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Scripture reading – Genesis 25-26

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues today as we come to some significant spiritual crossroads in the Genesis account of Abraham, his chosen heir Isaac, and Ishmael, Abraham’s son born to Hagar Sarah’s handmaiden.

Genesis 25 – The Death of Abraham, and Isaac and Rebekah Become Parents

With Sarah dead and Isaac happily married to Rebekah, Abraham was no doubt lonely and took a second wife named Keturah (25:1). The Scriptures do not say, but perhaps she was a maiden of Abraham’s household. Keturah gave birth to six sons (25:2-4), further fulfilling God’s promise that Abraham would be a father of nations (Genesis 12). Though a father of many sons, Abraham remembered that Isaac was the son God had chosen to be his heir.  Therefore, “Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac” (25:5), his spiritual and legal heir. In addition, he sent the other sons away with gifts, settling his obligation to them as a father (25:6).

Abraham lived an incredibly long life, and when he was an “hundred threescore and fifteen years (175 years old), [he] gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people” (25:7-8). He was content with his life and ready to entrust his spirit to the LORD.

As is so often true, the death of a loved one, especially a parent, gives an opportunity for a family to reunite.  Such was the case with Isaac and Ishmael, as they gave their father a proper burial in the tomb he had purchased for Sarah (25:9-10). Ishmael’s lineage is recorded (25:12-16), and true to God’s promise to Abraham and Hagar (21:13, 18), his twelve sons were fathers of tribes, and nations (25:16). Ishmael died when he was “an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people” (25:17).

The Bible narrative now focuses on God’s providences in Isaac’s life. Isaac had taken Rebekah to be his wife when he was forty years old; however, another twenty years passed before she conceived. (25:26).  Like his father who waited years for a child to be born to Sarah, Isaac’s heart longed for children to be born to his beloved Rebekah. When she conceived, she was blessed with twin sons (25:21). Taking her concerns to the LORD (25:22), He revealed that the sons in her womb were opposites in almost every way imaginable (25:23), and contrary to the culture, the older son would become a servant to the younger).

Those two sons not only struggled in their mother’s womb, but when they were born, the younger son, Jacob, took hold of the heel of his firstborn brother, Esau (25:25-27). Esau was red-haired and stunning in his physical appearance. He preferred the outdoors and was a skilled hunter (25:25, 27). By contrast, Jacob appeared plain and chose a quiet, pastoral shepherd’s life (25:28).

However, we see the most striking difference in these two brothers’ spiritual values. Esau, the firstborn son, was the rightful heir of the “birthright,” and was destined to be the spiritual leader and priest of the family clan. However, Esau was “a cunning hunter, a man of the field,” a man who placed no value on his spiritual inheritance. He proved his careless attitude when he sold his birthright to Jacob for the price of a bowl of soup (25:29-34).

Genesis 26 – Famine, Conflict, a Peaceful Resolution, and Unhappy Parents

Isaac and his household faced the hardship of famine, the first noted in the Scriptures since Abraham had entered Egypt one hundred years earlier.

Like Father, Like Son (26:1-11)

The famine forced Isaac to move his household, and he relocated to Gerar, where the Philistines lived. Lest he be tempted to do as his father, the LORD warned Isaac that he must not go down into Egypt (26:1-2). Commanding him to remain in Gerar, God renewed his covenant promise to bless Isaac and give his lineage “all these countries” (26:3-4).

Fearing for his life, Isaac was frightened that men in the land might look upon Rebekah’s beauty and desire her. Afraid he would be killed (26:7), he foolishly sinned as his father before him and told others, “She is my sister” (26:7). When his deceit was exposed, Abimelech (the title of Philistine kings) confronted him for “sporting with Rebekah his wife” (meaning the familiarity of a husband who loves the wife of his youth, 26:8-9). Abimelech rebuked Isaac for his lie and took Isaac’s household under his protection (26:10-11).

“Dig Another Well” (26:12-33)

God continued to bless Isaac, and “the Philistines envied him” (26:14). Moved by resentment, they began to stop up the wells that Abraham had dug in his days for his flocks and herds and “filled them with earth” (26:14-15). Rather than the warring spirit with which Ishmael was born, Isaac was a peacemaker, and he moved from one well to the next, seeking peace (26:12-22).

Closing thoughts – Isaac’s response to the Philistines’ aggression is a worthy model to follow when conflicts arise. Freshwater wells were invaluable in a land known for its deserts, and we can imagine the hardships and personal offense Isaac felt as the wells dug by his father were destroyed.

How did Isaac respond?  Did he become embittered?  Did he plot a way and path of revenge?  No, he moved on and kept digging wells (26:18, 21, 22). He not only built and repaired his father’s wells, but also built “an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD” (26:25).

Challenge – When you face your “Philistines,” take a page from Isaac’s book and follow his example: Set aside the temptation to be bitter and “dig another well.”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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