Famine forced Isaac to leave Beer Lahai Roi, “the well of him that lives and sees me.”
What do we do in a time of famine? Pray.
Isaac had thought about going to Egypt as his father had done in a previous famine.
First, he went to Abimelech the king of the Philistines in Gerar as they probably had an alliance. It’s likely that Abimelech was a title given the king, rather than a personal name—much as the Egyptians always called their king “Pharaoh.”
God told Isaac not to go to Egypt but to live in the land of which he would tell him. “Dwell in this land,” said God, reiterating the promise he made to Isaac’s father Abraham.
Isaac stayed and sowed in the land of Abimelech, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him. He became so prosperous; with flocks, herds and a great number of servants that the Philistines envied him and stopped up all the wells his father Abraham had dug, filling them with earth. Genesis 26:12-16
There was a problem sowing in the field of the Philistines. They weren’t happy with Isaac’s success. With envy came rejection.
Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”
If Isaac was mightier he could have taken Abimelech on, and won. But he departed and pitched his tent in the Valley of Gerar, the outside edge of Gerar’s territory, and lived there.
The Fight for the Wells
Then came the fight over water rights and his father’s wells. Isaac brought his father’s wells back into service, calling them by the same names, but soon had to abandon them, and he renamed them with bitter names.
Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them.
Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there. But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they quarreled with him. Genesis 26:18-20
Esek means quarrel.
Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah. Genesis 26:21
Sitnah means enmity.
Again he moved and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” Genesis 26:22
Rehoboth means spaciousness, open spaces. It brings to mind a verse about God’s deliverance; “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19
Leaving the well at Rehoboth, Isaac travelled to Beersheba. God appeared to him the same night saying; ““I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.” Genesis 26:23-25
A Tent, an Altar and a Well
Reassured, Isaac pitched his tent there, and built an altar and a well. Was it by the place that Abraham planted the tamarisk tree? I wonder. The tamarisk tree is a slow growing tree, increasing only an inch per year and taking close to 400 years to grow to full height, so Abraham obviously hadn’t planted it for himself.
After Isaac had found his place in the world, Abimelech sought him out. “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?” Isaac asked Abimelech.
Abimelech had seen the Lord was with Isaac and he wanted to make a covenant of peace.
So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. Then they arose early in the morning and swore an oath with one another; and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace. Genesis 26:30
Water from the Desert
It came to pass the same day that Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.” So he called it Shebah. Therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day. Genesis 26:27-33
Beer means well and sheba means Oath or Seven.
The lessons learned
Isaac probably learned that deliverance does not always come all at once. Sometimes it comes in stages as we have to be led. God allows freewill and we learn from our choices.
Isaac had to obey God about where to settle. He had to sow in the land of the Philistines. His obedience led to God’s blessing but that brought it’s own problems; envy and rejection.
He had to try three times when it came to well digging. His father’s wells were stopped up after his father’s death and he had to redig them. This led to a quarrel with his former ally and then emnity. Isaac did not retaliate but moved again and this time he was allowed to dig a well in peace.
Following in his father’s footsteps, he went back to Beer Sheba and he made a covenant just as his father had. He dug a well, and God appeared to him there. The well meant “well of seven” and “well of the oath.”
Did Isaac learn that an oath made by one generation must be renewed by another? He had to open his father’s wells and dig some new wells of his own. An inheritance would be contended for and he had to have faith. Isaac obeyed God, and he found his place in the world.
Abimelech and his men acknowledged God, telling Isaac, “We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you.” What did they learn? I wonder.
This is for all those struggling to find their place in the world.