« PreviousContinue »
And now we see, what we are grieved to see, a great and good man let down before heathens, and reproved by them for his dissimulation. He had continued at Gerar a long time uninterrupted, which sufficiently showed that his fears were groundless; yet he
; continued to keep up the deception, till the king observed from his window some freedoms he took with Rebekah, from which he inferred that she was his wife. The conduct of Abimelech on this occasion was as worthy of a king, as that of Isaac had been unworthy of a servant of God.
Ver. 12–17. Things being thus far rectified, we see Isaac en. gaged in the primitive employment of busbandry ; and the Lord blessed him and increased him, so that he became the envy of the Philistines. Here again we see how vanity attaches to every earthly good ; prosperity begets envy, and from envy proceeds injury. The wells which Abraham's servants had digged, Isaac considered as his own, and made use of them for his flocks ; but
; the Philistines, out of envy to him, stopped them up, and filled them with earth. Had they drunk of them, it might have been excused but to stop them up was downright wickedness, and a gross violation of the treaty of peace which had been made between a former Abimelech and Abraham. The issue was, the king, perceiving the temper of his people, entreated Isaac quietly to depart. The reason he gave for it, that he was much mightier than they, might be partly to apologize for his people's jealousy, and partly to soften his spirit by a compliment. If Isaac was so great as was suggested, he might, instead of removing at their request, have disputed it with them; he might bave alleged the covenant made
| ; with his father, the improvement of his lands, &c. But he was a peaceable man ; and therefore, without making words, removed to the valley of Gerar, either beyond the borders of Abimelech's territory, or at least farther off from the metropolis. A little, with peace and quietness, is better than much with envy and contention.
Ver. 18—22. Isaac, though removed to another part of the country, yet finds wells of water which had been digged in the days of Abraham his father; and which the Philistines had stopped up after his death. It seems, wherever Abraham went, he improved the country ; and wherever the Philistines followed him, their Vol. V.
study was to mar his improvements, and that for no other end than the pleasure of doing mischief. Isaac however is resolved to open these wells again. Their waters would be doubly sweet to him for their having been first tasted by his beloved father; and to show his filial affection still more, he called their names after the names by which his father had called them. Many of our enjoyments, both civil and religious, are the sweeter for being the fruits of the labour of our fathers; and if they have been corrupted by adversaries since their days, we must restore them to their former purity. Isaac's servants also digged new wells, which occasioned new strife. While we avail ourselves of the labours of our fore. fathers, we ought not to rest in them, without making farther progress, even though it expose us to many unpleasant disputes. Envy and strife may be expected to follow those whose researches are really ber:eficial, provided they go a step beyond their forefathers. But let them not be discouraged : the wells of salvation are worth striving for ; and after a few conflicts, they may enjoy the fruits of their labours in peace. Isaac's servants dug two wells, which, from the bitter strife they occasioned were called Esek and Sitnah, contention and hatred: but peaceably removing from these scenes of wrangle, he at length digged a well for which they strove not. This be called Rehoboth, saying, Now the Lord
, hath made boom for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.
