As Genesis 26 opens, Isaac is apparently on his way to Egypt because of the severe famine in the land of Canaan. . A famine is a time of severe shortage or lack. Do you have any significant lack or shortage in your life right?
Egypt in scripture is often a metaphor or symbol of the world, or the world’s way of doing something. Egypt in Isaac’s day was a powerful nation with a wealthy economy. Maybe by heading for Egypt Isaac was only doing what was naturally logical in his situation. Or maybe Isaac was trying to deal with his situation the world’s way.
Whatever his motive was, God warned him through a divine appearance not to go to Egypt but to stay in Philistia, in the city of Gerar, which is ruled by King Abimelech for a while. For this obedience, God promised Isaac that He would bless him greatly in the land of Gerar, and He will make him to poses all of the lands and He will fulfill the covenant He had with Abraham: making Isaac’s descendants as numerous as the stars and blessing all nations of the earth through Isaac’s offspring.
When you think about it, this divine message was a great promise, a great incentive to stay in Gerar. Nevertheless it took a great degree of faith to obey God and not go to prosperous Egypt where there was no famine. Isaac does so, literally putting down roots in Gerar by sowing crops there that brought forth a hundredfold return in the first year, and this blessing was God’s promise coming to pass for Isaac. He was literally being blessed by sowing and reaping, both literally and figuratively as he obeyed the word of the Lord he had received.
God also prospered Isaac’s flocks in Gerar. In fact Isaac became too prosperous for the men of Gerar, which made them to force him out of their city. As he travelled into the countryside (which was called the valley of Gerar), Isaac discovered a series of wells that his father Abraham had dug in the previous generation but these wells had been covered with earth by the Philistines and he uncovered them.
As we study this passage insightfully we should be mindful of the proper names of the people and places in this passage to see what their names meant in Hebrew and what their root words were. We will then discover that the Lord is revealing a prophetic message to us through the names in a particular passage and how they interact within the passage.
This is a story about Isaac, whose name means ‘L aughter’. He interacts with a Philistine king named Abimelech, whose name means ‘My father, the king.’ This is an interesting combination of character names because in some ways the story of these two men could be summarized, ‘Like father, like son.’ Isaac repeats several of the actions (and mistakes) that his father Abraham made years before during his sojourn to Gerar in Genesis 20. Likewise King Abimelech’s actions parallel those of his father, whose name was also Abimelech, as he had interacted with Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 20.
In Genesis 26 the city where Isaac stays at God’s direction is Gerar, a city near the Negev (‘desert’). The name ‘Gerar’ comes from a root word in Hebrew that means ‘to bring up the cud’ and is used to express the idea of ‘Rumination.’
Rumination is the very picture of scriptural meditation, of pondering and speaking out, over and over, what God has said–until those words become part of the ruminant’s heart and are assimilated into his very life. Meditation is the process whereby the thoughts in our heads become lodged in our hearts.
Gerar is cattle country. It’s near the desert (the Negev). Spiritually speaking, the desert is a place traditionally associated with the solitude and with the fasting from worldly pleasure that accompany times of fruitful meditation on the words of God.
The insightful and prophetic way of looking at Genesis 26 is that God led Isaac in to the place of meditation. If you look in Genesis 20 and 21, you’ll notice that Abraham and Sarah conceived Isaac in Gerar! This also reveals that there was a connection between Gerar being a place of meditation and the coming to pass of God’s promise to Abraham regarding a son after so many years.
What do you suppose Isaac meditated on while he lived in Gerar? I think we can read between the lines here. I believe that Isaac meditated on that vision he had at the beginning of Chapter 26. This faith attitude can certainly be applied to times of financial challenge. It also could be used to understand the dynamics of divine prosperity.
I’ll let you ponder I believe this is speaking to your current situations, next week by God’s grace I will share with you the Part II of this prophetic message, Shalom.