Conflicts Over Well Rights
Isaac repeats the ruse his father used in Egypt and Gerar many years earlier. Abraham told another Abimelech (likely the father or grandfather of this Philistine king) that Sarah was his sister to avoid being killed. Isaac tries the same trick for the same reason but is soon found out.
Many rulers in that day would have killed or severely punished a man for telling such tales and jeopardizing their reign. Somehow, however, Abraham and Isaac not only survive, but they grow rich from the experiences.
Isaac sowed crops in that land, and that year he harvested a hundred times as much as he had sown, because the LORD blessed him. He continued to prosper and became a very rich man. Because he had many herds of sheep and cattle and many servants, the Philistines were jealous of him.
Genesis 26:12-14 (GNT)
Isaac and his neighbors had access to the same soil, and they depended on the same sunshine and rain, but Isaac’s harvests were greater than theirs, and his flocks and herds multiplied more abundantly.
But Isaac was a deceiver!
How could the Lord bless somebody who claimed to be a believer and yet deliberately lied to his unbelieving neighbours?
Because God is always faithful to His covenant and keeps His promises (2 Tim. 2:11-13); and the only condition God attached to His promise of blessing was that Isaac remain in the land and not go to Egypt.
God also blessed Isaac because of Abraham’s life and faith (Gen. 26:5), just as He blesses us for the sake of Jesus Christ.
We’ll never know until we get to heaven how many of our blessings have been “dividends” from the spiritual investments made by godly friends and family who have gone before.
(For spite, some of the Philistines filled with dirt all of the wells his father’s servants had dug in the days when Abraham was living there.) Even Abimelech was threatened by his prosperity.
Abimelech (to Isaac):It is best you leave our land. Your success has made you more powerful than we are. You can’t live here any longer.
Isaac left there, set up camp in the valley of Gerar, and decided to live there for a while.
Genesis 26:15-17 (VOICE)
In spite of his material blessings, Isaac still suffered because of his lie, because the blessings he received brought burdens and battles to his life. The previous verses talk about Isaac becoming great with great possessions, but this verse reveals it didn’t come without opposition.
Many people would be so focused on the opposition that they wouldn’t receive the blessing. All who prosper will face hard times. If people never bump into the devil, it’s because they are headed in the same direction (2 Timothy 3:12). When they turn around and go against the crowd, they will have resistance. But faith will focus on the good and not the bad.
This verse clearly links the Philistines filling these wells to the fact they were envious of Isaac. Envy or pride is always the root of persecution.
Walking in the blessings of God will often cost us friendships. Some will be inspired by our blessings, and others will envy. Those who envy will do whatever they can to bring us down. All who live godly will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
Had Isaac not lied about his wife, God would not have disciplined him but would have given him peace with his neighbours (Prov. 16:7). Because of his sin, however, Isaac’s material blessings caused him trouble.
The Philistines tried to get Isaac to leave their land and settle elsewhere; and to encourage this they stopped up Abraham’s wells and deprived Isaac’s flocks and herds of the water they desperately needed. Water was a precious commodity in the Near East, and adequate wells were necessary if you were to succeed in the land. The crisis came when the king commanded Isaac to move away, and Isaac obeyed.
Isaac had to re-dig all of the water wells that his father had installed because the Philistines had filled them in after Abraham’s death. He renamed them with the names his father had given them. But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found a new well of fresh water, the herders of Gerar began quarreling with Isaac’s herders.
Herders of Gerar: This water is ours!
So Isaac named this well Esek, which means “contention,” because of the arguments he had with the herders. Isaac’s men dug another well, and the water wars started again. So Isaac called it Sitnah, which means “enmity.” Isaac didn’t want any more trouble, so he moved on from there and dug yet another well. At last, they didn’t quarrel over this one, so Isaac named this well Rehoboth, which means “wide spaces.”
Isaac (explaining): Now the Eternal One has provided this wide space for us. We will become numerous and prosperous in this land.
Genesis 26:18-22 (VOICE)
No matter where Isaac journeyed, the enemy followed him and confiscated his father’s wells and also the new wells that Isaac’s servants dug. To find a well of “springing water” (v. 19, KJV) was a special blessing, for it guaranteed fresh water at all times, but the Philistines took that well too.
The names of the new wells that Isaac’s men dug reveal the problems that he had with his neighbours, for Esek means “contention,” and Sitnah means “hatred.” But Rehoboth means “enlargement” because Isaac finally found a place where he was left alone and had room enough for his camp and his flocks and herds.
Whenever Abraham had a problem with people, he boldly confronted them and got the matter settled, whether it was his nephew Lot, the invading kings, Hagar and Ishmael, or the Philistines. But Isaac was a retiring man who wanted to avoid confrontation. Since he was a pilgrim, he could move his camp and be a peacemaker.
