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Isaac before He Was Abraham’s Son

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https://thetorah.com/article/isaac-before-he-was-abrahams-son

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David Frankel

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Isaac before He Was Abraham’s Son

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TheTorah.com

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https://thetorah.com/article/isaac-before-he-was-abrahams-son

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Isaac before He Was Abraham’s Son

Abraham and Isaac each dig a well in Beersheba and make a treaty with King Abimelech. Which story came first?

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Isaac before He Was Abraham’s Son

Abimelech and Isaak swear an oath (detail), Jan van Vianen, after Gerard Hoet (I), 1720 - 1728. Rijksmuseum.nl

Abraham’s Absence 1: Isaac Lies to Abimelech

Isaac and Rebekah move to the Philistine city of Gerar on account of a famine. At some point, locals begin to notice Rebekah’s beauty:

בראשית כו:ז וַיִּשְׁאֲלוּ אַנְשֵׁי הַמָּקוֹם לְאִשְׁתּוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲחֹתִי הִוא כִּי יָרֵא לֵאמֹר אִשְׁתִּי פֶּן יַהַרְגֻנִי אַנְשֵׁי הַמָּקוֹם עַל רִבְקָה כִּי טוֹבַת מַרְאֶה הִיא.
Gen 26:7 When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he was afraid to say “my wife,” thinking, “The men of the place might kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is beautiful.”

Isaac’s fears are misplaced, however, and the matter recedes into the background until the lie is accidentally discovered by the king of Gerar himself:

בראשית כו:ח וַיְהִי כִּי אָרְכוּ לוֹ שָׁם הַיָּמִים וַיַּשְׁקֵף אֲבִימֶלֶךְ מֶלֶךְ פְּלִשְׁתִּים בְּעַד הַחַלּוֹן וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה יִצְחָק מְצַחֵק אֵת רִבְקָה אִשְׁתּוֹ.
Gen 26:8 When some time had passed, Abimelech king of the Philistines, looking out of the window, saw Isaac being playful with his wife Rebekah.

In response to this startling revelation, Abimelech summons Isaac:

בראשית כו:ט וַיִּקְרָא אֲבִימֶלֶךְ לְיִצְחָק וַיֹּאמֶר אַךְ הִנֵּה אִשְׁתְּךָ הִוא וְאֵיךְ אָמַרְתָּ אֲחֹתִי הִוא וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו יִצְחָק כִּי אָמַרְתִּי פֶּן אָמוּת עָלֶיהָ. כו:י וַיֹּאמֶר אֲבִימֶלֶךְ מַה זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ לָּנוּ כִּמְעַט שָׁכַב אַחַד הָעָם אֶת אִשְׁתֶּךָ וְהֵבֵאתָ עָלֵינוּ אָשָׁם. כו:יא וַיְצַו אֲבִימֶלֶךְ אֶת כָּל הָעָם לֵאמֹר הַנֹּגֵעַ בָּאִישׁ הַזֶּה וּבְאִשְׁתּוֹ מוֹת יוּמָת.
Gen 26:9 Abimelech sent for Isaac and said, “So she is your wife! Why then did you say: ‘She is my sister?’” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.” 26:10 Abimelech said, “What have you done to us! One of the people might have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” 26:11 Abimelech then charged all the people, saying, “Anyone who molests this man or his wife shall be put to death.”

Abimelech expresses both shock and fear of sin. Having heard Isaac’s concern, the king follows up his rebuke by actively ensuring that no one hurt Isaac or bother his wife.

In the context of Genesis, Abimelech’s response seems deficient. Only a few chapters earlier (Gen 20), this same Abimelech, king of Gerar, experienced the very same lie from Isaac’s father Abraham.[1] Why doesn’t Abimelech question Isaac’s claim that Rebecca is his sister, after having been told the same thing by Abraham concerning Sarah and having suffered the consequences of believing it?[2] And why doesn’t Abimelech refer to that incident in his dramatic rebuke of Isaac? One might have expected him to say, “Like father, like son!” or something to that effect.

