Notes for Gen 26:1LEB

"in addition to the first famine which was."


This account is parallel to two similar stories about Abraham (see Gen 12:10–20LEB; Gen 20:1–18LEB). Many scholars do not believe there were three similar incidents, only one that got borrowed and duplicated. Many regard the account about Isaac as the original, which then was attached to the more important person, Abraham, with supernatural elements being added. For a critique of such an approach, see R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, 47–62. It is more likely that the story illustrates the proverb "like father, like son" (see T. W. Mann, The Book of the Torah, 53). In typical human fashion the son follows his father’s example of lying to avoid problems. The appearance of similar events reported in a similar way underscores the fact that the blessing has now passed to Isaac, even if he fails as his father did.


Notes for Gen 26:2LEB

Do not go down to Egypt. The words echo Gen 12:10LEB, which reports that "Abram went down to Egypt," but state the opposite.


"say to you."


Notes for Gen 26:3LEB

The Hebrew verb גּוּר (gur) means "to live temporarily without ownership of land." Abraham’s family will not actually possess the land of Canaan until the Israelite conquest hundreds of years later.


After the imperative "stay" the two prefixed verb forms with prefixed conjunction here indicate consequence.


I will be with you and I will bless you. The promise of divine presence is a promise to intervene to protect and to bless.


The Hebrew term זֶרַע (zera’) occurring here and in v. 18 may mean "seed" (for planting), "offspring" (occasionally of animals, but usually of people), or "descendants" depending on the context.


To you and to your descendants. The Abrahamic blessing will pass to Isaac. Everything included in that blessing will now belong to the son, and in turn will be passed on to his sons. But there is a contingency involved: If they are to enjoy the full blessings, they will have to obey the word of the Yahweh. And so obedience is enjoined here with the example of how well Abraham obeyed.


The Hiphil stem of the verb קוּם (qum) here means "to fulfill, to bring to realization." For other examples of this use of this verb form, see Lev 26:9LEB; Num 23:19LEB; Deut 8:18LEB; Gen 9:5LEB; 1 Sam 1:23LEB; 1 Kgs 6:12LEB; Jer 11:5LEB.


"the oath which I swore."


The solemn promise I made. See Gen 15:18–20LEB; Gen 22:16–18LEB.


Notes for Gen 26:4LEB

"your descendants."


Traditionally the verb is taken as passive ("will be blessed") here, as if Abraham’s descendants were going to be a channel or source of blessing to the nations. But the Hitpael is better understood here as reflexive/reciprocal, "will bless [i.e., pronounce blessings on] themselves/one another" (see also Gen 22:18LEB). Elsewhere the Hitpael of the verb "to bless" is used with a reflexive/reciprocal sense in Deut 29:18LEB; Ps 72:17LEB; Isa 65:16LEB; Jer 4:2LEB. Gen 12:2LEB predicts that Abram will be held up as a paradigm of divine blessing and that people will use his name in their blessing formulae. For examples of blessing formulae utilizing an individual as an example of blessing see Gen 48:20LEB and Ruth 4:11LEB. Earlier formulations of this promise (see Gen 12:2LEB; Gen 18:18LEB) use the Niphal stem. (See also Gen 28:14LEB.)


Notes for Gen 26:5LEB

The words "All this will come to pass" are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied for stylistic reasons.


"listened to my voice."


My charge, my instructions, and my statutes. The language of this verse is clearly interpretive, for Abraham did not have all these instructions. The terms are legal designations for sections of the Mosaic law and presuppose the existence of the law. Some Rabbinic views actually conclude that Abraham had fulfilled the statutes before it was given (see m. Qiddushin 4:14). Some scholars argue that this story could only have been written after the statutes were given (C. Westermann, Genesis, 2:24–25LEB). But the simplest explanation is that the narrator (traditionally taken to be Moses the Lawgiver) elaborated on the simple report of Abraham’s obedience by using terms with which the Israelites were familiar. In this way he depicts Abraham as the model of obedience to Yahweh's instructions, whose example Israel should follow.


Notes for Gen 26:7LEB

Rebekah, unlike Sarah, was not actually her husband’s sister.


