Genesis 26:17
So Isaac left that place and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there.
Contrasts in CharacterJ. Parker, D. D.Genesis 26:17-33
Generations United by Common Labour and JoyHomilistGenesis 26:17-33
Isaac's Peace-Loving NatureA. G. Mercer, D. D.Genesis 26:17-33
Isaac's WellsJ. Parker, D. D.Genesis 26:17-33
LessonsG. Hughes, B. D.Genesis 26:17-33
LessonsG. Hughes, B. D.Genesis 26:17-33
LessonsG. Hughes, B. D.Genesis 26:17-33
Malice Overcome by ZealW. Hardman, LL. D.Genesis 26:17-33
Old and New Wells to be DugA. Fuller.Genesis 26:17-33
Old Wells Dug OutDr. Talmage.Genesis 26:17-33
The Permanence of the HelpfulGenesis 26:17-33
Line Upon Line, in God's TeachingR.A. Redford Genesis 26
Thus Esau despised his birthright. Strange and sad that truths so important as those bearing on eternal life, even where believed, often exercise so slight influence. Yet so it is. How many like to hear the gospel in its fullness, and to be warned against neglecting it, yet in their lives show little of its power (Ezekiel 33:32). How many live, content to know truth, forgetting that all our daily life tells for good or ill on our eternal life, and that opportunities are passing away. How many, believing that in every being there is a soul to be saved or lost, can yet see multitudes living in ungodliness without effort or even prayer for their recovery (cf. Luke 19:41). Is not the spirit of Esau in these? He is called (Hebrews 12:16) a "profane person." Yet no crime or great fault is laid to his charge. There is an attractiveness in his character. We see in him an impulsive, thoughtless man; not what would be called a bad son; his father's favorite; having some regard to his parent's wishes (Genesis 28:8, 9); but swayed by passing things, and without self-denial. Hungry and weary with the chase, he craved the food he saw (cf. Matthew 4:3). But the price? His birthright, the claim to a special benediction, the domestic priesthood (cf. Exodus 22:29), were as nothing. He did not realize their value (cf. Hebrews 11:1). The present was everything (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:32). The pleasant, genial, headlong man is pronounced "profane." Observe -

I. THE GRADUAL EFFECT OF SELF-INDULGENCE (cf. Matthew 19:24). The birthright despised not through sudden temptation or any marked step of sin, but by worldly interests taking up the thoughts. Customs and maxims of the world tend to neglecting the birthright (cf. Matthew 6:83). This is no ideal danger. No sharp line to tell when danger begins. Things perfectly allowable, even laudable, may choke spiritual life. Even in good work the mind may be so engrossed in the work itself that communion with God fades. There is need of habitual self-denial (John 6:38); of keeping guard over the tendencies of daily life; of definite aims, not passing wishes; of making personal communion with God an essential part of each day's work.

II. THE DEADENING EFFECT IN RELATION TO REPENTANCE. "Time enough, is a fatal mistake (Acts 24:25; 2 Corinthians 6:2). So far as we know Esau never repented. Even when Jacob received the blessing he was sorry, but there was no real change, no confession of error. Self was still the ruling power.

III. THE CALL TO CONSIDER OUR BIRTHRIGHT (Romans 8:17; 1 John 3:2). Not merely a future blessing. Thinking of it thus leads to its being left out of view. Now there is reconciliation, peace, spirit of adoption, the Spirit's witness in our hearts, freedom of access in prayer, and promises to be realized in growing likeness to Christ and communion with him. Few would deliberately postpone to the end of life the claiming their birthright and making sure of it, the work of repentance and faith, and the casting away what has hindered. But many without set purpose do delay. Each time the call is put away is a victory for the tempter. - M.

Isaac digged again the wells of water.
These four names are the names (vers. 20, 21, 22, 33) of four wells of springing water, dug in a valley, to feed families and flocks. "Esek" means Strife; "Sitnah," Hatred; "Rehoboth," Room; "Shebah," Oath. Have you not been at them all?