Abraham’s Absence 2: Isaac Makes an Oath to Abimelech

This same problem haunts the next story. Isaac becomes wealthy and the locals become envious, leading Abimelech to send Isaac away from the city (vv. 12–17). Isaac moves to the valley and digs wells, but the people contest his right to them, until eventually he ends up in the vicinity of Beersheba, where he settles (vv. 18–25). At this point, Abimelech appears:

בראשית כו:כו וַאֲבִימֶלֶךְ הָלַךְ אֵלָיו מִגְּרָר וַאֲחֻזַּת מֵרֵעֵהוּ וּפִיכֹל שַׂר צְבָאוֹ. כו:כז וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יִצְחָק מַדּוּעַ בָּאתֶם אֵלָי וְאַתֶּם שְׂנֵאתֶם אֹתִי וַתְּשַׁלְּחוּנִי מֵאִתְּכֶם. כו:כח וַיֹּאמְרוּ רָאוֹ רָאִינוּ כִּי הָיָה יְ־הוָה עִמָּךְ וַנֹּאמֶר תְּהִי נָא אָלָה בֵּינוֹתֵינוּ בֵּינֵינוּ וּבֵינֶךָ וְנִכְרְתָה בְרִית עִמָּךְ. כו:כט אִם תַּעֲשֵׂה עִמָּנוּ רָעָה כַּאֲשֶׁר לֹא נְגַעֲנוּךָ וְכַאֲשֶׁר עָשִׂינוּ עִמְּךָ רַק טוֹב וַנְּשַׁלֵּחֲךָ בְּשָׁלוֹם אַתָּה עַתָּה בְּרוּךְ יְ־הוָה.
Gen 26:26 And Abimelech came to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his councilor and Phicol chief of his troops. 26:27 Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you have been hostile to me and have driven me away from you?” 26:28 And they said, “We now see plainly that YHWH has been with you, and we thought: Let there be a sworn treaty between our two parties, between you and us. Let us make a pact with you 26:29 that you will not do us harm, just as we have not molested you but have always dealt kindly with you and sent you away in peace. From now on, be you blessed of YHWH!”

It is odd that Abimelech does not acknowledge that he made more or less the same treaty with Isaac’s father Abraham in this same exact spot (Gen 21:22­–34). Isaac also does not acknowledge the existence of a treaty between Abimelech and his father; instead, they each swear a new oath.[3]

Naming of Beersheba Again

Abraham’s absence is felt again at the end of the story. After Abimelech and his men leave, Isaac’s servants come to tell him that they dug yet another well in this new spot and found water:

בראשית כו:לג וַיִּקְרָא אֹתָהּ שִׁבְעָה עַל כֵּן שֵׁם הָעִיר בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה.
Gen 26:33 He named it Shibah; therefore, the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.

Again, the text makes no mention that the site was already named Beersheba after the oath that Abraham and Abimelech made there:

בראשית כא:לא עַל כֵּן קָרָא לַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא בְּאֵר שָׁבַע כִּי שָׁם נִשְׁבְּעוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם.
Gen 21:31 Hence that place was called Beer-sheba, for there the two of them swore an oath.

An Independent Account of Isaac

This evidence suggests, as the German Bible scholar Martin Noth (1902–1968) already suggested,[4] that the core narrative of Isaac entering and leaving Gerar was originally independent and unrelated to the Abraham stories. In their original context, these episodes presented the events as first-time occurrences. Abimelech does not question Isaac’s claim that Rebecca was his sister, since he had never before encountered a person lying about that matter. The oath between Isaac and Abimelech at Beersheba was unprecedented, and the naming of the site derived from this oath alone.

In fact, a close look at the references to Abraham in chapter 26 shows that they are redactional additions (see Appendix for detailed reconstruction), whose purpose is to connect the Isaac and Abraham stories.

Famine

The chapter begins:

בראשית כו:א וַיְהִי רָעָב בָּאָרֶץ מִלְּבַד הָרָעָב הָרִאשׁוֹן אֲשֶׁר הָיָה בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם וַיֵּלֶךְ יִצְחָק אֶל אֲבִימֶּלֶךְ מֶלֶךְ פְּלִשְׁתִּים גְּרָרָה.
Gen 26:1 There was a famine in the land, aside from the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham and Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, in Gerar.

The verse reads very well without the bolded words. The insertion begins with the word מלבד, which, as noted by Israel Knohl, introduces late editorial comments throughout the Pentateuch.[5] The insertion helps to incorporate the story within the narrative flow of Genesis by presenting Isaac’s famine as a second famine, the first being that which caused Abraham to descend to Egypt (Gen 12:10).

