Do you want revenge?

Have you ever been mistreated? Did you want revenge? What did you do? Did you do the right thing? Do you know what the right thing is?

The following verses tell us about a time when Isaac lived in Gerar amongst the Philistines because of a famine. Isaac was mistreated by the Philistines. The Bible doesn’t tell us why Isaac responded the way he did, but his response exemplifies some instructions in Romans that tell us how to deal with people who mistreat us.

As you read the following verses, ask whether or not Isaac felt safe?

Gen. 26:1 ¶ Now there was a famine in the land, besides the previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham. So Isaac went to Gerar, to Abimelech king of the Philistines.

Gen. 26:6 ¶ So Isaac lived in Gerar.

Gen. 26:7 When the men of the place asked about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he was afraid to say, “my wife,” thinking, “the men of the place might kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is beautiful.”

Gen. 26:8 It came about, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out through a window, and saw, and behold, Isaac was caressing his wife Rebekah.

Gen. 26:9 Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, certainly she is your wife! How then did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” And Isaac said to him, “Because I said, ‘I might die on account of her.’”

Gen. 26:10 Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”

Gen. 26:11 So Abimelech charged all the people, saying, “He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”

Because of the famine, Isaac had to live in Gerar, but deep down he did not feel safe. He was afraid of being killed.

What do the following verses tell us about the relationship between Isaac and the Philistines? Was it a cordial relationship or an adversarial relationship?

Gen. 26:12 ¶ Now Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the LORD blessed him,

Gen. 26:13 and the man became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy;

Gen. 26:14 for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him.

Gen. 26:15 Now all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines stopped up by filling them with earth.

Gen. 26:16 Then Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are too powerful for us.”

Gen. 26:17 And Isaac departed from there and camped in the valley of Gerar, and settled there.

Gen. 26:18 ¶ Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the same names which his father had given them.
Names had meaning. Gen. 26:20-21 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac, saying, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over it too, so he named it Sitnah. Esek is the Hebrew word for contend. Sitnah is the Hebrew word for adversary.

Gen. 26:19 But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of flowing water,

Gen. 26:20 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac, saying, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they contended with him.

Gen. 26:21 Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over it too, so he named it Sitnah.

Gen. 26:22 He moved away from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it; so he named it Rehoboth, for he said, “At last the LORD has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.”

Gen. 26:23 ¶ Then he went up from there to Beersheba.

There was strife and conflict between Isaac and the Philistines. The Philistines were making it difficult for Isaac to get water. Water is essential to life, so by making it difficult for Isaac to get water, the Philistines were threatening Isaac’s survival.

Isaac finally found a place to live in peace, but then the following happened. If you were Isaac, what would you have done?

Gen. 26:26 ¶ Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with his adviser Ahuzzath and Phicol the commander of his army.

Gen. 26:27 Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?”

Gen. 26:28 They said, “We see plainly that the LORD has been with you; so we said, ‘Let there now be an oath between us, even between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you,

Gen. 26:29 that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the LORD.’”

The Philistines had mistreated Isaac, but now they wanted Isaac to swear an oath that he would do no harm to the Philistines. What would you do? What did Isaac do?

Gen. 26:30 Then he made them a feast, and they ate and drank.

Gen. 26:31 In the morning they arose early and exchanged oaths; then Isaac sent them away and they departed from him in peace.

Gen. 26:32 Now it came about on the same day, that Isaac’s servants came in and told him about the well which they had dug, and said to him, “We have found water.”

Gen. 26:33 So he called it Shibah; therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day.

Isaac did what the book of Romans tells us to do.

Rom. 12:17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

Rom. 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Rom. 12:19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.

Rom. 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Just as it would have been natural for Isaac to want revenge on the Philistines, so too we are often in situations where we want revenge. If someone hurts us, we want to hurt them back. Romans clearly tells us to do the opposite. Just as Isaac made a feast for the Philistines and sent them away in peace, so too we are to do good to those who mistreat us. Overcoming evil with good is not natural nor is it easy, but it is the right thing to do.


Further Reading

How should we respond to disrespect?

How hospitable do we need to be?

What should we do when someone harms us?


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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”