Genesis 26 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Genesis 26 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.

(26:1,8,14,15,18) "The king of the Philistines"
Isaac visits the king of the Philistines "in the days of Abraham", yet the Philistines didn't live in the region until  around 1200 BCE (800 years after "the days of Abraham").

2 And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:

(26:2) "And the Lord appeared unto him."
Can God be seen?
God cannot be seen, but his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, can be seen.

3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;

4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;

(26:4) "The stars of heaven"
God promises to make Isaac's descendents as numerous as "the stars of heaven", which, of course, never happened. The Jews have always been, and will always be, a small minority.
Will there be many Jews?
Time hasn't ended yet...
Moses, in Deut. 1:10 claims that this promise was fulfilled in his time.
Note also that stars visible to the naked eye at one time are about 1,500. With about 18 million Jews in existence, this promise has been amply fulfilled if this verse is interpreted this way.
On the supposed contradiction between this verse and Deut. 4:27, see that verse.

5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

6 And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:

7 And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.

(26:7) "She is my sister."
Isaac uses the same "she's my sister" lie that his father used so effectively the Pharaoh and the same king Abimelech. (Genesis 12:13, 20:2).
(You'd think Abimelech wouldn't fall for the same stupid lie twice. But, hey, this is the Bible!)
Theocratic War Strategy
Unlike Abraham, Isaac couldn't claim that Rebekah was his sister. The author of the SAB claims that Abimelech is the same king, but that's not likely given the years that had passed. Abraham's stay in Gerar (Gen. 20:1) was in 1897 BC, and this happened somewhere between 1821 BC and 1796 BC, so at least 76 years later. So we're talking a descendant, possibly son, but more likely a grandson (the meaning of Abimelech is “my father is king”).
On the theocratic war strategy, may I point out that this lie didn't help Isaac? He was found out. After he admitted his lie, God helped him and he was blessed. The only lesson this verse teaches, is that we should always put our trust in God.

8 And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.

(26:8) "Isaac was sporting with Rebekah."
The king "looked out a window, and saw, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife." But Isaac grew rich from the lie anyway, just as his father had.
Isaac did not grow rich from this lie, as we do not read he grew rich, until after he confessed he had lied, see verses 12-13.

9 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.

10 And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.

11 And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.

12 Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him.

13 And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:

14 For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him.

(26:12-14) "The LORD blessed him."
God blessed Isaac (like his father Abraham before him) with many slaves.
Does God approve of slavery?
The word here is servants, not slaves. To be called a slave we need to know that Isaac bought them and that they were not allowed to leave.

15 For all the wells which his father’s servants had digged in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth.

16 And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.

17 And Isaac departed thence, and pitched his tent in the valley of Gerar, and dwelt there.

18 And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called their names after the names by which his father had called them.

19 And Isaac’s servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water.

20 And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac’s herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well Esek; because they strove with him.

21 And they digged another well, and strove for that also: and he called the name of it Sitnah.

22 And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the LORD hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.

23 And he went up from thence to Beer-sheba.

24 And the LORD appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake.

(26:24) "And the LORD appeared unto him the same night."
Can God be seen?
The appearance might have been in a dream.

25 And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.

26 Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army.

27 And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?

28 And they said, We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee;

29 That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the LORD.

30 And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink.

31 And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.

32 And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac’s servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water.

33 And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba unto this day.

(26:33) "Therefore the name of the city is Beersheba unto this day."
Who named Beersheba?

34 And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:

(26:34) "Esau … took to wife Judith … and Bashemath."
Is polygamy OK?
What the Bible says about polygamy
(26:34) "Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite"
Who was Bashemath's father?
A description of someone entering a polygamous marriage doesn't make it OK. Every time the Bible mentions someone sinning, would that make it OK to sin likewise?
On who was Bashemath's father, the assumption of the author of the SAB is that the Bashemath in this verse is the same as the woman mentioned in chapter 36:3. But this is not true. All three wifes Esau married received new names after their marriage: Jehudith is named Aholibamah (Gen. 36:2), Bashemath is called Adah (Gen. 36:2), and Mahatath (Gen. 28:9) is called Bathshemath (Gen. 36:3).

35 Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.