Dealing With Hostility | Genesis 26

October 17, 2021

Book: Genesis

Scripture: Genesis 26


Food, water, and peaceful relationships are the primary necessities of life. At times, we struggle to satisfy these needs. Have you ever been in such a difficult situation? Have you been in a place where everyone was against you and there was hostility all around?


David Livingstone was the pioneer missionary to Africa, who walked almost 50,000 km in his ministry. His wife died early in their ministry and he faced stiff opposition from his Scottish brethren. Not knowing how to face the hostility, he wrote the following prayer in his diary: “Send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever me from any tie but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart.”

Maybe you are experiencing that kind of hostility in your life right now. How will you deal with such hostility against you? How do you deal with the scarcity of resources in your life?

Incidents in the life of Isaac

I want to draw your attention to two rather obscure incidents in the life of the Patriarch Isaac and learn how we can handle hostility and animosity towards us.

Genesis 26 has two stories of Isaac in it. A two-sided coin, one side is negative and the other is positive. But this double-sided coin in Genesis 26 teaches us a single message: How to cope with difficult people? How to deal with hostility and lack of resources in life?

The story is actually a flashback and happens before Isaac and his wife Rebecca have any children.

Genesis 26:1 Now there was a famine in the land besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time…

The passage begins like other biblical passages before: Now there was a famine in the land.

Now, what is it with all these famines? Abraham faced famine and now his son Isaac faces famine. These famines present us with these constant tests of faith. This is Isaac’s turn. Abraham has been tested in the past with famine and did not do really well. During one particular famine, Abraham took his wife to Egypt and lied about their marital status, saying that she was his sister. They really risked their life and promises because of that. Abraham was afraid.

In this chapter, Isaac is going to go through a very similar situation. We too face tests to our faith. We go through circumstances and situations in our life that become a test.

When the call of God is there in our life to do something, go somewhere, minister somewhere, work somewhere, raise our family or whatever it may be, there are always going to be challenging, there are always going to be problems, there are going to be circumstances that are going to challenge us in that calling.

Our Response

There is a common response Christians do when they are faced with a difficult circumstance, it is to question the call of the Lord.

How are we going to react?

How are we going to respond?

Are we going to respond in faith?

Or respond in fear?

Are we going to trust the Lord?

Or are we going to freak out and fix the problem in our own strength?

Genesis 26:1 Now there was a famine in the land besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar.

Isaac went to Abimelek. Abimelek is a title for a king like that Pharoah.

Genesis 26:2-4 2The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 4I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed,

Things are bleak and God urges Isaac to remain in the land of the Philistines in Gerar. God gives an unambiguous/clear promise confirmed by an oath. In the midst of a famine, God declares that Isaac will be safe. Isaac can be absolutely positively, sure that God is going to keep his word.

Four times the word descendants are mentioned in v2-4.

Isaac is in Philistine land.

Genesis 26:7 7When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

  • His life is threatened by famine and foreign land.
  • God spoke to him.
  • God directed him to stay at Gerar.
  • God promised him that he will have descendants.
  • But Isaac falls apart. Resorts to deceit/subterfuge, even risking his wife’s safety.

Isaac was terrified. He was afraid he would be killed. He was afraid for is life.

Was Isaac’s fear legitimate? He stayed there a long time and no one touched his wife.

Remember the repeated word in Genesis 26:3-4 descendants (4 times descendants are mentioned).

Now if God promised Isaac kids, how on earth would Isaac be allowed to die before he had at least one? All this happened before Isaac and Rebekah had children. So the fundamental issue here is that Isaac afraid of his own life is actually mistrusting God and his promises. Afraid, scared, faithless, and stricken in fear he lies risking the safety of himself and his family, afraid his blessing would go, afraid his very life would get stolen, he forgets God’s promises.

What are you afraid of Christian?

Are you so afraid that you have forgotten God’s promises?

Now, I admit there are a lot of things around to fear. Finances, health, future, ministry, kids, relationships, terrorism, elections.

Has the noise of the world gotten so loud that we don’t hear the voice of the Lord?

We have the voice of God in the Scripture. The voice that promises us the certainty of his presence as in Hebrews 13:5 Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. It promises us the sufficiency of his grace in 2 Corinthians 12:8 My grace is sufficient for you. The voice of his Love from which says nothing can ever separate us neither death nor life, no angles, no principalities.

