Genesis 26 — She is really your wife! Why did you say She is my sister?

God’s Mercy — God’s Love

Read Genesis 26

We pick up our story at a time in the life of Isaac here in Genesis 26 when there’s a famine in the land thus putting Isaac in a position where he had to move. Perhaps you’re in that situation today. Perhaps there’s a famine in your area, an economic famine. The field of provision from your current employer may no longer be producing. Maybe you’ve been laid off. It may be necessary for you to move in order to continue to provide for your family. I’m not saying that it’s any fun but it’s important to remember that even God’s chosen men, men like Isaac, were allowed to experience famine. It’s a certainty that everyone of us will experience trials. When it comes to experiencing trials there are those who have and those who will. The LORD uses famines and trials to grow His people.

Notice that in the very first verse this famine is distinguished as a different famine, an additional one, besides the famine that Abraham experienced in Genesis chapter 12. In the first famine Abraham went to Egypt to live for awhile.

But the LORD appears to Isaac in verse two of Genesis 26 and tells him, Don’t go to Egypt during this famine but stay in the area. Live in the place where I’ll tell you. Trust in Me and I’ll be with you and I’ll bless you. In fact I’m going to give you and your descendants all this land, your descendants, whom I’ll make like the stars in the sky in number. It will be through your offspring that all nations on the earth will be blessed (Messiah will come from Isaac’s line) because Abraham obeyed Me, because Abraham did all that I required of him, because Abraham kept My commands.

His promises to make Isaac’s descendants as numerous as the stars, to grant Isaac’s descendants the land of Canaan, and to bless all nations through Isaac’s descendants are a repeat of what Isaac has surely already been told by his father Abraham. Why repeat it? You might ask. It’s because those who live by faith must review often the promises they’re living by. Jesus described you, described me, described us as sheep. If you know anything about sheep you know that they need repetition to catch on to any type of training at all. For you and for me it’s essential that we hear the promises of God’s word repeatedly. What a difference those reminders make. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my pastor share on a passage of scripture that I’ve heard or read dozens of times but on that particular occasion the LORD revealed to me one thing or another that I never saw before. It’s hugely important to spend time in God’s word every day and to show up at church a couple of times a week to hear what message He has for you over at His house.

So Isaac, in obedience to God’s word, stays in the area although he heads toward Egypt and settles in the town of Gerar, which is located not far from the border of Egypt. Egypt in scripture is representative of the world and Isaac’s course of action here is an illustration of the Christian who is trying to live a life as close to the world as possible while still remaining in obedience to God. Whenever we do that we’re in God’s permissive will but not in the flow of His perfect will. And whenever we do that there’s a price to pay. In Isaac’s case he experiences conflict in the kingdom of Gerar. When the men of Gerar begin to show interest in Rebekah, when they start asking about her, Isaac becomes afraid, he feels threatened. A chip off the old block, Isaac tells the men of Gerar, She’s my sis. Isaac thought to himself, If I tell them she’s my wife, these guys might kill me because Rebekah’s so ravishing. Didn’t Dad do that thing where he told people that Mom (Sarah) was his sister? Yea, I think I remember hearing about him doing that a couple of different times. I think I’ll try that. (Genesis chapters 12 and 20)

This is a great reminder that your kids are watching you closely. What you say to your kids is important to be sure. But what you do and who you are is much more powerful than what you say.

I’m reminded of the proverbial story of the father who kept a bottle of whiskey in the garden shed out in the back yard. As he was headed out to have a swig one snowy winter morning he heard someone behind him. There, just a few yards behind, was his son, following his father, making his way through the snow by stepping into the footprints left by his dad. The boy’s father sent him back into the house and promptly pulled the whiskey bottle out of the garden shed and smashed it to pieces. He did so because he didn’t want his son following in his footsteps in that way.

Your kids will most likely follow in your footsteps. Isaac followed Abraham’s footsteps.

Back to our story: So after Isaac had been residing in Gerar for a long time he and Rebekah were in what they thought was a private place. But unbeknownst to them, Abimelek the king of Gerar was looking down upon them from a nearby window and saw them caressing. (It should be noted that this Abimelek king of Gerar is the son or grandson of the Abimelek king of Gerar referred to in Genesis 20. The name Abimelek was a title used for the reigning king of Gerar)

Shortly thereafter Isaac was approached by one of the king’s servants, Isaac son of Abraham, the king’s servant must have said, the king requires your presence!