Don’t Go to Egypt, and Blessing 1

Before Isaac arrives in Gerar, YHWH speaks to him:

בראשית כו:ב וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְ־הוָה וַיֹּאמֶר אַל תֵּרֵד מִצְרָיְמָה שְׁכֹן בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ. כו:ג גּוּר בָּאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת וְאֶהְיֶה עִמְּךָ וַאֲבָרְכֶךָּ כִּי לְךָ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת כָּל הָאֲרָצֹת הָאֵל וַהֲקִמֹתִי אֶת הַשְּׁבֻעָה אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ. כו:ד וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶת זַרְעֲךָ כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וְנָתַתִּי לְזַרְעֲךָ אֵת כָּל הָאֲרָצֹת הָאֵל וְהִתְבָּרֲכוּ בְזַרְעֲךָ כֹּל גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶץ. כו:ה עֵקֶב אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַע אַבְרָהָם בְּקֹלִי וַיִּשְׁמֹר מִשְׁמַרְתִּי מִצְו‍ֹתַי חֻקּוֹתַי וְתוֹרֹתָי.
Gen 26:2 YHWH appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land which I point out to you. 26:3 Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; I will assign all these lands to you and to your heirs, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. 26:4 I will make your heirs as numerous as the stars of heaven, and assign to your heirs all these lands, so that all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your heirs 26:5 inasmuch as Abraham hearkened to My voice, and kept My charge: My commandments, My laws, and My teachings.”

Verse 1 gives no indication that Isaac intended on going down to Egypt; his destination was Gerar. This suggests that vv. 2­–5 are secondary. The addition makes the point that leaving the land, as Abraham and Jacob do, is less than ideal. Thus Isaac, in this respect, is the ideal patriarch, who never leaves the land. This fits with the story of Genesis 24, in which Abraham sends his servant to find Isaac a wife, and charges him to make sure not to take Isaac out of the land for any reason.[6]

This addition attributes the great success Isaac will experience in Gerar to his being Abraham’s son. It was his father whom YHWH granted divine blessings, because of his exemplary obedience to God’s commandments, and Isaac, as his son, simply inherited those blessings, which include wealth, promise of offspring and inheritance of the land.[7] Without verses 2-5, the reader’s clear impression is that Isaac was blessed due to his own personal merit.

Wells

After Abimelech sends Isaac out of Gerar, Isaac heads to a nearby valley (redactional additions in bold):

בראשית כו:טו וְכָל הַבְּאֵרֹת אֲשֶׁר חָפְרוּ עַבְדֵי אָבִיו בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיו סִתְּמוּם פְּלִשְׁתִּים וַיְמַלְאוּם עָפָר. כו:טז וַיֹּאמֶר אֲבִימֶלֶךְ אֶל יִצְחָק לֵךְ מֵעִמָּנוּ כִּי עָצַמְתָּ מִמֶּנּוּ מְאֹד. כו:יז וַיֵּלֶךְ מִשָּׁם יִצְחָק וַיִּחַן בְּנַחַל גְּרָר וַיֵּשֶׁב שָׁם. כו:יח וַיָּשָׁב יִצְחָק וַיַּחְפֹּר אֶת בְּאֵרֹת הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר חָפְרוּ בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיו וַיְסַתְּמוּם פְּלִשְׁתִּים אַחֲרֵי מוֹת אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקְרָא לָהֶן שֵׁמוֹת כַּשֵּׁמֹת אֲשֶׁר קָרָא לָהֶן אָבִיו. כו:יט וַיַּחְפְּרוּ עַבְדֵי יִצְחָק בַּנָּחַל וַיִּמְצְאוּ שָׁם בְּאֵר מַיִם חַיִּים. כו:כ וַיָּרִיבוּ רֹעֵי גְרָר עִם רֹעֵי יִצְחָק לֵאמֹר לָנוּ הַמָּיִם וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם הַבְּאֵר עֵשֶׂק כִּי הִתְעַשְּׂקוּ עִמּוֹ. כו:כא וַיַּחְפְּרוּ בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת וַיָּרִיבוּ גַּם עָלֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ שִׂטְנָה. כו:כב וַיַּעְתֵּק מִשָּׁם וַיַּחְפֹּר בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת וְלֹא רָבוּ עָלֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ רְחֹבוֹת וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי עַתָּה הִרְחִיב יְ־הוָה לָנוּ וּפָרִינוּ בָאָרֶץ.
Gen 26:15 And the Philistines stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of his father Abraham, filling them with earth. 26:16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you have become far too big for us.” 26:17 So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the wadi of Gerar, where he settled. 26:18 Isaac dug anew the wells which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham and which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death; and he gave them the same names that his father had given them. 26:19 But when Isaac’s servants, digging in the wadi, found there a well of spring water, 26:20 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” He named that well Esek, because they contended with him. 26:21 And when they dug another well, they disputed over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 26:22 He moved from there and dug yet another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he called it Rehoboth, saying, “Now at last YHWH has granted us ample space to increase in the land.”

