And Isaac Sowed in That Land (Genesis 26:14)

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If you’ve read the Bible for any length of time, you most likely know that the Philistines are Israel’s mortal enemy.

They’re a thorn in Israel’s side all through 1&2 Samuel, culminating with the iconic story of David and Goliath. Later, they’ll kill Saul. They also battle several of the Judges (most notably Samson). 

But if you’re reading the Bible from the start, this little mention of the Philistines antipathy towards the Israelites probably comes as a bit of a shock. 

Up until this point though, the people of God and the Philistines have enjoyed a somewhat peaceful coexistence. As a matter of fact, in Genesis 21, Abraham and Abimelech even make a covenant of friendship between the two of them.

It’s not until Genesis 26 that the seeds of future hostilities are sown.

The stage is familiar. Isaac’s lied to Abimelech about Rebekah, then the Text mentions that Isaac starts to grow fabulously wealthy. It’s this wealth that causes the Philistines to start to “envy him,” according to Genesis 26:14.

Abimelech anticipates these issues and sends Isaac away from his land to prevent any altercations.

To understand these issues, we have to understand what the Philistines were. Though we think of the Philistines as an empire unto themselves, they’re more akin to a league of cooperating city states. They each have kings and laws unto themselves, even though most of them come from a similar background have similar values.

As Isaac grows in wealth, these people see him as less of a friend and more of a threat. He’s not “one of them,” and so they might move to stamp him out.

It’s not Isaac’s fault, but it is his problem to deal with.

How should Isaac handle it? The same way that a lot of us have handle issues with other people’s anger: leave.

I used to think that I needed to fight every fight that existed — especially those that concerned me. Any slight, any rumor, any accusation was met with all my might (however tiny that might may be).

I don’t believe that anymore. I take a lot of inspiration from Jesus who sat at His trial and listened to scores of people ridicule Him and make false statements. Through it all, “He opened not His mouth.”

That’s how Isaac handled it. When he was asked to leave for the sake of unity, that’s what he did. Not that he would’ve preferred to stay and work it out, but by the middle of Genesis 26, that ship had sailed.

Sometimes the best thing you can do to preserve relationships and harmony is to walk away. Remove yourself from the situation and live to love another day.