Here is step one for dealing with a hostile situation:

  1. Remember The Promises during hostility.

Our God is one who keeps his word. Remember the promises, etch them in your mind, memorise them, and meditate on them. Remember the promises.

Back to our story: Thankfully it all ends well for Isaac and Rebekah.

Genesis 26:8-9 8 When Isaac had been there a long time, (That means for a long time Isaac and his wife was safe. They had grains and none dared touched him. His fear was unfounded.) Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. 9 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.”

Isaac’s lie was uncovered when Abimelek saw Isaac with his wife Rebecca.

Like Abraham, Isaac would have brought guilt on others rather than blessing others.

The cultures of ancient West Asia took the sin of adultery very seriously and punished it by death, 20:3-9).

Genesis 26:11 11So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”

Once again a king of Gerar proved more righteous than God’s chosen ones.

Sometimes we believers behave in a shameful and unrighteous way than nonbelievers.

Genesis 26:12-14 12Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. 13The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him.

God is faithful to his promises and blesses Isaac despite his failure, so that is side one of Isaac’s coin, the negative side.

Transition: But there is a side 2 a positive one to the Isaac story.

Genesis 26:14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him.

This passage talks about Problems of wealth and prosperity. Wealth promotes envy. Wealth brings with it problems. Look at what the Philistines, this envious world did to Isaac:

Genesis 26:15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.

The Philistines stopped those well so what does Isaac do? He digs elsewhere.

Genesis 26:19-20 19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 20But the herders of Gerar quarrelled (disputed) with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him.

Wealth brings quarrels and disputes.

Now Isaac is facing another challenge: The Philistines are occupying their well. Quarrel, dispute, strife etc..

Genesis 26:21 Then they dug another well, but they quarrelled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah (hostility).

The Philistines opposed the third round of well digging so what does Isaac do he moves over.

Water Problems: Hostility and quarrelling over water is a problem that is becoming more and more in our present generation. In many places in India, there is water scarcity and people fight for water. There are countries fighting for water: There is water conflict between countries.


As Christians, we need to ensure that the resources God has given us are shared fairly.

Every time Isaac hits the water the envious Philistines attack his well constantly. This was a sustained ongoing hostility, a blatant attempt to drive him away. Out there no water means, no survival. The Philistines were out to get him. He did nothing wrong. He was simply obeying God, minding his own business and the Philistines were attacking him for no fault of his own. Innocent, doing his own thing, troubling nobody and then this.


Isaac was like Chipee the parakeet, a story narrated by Max Lucado. One second the bird has peacefully perched in its cage singing and the next moment its life changed forever. Its problem began when its owner decided to clean its cage with a vacuum cleaner. She stuck the nozzle in to suck the seeds and feathers from the bottom of the cage and then the phone rang and she turned and picked it up. She had barely said hello when zoop Chipee was gone. The woman gasped, dropped the phone, and snapped off the vacuum with her heart in her mouth. She unhooked the vacuum and unzipped the bag and there was Chipee stunned but alive, covered with heavy black dust. She grabbed the bird and rushed to the bathtub, turned the faucet on full blast and held Chipee under a torrent of ice-cold water power washing it clean. Then the good lady did what any compassionate pet owner would do. She snatched up the hairdryer and blasted the wet miserable shivering little bird with hot air. Chippy does not sing much anymore.

Are you in a situation like that? Have you lost your song? Suffering through no fault of your own. Get ready, Satan’s world will throw everything at you, people and circumstances. Be sure that the enemies’ lethal arrows will be directed at you in full force, perhaps, especially against us who are in ministry.

Our Response vs Isaac’s response

How will we respond? How did Isaac respond? Philistine stop up his well, and he moves on. Philistines quarrel for the second dig, and he moves on. Philistines oppose him for the third round, he moves on. Move and dig.

This is really amazing because of what Isaac did not do. He does not fight. He does not so much as raise a fight in resistance, could he have? Look with me:

Genesis 26: 12-14 12Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. 13The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him.