Verse 15 is clearly an aside about something that had occurred in the past, preparing the reader for verse 18,[8] which also seems like a side-comment. The idea that Isaac dug again and renamed the wells that Abraham dug, which the Philistines had stopped up, coheres poorly with the continuation of the narrative, which describes Isaac’s servants digging and finding water (vv. 19, 32); they do not unstop known wells. Similarly, in describing the actual naming (vv. 20–22), there is no indication that the names that Isaac gives to the wells are anything other than his own.

Verses 15 and 18 were composed to explain that Abraham was the one who first dug the well at Beersheba and named it (Gen 21), but after he died the Philistines stopped it up. Thus, when Isaac arrived in the same region (Gen 26), he went back to Beersheba, unstopped his father’s well, and renamed it with the same name!

The redactor works backwards from Beersheba, and states that Isaac’s other wells, Esek, Sitna, and Rehobot (vv. 19-22) were once Abraham’s as well, and the Philistines stopped them up.[9] The redaction here wishes to communicate that Isaac was not a creative originator in this matter of well digging. He followed in the path that was forged by his great father.

Blessing 2

Isaac next moves to Beersheba, and YHWH speaks to him again (redactional additions in bold):

בראשית כו:כג וַיַּעַל מִשָּׁם בְּאֵר שָׁבַע. כו:כד וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְ־הוָה בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא וַיֹּאמֶר אָנֹכִי אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ אַל תִּירָא כִּי אִתְּךָ אָנֹכִי וּבֵרַכְתִּיךָ וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶת זַרְעֲךָ בַּעֲבוּר אַבְרָהָם עַבְדִּי. כו:כה וַיִּבֶן שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ וַיִּקְרָא בְּשֵׁם יְ־הוָה וַיֶּט שָׁם אָהֳלוֹ וַיִּכְרוּ שָׁם עַבְדֵי יִצְחָק בְּאֵר.
Gen 26:23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 26:24 That night YHWH appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Fear not, for I am with you, and I will bless you and increase your offspring for the sake of My servant Abraham.” 26:25 So he built an altar there and invoked YHWH by name. Isaac pitched his tent there and his servants started digging a well.

The secondary nature of the insertion (in bold) interrupts the flow of moving to Beersheba and digging a well שָׁם, “there.” These verses once again introduce a divine theophany that presents Isaac as blessed with numerous offspring for the sake of Abraham. Moreover, Isaac’s building an altar “there” before his servants dig the well reimagines the move to Beersheba as a religious journey, akin to Abraham’s travelling the land, setting up altars, and calling the name of YHWH (Gen 12:7–8; 13:4, 18).

This Beersheba altar will be visited again by Jacob when the latter goes down to the land of Egypt (cf. Gen 46:1–5a), and thus this insertion creates links both to Isaac’s father, Abraham, and to his son, Jacob, in other words, producing the three-generation family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

What About the Abraham Parallels?

