What does Genesis 26:9 mean?
ESV: So Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, she is your wife. How then could you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought, ‘Lest I die because of her.’”
NIV: 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.'
NASB: Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, 'Behold, she certainly is your wife! So how is it that you said, ‘She is my sister’?' And Isaac said to him, 'Because I thought, ‘otherwise I might be killed on account of her.’?'
CSB: Abimelech sent for Isaac and said, "So she is really your wife! How could you say, 'She is my sister'? "Isaac answered him, "Because I thought I might die on account of her."
NLT: Immediately, Abimelech called for Isaac and exclaimed, 'She is obviously your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?' 'Because I was afraid someone would kill me to get her from me,' Isaac replied.
KJV: And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.
Verse Commentary:
When confronted by Abimelech about his lie that Rebekah was his sister, Isaac tells the truth about his fear: he didn't want to die because of his wife. As was the case when Abraham did the same thing (Genesis 12:11–13), it's hard to feel respect for a man who would do such a thing to his spouse. Even the pagan king is angered at this deception, even though nobody has suffered for it, yet. This might be a lingering lesson from the earlier incident with Abraham, where a prior king, also called Abimelech (Genesis 20:2), was faced with consequences when he nearly violated Sarah's marriage to Abraham (Genesis 20:3–6). Despite his fear and faithlessness, God will provide protection for Isaac, no matter how untrusting he appears to be.
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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