When he was brought before king Abimelek, Abimelek said to Isaac, Are you kidding me? She’s really your wife! Why on earth did you say she was your sister?

Because I thought someone might take me out so he could have her for himself, Isaac replied.

What were you thinking? Abimelek responded, What if one of my men had slept with her? Then you would have brought guilt upon us!

I wonder what went through Abimelek’s mind when he found out that Rebekah was Isaac’s wife. Deja vu! He must have thought. This character’s father tried the same thing with my father who wound up adding her to his harem. All the men and women of the kingdom of Gerar became infertile. God Himself told my Dad that he was as good as dead if he touched her! Man oh man, not again.

So Abimelek put out the word to his entire kingdom, Anyone harms Isaac or Rebekah and he’ll be put to death.

So Abraham stays in Gerar and the Lord begins to bless him abundantly. He plants crops and in his first harvest he reaps one hundred fold. If you invested in the stock market and your return was one hundred fold that would be the equivalent to a 10,000% return on your investment. So when it was time to harvest, his neighbors would have been finished gathering in their crops after a few days after which they sat and watched while Isaac and his crew continued to gather and gather and gather perhaps over the course of a week or more. The LORD made Isaac very wealthy until his crops, flocks, herds, servants, real estate, stocks, bonds, and IRA’s became so great that the Philistines began to envy him. All the wells that his father Abraham left him the Philistines stopped up.

Eventually the tension became so great that Abimelek said, You need to leave, you’re wealth is so great that it’s become a distraction to my people. They can’t get past the fact that we provided you refuge during this famine and in response you lied to us. Then I put that decree out there prohibiting anyone from touching you or Rebekah so the people are in fear of you. And now you’re making money hand over fist and they’re jealous. It’s all too much. It’s time for you to go.

So Isaac moved out of town to the Valley of Gerar where he reopened wells that Abraham had dug. Wells the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham had died. But, water being a premium commodity in the desert, as he dug wells the people of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s servants and claimed the water for their own. Isaac even named one of the wells Esek which means dispute and another he named Sitnah which means opposition.

Finally he dug a well and no one contested ownership so he named that one Rehoboth which means room.

He went up from there to Beersheba where the LORD appeared to Isaac again and told him, “I’m the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” (v. 24) The LORD engages Isaac again because the He knows Isaac needs to hear the promise again, to keep him on his course and because He knows Isaac needs the encouragement. In response Isaac does something that’s just great in my estimation. He follows his father’s positive example by building there at Beersheba an altar to the LORD. And there he pitched his tent and dug another well.

Meanwhile, Abimelek and a small entourage that includes his personal advisor Ahuzzath and his military commander Phicol came out to meet Isaac at Beersheba.

Isaac said, You guys were envious and hostile — you ran me out of town. Why show up now?

They answered, Look, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the LORD is with you; so we thought to ourselves, you know what, we ought to have a treaty with Isaac so he doesn’t come against us. So what do you say? Let’s make a treaty. We treated you pretty well while you were with us. When we sent you away we did so peacefully. You don’t harm us and we don’t harm you. How about it?

So Isaac prepared a feast for them that night. The next morning they swore an oath to each other then Isaac sent them on their way.

That day Isaac’s servants dug another well and it was a good one. They called it Shibah which means oath (or seven).

God’s Mercy:

Going back to verse five the LORD tells Isaac that He’s going to bestow on him abundant blessings because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions. I’m astounded and amazed at God’s grace toward Abraham, because as we’ve seen, Abraham influenced Isaac in a negative way when Isaac repeated the sin of his father by telling the men of Gerar that his wife was his sister. Abraham was far from perfect but God shows great mercy in His description of Abraham when He credits Abraham with obedience in keeping His commands, His decrees, and His instructions. While Abraham was yet a sinner, Abraham is credited by God because whenever God shared something with him Abraham believed, and not only that but he acted on his belief. I knew of a man a few years ago who believed that God would provide for he and his family but he very rarely ventured out to apply for a job. In God’s vocabulary faith is an action word. We need to act on our faith.

God’s Love:

In Genesis 15:6 we read that Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Paul tells us in Romans that the words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25)

He was delivered over to death for your sins and for my sins and was raised to life for your justification. Justification meaning “just as if I never sinned.” Look, we’re all sinners — Abraham, Isaac, you, me, every one of us falls short of who we could be and who we should be. Abraham and Isaac lied about their wives. You spend time on internet sites that you shouldn’t. Not that long ago you twisted the truth to save yourself from embarrassment. I have my own issues, believe me. I’m a sinner. You’re a sinner. You need a savior to be reconciled with God. Read the story of how Jesus died for your sins and then was raised up from the dead by God. What do you have to lose? The truth is you have everything to gain, you have eternity to gain, and you have nothing to lose. Read about Jesus in the gospel of John and then give your life to Him.