This analysis suggests that the original narrative presented all of Isaac’s efforts in this chapter as his own unprecedented achievements; they originally had nothing to do with Abraham. And yet, even if we remove the redactional supplements, the Isaac and Abraham stories retain many parallels:

  1. Famine—Isaac moves on account of a famine (26:1) and Abraham moves on account of a famine (12:10).
  2. Gerar—Isaac settles in Gerar (26:6), which was ruled by Abimelech (26:1, 8), and Abraham settles in Gerar (20:1) which was ruled by Abimelech (20:2).
  3. Wife-Sister Story—Afraid of the locals in Gerar, Isaac passes off Rebecca as his sister (Gen 26:7). Abraham does this twice with Sarah, once in Egypt (12:13) and then again, as in the Isaac story, in Gerar (20:2).
  4. Wealth—Isaac becomes very rich in flocks and herds (26:13–14) as does Abraham (12:16, 13:2).
  5. Oath—Abimelech comes to Isaac, together with Phichol his general and Ahuzath his councilor, and asks Isaac to take an oath of friendliness towards them (26:26–31). These same people[10] appear to Abraham with the same basic request (21:22–32).
  6. Beersheba—The place where Isaac swears the oath (shebuaʿ) is Beersheba, which is how it gets its name (26:31, 33). Abraham too swears his oath there, which is how the town gets its name (21:24, 31).[11]

If the Isaac stories were originally independent of the Abraham stories, then the Abraham stories must be borrowing from the Isaac stories and not vice versa.

Borrowing from the More Natural Isaac Stories

From the perspective of the Hebrew Bible as a whole, Abraham is a major figure of great theological significance, whereas Isaac plays a negligible role. It is much more natural for storytellers to borrow traditions from marginal figures and apply them to central and important ones than the reverse.[12]

More specifically, many aspects of the story of Abraham and Sarah in Gerar (Gen 20) point to its late character. It is relatively complex and contains various apologetic elements, such as the assertion that Sarah really was Abraham’s sister through his father (verse 12, 16).[13]

In contrast, the episode of Isaac presenting Rebecca as his sister is much simpler and less contrived. It lacks apologetic defensiveness, and succinctly explains how the gracious host, Abimelech, came to provide the foreign couple with regal protection. Abimelech is presented in relatively positive terms[14] and this provides the grounds for the establishment of the covenant with him (cf. v. 29: “just as we did not harm you”).

Abimelech’s comment is also firmly grounded in the depiction of Isaac’s prosperity in the land. Thus, the words of Abimelech in verse 28, “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us…’” allude to the previous verses 12–14, which extensively portrays Isaac’s great prosperity brought about by the Lord.

In contrast, the covenant between Abimelech and Abraham of Gen 21:22–33 is loosely moored to the preceding material. It begins with the indeterminate heading בָּעֵת הַהִוא, “at that time,” and lacks the kinds of literary links to the surrounding narrative that we find in the Isaac version.

Though Abimelech explains his desire for a covenant with Abraham in terms that are similar to those of the Isaac episode: “God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me…” (verses 22–23), the previous textual material does not depict “everything that Abraham did,” or how God was visibly with him. The text thus has the appearance of an artificial adaptation of an earlier and more natural version.

Isaac: Son of Abraham?

The story of Isaac’s adult life opens with a repeated assertion that Isaac is Abraham’s son, implying that his story will be a continuation of his father’s legacy:

בראשית כה:יט וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת יִצְחָק בֶּן אַבְרָהָם אַבְרָהָם הוֹלִיד אֶת יִצְחָק.
Gen 25:19 This is the account of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac.

Nevertheless, it is not even clear that in the oldest Isaac traditions he is the son of Abraham at all. Of course, the present form of the Bible continually asserts this genealogical connection, but the early traditions of Genesis 26 provide no indication that Isaac was the son of Abraham.

Isaac in Amos

The two references to Isaac in the book of Amos further suggest Isaac’s independence from Abraham, as they make use the name as parallel to Israel, without reference to Abraham:

עמוס ז:ט וְנָשַׁמּוּ בָּמוֹת יִשְׂחָק וּמִקְדְּשֵׁי יִשְׂרָאֵל יֶחֱרָבוּ וְקַמְתִּי עַל בֵּית יָרָבְעָם בֶּחָרֶב.
Amos 7:9The high places of Isaac will be destroyed, and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined; with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam.”
עמוס ז:טז ...אַתָּה אֹמֵר לֹא תִנָּבֵא עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלֹא תַטִּיף עַל בֵּית יִשְׂחָק.
Amos 7:16 …You say, “‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’

These verses strengthen the possibility that Isaac was originally remembered as a representative figure of the northern kingdom, the place where Amos preached. The parallel between Isaac and Israel may also indicate that Isaac was identified as the father of Jacob/Israel.

