Richard Agee

Genesis 26: Yitzkhak flees a famine, digs wells in Canaan

Yitzhkak (Isaac) seems to have repeated a number of events from Abraham’s life: a famine and claiming his wife was his sister. Yitzkhak also seems to have been obsessed with digging wells, but what should get our attention are messianic symbols of three days of live and death in the ground.

Richard AgeeFamines seem to be very commonplace in our day, but this is only the second famine recorded in all of Scripture. The weather does not control itself. It is not controlled by “Mother Nature” but by the one God of Abraham, Yitzkhak (Isaac) and Ya’akov (Jacob). God brought this famine on the land to cause Yitzkhak to move towards Gerar. 

God is control Yitzkhak’s life because of His promise to Abraham. God physically appeared to Yitzkhak and commanded him not to go to Egypt. God promised to bless Yitzkhak for the sake of the promise to Abraham. He promised the land to Yitzkhak. All the promises to Abraham were ultimately passed to Yitzkhak. Although Abraham had other sons with other wives and concubines, they are not reckoned in the ultimate promise of the Promised Land or the promise to be the ancestors of the Messiah. 

God tells Yitzkhak, “Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.” 

My charge means that Abraham kept watch over himself and made sure he was walking the same way that God called him to walk. The commandments that Abraham received from God are not the 10 Commandments as we know them, but God did give Abraham obligations, or mitzvahs, or orders to perform. God also gave Abraham the statute of circumcision and other limits to his behavior. Abraham  obeyed and made sure all those under him obeyed as well. God is telling Yitzkhak that he needs to live the same way Abraham lived. 

The next part of the chapter, we read that when Yitzkhak and Rivkah (Rebecca) moved to Gerar, Yitzkhak told the people there that Rivkah was his sister and not his wife.

We don’t know how long Yitzkhak and Rivkah were in the area before the king Abimelech saw Yitzkhak’s excessive familiarity with Rivkah and realized they were husband and wife. Once he realized this, Abimelech implored his people not to harm or molest Yitzkhak and Rivkah but then some time later, Yitzkhak’s household grew to be so powerful that envy of them had taken over. Yitzkhak had more money and possessions than Abimelech himself had so the Philistines threw Yitzkhak’s family out of their territory.

As Yitzkhak left the area, he found that several of the wells that Abraham had made had been filled in. The Philistines purposefully filled them in after Abraham had died. He reopened the wells of Abraham because he had plenty of men in his entourage to help him do so but the people of Gerar contended with Yitzkhak for most of them. 

Yitzkhak could have responded by going to war against the Philistines and he would have won because Yitzkhak’s household had even more men and money than Abraham had yet he chooses not to fight, but instead moves to another well and kept moving until he returned to Beersheva. This is the first time Yitzkhak built his own altar to God and dug another well there. 

The story of Yitzkhak’s life seems to revolve around these wells. That this pattern is repeated should get our attention. Water is a symbol for life, but wells also represent death and burial. The pattern of three in this story has a Messianic reference. 

After Yitzkhak has settled in Beersheva, Abimelech and his entourage come to visit Yitzkhak. Yitzkhak asks, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?” They acknowledged that God was with Yitzkhak while he was living with them. It appears that Abimelech’s land might have been punished for the ill-treatment they heaped on Yitzkhak and his people. You have to give Abimelech credit, he was smart enough not to want to go against Yitzkhak because he knew that Yitzkhak and Yitzkhak’s God would have won that war handily. He wanted to bring peace back to his land instead. 

After Yitzkhak and Abimelech had exchange their oaths and Abimelech left, Yitzkhak’s servants found another well, in Beersheva, which Yitzkhak called Shibah. 

At the end of this chapter, we learn that Esau married two Hittite women when he was 40 years old. At this point, Yitzkhak is 100 years old.

The number 40 is an important number, symbolic of a time of trial. Noah was in the ark and it rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Yeshua was in the wilderness for 40 days and at the end, he endured a great trial. Moses had to go to the mountain two times for 40 days each to receive the 10 Commandments from God. 

Esau’s marriage with these Hittite women was a great trial for Yitzkhak and Rivkah too. 

Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.


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