New English Translation
Isaac and Abimelech
26 There was a famine in the land, subsequent to the earlier famine that occurred[a] in the days of Abraham.[b] Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines at Gerar. 2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt;[c] settle down in the land that I will point out to you.[d] 3 Stay[e] in this land. Then I will be with you and will bless you,[f] for I will give all these lands to you and to your descendants,[g] and I will fulfill[h] the solemn promise I made[i] to your father Abraham. 4 I will multiply your descendants so they will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and I will give them[j] all these lands. All the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants.[k] 5 All this will come to pass[l] because Abraham obeyed me[m] and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”[n] 6 So Isaac settled in Gerar.
7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he replied, “She is my sister.”[o] He was afraid to say, “She is my wife,” for he thought to himself,[p] “The men of this place will kill me to get[q] Rebekah because she is very beautiful.”
8 After Isaac[r] had been there a long time,[s] Abimelech king of the Philistines happened to look out a window and observed[t] Isaac caressing[u] his wife Rebekah. 9 So Abimelech summoned Isaac and said, “She is really[v] your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac replied, “Because I thought someone might kill me to get her.”[w]
10 Then Abimelech exclaimed, “What in the world have you done to us?[x] One of the men[y] nearly took your wife to bed,[z] and you would have brought guilt on us!” 11 So Abimelech commanded all the people, “Whoever touches[aa] this man or his wife will surely be put to death.”[ab]
12 When Isaac planted in that land, he reaped in the same year a hundred times what he had sown,[ac] because the Lord blessed him.[ad] 13 The man became wealthy.[ae] His influence continued to grow[af] until he became very prominent. 14 He had[ag] so many sheep[ah] and cattle[ai] and such a great household of servants that the Philistines became jealous of[aj] him. 15 So the Philistines took dirt and filled up[ak] all the wells that his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham.
16 Then Abimelech said to Isaac, “Leave us and go elsewhere,[al] for you have become much more powerful[am] than we are.” 17 So Isaac left there and settled in the Gerar Valley.[an] 18 Isaac reopened[ao] the wells that had been dug[ap] back in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up[aq] after Abraham died. Isaac[ar] gave these wells[as] the same names his father had given them.[at]
19 When Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well with fresh flowing[au] water there, 20 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled[av] with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water belongs to us!” So Isaac[aw] named the well Esek[ax] because they argued with him about it.[ay] 21 His servants[az] dug another well, but they quarreled over it too, so Isaac named it[ba] Sitnah.[bb] 22 Then he moved away from there and dug another well. They did not quarrel over it, so Isaac[bc] named it[bd] Rehoboth,[be] saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we will prosper in the land.”
23 From there Isaac[bf] went up to Beer Sheba. 24 The Lord appeared to him that night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” 25 Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped[bg] the Lord. He pitched his tent there, and his servants dug a well.[bh]
26 Now Abimelech had come[bi] to him from Gerar along with[bj] Ahuzzah his friend[bk] and Phicol the commander of his army. 27 Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me? You hate me[bl] and sent me away from you.” 28 They replied, “We could plainly see[bm] that the Lord is with you. So we decided there should be[bn] a pact between us[bo]—between us[bp] and you. Allow us to make[bq] a treaty with you 29 so that[br] you will not do us any harm, just as we have not harmed[bs] you, but have always treated you well[bt] before sending you away[bu] in peace. Now you are blessed by the Lord.”[bv]
32 That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. “We’ve found water,” they reported.[ca] 33 So he named it Shibah;[cb] that is why the name of the city has been Beer Sheba[cc] to this day.
34 When[cd] Esau was forty years old,[ce] he married[cf] Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, as well as Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 They caused Isaac and Rebekah great anxiety.[cg]
- Genesis 26:1 tn Heb “in addition to the first famine which was.”
- Genesis 26:1 sn This account is parallel to two similar stories about Abraham (see Gen 12:10-20; 20:1-18). 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.
- Genesis 26:2 sn Do not go down to Egypt. The words echo Gen 12:10, which reports that “Abram went down to Egypt,” but state the opposite.
- Genesis 26:2 tn Heb “say to you.”
- Genesis 26:3 tn 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.
- Genesis 26:3 tn After the imperative “stay” the two prefixed verb forms with prefixed conjunction here indicate consequence.sn 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.
- Genesis 26:3 tn The Hebrew term זֶרַע (zeraʿ) 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.sn 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 Lord. And so obedience is enjoined here with the example of how well Abraham obeyed.
- Genesis 26:3 tn 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 26:9; Num 23:19; Deut 8:18; 9:5; 1 Sam 1:23; 1 Kgs 6:12; Jer 11:5.