I. When you began life you found people trying to put you down by saying that the well was theirs, and that you were crowding yourself upon their ground. If they did not try to put you down, you tried to put them down. The well is there in life — strife, contention, debate — you must find it in your life somewhere.

II. If you drive people off the ground they may strive with you no more. They will hate you; your name will be the signal for abuse. First you are opposed, then you are hated; so you call it Sitnah, Hatred — the second well.

III. Then you come to the third stage, if you are not killed. You are hated, but you keep digging away, and at last room is made for you — Rehoboth. You are recognized, looked for, and missed if you do not come.

IV. If you have got to Rehoboth is there anything to hinder you from going on? The next step is easy: confidence — rest. Be not discouraged: move on honestly, laboriously, religiously. Go on: that is your duty in two words. Life is full of difficulty. It is through tribulation that you get into any kingdom worth anything. In Christ we are called to strife.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. THE EXISTING GENERATIONS SUCCEED TO THE LABOURS OF THOSE WHO ARE GONE. Divine benevolence is to be seen in this arrangement.

1. It serves to weld all generations in a common interest.

2. It serves as a guarantee of progress in the quality of human productions.


1. The well of sensuous enjoyment.

2. The well of intellectual enjoyment.

3. The well of social enjoyment.

4. The well of religious enjoyment.


What a detestable man Isaac is when he tells lies to the king of the Philistines! Then he goes out well-hunting, as if he deserved to find water in the earth; and, secondly, calls the wells after the names which his father Abraham had given them. What contradictions we are! — telling lies to a living king, and sentimentally honouring a dead father. Mean man! has Isaac left any posterity upon the earth? Do we look upon him as an ancient character, or as a modern instance? We are doing the same thing ourselves in some form or way. What if in the very middle of our life there be just one great black lie, and lying outside two or three beautiful touches of sentiment — quite a skill in the drawing up of epitaphs, and quite a tearful and watery way of talking about old fathers and old associations? All these speeches make the lie the worse; when we see how little good we might be and might do, it aggravates the central evil of the life into overpowering and intolerable proportions. We never know how profane is the blasphemy until we catch ourselves in prayer. To think that the tongue blackened by that profanity could have also uttered that same prayer! Why, in the contrast is a new accusation and a fresh reproach. But let us follow Isaac in his well-digging. Man must have wells; man must go out of himself and pray to God in digging, if he will not pray in liturgy and uttered hymn and psalm in words. God lays His hand upon us at unexpected places: if we will not fall down upon our knees, we must still bend the proud back and dig in His earth in quest of water. At best we are dependants, seekers, always in quest of something which another hand alone can give us. Oh that men were wise! that in these true and inevitable providences we might see the beginning of inward and spiritual revelations, and that, knowing the goodness of God in the gift of water and of bread, we might proceed to know that ineffable goodness which expressed itself in sacrificial and propitiatory blood. From the lower to the higher, I charge thee to go, or else thy reasoning is a base sophism and the beginning of an awful crime.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Justice warrants the saints to recover their just possessions left them from their fathers.

2. Malice and treachery of wicked men would put out the name and possessions of saints after decease.

3. Providence sometimes orders a restitution of outward comforts to the Church, which have been spoiled by wicked men (ver. 18).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

1. Wicked servants prosecute the quarrel of wicked masters against the Church.

2. Persecuting enemies, if in their power, would not spare a little water to the saints.

3. The wicked double their strife to destroy the life of the saints.

4. Saints give way to the malice of adversaries, but leave a brand of their hateful carriages (ver. 21) in what they yield to them. Sitnah.