An Originally Independent Isaac

Isaac’s story forms the core Genesis 26, whose unedited version presented him as a genuinely innovative figure. In this tradition, it is Isaac who comes to Gerar of the Philistines, presents his wife as his sister, enjoys great prosperity, discovers and names wells in the region—including that of Beersheba—and forms an important covenant with the Philistine king. Insofar as the development of Israelite tradition is concerned, Abraham is the one who copied him.[15]

Appendix

Genesis 26: Original Text and Editorial Expansions

Editorial expansions appear as bold text.

בראשית כו:א וַיְהִי רָעָב בָּאָרֶץ מִלְּבַד הָרָעָב הָרִאשׁוֹן אֲשֶׁר הָיָה בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם וַיֵּלֶךְ יִצְחָק אֶל אֲבִימֶּלֶךְ מֶלֶךְ פְּלִשְׁתִּים גְּרָרָה. כו:ב וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְ־הוָה וַיֹּאמֶר אַל תֵּרֵד מִצְרָיְמָה שְׁכֹן בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֹמַר אֵלֶיךָ. כו:ג גּוּר בָּאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת וְאֶהְיֶה עִמְּךָ וַאֲבָרְכֶךָּ כִּי לְךָ וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת כָּל הָאֲרָצֹת הָאֵל וַהֲקִמֹתִי אֶת הַשְּׁבֻעָה אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ. כו:ד וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶת זַרְעֲךָ כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וְנָתַתִּי לְזַרְעֲךָ אֵת כָּל הָאֲרָצֹת הָאֵל וְהִתְבָּרֲכוּ בְזַרְעֲךָ כֹּל גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶץ. כו:ה עֵקֶב אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַע אַבְרָהָם בְּקֹלִי וַיִּשְׁמֹר מִשְׁמַרְתִּי מִצְו‍ֹתַי חֻקּוֹתַי וְתוֹרֹתָי. כו:ו וַיֵּשֶׁב יִצְחָק בִּגְרָר. כו:ז וַיִּשְׁאֲלוּ אַנְשֵׁי הַמָּקוֹם לְאִשְׁתּוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲחֹתִי הִוא כִּי יָרֵא לֵאמֹר אִשְׁתִּי פֶּן יַהַרְגֻנִי אַנְשֵׁי הַמָּקוֹם עַל רִבְקָה כִּי טוֹבַת מַרְאֶה הִיא. כו:ח וַיְהִי כִּי אָרְכוּ לוֹ שָׁם הַיָּמִים וַיַּשְׁקֵף אֲבִימֶלֶךְ מֶלֶךְ פְּלִשְׁתִּים בְּעַד הַחַלּוֹן וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה יִצְחָק מְצַחֵק אֵת רִבְקָה אִשְׁתּוֹ. כו:ט וַיִּקְרָא אֲבִימֶלֶךְ לְיִצְחָק וַיֹּאמֶר אַךְ הִנֵּה אִשְׁתְּךָ הִוא וְאֵיךְ אָמַרְתָּ אֲחֹתִי הִוא וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו יִצְחָק כִּי אָמַרְתִּי פֶּן אָמוּת עָלֶיהָ. כו:י וַיֹּאמֶר אֲבִימֶלֶךְ מַה זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ לָּנוּ כִּמְעַט שָׁכַב אַחַד הָעָם אֶת אִשְׁתֶּךָ וְהֵבֵאתָ עָלֵינוּ אָשָׁם. כו:יא וַיְצַו אֲבִימֶלֶךְ אֶת כָּל הָעָם לֵאמֹר הַנֹּגֵעַ בָּאִישׁ הַזֶּה וּבְאִשְׁתּוֹ מוֹת יוּמָת. כו:יב וַיִּזְרַע יִצְחָק בָּאָרֶץ הַהִוא וַיִּמְצָא בַּשָּׁנָה הַהִוא מֵאָה שְׁעָרִים וַיְבָרֲכֵהוּ יְ־הוָה. כו:יג וַיִּגְדַּל הָאִישׁ וַיֵּלֶךְ הָלוֹךְ וְגָדֵל עַד כִּי גָדַל מְאֹד. כו:יד וַיְהִי לוֹ מִקְנֵה צֹאן וּמִקְנֵה בָקָר וַעֲבֻדָּה רַבָּה וַיְקַנְאוּ אֹתוֹ פְּלִשְׁתִּים. כו:טו וְכָל הַבְּאֵרֹת אֲשֶׁר חָפְרוּ עַבְדֵי אָבִיו בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיו סִתְּמוּם פְּלִשְׁתִּים וַיְמַלְאוּם עָפָר. כו:טז וַיֹּאמֶר אֲבִימֶלֶךְ אֶל יִצְחָק לֵךְ מֵעִמָּנוּ כִּי עָצַמְתָּ מִמֶּנּוּ מְאֹד. כו:יז וַיֵּלֶךְ מִשָּׁם יִצְחָק וַיִּחַן בְּנַחַל גְּרָר וַיֵּשֶׁב שָׁם. כו:יח וַיָּשָׁב יִצְחָק וַיַּחְפֹּר אֶת בְּאֵרֹת הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר חָפְרוּ בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיו וַיְסַתְּמוּם פְּלִשְׁתִּים אַחֲרֵי מוֹת אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקְרָא לָהֶן שֵׁמוֹת כַּשֵּׁמֹת אֲשֶׁר קָרָא לָהֶן אָבִיו. כו:יט וַיַּחְפְּרוּ עַבְדֵי יִצְחָק בַּנָּחַל וַיִּמְצְאוּ שָׁם בְּאֵר מַיִם חַיִּים. כו:כ וַיָּרִיבוּ רֹעֵי גְרָר עִם רֹעֵי יִצְחָק לֵאמֹר לָנוּ הַמָּיִם וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם הַבְּאֵר עֵשֶׂק כִּי הִתְעַשְּׂקוּ עִמּוֹ. כו:כא וַיַּחְפְּרוּ בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת וַיָּרִיבוּ גַּם עָלֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ שִׂטְנָה. כו:כב וַיַּעְתֵּק מִשָּׁם וַיַּחְפֹּר בְּאֵר אַחֶרֶת וְלֹא רָבוּ עָלֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמָהּ רְחֹבוֹת וַיֹּאמֶר כִּי עַתָּה הִרְחִיב יְ־הוָה לָנוּ וּפָרִינוּ בָאָרֶץ. כו:כג וַיַּעַל מִשָּׁם בְּאֵר שָׁבַע. כו:כד וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְ־הוָה בַּלַּיְלָה הַהוּא וַיֹּאמֶר אָנֹכִי אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ אַל תִּירָא כִּי אִתְּךָ אָנֹכִי וּבֵרַכְתִּיךָ וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶת זַרְעֲךָ בַּעֲבוּר אַבְרָהָם עַבְדִּי. כו:כה וַיִּבֶן שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ וַיִּקְרָא בְּשֵׁם יְ־הוָה וַיֶּט שָׁם אָהֳלוֹ וַיִּכְרוּ שָׁם עַבְדֵי יִצְחָק בְּאֵר. כו:כו וַאֲבִימֶלֶךְ הָלַךְ אֵלָיו מִגְּרָר וַאֲחֻזַּת מֵרֵעֵהוּ וּפִיכֹל שַׂר צְבָאוֹ. כו:כז וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יִצְחָק מַדּוּעַ בָּאתֶם אֵלָי וְאַתֶּם שְׂנֵאתֶם אֹתִי וַתְּשַׁלְּחוּנִי מֵאִתְּכֶם. כו:כח וַיֹּאמְרוּ רָאוֹ רָאִינוּ כִּי הָיָה יְ־הוָה עִמָּךְ וַנֹּאמֶר תְּהִי נָא אָלָה בֵּינוֹתֵינוּ בֵּינֵינוּ וּבֵינֶךָ וְנִכְרְתָה בְרִית עִמָּךְ. כו:כט אִם תַּעֲשֵׂה עִמָּנוּ רָעָה כַּאֲשֶׁר לֹא נְגַעֲנוּךָ וְכַאֲשֶׁר עָשִׂינוּ עִמְּךָ רַק טוֹב וַנְּשַׁלֵּחֲךָ בְּשָׁלוֹם אַתָּה עַתָּה בְּרוּךְ יְ־הוָה. כו:ל וַיַּעַשׂ לָהֶם מִשְׁתֶּה וַיֹּאכְלוּ וַיִּשְׁתּוּ. כו:לא וַיַּשְׁכִּימוּ בַבֹּקֶר וַיִּשָּׁבְעוּ אִישׁ לְאָחִיו וַיְשַׁלְּחֵם יִצְחָק וַיֵּלְכוּ מֵאִתּוֹ בְּשָׁלוֹם. כו:לב וַיְהִי בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא וַיָּבֹאוּ עַבְדֵי יִצְחָק וַיַּגִּדוּ לוֹ עַל אֹדוֹת הַבְּאֵר אֲשֶׁר חָפָרוּ וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ מָצָאנוּ מָיִם. כו:לג וַיִּקְרָא אֹתָהּ שִׁבְעָה עַל כֵּן שֵׁם הָעִיר בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה.
Gen 26:1 There was a famine in the land, aside from the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham and Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines, in Gerar. 26:2 YHWH appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land which I point out to you. 26:3 Reside in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; I will assign all these lands to you and to your heirs, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham. 26:4 I will make your heirs as numerous as the stars of heaven, and assign to your heirs all these lands, so that all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your heirs 26:5 inasmuch as Abraham hearkened to My voice, and kept My charge: My commandments, My laws, and My teachings.” 26:6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar. 26:7 When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he was afraid to say “my wife,” thinking, “The men of the place might kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is beautiful.” 26:8 When some time had passed, Abimelech king of the Philistines, looking out of the window, saw Isaac being playful his wife Rebekah. 26:9 Abimelech sent for Isaac and said, “So she is your wife! Why then did you say: ‘She is my sister?’” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.” 