Now, the fact that YAHWEH has midwifed your transition to a place doesn’t necessarily mean there’d be no challenges there. Even the children of Israel who were promised and taken to a land “flowing with milk and honey”, didn’t quite find it literally so. In the case of Isaac, his first test in the Land of Gerar, after deciding against moving to Egypt, involved the men of the place, who “… asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, My wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon” (Genesis 26:7). Let’s take some talking points from here, as follows-
1. Isaac was a stranger in Gerar, just one man amongst the Philistines there, hence the need to be careful, even to the extent of guarding his utterances, unlike these days in select parts of the world, with all of the talk about respect for Human Rights.
2. It is possible that such carefulness must’ve been taken outside by Isaac and Rebekah, so much so that the Philistines couldn’t tell that both were the parents of Esau and Jacob,
3. hence the very legitimate question they put to Isaac regarding his relationship with Rebekah, to which he lied while responding for fear of his life, which may have been borne out of what he might have witnessed or heard, concerning the Philistines, amongst whom he dwelt.
Rebekah’s beauty must have been so extraordinary that even the King Abimelech took notice, enough to pay attention from his window while “… Isaac was sporting (playing/caressing, according to other translations, as you would’ve by now noticed, that words used in the Bible are at best “FOR GENERAL VIEWING”, meaning that “sporting” can even be stretched further than mere “touching suggestively”, if peradventure the window the King was peering from was of a storey building, into Isaac’s courtyard below) with Rebekah his wife” (v.8). Just like with Abraham, King Abimelech approached Isaac over what he’d witnessed, to which an apologetic Isaac explained his reason for lying, leading to him charging “… all the people, saying, He that touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death” (v.11). The severity of the punishment, is again suggestive of the length the King was willing to go to assure Isaac of his safety, seeing that Isaac lied for self preservation, apart from the fact that he sought to shield his people from anything that “… would have brought guiltiness upon us” (v.10). Apparently, what happened when something similar occurred with Sarah, Abraham’s wife (Genesis 20:18) was still fresh in his memory.
That problem over, Isaac must’ve settled down to the simple life, with guarantees for his safety assured by the King. “And Isaac sowed in that land, and found in the same year a hundredfold: and YAHWEH blessed him. And the man became great, and grew more and more until he became very great: and he had possessions of flocks, and possessions of herds, and a great household: and the Philistines ENVIED him” (v.12-14). And as with issues relating to envy where the consequence(s) is usually masked, that with Isaac took the form of antagonism over “… the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped, and filled with earth” (v.15),
and if peradventure Isaac didn’t get the memo, King Abimelech laid it plain before him, saying “… Go from us; for you are much mightier than we” (v.16), bringing to mind the xenophobic attacks Nigerians in South Africa are currently facing at the hands of their hosts, largely borne out of envy, claiming that Nigerians and other Africans are taking over their jobs, even when some of them aren’t qualified for such jobs in the first place, or find them demeaning.
Remember, that this is the same Gerar that YAHWEH in verse 2 of Genesis 26, asked Isaac not to leave, yet he’s had to face a threat to life, and now expulsion. So, what’s there to glean from here? How about these ⤵
1. The paths YAHWEH makes for us aren’t necessarily devoid of potholes, sinkholes and the likes.
2. But because those paths may not be the destination, it’s important that we look beyond the difficulties on them, to the lessons that must be learnt there, especially as regards human relationships. The man that just a while ago, promised Isaac security, turned out to be the same one telling him he could no longer guarantee it, all because of ENVY. So Isaac, “… departed from there (apparently, he didn’t need a prophet to tell him that his presence was no longer required in Gerar, and his life may in fact be in danger) and encamped in the valley of Gerar…” (v.17). But the matter didn’t end there because, other wells which Abraham had dug in his days, where also filled in by the Philistines, and each time Isaac’s herdsmen “… dug another well, and they fought for that also…” (v.21). Eventually, “… he (Isaac) moved from there, and dug another well; and for that they fought not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now YAHWEH has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land” (v.22).
Notice how Isaac NEVER blamed YAHWEH for his predicament, rather striving through one challenge to the other, in the place he had received assurances of YAHWEH, even by man of his peace of mind. Yet when he finally found peace, he didn’t glory in or praise himself for the feat he achieved through perseverance (even at a time, like in every of our lives, when it felt that heaven was quiet and silent as we seemingly “singlehandedly” careered through our ordeal), rather attributing it to YAHWEH, an attitude we would do well to emulate, because it showed that Isaac understood his challenges, as tests like you would during examinations, as not meant to kill you, or portray your teacher/lecturer/school as wicked or evil, but as steps necessary for advancement. I can’t recall the number of times I have stated, since we started the Isaac series, that despite being Abraham’s son, the child of promise, THE SEED, he still needed to earn the promise, which in the installment before this, I highlighted the second time he was blessed, and there’ll be a third time, just like with his father.
After all that Isaac suffered in Gerar, at the hands of Philistines, and coming out of it with his faith in his maker unshaken and intact, “… YAHWEH appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the Elohim of Abraham your father: fear not, for I am with you, and will bless you, and multiply your seed for my servant Abraham’s sake” (v.24), by way of reassuring him of HIS presence, even when it appears or feels to the contrary. That is to say, YAHWEH is ever-present regardless of whether we can feel HIM or not. To commemorate this event however, Isaac “… built an altar there, and called upon the name of YAHWEH, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants dug a well” (v.25), and you must understand why digging wells was of particular importance to Isaac and his servants/herdsmen, as they were for the animals as well as irrigation purposes for their crops.
To migrants allover the world, including Nigerians and other black Africans, suffering xenophobic attacks by South African blacks, or those from war torn mideastern countries trying to eke out an existence in Europe and the United States and elsewhere, in the face of the growing wave of ultra rightwing nationalism sweeping across the globe, I urge you to remain steadfast in your belief, that YAHWEH who saw Isaac through his days as a sojourner, will also make a way for you, wherever you may be, outside of your state or country, even in the face of envious hosts, such that in the end, you will have the cause to glorify his name like Isaac did, because “the earth is YAHWEH’s, and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1).
– Genesis Chapter 26 Verses 7 – 25, THE SACRED SCRIPTURES, An Assemblies of Yahweh ®, Publication, © 1981 (Fourth Printing, 1993).