5. All the envy and malice of the wicked will stand up as a monument against them, when God shall call them to account (ver. 21).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

1. God sojourners voluntarily translate themselves from such places where enemies under Providence do afflict them.

2. Wherever saints come as sojourners, they must labour under Providence to get necessary supports.

3. Where some wells of comfort are denied by enemies, saints may seek to find out others.

4. Wells of strife and hatred among men may be turned into wells of enlargement and ease by God to His people.

5. God's mercies are fit to be named, published, and recorded among His saints.

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

In Oriental lands a well of water is a fortune. If a king dug one, he became as famous as though he had built a pyramid or conquered a province. Great battles were fought for the conquest or defence of wells of water; castles and towers were erected to secure permanent possession of them. The traveller to-day finds the well of Jacob dug one hundred feet through a solid rock of limestone. These ancient wells of water were surrounded by walls of rock. This wall of rock was covered up with a great slab. In the centre of the slab there was a hole, through which the leathern bottle or earthen jar was let down. This opening was covered by a stone. It was considered one of the greatest calamities that could happen to a nation when these wells of water were stopped. Isaac, you see, in the text, found out that the wells of water that had been dug out by his father Abraham, at great expense and care, had been filled up by the spiteful Philistines. Immediately Isaac orders them all opened again. He was very careful to call all the wells by the same names which his father had called them by; and if this well was called "The Well in the Valley," or "The Well by the Rock," or "The Well of Bubbles," Isaac baptized it with the same nomenclature. You have noticed, friends, that many of the old Gospel wells that our fathers dug have been dug up by the modern Philistine. They have thrown in their scepticisms and their philosophies, until the well is almost filled up, and it is nigh impossible to get one drop of the clear water. You will not think it strange, then, if the Isaac who speaks to you this morning tries to dig open some of the old wells made by Abraham, his father, nor will you be surprised if he call them by the same old names.

1. Bring your shovel and pickaxe, and crowbar, and the first well we will open is the glorious well of the Atonement. It is nearly filled up with the chips and debris of old philosophies that were worn out in the time of Confucius and Zeno, but which smart men in our day unwrap from their mummy-bandages, and try to make us believe are original with themselves. I plunge the shovel to the very bottom of the well, and I find the clear water starting. Glorious well of the Atonement. Perhaps there are people here who do not know what "atonement" means, it is so long since you have heard the definition. The word itself, if you give it a peculiar pronunciation, will show the meaning — at-one-ment. Man is a sinner and deserves to die. Jesus comes in and bears His punishments and weeps His griefs. I was lost once, but now I am found. Cowper, overborne with his sin, threw himself into a chair by the window, picked up a New Testament, and his eye lighted upon this: "Whom God hath set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood"; and instantly he was free. Unless Christ pays our debts, we go to eternal jail. Unless our Joseph opens the King's corn-crib, we die of famine. One sacrifice for all. A heathen got worried about his sins, and came to a priest and asked how he might be cured. The priest said: "If you will drive spikes into your shoes and walk five hundred miles, you will get over it." So he drove spikes in his shoes and began the pilgrimage, trembling, tottering, agonizing on the way, until he came about twenty miles, and sat down under a tree, exhausted. Near by, a missionary was preaching Christ, the Saviour of all men. When the heathen heard it, he pulled off his sandals, threw them as far as he could, and cried: "That's what I want: give me Jesus! give me Jesus!" O ye who have been convicted and worn of sin, trudging on all your days to reap eternal woe, will you not, this morning, at the announcement of a full and glorious Atonement, throw your torturing transgressions to the winds? "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin"; that was the very passage that came to the tent of Hedley Vicars, the brave English soldier, and changed him into a hero for the Lord.

2. Now, bring your shovels and your pickaxes, and we will try to open another well. I call it the well of Christian comfort. You have noticed that there are a good many new ways of comforting. Your father dies. Your neighbour comes in and he says: "It is only a natural law that your father should die. The machinery is merely worn out"; and before he leaves you, he makes some other excellent remarks about the coagulation of blood, and the difference between respiratory and nitrogenized food. Your child dies, and your philosophic neighbour comes, and for your soothing tells you that it was impossible the child should live with such a state of mucous membrane! Out with your chemistry and physiology when I have trouble, and give me a plain new Testament! I would rather have an illiterate man from the back-woods, who knows Christ, talk with me when I am in trouble than the profoundest Worldling who does not know Him. The Gospel, without telling you anything about mucous membrane, or gastric juice, or hydrochloric acid, comes and says: "All things together work for good to those who love God," and that if your child is gone, it is only because Jesus has folded it in His arms, and that the judgment-day will explain things that are now inexplicable. Oh! let us dig out this Gospel well of comfort.

