Genesis 26: Isaac’s Adversarial Relationship with the Philistines; Esau’s Marriages

Fresh water from new well

Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

A famine strikes and Isaac settles in Philistine Gerar, where he presents Rebekah as his sister, gains protection from the king, and becomes very wealthy. The Philistines grow jealous and send him on his way to Beer Sheba. Isaac makes an oath (sh-v-‘) of peace with the Philistine king Abimelech, hence the name Beer Sheba (the well of sh-v-‘). Esau marries two Hittite girls, causing distress to his parents Isaac and Rebekah.

II. Photo

Water is found in Beer Sheba: “That same day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well that they had dug, and said to him, ‘We have found water!’”  (v. 32)

III. Select Verses

1-5: Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar, to King Abimelech of the Philistines. The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; settle in the land that I shall show you. Reside in this land as an alien, and I will be with you, and will bless you; for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will fulfill the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and will give to your offspring all these lands; and all the nations of the earth shall gain blessing for themselves through your offspring, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

7-10: When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister”; for he was afraid to say, “My wife,” thinking, “or else the men of the place might kill me for the sake of Rebekah, because she is attractive in appearance.” When Isaac had been there a long time, King Abimelech of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw him fondling his wife Rebekah. So Abimelech called for Isaac, and said, “So she is your wife! Why then did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought I might die because of her.” Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”

12-14: Isaac sowed seed in that land, and in the same year reaped a hundredfold. The LORD blessed him, and the man became rich; he prospered more and more until he became very wealthy.  He had possessions of flocks and herds, and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him.

23-25: From there he went up to Beer-sheba. And that very night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not be afraid, for I am with you and will bless you and make your offspring numerous for my servant Abraham’s sake.” So he built an altar there, called on the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.

34-35: When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite; and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.

IV. Outline

1-6. Isaac travels to Gerar

    1a. Another famine hits the land

    1b. Isaac travels to Abimelech, king of the Philistines in Gerar

    2-5. Yahweh tells Isaac to stay in the land and recapitulates his covenant with Abraham

    6. Isaac remains in Gerar

7-11. Isaac presents Rebekah as his sister

    7. Isaac presents Rebekah as his sister to save his own life

    8. Abimelech catches Isaac (root: tz-h-q) playing romantically (root tz-h-q) with Rebekah

    9-10. Abimelech chastises Isaac for potentially bringing punishment upon the Philistines, who would have slept with Rebekah

    11. Abimelech warns the Philistines not to touch Isaac or Rebekah

12-22. Isaac in Philistia 

    12-13. Isaac becomes a wealthy farmer in Philistia

    14-15. The Philistines grew envious and stopped up the wells dug by Abraham’s servants

    16. Abimelech tells Isaac to leave

    17. Isaac settles in the valley of Gerar and re-dug the wells of his father, giving them names

    19-20. The Philistines claimed the “contention” well their own

    21. The Philistines claimed the “hostility” well their own

    22. Isaac dug another well named Rehoboth “widening,” which he kept, because Yahweh made room for him to flourish

23-33. Isaac in Beer Sheba

    23. Isaac travels to Beer Sheba

    24. Yahweh appears to Isaac in a dream, blessing him with numerous offspring

    25a. Isaac builds an altar and calls in the name of Yahweh

    25b. Isaac’s servants dig a well there

    26-31. Abimelech comes to Isaac, makes an oath (shevuah) of peace over a meal, and departs in peace

    32-33. Isaac’s servants found water in their well, Isaac named the well “oath” (shevuah), hence the name Beer Sheba 

34-35. Troubles with Esau

    34. Esau marries Judith and Basemath, daughters of Hittites, at the age of forty

    35. This causes problems for Isaac and Rebekah

V. Comment


  • Regarding Isaac calling his wife Rebekah his “sister,” see Abraham’s similar actions with Sarah/Sarai in Egypt (Genesis 12:10-20) and in Gerar with Abimelech (Genesis 20:1-18).
  • Regarding the naming of Beer Sheba (verses 26-33), see Genesis 21:25-31 where the name is a reference to the seven (sheva’) ewes Abraham gave to Abimelech as proof that Abraham dug the well.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 25: The Death of Abraham; The Death of Ishmael; The Birth of Esau and Isaac; Jacob Purchases the Birthright

Curried-Lamb-Lentil-and-Root-Vegetable-StewHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Abraham, whose offspring with Keturah are listed, leaves everything he owns to Isaac, dies at the age of 175, and is buried alongside Sarah at the Cave of Machpelah. Ishmael, whose twelve sons are listed, dies at the age of 137. After twenty years of barrenness, Yahweh grants Rebekah and Isaac twins named Esau and Isaac. Jacob sells Esau some stew for Esau’s birthright.

II. Photo

Esau gives away his birthright for some stew: “Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (v. 34)

III. Select Verses

1:Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah.

5-6: Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, while he was still living, and he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.

8-10: Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field that Abraham purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried, with his wife Sarah.

11: After the death of Abraham God blessed his son Isaac. And Isaac settled at Beer-lahai-roi.

16: These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages and by their encampments, twelve princes according to their tribes.