"lest." The words "for he thought to himself" are supplied because the next clause is written with a first person pronoun, showing that Isaac was saying or thinking this.


"kill me on account of."


Notes for Gen 26:8LEB

"and he"; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


"and it happened when the days were long to him there."


"look, Isaac." By the use of the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, "look"), the narrator invites the audience to view the scene through Abimelech’s eyes.


Or "fondling."


The Hebrew word מְצַחֵק (métsakheq), from the root צָחַק (tsakhaq, "laugh"), forms a sound play with the name "Isaac" right before it. Here it depicts an action, probably caressing or fondling, that indicated immediately that Rebekah was Isaac’s wife, not his sister. Isaac’s deception made a mockery of Yahweh's covenantal promise. Ignoring Yahweh's promise to protect and bless him, Isaac lied to protect himself and acted in bad faith to the men of Gerar.


Notes for Gen 26:9LEB

"Surely, look!" See N. H. Snaith, "The meaning of Hebrew ‘ak," VT 14 (1964): 221-25.


"Because I said, ‘Lest I die on account of her.’" Since the verb "said" probably means "said to myself" (i.e., "thought") here, the direct discourse in the Hebrew statement has been converted to indirect discourse in the translation. In addition the simple prepositional phrase "on account of her" has been clarified in the translation as "to get her" (cf. v. 7).


Notes for Gen 26:10LEB

"What is this you have done to us?" The Hebrew demonstrative pronoun "this" adds emphasis: "What in the world have you done to us?" (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 24, §118).




The Hebrew verb means "to lie down." Here the expression "lie with" or "sleep with" is euphemistic for "have sexual relations with."


Notes for Gen 26:11LEB

"strikes." Here the verb has the nuance "to harm in any way." It would include assaulting the woman or killing the man.


The use of the infinitive absolute before the imperfect makes the construction emphatic.


Notes for Gen 26:12LEB

"a hundredfold."


This final clause explains why Isaac had such a bountiful harvest.


Notes for Gen 26:13LEB

"great." In this context the statement refers primarily to Isaac’s material wealth, although reputation and influence are included.


"and he went, going and becoming great." The construction stresses that his growth in possessions and power continued steadily.


Notes for Gen 26:14LEB

"and there was to him."


"possessions of sheep."


"possessions of cattle."


The Hebrew verb translated "became jealous" refers here to intense jealousy or envy that leads to hostile action (see v. 15).


Notes for Gen 26:15LEB

"and the Philistines stopped them up and filled them with dirt."


Notes for Gen 26:16LEB

"Go away from us."


You have become much more powerful. This explanation for the expulsion of Isaac from Philistine territory foreshadows the words used later by the Egyptians to justify their oppression of Israel (see Exod 1:9LEB).


Notes for Gen 26:17LEB

"and he camped in the valley of Gerar and he lived there."


This valley was actually a wadi (a dry river bed where the water would flow in the rainy season, but this would have been rare in the Negev). The water table under it would have been higher than in the desert because of water soaking in during the torrents, making it easier to find water when digging wells. However, this does not minimize the blessing of the Yahweh, for the men of the region knew this too, but did not have the same results.


Notes for Gen 26:18LEB

"he returned and dug," meaning "he dug again" or "he reopened."


"that they dug." Since the subject is indefinite, the verb is translated as passive.


"and the Philistines had stopped them up." This clause explains why Isaac had to reopen them.


"and he"; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


"them"; the referent (the wells) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


"called names to them according to the names that his father called them."


Notes for Gen 26:19LEB

"living." This expression refers to a well supplied by subterranean streams (see Song 4:15LEB).


Notes for Gen 26:20LEB

The Hebrew verb translated "quarreled" describes a conflict that often has legal ramifications.


"and he"; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


"and he called the name of the well."


The name Esek means "argument" in Hebrew. The following causal clause explains that Isaac gave the well this name as a reminder of the conflict its discovery had created. In the Hebrew text there is a wordplay, for the name is derived from the verb translated "argued."


The words "about it" are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.


