Water is essential for life and for living. We tend to take our water supply for granted. When we need water, we turn on the faucet and we instantly have as much water as we need. We can even choose between hot and cold water. Its amazing when we realize that running water in each house has only been the standard for about one hundred years.
Back in the days of Abraham and Isaac, people either lived next to a river or they had to dig a well. When we think of wells in early Bible times, we think of pictures of wells we have seen surrounded by a large circle of mortared stones such as the ancient well at Beersheba. As I researched wells in Bible times, I discovered that most wells in Isaacs day were simple holes in the ground. Gower points out, "The well was not always a deep hole with a wellhead. The well was quite often in a dried-up river bed. About four feet square and four feet deep, it filled up with water and was known as a pit."
Wells were an important part of the early family life. When a man dug a well, he was doing more than providing water for his family and livestock. He was indicating that he liked the location and that he planned on staying there for a while. The water was essential for life, for cleaning, and for cooking.
In this section of scripture we are going to see how Isaac was forced to move a number of different times. Each time when he stopped, he dug a well, thinking that he would stay there for a while. But things did not turn out the way he had planned.
He had possessions of flocks and herds, and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him.
(Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells which his fathers servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.)
And Abimelech said to Isaac, "Go away from us; for you are much mightier than we."
Without water it would be impossible for Isaac, his family, and his livestock to stay in that area. He was being chased away. He could stay and fight, but he wisely decided to move on. There are times in our life when circumstances may cause us to move on. Perhaps its a move to a new area, or maybe a change in job, or even a change in the family situation. We have all gone through times when we had to move on, to make changes, and adjust to what God was allowing to happen in our lives. Isaac should be commended because he realized that God would provide him with a different place to live. So instead of getting hostile and violent, he accepted what God was doing in his life. He decided to move on. Sometimes we have to learn that its time to move on. God has allowed circumstances to occur in our life, and instead of getting angry or frustrated, we need to be like Isaac and place ourselves in Gods hands.
So Isaac departed from there, and encamped in the valley of Gerar and dwelt there.
And Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the names which his father had given them.
Isaac left where he wasnt wanted, and settled in the valley of Gerar. Gerar comes from the Hebrew word which means "dragged off." Thats exactly how Isaac felt he had been dragged off by God into a strange country. But he made the best of it and began by digging up the old wells of his father, Abraham.
Where has God dragged you to? Do you feel lonely, helpless, or feel that you have lost all hope? Roll up your sleeves. Its time to get to work. Make the best of the situation and start digging those wells.
Bowie comments, "Isaac was turning back to what were proven wells. There might be other oases if he looked for them, but here were those he knew. So in the field of religion there are some things which have been proved. Life does not begin anew with any generation. We are heirs of a long past: in culture and experience; in lessons learned about life, man, God, and duty; in knowledge of which experiences lead to soundness...."
But when Isaacs servants dug in the valley and found there a well of springing water,
the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaacs herdsmen, saying, "The water is ours." So he called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him.
The herdsmen of Gerar didnt want Isaacs flocks competing with their own for pasture and water so they contended with Isaac. The name that Isaac gave to this well, Esek, is the Hebrew word for contention.
What contentions are you facing? Does it seem you cant find peace or happiness? Isaac must have felt the same way, but instead of moaning over his misfortune, he continued traveling knowing God would go with him.
Do you find yourself moaning and complaining to God over your circumstances? Have you lost that spiritual joy? Sometimes we do not face setbacks well. But Isaac simply moved on. We need to overlook our setbacks and simply move on. God is with us and he will give us a place of rest.
Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also; so he called its name Sitnah.
Now the people quarreled over this well also. Thats why Isaac named the well Sitnah, which means strife. Isaac was having a real problem with people. It seems everywhere he went, they were trying to chase him away and cause him trouble.
Do you feel that way too? Does it seem that people have been mistreating you, and you dont know how much more you can take? Isaac was willing to take more, and so can we. Once again, he trusted that God would provide for him. So without anger or hostility, he simply moved on. I am sure that this must have been very difficult on his family and his livestock. Perhaps his wife was complaining to him and his children were whimpering about all the moving. He might have lost some of his animals from all this traveling.
But he did not allow these distractions to overcome his spirit. Instead, he was willing to keep going until he found the place of rest which God would provide. Do you realize that God has a place of rest for you? Maybe all you can see is your troubles and your sorrow. Perhaps you have become angry and frustrated. But God has a place of rest for each one of us. We must be willing to continue traveling down the road God has prepared for us.
The Interpreters Bible tells us, "...there is a sense in which every good mans life must seek to be like that of Isaac, in that it does not want stubbornly to maintain itself at the place of contention or strife, but will seek the place where not only possessions but all peaceful happiness can be enlarged."
