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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 12–25
Verses 12–25

Here we have,

I. The tokens of God’s good-will to Isaac. He blessed him, and prospered him, and made all that he had to thrive under his hands. 1. His corn multiplied strangely, Gen. 26:12. He had no land of his own, but took land of the Philistines, and sowed it; and (be it observed for the encouragement of poor tenants, that occupy other people’s lands, and are honest and industrious) God blessed him with a great increase. He reaped a hundred fold; and there seems to be an emphasis laid upon the time: it was that same year when there was a famine in the land; while others scarcely reaped at all, he reaped thus plentifully. See Isa. 65:13; My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry, Ps. 37:19; In the days of famine they shall be satisfied. 2. His cattle also increased, Gen. 26:14. And then, 3. He had great store of servants, whom he employed and maintained. Note, As goods are increased those are increased that eat them, Eccl. 5:11.

II. The tokens of the Philistines’ ill-will to him. They envied him, Gen. 26:14. It is an instance, 1. Of the vanity of the world that the more men have of it the more they are envied, and exposed to censure and injury. Who can stand before envy? Prov. 27:4. See Eccl. 4:4. 2. Of the corruption of nature; for that is a bad principle indeed which makes men grieve at the good of others, as if it must needs be ill with me because it is well with my neighbor. (1.) They had already shown their ill-will to his family, by stopping up the wells which his father had digged, Gen. 26:15. This was spitefully done. Because they had not flocks of their own to water at these wells, they would not leave them for the use of others; so absurd a thing is malice. And it was perfidiously done, contrary to the covenant of friendship they had made with Abraham, Gen. 21:31, 32. No bonds will hold ill-nature. (2.) They expelled him out of their country, Gen. 26:16, 17. The king of Gerar began to look upon him with a jealous eye. Isaac’s house was like a court, and his riches and retinue eclipsed Abimelech’s; and therefore he must go further off. They were weary of his neighbourhood, because they saw that the Lord blessed him; whereas, for that reason, they should the rather have courted his stay, that they also might be blessed for his sake. Isaac does not insist upon the bargain he had made with them for the lands he held, nor upon his occupying and improving them, nor does he offer to contest with them by force, though he had become very great, but very peaceably departs thence further from the royal city, and perhaps to a part of the country less fruitful. Note, We should deny ourselves both in our rights and in our conveniences, rather than quarrel: a wise and a good man will rather retire into obscurity, like Isaac here into a valley, than sit high to be the butt of envy and ill-will.

III. His constancy and continuance in his business still.

1. He kept up his husbandry, and continued industrious to find wells of water, and to fit them for his use, Gen. 26:18 Though he had grown very rich, yet he was as solicitous as ever about the state of his flocks, and still looked well to his herds; when men grow great, they must take heed of thinking themselves too big and too high for their business. Though he was driven from the conveniences he had had, and could not follow his husbandry with the same ease and advantage as before, yet he set himself to make the best of the country he had come into, which it is every man’s prudence to do. Observe,

(1.) He opened the wells that his father had digged (Gen. 26:18), and out of respect to his father called them by the same names that he had given them. Note, In our searches after truth, that fountain of living water, it is good to make use of the discoveries of former ages, which have been clouded by the corruptions of later times. Enquire for the old way, the wells which our fathers digged, which the adversaries of truth have stopped up: Ask thy elders, and they shall teach thee.

(2.) His servants dug new wells, Gen. 26:19. Note, Though we must use the light of former ages, it does not therefore follow that we must rest in it, and make no advances. We must still be building upon their foundation, running to and fro, that knowledge may be increased, Dan. 12:4.

(3.) In digging his wells he met with much opposition, Gen. 26:20, 21. Those that open the fountains of truth must expect contradiction. The first two wells which they dug were called Esek and Sitnah, contention and hatred. See here, [1.] What is the nature of worldly things; they are make-bates and occasions of strife. [2.] What is often the lot even of the most quiet and peaceable men in this world; those that avoid striving yet cannot avoid being striven with, Ps. 120:7. In this sense, Jeremiah was a man of contention (Jer. 15:10), and Christ himself, though he is the prince of peace. [3.] What a mercy it is to have plenty of water, to have it without striving for it. The more common this mercy is the more reason we have to be thankful for it.

(4.) At length he removed to a quiet settlement, cleaving to his peaceable principle, rather to fly than fight, and unwilling to dwell with those that hated peace, Ps. 120:6. He preferred quietness to victory. He dug a well, and for this they strove not, Gen. 26:22. Note, Those that follow peace, sooner or later, shall find peace; those that study to be quiet seldom fail of being so. How unlike was Isaac to his brother Ishmael, who, right or wrong, would hold what he had, against all the world! Gen. 16:12. And which of these would we be found the followers of? This well they called Rehoboth, enlargements, room enough: in the two former wells we may see what the earth is, straitness and strife; men cannot thrive, for the throng of their neighbours. This well shows us what heaven is; it is enlargement and peace, room enough there, for there are many mansions.

2. He continued firm to his religion, and kept up his communion with God. (1.) God graciously appeared to him, Gen. 26:24. When the Philistines expelled him, forced him to remove from place to place, and gave him continual molestation, then God visited him, and gave him fresh assurances of his favour. Note, When men are found false and unkind, we may comfort ourselves that God is faithful and gracious; and his time to show himself so is when we are most disappointed in our expectations from men. When Isaac had come to Beer-sheba (Gen. 26:23) it is probable that it troubled him to think of his unsettled condition, and that he could not be suffered to stay long in a place; and, in the multitude of these thoughts within him, that same night that he came weary and uneasy to Beer-sheba God brought him his comforts to delight his soul. Probably he was apprehensive that the Philistines would not let him rest there: Fear not, says God to him, I am with thee, and will bless thee. Those may remove with comfort that are sure of God’s presence with them wherever they go. (2.) He was not wanting in his returns of duty to God; for there he built an altar, and called upon the name of the Lord, Gen. 26:25. Note, [1.] Wherever we go, we must take our religion along with us. Probably Isaac’s altars and his religious worship gave offence to the Philistines, and provoked them to be the more troublesome to him; yet he kept up his duty, whatever ill-will he might be exposed to by it. [2.] The comforts and encouragements God gives us by his word should excite and quicken us to every exercise of devotion by which God may be honoured and our intercourse with heaven maintained.