You’ll never regret it.

Go to: So Your Life Is Falling Apart.

Genesis 26:1-33

1 Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. 2 The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” 6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.

7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

8 When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. 9 So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”

Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.”

10 Then Abimelek said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”

11 So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”

12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.

16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”

17 So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.

19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 20 But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. 21Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 22 He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”

23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”

25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.

26 Meanwhile, Abimelek had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. 27 Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?”

28 They answered, “We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the LORD.”

30 Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31 Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully.

32 That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, “We’ve found water!” 33 He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.


Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Dr. J. Vernon McGee

Matthew Henry

Bob Coy

Jon Courson

Genesis 15:1-11 Your very great reward

Your Very Great Reward (image courtesy of

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

So the LORD said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

Genesis 15:1-11

Abram is spending time with the Lord. He’s experiencing an amazing conversation with the Almighty. The first words out of God’s mouth are:

 “Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”

Genesis 15:1

It gives me hope to see that God’s first words to Abram, the father of faith are “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield…” (verse 1)

“Do not be afraid,” God said to Joshua when he began his new job as leader of Israel. (Joshua 1:9)

“Do not be afraid,” the angel said to the shepherds the night that Jesus was born. (Luke 2:10)

“Do not be afraid,” the angel said to a dejected Paul in Acts 27:24.

God knows we have fears. Even Joshua who saw the walls of Jericho fall had fears. Even Paul the great apostle had fears. Even Abram the father of faith had fears.

We all have fears.

God knows this.

Watch what happens next.

Abram fears that his inheritance, the great blessings that he’s received from his God above, will be left to Eliezer of Damascus, the top male servant in his household. This was according to the custom of that time. If a man had no heirs his inheritance would go to his senior ranking male servant.

But even though Abram fears, God reassures. God tells Abram that his fears won’t be realized. He takes Abram outside and together God and Abram look up at the stars. “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” I can only imagine that God said this with a great deal of warmth and with a smile on His face. Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (v. 5)

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (v. 6)

Abram’s fear of losing his inheritance was overcome! Abram’s fear of living a life without children fell away! And not only that, but his belief in God’s words were credited to him as righteousness!

How amazing is that!

But then what happens? God tells Abram that He’s giving him all the land around him, and Abram, the father of faith, who just overcame one fear, moves on to another. (v. 7)

“…how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” Abram asks in verse 8. You can almost hear the whine in his voice. What God does next is incredible. It would seem that a logical reaction to Abram’s questioning attitude might be,

“Hey, I chose you to be the father of faith. But you’re behavior isn’t measuring up. You’re fired! I’m done with you.”

But that’s not who God is.

God is so loving. God is so patient with Abram, and with you, and with me. Instead God says, alright, here’s what we’ll do, I’ll make a covenant with you.

At this time, in this place, a covenant or contract was entered into by splitting an animal in two and sealing the deal by clasping arms while standing in between the two halves of the animal.

So God meets Abram right where he is. You fear I won’t give you this land? You’re familiar with this covenant ritual? Bring back the required animals and prepare them for our covenant.

Abram obeys and sets everything up. And then something very interesting happens.

…birds of prey came down on the carcasses (v. 11)

At first glance this verse seems almost irrelevant. What does this have to do with our story?

Throughout scripture birds represent the enemies of God. Genesis 15:11 is no different. Abram has moved into a place of great intimacy with his Lord. And he is met with resistance from the enemy.

You’ll find that it’s the same for you.

There are birds of prey that seek to thwart any attempt on your part to draw close to your God. But the birds of prey don’t look like birds. They look like the elements of your everyday life.

So what are you and I to do with these birds that look like the elements of our everyday life? What does God’s word say to do? In verse 11 we see that Abram drove them away. And so as Abram did we must also drive them away.

Below you’ll find three categories of birds of prey described, followed by some wisdom to help you drive them away.

1) The birds of prey in your life look like everyday distractions:

These birds look like YouTube videos. They look like Facebook and Farmville. They look like TV and first person shooter games. They look like, dare I say it, shopping.