Notes for Gen 26:21LEB

"they"; the referent (Isaac’s servants) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


"and he called its name." The referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


The name Sitnah (שִׂטְנָה, sitnah) is derived from a Hebrew verbal root meaning "to oppose; to be an adversary" (cf. Job 1:6LEB). The name was a reminder that the digging of this well caused "opposition" from the Philistines.


Notes for Gen 26:22LEB

"and he"; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


"and he called its name."


The name Rehoboth (רְהֹבוֹת, rehovot) is derived from a verbal root meaning "to make room." The name was a reminder that Yahweh had made room for them. The story shows Isaac’s patience with the opposition; it also shows how Yahweh's blessing outdistanced the men of Gerar. They could not stop it or seize it any longer.


Notes for Gen 26:23LEB

"and he went up from there"; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Notes for Gen 26:25LEB

"called in the name of." The expression refers to worshiping the Yahweh through prayer and sacrifice (see Gen 4:26LEB; Gen 12:8LEB; Gen 13:4LEB; Gen 21:33LEB). See G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 1:116.


"and they dug there, the servants of Isaac, a well."


Notes for Gen 26:26LEB

The disjunctive clause supplies pertinent supplemental information. The past perfect is used because the following narrative records the treaty at Beer Sheba. Prior to this we are told that Isaac settled in Beer Sheba; presumably this treaty would have allowed him to do that. However, it may be that he settled there and then made the treaty by which he renamed the place Beer Sheba. In this case one may translate "Now Abimelech came to him."




Many modern translations render the Hebrew term מֵרֵעַ (merea’) as "councillor" or "adviser," but the term may not designate an official position but simply a close personal friend.


Notes for Gen 26:27LEB

The disjunctive clause is circumstantial, expressing the reason for his question.


Notes for Gen 26:28LEB

The infinitive absolute before the verb emphasizes the clarity of their perception.


"And we said, ‘Let there be.’" The direct discourse in the Hebrew text has been rendered as indirect discourse in the translation for stylistic reasons.


The pronoun "us" here is inclusive – it refers to the Philistine contingent on the one hand and Isaac on the other.


The pronoun "us" here is exclusive – it refers to just the Philistine contingent (the following "you" refers to Isaac).


The translation assumes that the cohortative expresses their request. Another option is to understand the cohortative as indicating resolve: "We want to make.’"


Notes for Gen 26:29LEB

The oath formula is used: "if you do us harm" means "so that you will not do."




"and just as we have done only good with you."


"and we sent you away."


The Philistine leaders are making an observation, not pronouncing a blessing, so the translation reads "you are blessed" rather than "may you be blessed" (cf. NAB).


Notes for Gen 26:30LEB

"and he"; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


"and they ate and drank."


Notes for Gen 26:31LEB

"and they got up early and they swore an oath, a man to his brother."


"and they went from him in peace."


Notes for Gen 26:32LEB

"and they said to him, ‘We have found water.’" The order of the introductory clause and the direct discourse has been rearranged in the translation for stylistic reasons.


Notes for Gen 26:33LEB

The name Shibah (שִׁבְעָה, shivah) means (or at least sounds like) the word meaning "oath." The name was a reminder of the oath sworn by Isaac and the Philistines to solidify their treaty.


The name Beer Sheba (בְּאֵר שָׁבַע, er shava’) means "well of an oath" or "well of seven." According to Gen 21:31LEB Abraham gave Beer Sheba its name when he made a treaty with the Philistines. Because of the parallels between this earlier story and the account in Gen 26:26–33LEB, some scholars see chaps. 21 and 26 as two versions (or doublets) of one original story. However, if one takes the text as it stands, it appears that Isaac made a later treaty agreement with the people of the land that was similar to his father’s. Abraham dug a well at the site and named the place Beer Sheba; Isaac dug another well there and named the well Shibah. Later generations then associated the name Beer Sheba with Isaac, even though Abraham gave the place its name at an earlier time.


Notes for Gen 26:34LEB

The sentence begins with the temporal indicator ("and it happened"), making this clause subordinate to the next.


"the son of forty years."


"took as a wife."


Notes for Gen 26:35LEB

"And they were [a source of ] bitterness in spirit to Isaac and to Rebekah."