26:10 Abimelech said, “What have you done to us! One of the people might have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” 26:11 Abimelech then charged all the people, saying, “Anyone who molests this man or his wife shall be put to death.” 26:12 Isaac sowed in that land and reaped a hundredfold the same year. YHWH blessed him, 26:13 and the man grew richer and richer until he was very wealthy: 26:14 he acquired flocks and herds, and a large household, so that the Philistines envied him. 26:15 And the Philistines stopped up all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of his father Abraham, filling them with earth. 26:16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you have become far too big for us.” 26:17 So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the wadi of Gerar, where he settled. 26:18 Isaac dug anew the wells which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham and which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham's death; and he gave them the same names that his father had given them. 26:19 But when Isaac's servants, digging in the wadi, found there a well of spring water, 26:20 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” He named that well Esek, because they contended with him. 26:21 And when they dug another well, they disputed over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 26:22 He moved from there and dug yet another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he called it Rehoboth, saying, “Now at last YHWH has granted us ample space to increase in the land.” Gen 26:23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 26:24 That night YHWH appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Fear not, for I am with you, and I will bless you and increase your offspring for the sake of My servant Abraham.” 26:25 So he built an altar there and invoked YHWH by name. Isaac pitched his tent there and his servants started digging a well. 26:26 And Abimelech came to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his councilor and Phicol chief of his troops. 26:27 Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you have been hostile to me and have driven me away from you?” 26:28 And they said, “We now see plainly that YHWH has been with you, and we thought: Let there be a sworn treaty between our two parties, between you and us. Let us make a pact with you 26:29 that you will not do us harm, just as we have not molested you but have always dealt kindly with you and sent you away in peace. From now on, be you blessed of YHWH!” 26:30 Then he made for them a feast, and they ate and drank. 26:31 Early in the morning, they exchanged oaths. Isaac then bade them farewell, and they departed from him in peace. 26:32 That same day Isaac's servants came and told him about the well they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water!” 26:33 He named it Shibah; therefore, the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.

Published

November 20, 2020

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Last Updated

January 25, 2021

Footnotes

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Dr. Rabbi David Frankel did his Ph.D. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the direction of Professor Moshe Weinfeld. His publications include The Murmuring Stories of the Priestly School (VTSupp. 89) and The Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel (Eisenbrauns). He teaches Hebrew Bible to M.A. and Rabbinical students at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.