What does Genesis 26:35 mean?
ESV: and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.
NIV: They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.
NASB: and they brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah.
CSB: They made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.
NLT: But Esau’s wives made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah.
KJV: Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.
NKJV: And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah.
Verse Commentary:
Genesis is a book packed with universal human characters and emotions. These are moments that echo across cultures and centuries. This is another example. We all know parents who have grieved the painful marriages of their children. Esau's marriages to these two Hittite women are said to have made life bitter for both Isaac and Rebekah. They wanted more and better for Esau, apparently.

We're not told if the source of their pain was the fact that Esau married Canaanites, unlike his father, or if it was simply that these marriages were in themselves full of pain and grief. Certainly, there are already good reasons for God's people not to intermarry with the Canaanites; those reasons are spiritual, not racial. Isaac's father, Abraham, went to great lengths to ensure his son did not marry among the people of this region (Genesis 24). Later, God will forbid these relationships outright, specifically because of the evil habits of this culture (Deuteronomy 7:1–4; 18:9–14).

We should note that marriage to multiple women was not forbidden by God at this point in Israel's history. In fact, the 12 sons of Jacob, Isaac's second son, will come from only four women.
Verse Context:
Genesis 26:6–35 describes Isaac's interactions with the Philistines while living in and around the land of Gerar. After Isaac is caught in a lie about Rebekah being his sister, king Abimelech is angry. However, he protects Isaac and Rebekah. God blesses Isaac abundantly, and his wealth grows to the point where his power provokes the king to send him away. Following a series of disputes over water rights, the king and Isaac eventually make a treaty of peace. God appears to Isaac for a second time, telling him not to fear, and renewing His promises.
Chapter Summary:
Genesis 26 focuses on God's assurances to Isaac to be with him and to bless him, mostly while Isaac and his household are settled in the land of the Philistines. Just as Abraham did, Isaac fearfully lies about his wife being his sister, nearly bringing disaster on Abimelech and his kingdom. Still, God blesses Isaac with greater and greater abundance to the point that Abimelech sends Isaac away because he has become too powerful. After continued disputes over water rights, Abimelech and Isaac eventually make a covenant of peace.
Chapter Context:
Genesis 26 seems to jump back in time to the season before Jacob and Esau were born, as described in the previous chapter. This is common in ancient literature. The Lord establishes and renews His covenant promises to Isaac, blessing him abundantly in the land of Philistines during a time of famine. Eventually, Abimelech sends Isaac away due to his growing power and disputes over water rights, but they end up forming a peace treaty. Esau's marriage to foreign women creates strife, adding more fuel to the controversy which is soon to occur. In the next chapter, Jacob will steal his older brother's rightful blessing.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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