21-26:  Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

29-34: Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

IV. Outline

1-6. Abraham’s other children

    1. Abraham marries Keturah

    2-4. Abraham’s offspring with Keturah

    5. Abraham gives everything to Isaac

    6. Abraham gives his other sons gifts and sends them to the eastern desert

7-10. Abraham dies

    6-8. Abraham dies at 175 years old

    9-10. Isaac and Ishmael bury him next to Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah

    11. Yahweh blesses Isaac, who settles in Beer Sheba

12-18. The death and offspring of Ishmael

    12. Introduction

    13a. Introduction (again)

    13b-16. Ishmael’s twelve sons, chieftains of twelve tribes

    17. Ishmael dies at 137 years old

    18. Ishmael’s descendants dwelled from Egypt to Assyria

19-34. The story of Isaac begins

    19. Introduction

    20-26. The birth of Esau and Jacob

        20. Isaac was forty when he married Rebekah

        21. Isaac prays for Rebekah, who is barren [for 20 years, see v. 26], and Yahweh hears his prayer

        22. Rebekah has incredible pain

        23. Yahweh explains that she has twins, and the older will serve the younger 

        24-26a. The first twin is red (’edom, see v. 30) and hairy and named Esau, the second is gripping his heel (‘eqev) so is named Jacob (ya‘aqov)

        26b. Isaac was sixty at this time

    27-28. Esau grows to be a hunter loved by Isaac, Jacob a “tent dweller” (homebody? shepherd?) loved by Rebekah

    29-34. Jacob acquires Esau’s birthright

        29. Jacob cooks a stew and Esau arrives hungry

        30. Esau asks for the red (’edom) stew, hence Esau is called Edom [a nation in Transjordan]

        31-33. Esau is famished, so he trades Jacob his birthright 

        34. Esau recovers and hates the birthright

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 24: Abraham’s Servant Finds Isaac a Wife Named Rebekah 

06062rHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Abraham sends his servant to his relatives in Mesopotamia to find a wife for his son Isaac. Yahweh provides the servant with a sign by sending Rebekah to give him and his ten camels water to drink. Rebekah is brought from her family to Isaac, who finds comfort in her after the death of his mother Sarah.

II. Photo

Rebekah is the chosen one: “Quickly emptying her jar into the trough, she ran back to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels.” (v. 20)

III. Select Verses

2-4:  And Abraham said to the senior servant of his household, who had charge of all that he owned, “Put your hand under my thigh and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I dwell, but will go to the land of my birth and get a wife for my son Isaac.”

12-24: And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, grant me good fortune this day, and deal graciously with my master Abraham: Here I stand by the spring as the daughters of the townsmen come out to draw water; let the maiden to whom I say, ‘Please, lower your jar that I may drink,’ and who replies, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels’ — let her be the one whom You have decreed for Your servant Isaac. Thereby shall I know that You have dealt graciously with my master.”  He had scarcely finished speaking, when Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, the son of Milcah the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor, came out with her jar on her shoulder. The maiden was very beautiful, a virgin whom no man had known. She went down to the spring, filled her jar, and came up.  The servant ran toward her and said, “Please, let me sip a little water from your jar.” “Drink, my lord,” she said, and she quickly lowered her jar upon her hand and let him drink. When she had let him drink his fill, she said, “I will also draw for your camels, until they finish drinking.” Quickly emptying her jar into the trough, she ran back to the well to draw, and she drew for all his camels. The man, meanwhile, stood gazing at her, silently wondering whether the LORD had made his errand successful or not. When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold nose-ring weighing a half-shekel, and two gold bands for her arms, ten shekels in weight. “Pray tell me,” he said, “whose daughter are you? Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” She replied, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.”

58-60: They called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will.” So they sent off their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “O sister! May you grow Into thousands of myriads; May your offspring seize The gates of their foes.”

67: Isaac then brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he took Rebekah as his wife. Isaac loved her, and thus found comfort after his mother’s death.

IV. Outline

1. Abraham’s old age

2-9. Abraham’s servant swears to get a bride for Isaac from Abraham’s homeland instead of Canaan, assuming she agrees

10-11. The servant travels to Nahor in Mesopotamia with ten camels [and men – v. 32], and stops at a well

12-14. The servant asks Yahweh for a sign: a girl who will not only give him water, but his camels too

15-20. Rebekah, the beautiful virgin daughter of Abraham’s nephew, acts out the servant’s sign

22-25. The servant gives Rebekah golden jewelry; Rebekah reveals her lineage; The servant is granted lodging for the night

26-27. The servant blesses Yahweh for guiding him to the house of Nahor, Abraham’s brother

28. Rebekah tells her mother’s household of the events

29-32. Rebekah’s brother Laban brings the servant and his men into the home, washes their feet, and feeds the camels

33. The servant is offered food, but demands to speak

37-49. The servant recounts his story in great detail and asks for Rebekah

50-51. Laban and Bethuel agree

52-53. The servant bows before Yahweh and gives presents to Rebekah, Laban, and his mother

54-59. Despite a debate about time, the servant is permitted to leave immediately with Rebekah, who agrees to the plan

60. Rebekah’s family blesses her

61. Rebekah and her servant girls leave with the servant

62-65. Rebekah falls off her camel when she first sees Isaac

66-67. Isaac takes Rebekah into his mother’s tent and finds comfort after his mother’s death


V. Comment

A few notes:

  • Verse 7 appears to be yet another retelling of the covenant between Abraham and Yahweh, this time from Abraham’s perspective.
  • Nahor is both the name of the place where the story unfolds and the name of the brother of Abraham (vv. 10, 15).
  • According to Genesis 22:21-23 and verses 15, 24, and 47 of our chapter, Nahor is the brother of Abraham, Bethuel is Nahor and Milcah’s son, and Rebekah is Bethuel’s daughter. Laban is Rebekah’s brother and Bethuel’s son.
  • Rebekah runs to the “house of her mother,” a phrase that appears only four times in the Bible (Gen 24:28; Ruth 1:8; Song 3:4; 8:2), compared to the one hundred and forty occurrences of the “house of the father.” The mother also plays a role in verse 53 and 55.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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