Though none of the distractions listed are bad in and of themselves, we can, to a large extent, replace our investment in these distractions with greater investment in God. We can replace some YouTube time with time in God’s word. We can replace much of our Facebook and Farmville time with time in prayer. We can replace TV time with time in church. We can replace time shopping with time in service to our God. Invest in God to draw near to God. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:34)

2) Sometimes the birds of prey even look like your family and friends:

A wise man once told me that he wanted to give me a new definition for anger. That new definition, he said, is “violated expectations.” When your new interest in drawing close to your God begins to manifest into investing more of yourself in Him, spending more time in His word, more time and involvement in church, more time in prayer, then some of your friends and family may become uncomfortable because you’re not meeting their expectation of what’s normal for you. In fact, the greater your new found attraction to your God, the stranger some of your friends and family may behave. You may hear them say that “You’ve changed,” or “You’re not the same person you used to be.” They may become moody, even resentful.

When it comes to family and friends, we have to remember that …our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against… …the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) Though friends and family may become uncomfortable with your drawing closer to your God, the birds of prey are not your friends and family. The birds of prey are the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The birds of prey are the enemies of God Himself attempting to influence you away from Him. They’re principalities and powers. They’re not people. They’re invisible.

You must drive them away by showing Christ’s love to the very people the birds of prey are attempting to use to assault God’s kingdom. As Peter instructed the wives who were married to unsaved husbands, we’re to win our family and friends over by our behavior. (1 Peter 3:1-2) By showing them God’s love. By praying blessing upon them.

You can learn from experience but it doesn’t have to be your own experience. Learn from the experience of my life and others who have gone before you on this same path. Concerning family and friends, to drive away the birds of prey it’s essential that we recognize the following.

Showing family and friends Christ’s countenance and God’s love is where it’s at!


Praying for family and friends is where it’s at!


Did I already mention, DEBATE IS FRUITLESS?

It’s the kindness of God that leads people to Him. (Romans 2:4)

Anytime family and friends show discomfort with you, show them Christ’s love.

3) Finally, the birds of prey may come in the form of your own thoughts and feelings:

When you begin to experience intimacy with God you may have thoughts of awkwardness. Feelings of anxiousness. Feelings of discomfort.

When you begin to draw close to God it’s normal to have thoughts that this direction is too strange or too awkward. Martin Luther once said something that speaks to these negative thoughts and feelings. He said,

“You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

It’s the same with your thoughts. Normal thoughts that are negative toward God may enter your mind on occasion but you can choose to think on other things. Positive things. Godly things. Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

When it comes to your thoughts, you have a choice.

As you spend time in intimacy with God through prayer, praise, reading His word, serving in church, you’ll find that living out Philippians 4:8 becomes easier and easier.

So back to Abram. Abram, the father of faith, proves himself faithful on two counts:

1) “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3, Genesis 15:6)

2) Abram chased away the birds of prey. (v. 11)

We’ve seen how to chase away the birds of prey, but how can we overcome our fears and believe God as Abram did. The key is in verse 1 where God tells Abram one of the great truths of the universe.

God is your very great reward. (v. 1)

God is your very great reward. (v. 1) The great riches that God blessed Abram with, the descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens, the promised land that God gifted to Abram, all of these, as great as they are, are but tiny in comparison to the gift of God himself.

God is your very great reward, Abram is told. (v. 1) Abram’s belief in God’s word came as a result of this gift. Were it not for the fact that Abram was walking with God, investing in God, and experiencing this time of intimate conversation with God, Abram would not have, could not have overcome his fears and believed.

It’s the same for you and it’s the same for me. If you want to overcome your fears. If you want to believe. If you want to experience faith in God. You have to walk with Him, invest in Him, and enter into intimacy with Him. To overcome fear as Abram did Spend time alone with God as Abram did.

Enter into conversation with Him. Listen to Him — read His word. Share with Him — pray to Him. Pray with your Bible open. Read a verse then pray your answer. Pray to Him then read a verse. Converse with Him.

Intimacy with God. That’s the greatest reward you’ll ever experience. Pursue it with all that you have.

You, God, are my God, 
   earnestly I seek you; 
I thirst for you, 
   my whole being longs for you, 
in a dry and parched land 
   where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1

While in this portion of scripture it’s impossible for me not to share that, regarding Abram in Genesis 15:6, the words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25) This passage of scripture will reward further study. Paul’s explanation of salvation through Jesus Christ is founded on Genesis 15:6 — see Romans 4 and Galatians 5

If you’re reading this post and you haven’t yet entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ you might be interested in learning how. Go to Join Christ’s Family.


Matthew Henry

Jon Courson