Ver. 23–25. The famine being now over, Isaac returned to Beersheba, the place where he and his father bad lived many years before. It may seem strange, after God had made room for him at Rehoboth, that the next news we hear is, that he takes leave of it. This however might be at some distance of time, and Beersbeba was to him a kind of home. Here, the very first night he arrived, the Lord appeared to him, probably in vision, saying, I am the God of Abraham thy father ; fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake. Isaac was attached to the wells which his father had digged, and to the place where he bad sojourned ; and doubtless it would add endearment to the very name of Jehovah himself, that he was the God of Abraham, especially as it would remind him of the covenant which he had made with him. A self-righteous spirit would have been of
fended at the idea of being blessed for another's sake; but he who walked in the steps of his father's faith would enjoy it: and by how much he loved bim for whose sake the blessing was bestowed, by so much would his enjoyment be the greater. The promises are the same for substance as were made to him on his going to Gerar. The same truths are new to us under new circumstances, and in new situations. To express the grateful sense he had of the divine goodness, he arose and built an altar, and called upon the name of the Lord : and now the very place being rendered doubly dear to him, THERE he pitched his tent, and there his servants digged a well. Temporal mercies are sweetened by their contiguity to God's altars, and by their being given us after we have first sought the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
Ver. 26-31. One would not have expected after driving him, in a manner, out of their country, that the Philistines would have had any thing more to say to him. Abimelech, however, and some of his courtiers pay him a visit. They were not easy when he was with him, and now they seem hardly satisfied when he has left them. I believe they were afraid of his growing power, and conscious that they had treated him unkindly, wished for their own sakes to adjust these differences before they proceeded any farther. Isaac, while they acted as enemies, bore it patiently, as a part of his lot in an evil world; but now they want to be thought friends, and to renew covenant with him, he feels keenly, and speaks his mind. Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you? We can bear that from an avowed adversary, which we cannot bear from one in habits of friendship. It was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it. To this they answer, We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee. Had they any regard, then, for Isaac's God, or for him on that account? I fear they had not: they feel however a regard to themselves, and a kind of respect for Isaac which is very commonly seen in men of no religion towards them that fear the Lord. We do not blame them for wishing to be on good terms with such a man as Isaac; but they should not have pretended to have done unto him nothing but good, when they must know, and he must have felt the contrary. But this is the very
character of a self-righteous heart, when seeking reconciliation with God, as well as with man. It palliates its sin, and desires peace in return for its good deeds, when in fact its deeds are evil. Isaac, being of a peaceable spirit, admitted their plea, though a poor one, and treated them generously. Next morning they arose ; and having solemnly renewed covenant with each other, parted in peace.
Ver. 32, 33. The same day in which Ambimelech and his courtiers took leave, the news came out of the field that Isaac's servants had discovered a well. It is the same well as they are said to have digged in the 25th verse; only there the thing is mentioned without respect to the time. Here we are told that the news of the discovery of the well arrived immediately after the mutual oath which had been taken between Isaac and Abimelech, and he for a memorial of the event called it, Sheba, an oath ; and a city being afterwards built on the spot was from hence, it seems, called Beersheba, the well of the oath. Indeed this name had been given it by Abraham above a hundred years before, and that on a similar occasion ; but what was now done would serve to confirm it.
Ver. 34, 35. The Lord had promised to multiply Isaac's seed; and they are multiplied in the person of Esau ; howbeit not to the increase of comfort, either in him or in Rebekah. Esau went into the practice of polygamy, and took both his wives from among the Canaanites. Whether he went into their idolatrous customs, we are not told, nor whether they lived in the father's family. However this might be, their ungodly, and some think undutiful behaviour, was a grief of mind to their aged parents. Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife when she bare no children: and now they have children grown up, one of them occasions much bitterness of spirit; this indeed is not uncommon. Such aħ issue of things in this instance, would tend to turn away the hopes of Isaac from seeing the accomplishment of Abraham's covenant in the person of his first-born son, to whom he appears to have been inordinately attached. By other instances of the kind, God teaches us to beware of excessive anxiety after earthly comforts, and in receiving them to rejoice with trembling.
JACOB'S OBTAINING THE BLESSING.
BEFORE we entered on the history of Isaac, we met with some painful events respecting the departure of Ishmael ; but in the introduction to the history of Jacob, we find things much more painful. In the former instance, we found him that was rejected a mocker; but in this we see in the heir of promise a supplanter. This deviation from rectitude, though it changes not the divine purpose, but, on the contrary, is overruled for its accomplishment, yet sows the seed of much evil in the life of the offender. Isaac retained his place in the family ; but Jacob was obliged to depart from it. When the former was of age to be married, an honourable embassy was sent to bring it about : but the latter is necessitated to go by himself, as one that had just escaped with his life. There is a deep mystery in the system of Providence, and much eventual good brought out of great evils.
Ver. 1-4. Isaac was now about a hundred and thirty-seven years
age, and his eyes were dimg 80 that he could not see. He therefore called Esau bis eldest son, and said, Behold
I old, I know not the day of my death-take I pray thee thy weapons and go out to the field, and take me some venison; and make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless thee before I die. Isaac lived forty-three years after this ; but as it was unknown to him, he did very properly in settling his affairs. The day of our death is concealed