- Genesis 26:3 tn Heb “the oath which I swore.”sn The solemn promise I made. See Gen 15:18-20; 22:16-18.
- Genesis 26:4 tn Heb “your descendants.”
- Genesis 26:4 tn The Hitpael is understood here as reflexive/reciprocal, “will bless [i.e., pronounce blessings on] themselves/one another.” It could possibly it could mean “they may find/receive blessing;” see the note at Gen 22:18. Elsewhere the Hitpael of the verb “to bless” is used with a reflexive/reciprocal sense in Deut 29:18; Ps 72:17; Isa 65:16; Jer 4:2. For examples of blessing formulae utilizing an individual as an example of blessing see Gen 48:20 and Ruth 4:11. For the meaning of the Niphal in formulations of the Abrahamic covenant see notes at Gen 12:3; 18:18; 28:14. NASB presents the traditional passive rendering “will be blessed” with a note that it may mean “bless themselves.”
- Genesis 26:5 tn The words “All this will come to pass” are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied for stylistic reasons.
- Genesis 26:5 tn Heb “listened to my voice.”
- Genesis 26:5 sn My charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. The language of this verse is clearly interpretive, for Abraham did not have all these laws. 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 whole law before it was given (see m. Qiddushin 4:14). Some scholars argue that this story could only have been written after the law was given (C. Westermann, Genesis, 2:424-25). 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 God’s commands, whose example Israel should follow.
- Genesis 26:7 sn Rebekah, unlike Sarah, was not actually her husband’s sister.
- Genesis 26:7 tn Heb “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.
- Genesis 26:7 tn Heb “kill me on account of.”
- Genesis 26:8 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 26:8 tn Heb “and it happened when the days were long to him there.”
- Genesis 26:8 tn Heb “window and saw, and look, Isaac.” By the use of the particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”), the narrator invites the audience to view the scene through Abimelech’s eyes.
- Genesis 26:8 tn Or “fondling.”sn The Hebrew word מְצַחֵק (metsakheq), 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 God’s covenantal promise. Ignoring God’s promise to protect and bless him, Isaac lied to protect himself and acted in bad faith to the men of Gerar.
- Genesis 26:9 tn Heb “Surely, look!” See N. H. Snaith, “The meaning of the Hebrew אַךְ,” VT 14 (1964): 221-25.
- Genesis 26:9 tn Heb “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).
- Genesis 26:10 tn Heb “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).
- Genesis 26:10 tn Heb “people.”tc The LXX reads τις τοῦ γένους μου (tis tou genous mou) “one of my kin.”
- Genesis 26:10 tn Heb “almost lied down with.” The verb שָׁכַב (shakhav) “to lie down” can imply going to bed to sleep or be a euphemism for sexual relations. Here the verb is modified by the prepositional phrase with כ (kaf; “like, as”) and מְעַט (meʿat; “little, brief”). When כִּמְעַט (kimʿat) modifies a perfect verb it means that someone almost did something (Ps 73:2; 119:87; Prov 5:14); with an imperfect verb it means to do something soon. This verse uses a perfect verb. Most translations employ a modal translation: “one of the people might easily (or “might soon”) have laid with your wife.” But the perfect verb is not typically modal, unless marked by other factors. The vav plus perfect consecutive (or veqatal) may be modal; or the perfect may be modal if signaled by another word such as אִם (ʾim; “if”) or לוּ or לוּלֵא (lu or luleʾ; “would that,” “unless”). If כִּמְעַט (kimʿat), which is not commonly used, can mark the perfect verb as modal, then “one of the people might have gone to bed with her” would be an appropriate translation. The options “it might have happened” and “it nearly happened” are fairly close in meaning.
- Genesis 26:11 tn Heb “strikes.” Here the verb has the nuance “to harm in any way.” It would include assaulting the woman or killing the man.
- Genesis 26:11 tn The use of the infinitive absolute before the imperfect makes the construction emphatic.
- Genesis 26:12 tn Heb “a hundredfold.”
- Genesis 26:12 tn This final clause explains why Isaac had such a bountiful harvest.
- Genesis 26:13 tn Heb “great.” In this context the statement refers primarily to Isaac’s material wealth, although reputation and influence are included.
- Genesis 26:13 tn Heb “and he went, going and becoming great.” The construction stresses that his growth in possessions and power continued steadily.
- Genesis 26:14 tn Heb “and there was to him.”
- Genesis 26:14 tn Heb “possessions of sheep.”
- Genesis 26:14 tn Heb “possessions of cattle.”
- Genesis 26:14 tn The Hebrew verb translated “became jealous of” refers here to intense jealousy or envy that leads to hostile action (see v. 15).