Genesis 26:16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”

See, Isaac was not an average landowner. This guy was an enterprise, an institution. His father had a homegrown army of 318 men with which he fought several successful wars. Isaac was not too shabby himself. He had a great household and he is acknowledged to be too powerful. He could probably have gone after Abimelek’s men and the rest of them who were sabotaging his wells. And could have knocked them out without any hostility whatsoever, but instead what does he do: Move and dig.

In the earlier story side one, we had a guy quaking in his sandals. What happened here? On side two he is quiet and calm and peaceful. No threats. No reloading of weapons. And no flash of steel, just move and dig. After side one, Isaac had learnt his lesson. He had seen God work. He was trusting in God’s promises. No contention, no conflict, and no clashing.

Step 2 for dealing with hostility:

  1. Refrain From Retaliation.

In the face of unremitting opposition, how will our inner trust in God’s promises show outside? Refrain from retaliation. Will our attitude and approach to our opponents be marked by an inner peacefulness or will we complain, clash and confront?


There were times in our ministry there were people who were against all our initiatives in the Lord. Anything that I do was criticised. Every strategy, every meeting, and every purchase of the church was criticised. I was attacked for no good reason, being blamed for everything. I have seen hostility in ministry and at times when I worked secular.

Invariably retaliation is related to our own egos. How dare he?  How dare he touch my wells? What should our attitude be in circumstances of antagonism? Remember the promises. Refrain from retaliation.

The result in Isaac’s life.

Genesis 26:22 He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”

Trans: Then he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not dispute about that. So he called its name “Open spaces” and said, “because now the LORD has made space for us and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

There is a time when our disputes will end.

There is a time when you will get victory over what you are going through. God is going to bring open spaces in our situation.

Genesis 26:28-29 28They answered, “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us ’between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the Lord.”

People will eventually see that God is with them. Even the unbelieving world recognises that God’s people are blessed, and trusting God Isaac’s response was to even produce an overture of gracious friendship.

People will recognize that we are blessed by the Lord.

Genesis 26:31-31 30 Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. 31 Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully.

God will give us peace in our circumstances.

His trust in God is so complete Isaac can feed his enemies.

There is step 3 for dealing with hostility:

  1. Reconcile With Grace the hostility.

That folk is a hard lesson to learn and to apply. What? treat kindly to those who oppose me? What about my rights? Who is going to take care of me? It all boils down to this, will you trust God to take care of you? Will we place ourselves in God’s hands because only then we can let go of our egos and let God handle the situation? Only if we trust God like Isaac did remembering the promises, refraining from retaliation, and reconciling with grace.

If the name of an adversary or opponent who has been difficult to you in your life comes to your mind even as I speak. I want you to decide right now that you will remember the promises, refrain from retaliation, and reconcile with grace. Has that person been giving you a hard time? Has pressure been mounting? Are you even dreading seeing them and being in their presence? Entrust yourself to God and remember, refrain, and reconcile. Today, tonight, or sometime this week give them a call, send them an email, and set up a meeting. They may not accept it. They may reject your advances, but God asks us to entrust ourselves to him as Isaac did. Remember, refrain, and reconcile.


Isaac remembered God’s promise, Refrained from retaliation, and reconciled with grace. He could do this because the Bible records he did something else.

Genesis 26:25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.

  • Pitched His Tent.
  • Dug A Well.
  • Isaac Built An Altar.
  • Called The Name Of The Lord.

When Isaac was opposed, he pitched his tent. He dug a well. When you dig a well, you get a lot of stones. Isaac took the dead stones and made them living stones. How? By building an altar. On the altar, he called on the name of the Lord.


In May of 2001, Erik Weihenmayer accomplished something that only about 150 people per year do—reaching the top of Mount Everest. The thing that made Erik’s achievement unusual is that he is the first blind person to succeed in scaling the tallest mountain in the world. Erik was born with a disease called retinoschisis, and by the time he was thirteen, he was completely blind. Rather than focus on what he could not do, he made the choice to focus on what he could do and went much further than almost anyone expected.

Remember, refrain, and reconcile.

Life Application Points

  1. Remember God’s Promises.
  2. Wealth promotes envy.
  3. Ensure God’s resources are equally shared.
  4. Refrain from retaliation.
  5. Hard work leads to success.
  6. Reconcile with grace.

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