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Genesis 26:1-4

Context
Isaac and Abimelech

26:1 There was a famine in the land, subsequent to the earlier famine that occurred 1  in the days of Abraham. 2  Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines at Gerar. 26:2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; 3  settle down in the land that I will point out to you. 4  26:3 Stay 5  in this land. Then I will be with you and will bless you, 6  for I will give all these lands to you and to your descendants, 7  and I will fulfill 8  the solemn promise I made 9  to your father Abraham. 26:4 I will multiply your descendants so they will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and I will give them 10  all these lands. All the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants. 11 

1 tn Heb “in addition to the first famine which was.”

2 sn This account is parallel to two similar stories about Abraham (see Gen 12:10-20; 20:1-18). Many scholars do not believe there were three similar incidents, only one that got borrowed and duplicated. Many regard the account about Isaac as the original, which then was attached to the more important person, Abraham, with supernatural elements being added. For a critique of such an approach, see R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, 47-62. It is more likely that the story illustrates the proverb “like father, like son” (see T. W. Mann, The Book of the Torah, 53). In typical human fashion the son follows his father’s example of lying to avoid problems. The appearance of similar events reported in a similar way underscores the fact that the blessing has now passed to Isaac, even if he fails as his father did.

3 sn Do not go down to Egypt. The words echo Gen 12:10, which reports that “Abram went down to Egypt,” but state the opposite.

4 tn Heb “say to you.”

5 tn The Hebrew verb גּוּר (gur) means “to live temporarily without ownership of land.” Abraham’s family will not actually possess the land of Canaan until the Israelite conquest hundreds of years later.

6 tn After the imperative “stay” the two prefixed verb forms with prefixed conjunction here indicate consequence.

sn I will be with you and I will bless you. The promise of divine presence is a promise to intervene to protect and to bless.

7 tn The Hebrew term זֶרַע (zera’) occurring here and in v. 18 may mean “seed” (for planting), “offspring” (occasionally of animals, but usually of people), or “descendants” depending on the context.

sn To you and to your descendants. The Abrahamic blessing will pass to Isaac. Everything included in that blessing will now belong to the son, and in turn will be passed on to his sons. But there is a contingency involved: If they are to enjoy the full blessings, they will have to obey the word of the Lord. And so obedience is enjoined here with the example of how well Abraham obeyed.

8 tn The Hiphil stem of the verb קוּם (qum) here means “to fulfill, to bring to realization.” For other examples of this use of this verb form, see Lev 26:9; Num 23:19; Deut 8:18; 9:5; 1 Sam 1:23; 1 Kgs 6:12; Jer 11:5.

9 tn Heb “the oath which I swore.”

sn The solemn promise I made. See Gen 15:18-20; 22:16-18.

10 tn Heb “your descendants.”

11 tn Traditionally the verb is taken as passive (“will be blessed”) here, as if Abraham’s descendants were going to be a channel or source of blessing to the nations. But the Hitpael is better understood here as reflexive/reciprocal, “will bless [i.e., pronounce blessings on] themselves/one another” (see also Gen 22:18). Elsewhere the Hitpael of the verb “to bless” is used with a reflexive/reciprocal sense in Deut 29:18; Ps 72:17; Isa 65:16; Jer 4:2. Gen 12:2 predicts that Abram will be held up as a paradigm of divine blessing and that people will use his name in their blessing formulae. For examples of blessing formulae utilizing an individual as an example of blessing see Gen 48:20 and Ruth 4:11. Earlier formulations of this promise (see Gen 12:2; 18:18) use the Niphal stem. (See also Gen 28:14.)



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