And he moved from there and dug another well, and over that they did not quarrel; so he called its name Rehoboth, saying, "For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land."
Finally Isaac arrives in a place where there is no contention or strife. This time he names the well Rehoboth which means wide places. This indicates he found a place big enough for his flocks without interference from other herdsmen. God had this place prepared for Isaac all along. Notice his statement of faith in this verse "now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful." He understood that this was where God had wanted him to come all along.
Where is your Rehoboth? God has a place of rest for you just as he had one for Isaac. You may be going through a difficult time right now. It may seem like there is nothing but trouble and strife. But know that God has a place of rest specially prepared for you.
God had much more for Isaac than only a place free of contention. Even though God provided this place of rest for Isaac, he had greater things in store. Sometimes we think we have it pretty good. Everything is going well. But God has even better things for us. As we will see, Isaac makes one more move.
From there he went up to Beersheba.
And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, "I am the God of Abraham your father; fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your descendants for my servant Abrahams sake."
So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there. And there Isaacs servants dug a well.
We assume that Isaac was in Rehoboth for some time. Why he moved again we dont know. Perhaps he had exhausted the pasture in the area. God had provided him a chance to rest and to regain his strength at Rehoboth. From the next verses, it seems he may have done very well increasing his flocks and increasing the number of hired men. God blessed him at Rehoboth, but it was time to go to his final destination. Rehoboth was but a rest stop no doubt a long rest stop, but it was not the final place that God had in mind for Isaac. God sent him to Beersheba.
From verses 24 and 25 we see five things that Isaac did. First, he had an encounter with God. Before we can be sure where God wants us, we must be willing to spend time in prayer and seek Gods divine direction. In verse 24 God gives him the promise of assurance and future blessing. As a result of this clear direction from God, Isaac does four things in verse 25 he builds an altar, he calls upon the Lord, he pitches his tent, and he digs a well.
As you are going through lifes changes, there will come a time when you will have an encounter with God and you will receive that clear direction and assurance. When that happens, build an altar a place of prayer and sacrifice. Be willing to spend time with God. Call out to him and he will answer you. Next, pitch your tent. Know that this is where God wants you. As God was calling me into the ministry, I wasnt sure what direction to go. But after I received Gods assurance that he wanted me to minister in this church to these people, I pitched my tent. I said in my heart: this is where I will stay and do Gods work. I did not continue looking for a different place. I pitched my tent. God wants you to pitch your tent where he has called you. And finally, Isaac got to work digging wells. When we pitch our tent, its time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Let us do all that God wants us to do.
Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army.
Isaac said to them, "Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?"
They said, "We see plainly that the Lord is with you; so we say, let there be an oath between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you,
that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord."
It seems that Abimelech had heard about Isaacs success and perhaps also heard about how he had been chased away from so many places. As Isaac became stronger, Abimelech realized that this might be one person he wouldnt want to have angry over past injustices. So he went with a delegation to make peace with Isaac.
At first Isaac didnt want anything to do with this group. Perhaps he thought they were going to try to chase him away again. But this time the people had seen that God was with Isaac. Whether it was out of fear or genuine regard for Isaac, the people decided to make a covenant. Those that Isaac thought were enemies had their hearts changed by God so that now they wanted to be friends.
You may be facing many struggles. You may feel like everyone is against you. But remember God can change the hearts of others just as he changed the hearts of these people.
So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank.
In the morning they rose early and took oath with one another; and Isaac set them on their way, and they departed from him in peace.
That same day Isaacs servants came and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, "We have found water."
He called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.
They had a great feast and made a covenant with each other. And on the same day, Isaacs servant dug a well and found water. So this well Isaac named Shibah which means oath. Later on the place would be called Beersheba which means well of an oath.
No doubt Isaac had in mind the oath that had been given by Abimelech. But I think this place more importantly reminded Isaac of the oath that had been given by God. God would be with him and continue to bless him.
Do you know that God has made an oath with you? He has promised to be with you and to pour out his blessings upon you. He has promised to save you and keep you. We have a covenant with God which will be honored for all eternity.
So no matter what contention or strife you may be facing, know that God is with you. No matter what changes are going on in your life whether its a move to a new home or new city, whether its a change in job or finances, or whether its even family changes know that God has promised you a place of rest. He has made a covenant with you and he will keep his promises.
Let us be willing to move on to new areas in our life. Let us be willing to get to work and dig those wells. We will find water and be refreshed and our family will be blessed.
This study on Genesis 26:14-33 © 1999 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version © 1971, A. J. Holman Company
Gower: The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times pg. 187 © 1987, Moody Press
Bowie: The Interpreters Bible, vol. 1, pg. 673 © 1952, Abingdon Press
The Interpreters Bible, vol. 1, pg. 674 © 1951, Abingdon Press