3. Now, bring your shovels and pickaxes, and we will dig out another well — a well opened by our father Abraham, but which the Philistines have filled up. It is the well of Gospel invitation. Do you know why more men do not come to Christ? It is because men are not invited that they do not come. You get a general invitation from your friend. "Come around some time to my house and dine with me." You do not go. But he says: "Come around to-day at four o'clock and bring your family, and we'll dine together." And you say: "I don't know that I have any engagement: I will come." "I expect you at four o'clock." And you go. The world feels it is a general invitation to come around some time ,rid sit at the Gospel feast, and men do not come because they are not specially invited. It is because you do not take hold of them and say: "My brother, come to Christ; come now, come now!"

(Dr. Talmage.)

The conflict still continues between good and evil. Every town, every village, every congregation, every heart, feels this conflict being carried on. Often we go a long way to see the site of some famous battle-field. We stand and muse over the spot. Here, we say, was the standard fixed; down yonder slope the charge of the cavalry madly rushed. Yet we seldom stop to reflect on the fight that goes on within our souls, on the result of which hang eternal consequences. To this scene, to this struggle so close at hand, let us turn our eyes. If religion is not practical it is worthless — if it is always seeking distant spheres of operation, it is mistaken, for its first mission is at home. Yet how cold is our interest in our religious progress! How half-hearted our feelings on the subject! How ready we are to place the easy cushions of self-satisfaction under our conscience, and to allow only a very little of our time, and still less of our thoughts, to be devoted to religious matters. A quaint writer offers the prescription, "To produce spiritual indifference, add to five minutes only of prayer fourteen hours of worldliness, and nearly ten of torpor." Since then the cares of this world have, like the Philistines, filled up and choked those cool and pleasant wells which Abraham dug in the old time. Perhaps much of this arises from a dangerous habit of always letting the things of religion take a second place. But it would have been useless for Isaac and his servants to stand idly grieving over the choked-up wells and the want of water. There was nothing to be done but to labour diligently at the work and "dig the wells again." So if we would strive to renew the withered and damaged plants of spiritual life — if we would be hearty, active, sincere Christians, we must rouse ourselves to prayer, watchfulness and activity!

(W. Hardman, LL. D.)

The old Hebrew wells are flowing to-day. The monuments men build to their own pride and prowess — Pyramids, Bisen, Nimroud, Palaces, &c. — are triturated by the passing centuries; the forces of nature preserve, and in some instances enlarge, the wells. Mahomet when asked, "What monument shall I build to my friend?" replied, "Dig a well."

Few things are more pleasing than the picture of this gentle patriarch, yielding everything and finding everything; as if his history was an antique pictorial illustration of the very words, "Give, and it shall be given unto you." He yields his life on the altar on Moriah, and he finds it. In the strife he always gives up. A lamb among wolves, he conquers the wolves. By patience he is successful. And so "the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great," illustrating, so far back, the Hebrew saying, that to the good man " the very stones of the field shall be at peace." Ah! that our striving, grieved hearts, standing on our points of pride or interest, would cry, "Sitnah" (hate), and go away, though we lose the precious well, forgiving the worst injustice by remembering the love and pity of God our Saviour towards us!

(A. G. Mercer, D. D.)

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, and which occasioned new strife. While we avail ourselves of the labours of our forefathers, we ought not to rest in them, without making further progress, even though it expose us to many unpleasant disputes. Envy and strife may be expected to follow those whose researches are really beneficial, 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 he called Rehoboth, saying, "Now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land."

(A. Fuller.)

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