In every difficult situation of life, it requires discernment to know whether God wants us to be confronters like Abraham or peacemakers like Isaac; for God can bless and use both approaches. “Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody” (Rom. 12:18). Sometimes it isn’t possible, but at least we should try; and we must depend on the wisdom from above that is “pure” and “peaceable” (James 3:17).
Looking at Isaac’s experience from a spiritual point of view, we can learn an important lesson. In the Bible, wells sometimes symbolize blessings from the hand of the Lord.The church keeps looking for something new, when all we need is to dig again the old wells of spiritual life that God’s people have depended on from the beginning—
- The Word of God,
- The Power of the Spirit,
- Sacrifice, and
- Service—wells that we’ve allowed the enemy to fill up.
Whenever there’s been a revival of spiritual power in the history of the church, it’s been because somebody has dug again the old wells so that God’s life-giving Spirit can be free to work.
The Lord Appears To Isaac
Isaac left and went to Beersheba. That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid; I am with you. I will bless you and give you many descendants because of my promise to my servant Abraham.” Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the LORD. Then he set up his camp there, and his servants dug another well.
Genesis 26:23-25 (GNT)
Beersheba was a very special place for Isaac, because there his father had entered into a covenant with the Philistine leaders. “Beersheba” means “the well of the oath.” The Lord comes to us with His assuring Word just when we need encouragement (see Acts 18:9-11; 23:11; 27:23-24; 2 Tim. 2:19).
No matter who is against us, God is with us and for us (see Gen. 28:15; 31:3; Rom. 8:31-39), and there’s no need for us to be afraid. In response to God’s gracious word of promise, Isaac built an altar and worshiped the Lord. He was ready to meet his adversaries.
Like his father Abraham, Isaac was identified by his tent and altar (see 12:7-8; 13:3-4, 18). Isaac was wealthy enough to be able to build himself a fine house, but his tent identified him as a pilgrim and stranger in the land (Heb. 11:8-10, 13-16).
A fugitive is fleeing from home; a vagabond has no home; a stranger is away from home; but a pilgrim is heading home. The tent identified Isaac as a pilgrim, and the altar announced that he worshiped Jehovah and was heading to the heavenly kingdom.
Like Isaac, all who have trusted Jesus Christ are strangers in this world and pilgrims heading for a better world (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). The body we live in is our “tent”; one day it will be taken down and we’ll go to the heavenly city (2 Cor. 5:1-8). Life here is brief and temporary, because this tent is fragile, but our glorified body will be ours for eternity (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 John 3:1-3). But while we’re here on earth, let’s be sure we build the altar and give our witness that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.
Isaac’s Covenant with Abimelech
One day King Abimelech came from Gerar with his adviser, Ahuzzath, and also Phicol, his army commander. “Why have you come here?” Isaac asked. “You obviously hate me, since you kicked me off your land.”
They replied, “We can plainly see that the LORD is with you. So we want to enter into a sworn treaty with you. Let’s make a covenant. Swear that you will not harm us, just as we have never troubled you. We have always treated you well, and we sent you away from us in peace. And now look how theLORD has blessed you!”
So Isaac prepared a covenant feast to celebrate the treaty, and they ate and drank together. Early the next morning, they each took a solemn oath not to interfere with each other. Then Isaac sent them home again, and they left him in peace.
That very day Isaac’s servants came and told him about a new well they had dug. “We’ve found water!” they exclaimed. So Isaac named the well Shibah (which means “oath”). And to this day the town that grew up there is called Beersheba (which means “well of the oath”).
Genesis 26:26-33 (NLT)
Isaac’s strategy paid off, because the Philistine leaders came to him to settle the matter of the property rights. Fortified by God’s promises, Isaac was much bolder in his approach, and he confronted the Philistines with their misdeeds. It’s worth noting that Isaac’s conduct during this conflict had made a great impression on them, and they could tell that the Lord was richly blessing him. More important than possessing his wells was the privilege Isaac had of sharing his witness with his pagan neighbours. (For a contrasting situation, see 1 Cor. 6:1-8.)
Isaac and the leaders were able to reach an agreement. To seal the treaty, Isaac hosted a feast; for in that culture, to eat with others is to forge strong links of friendship and mutual support. That same day, Isaac’s servants found one of Abraham’s wells (Gen. 21:25-31) and opened it; and Isaac gave it the original name, Beersheba. “The well of the oath” now referred to Isaac’s treaty as well as Abraham’s.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
The Lord has blessed me with abundance.
His favor finds a home in me.
He receives the seed that I have sown and blesses it so that it will bring forth the maximum yield.
He has taken hold of me in His powerful arm and promoted me. In Him, I find wealth and position. I have been separated from the world. He has placed with in me special and unique supernatural qualities. My supply is great with His blessing in my life.
I pray this declaration of faith in Jesus’s name!