- Genesis 26:15 tn Heb “and the Philistines stopped them up and filled them with dirt.”
- Genesis 26:16 tn Heb “Go away from us.”
- Genesis 26:16 sn 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 1:9).
- Genesis 26:17 tn Heb “and he camped in the Valley of Gerar and he lived there.”sn 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 Lord, for the men of the region knew this too, but did not have the same results.
- Genesis 26:18 tn Heb “he returned and dug,” meaning “he dug again” or “he reopened.”
- Genesis 26:18 tn Heb “that they dug.” Since the subject is indefinite, the verb is translated as passive.
- Genesis 26:18 tn Heb “and the Philistines had stopped them up.” This clause explains why Isaac had to reopen them.
- Genesis 26:18 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 26:18 tn Heb “them”; the referent (the wells) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 26:18 tn Heb “called names to them according to the names that his father called them.”
- Genesis 26:19 tn Heb “living.” This expression refers to a well supplied by subterranean streams (see Song 4:15).
- Genesis 26:20 tn The Hebrew verb translated “quarreled” describes a conflict that often has legal ramifications.
- Genesis 26:20 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 26:20 sn 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.”
- Genesis 26:20 tn The words “about it” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
- Genesis 26:21 tn Heb “they”; the referent (Isaac’s servants) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 26:21 tn Heb “and he called its name.” The referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 26:21 sn The name Sitnah (שִׂטְנָה, sitnah) is derived from a Hebrew verbal root meaning “to oppose; to be an adversary” (cf. Job 1:6). The name was a reminder that the digging of this well caused “opposition” from the Philistines.
- Genesis 26:22 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 26:22 tn Heb “and he called its name.”
- Genesis 26:22 sn The name Rehoboth (רְהֹבוֹת, rehovot) is derived from a verbal root meaning “to make room.” The name was a reminder that God had made room for them. The story shows Isaac’s patience with the opposition; it also shows how God’s blessing outdistanced the men of Gerar. They could not stop it or seize it any longer.
- Genesis 26:23 tn Heb “and he went up from there”; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 26:25 tn Heb “called in the name of.” The expression refers to worshiping the Lord through prayer and sacrifice (see Gen 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 21:33). See G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 1:116.
- Genesis 26:25 tn Heb “and they dug there, the servants of Isaac, a well.”
- Genesis 26:26 tn 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.”
- Genesis 26:26 tn Heb “and.”
- Genesis 26:26 tn Many modern translations render the Hebrew term מֵרֵעַ (mereaʾ) as “councillor” or “adviser,” but the term may not designate an official position but simply a close personal friend.
- Genesis 26:27 tn The disjunctive clause is circumstantial, expressing the reason for his question.
- Genesis 26:28 tn The infinitive absolute before the verb emphasizes the clarity of their perception.
- Genesis 26:28 tn Heb “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.
- Genesis 26:28 tn The pronoun “us” here is inclusive—it refers to the Philistine contingent on the one hand and Isaac on the other.
- Genesis 26:28 tn The pronoun “us” here is exclusive—it refers to just the Philistine contingent (the following “you” refers to Isaac).
- Genesis 26:28 tn The translation assumes that the cohortative expresses their request. Another option is to understand the cohortative as indicating resolve: “We want to make.’”
- Genesis 26:29 tn The oath formula is used: “if you do us harm” means “so that you will not do.”
- Genesis 26:29 tn Heb “touched.”
- Genesis 26:29 tn Heb “and just as we have done only good with you.”
- Genesis 26:29 tn Heb “and we sent you away.”
- Genesis 26:29 tn 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).
- Genesis 26:30 tn Heb “and he”; the referent (Isaac) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 26:30 tn Heb “and they ate and drank.”
- Genesis 26:31 tn Heb “and they got up early and they swore an oath, a man to his brother.”
- Genesis 26:31 tn Heb “and they went from him in peace.”
- Genesis 26:32 tn Heb “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.
- Genesis 26:33 sn The name Shibah (שִׁבְעָה, shivʿah) 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.
- Genesis 26:33 sn The name Beer Sheba (בְּאֵר שָׁבַע, beʾer shavaʿ) means “well of an oath” or “well of seven.” According to Gen 21:31 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 26:26-33, 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.
- Genesis 26:34 tn The sentence begins with the temporal indicator (“and it happened”), making this clause subordinate to the next.
- Genesis 26:34 tn Heb “the son of forty years.”
- Genesis 26:34 tn Heb “took as a wife.”
- Genesis 26:35 tn Heb “And they were [a source of ] bitterness in spirit to Isaac and to Rebekah.”