  Scripture is careful to note that this fruitfulness was "because the Lord blessed him." (Genesis 26:12 NIV)  Isaac continues to grow rich, and then even wealthy, much to the dismay of his neighbors, who evidently are not experiencing the same gains. (V.13)  Not only his crops, but also his animals were flourishing, until "He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him.  So all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth." (Genesis 26:14-15 NIV)

King Abimelech soon takes action, and requests that Isaac leave the area.  "Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us." (v.16)  Years later, the Pharaoh of Egypt will voice a similar complaint about the rapidly multiplying Israelites in his land.

Isaac complies with the king's request.  He moves to the Valley of Gerar and settles there, reopening the wells which were dug during his father Abraham's time.  These wells had been stopped up after Abraham died.  Isaac gave these wells the same names which his father Abraham had called them. (v.17-18)

While they were there in the Valley of Gerar, Isaac's servants discovered a well of fresh water.  However, this soon became a point of contention to the herdsmen of Gerar, who claimed the water as their own.  Isaac named the well Esek (dispute), and moved on to dig another well.  When the local herdsmen quarreled over that well, Isaac named it Sitnah (quarrel) and moved on to another location. (v. 19-22)  Finally, the last well Isaac's men dug was far enough away that no one quarreled over it.  Isaac named this well Rehoboth (room) saying, "...'Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.' " (Genesis 26:22 NIV)

Isaac handled this potentially dangerous situation with great patience.  He must have wondered if they were ever going to be allowed to live in peace.  I wonder if the Lord allowed these disputes to arise so that Isaac and his household would not be living too close to their neighbors, who were not worshiping the Lord.  Not that God did not care about these people, but He was still developing His people, and if they had lived in too close a proximity to the Philistines, there was always the danger that they might just be assimilated before they were ever a people.  The text does not say that this was the reason behind these events, but it is a possibility that this was the reason for their ongoing trials.

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