There was a famine in the land (distinct from the earlier one that had occurred in the days of Abraham), and Isaac went down to Abimelech, king of the Philistines in Gerar.
The LORD appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt, but continue to camp wherever in this land I tell you.
Stay in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I will give all these lands, in fulfillment of the oath that I swore to your father Abraham.
I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and give them all these lands, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing –
this because Abraham obeyed me, keeping my mandate (my commandments, my ordinances, and my instructions).”
1 So Isaac settled in Gerar.
When the men of the place asked questions about his wife, he answered, “She is my sister.” He was afraid, if he called her his wife, the men of the place would kill him on account of Rebekah, since she was very beautiful.
But when he had been there for a long time, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, happened to look out of a window and was surprised to see Isaac fondling his wife Rebekah.
He called for Isaac and said: “She must certainly be your wife! How could you have said, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac replied, “I thought I might lose my life on her account.”
“How could you do this to us!” exclaimed Abimelech. “It would have taken very little for one of the men to lie with your wife, and you would have thus brought guilt upon us!”
Abimelech therefore gave this warning to all his men: “Anyone who molests this man or his wife shall forthwith be put to death.”
2 Isaac sowed a crop in that region and reaped a hundredfold the same year. Since the LORD blessed him,
he became richer and richer all the time, until he was very wealthy indeed.
He acquired such flocks and herds, and so many work animals, that the Philistines became envious of him.
(The Philistines had stopped up and filled with dirt all the wells that his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham.)
So Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us; you have become far too numerous for us.”
Isaac left there and made the Wadi Gerar his regular campsite.
(Isaac reopened the wells which his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham and which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death; he gave them the same names that his father had given them.)
But when Isaac’s servants dug in the wadi and reached spring water in their well,
3 the shepherds of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s servants, saying, “The water belongs to us!” So the well was called Esek, because they had challenged him there.
4 Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one too; so it was called Sitnah.
When he had moved on from there, he dug still another well; but over this one they did not quarrel. It was called Rehoboth, because he said, “The LORD has now given us ample room, and we shall flourish in the land.”
From there Isaac went up to Beer-sheba.
The same night the LORD appeared to him and said: “I am the God of your father Abraham. You have no need to fear, since I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”
So he built an altar there and invoked the LORD by name. After he had pitched his tent there, his servants began to dig a well nearby.
Abimelech had meanwhile come to him from Gerar, accompanied by Ahuzzath, his councilor, and Phicol, the general of his army.
Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have driven me away from you?”
They answered: “We are convinced that the LORD is with you, so we propose that there be a sworn agreement between our two sides – between you and us. Let us make a pact with you:
you shall not act unkindly toward us, just as we have not molested you, but have always acted kindly toward you and have let you depart in peace. Henceforth, ‘The LORD’S blessing be upon you!'”
Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank.
Early the next morning they exchanged oaths. Then Isaac bade them farewell, and they departed from him in peace.
That same day Isaac’s servants came and brought him news about the well they had been digging; they told him, “We have reached water!”
5 He called it Shibah; hence the name of the city, Beer-sheba, to this day.
6 When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith, daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath, daughter of Elon the Hivite.
But they became a source of embitterment to Isaac and Rebekah.
1 [6-11] The Yahwist’s version of the wife-sister episode at Gerar; the Elohist’s version (⇒ Genesis 20:1-18) is connected with Abraham and Sarah.
2 [12-33] The Yahwist’s version of the story about the wells at Beer-sheba; again, the Elohist’s version (⇒ Genesis 21:22-23) is connected with Abraham. A redactor joined the two accounts by means of the parenthetical ⇒ Genesis 26:15, ⇒ 18.
3  Esek: “challenge.”
4  Sitnah: “opposition”; one might expect the text to be continued by some such words as “because they were in opposition there.”
5  Shibah: “seven,” for the sake of a closer assonance with Beer-sheba; but the present version of the story says nothing about there being seven wells there as implied in ⇒ Genesis 21:28-31. The Greek version understood the Hebrew text more logically as shebua, “oath,” in keeping with the present story.
6 [34-35] These verses from the Priestly source, which have no logical connection with the preceding stories, serve as an introduction to the following section on Esau’s loss of his birthright by suggesting a motivation for this in Isaac’s and Rebekah’s dislike for Esau’s Canaanite wives.