Today’s Reading: Genesis 26-28
The last two days I have posted on Jesus meeting the outcast woman at a well of water and Jesus finding a woman to be his bride at a well of water. In these stories, we have seen that the well is the place where we get living water that will cause us to never thirst again and that will become a spring of eternal life flowing from us (John 4:13-15).
What is a well? What is God trying to communicate through the picture of a well?
A well provided water. Without a well, there was no water and life could not be sustained. In and around Israel, wells were dug through a thick layer of limestone. It was underneath this thick layer of rock that water was to be found.
I believe the well is a picture of Jesus. Jesus is the rock and we have to dig deep into him to get the water we need for life. Water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible. The Holy Spirit, the water we need for eternal life, comes from Jesus, the well. Remember that after his resurrection, Jesus became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).
The picture of Jesus as the well providing the living water of the Holy Spirit helps us to see Jesus in Genesis 26.
Genesis 26:1 says there was a famine in the land. Throughout the Bible, famines are a symbol of a period of time where God’s presence is not to be found (Jesus is the bread of life after all). It was during this time of famine that “Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines.” Names are important in the Bible, and knowing what Gerar, Abimelech, and Philistines mean gives us a picture of what was going on with Isaac.
Gerar likely means to drag away or ruminate. Abimelech is not so much a name as it is a title. It means my father the king or father of the king. The Philistines represent people of the flesh. I think the sense here is that because of the famine, the lack of God’s presence, Isaac is being dragged away to the flesh as his king. Isaac is battling between the spirit and the flesh
However, Isaac has not fully reached the place where the flesh is ruling over him. I think this is the case because the Lord appears to him and tells him not to go down to Egypt, which is a symbol of the world. God tells him to sojourn in this land and that he will be with Isaac and bless him. Isaac was to sojourn, to move about, but not to plant roots in the land.
Genesis 26:12-14 says, “And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants.” The only possible way Isaac could have become so wealthy was if he had wells of water to support his farming and livestock. This is a picture of a man growing in his life with Jesus. In Ephesians, Paul talks about forgiveness according to the riches of Jesus’ grace, an inheritance through Jesus, the riches of Jesus’ glorious inheritance in the saints, God’s richness in mercy, the immeasurable riches of grace and kindness in Jesus, and the unsearchable riches of Christ. Riches are a picture of a life with Christ.
But, the Philistines were envious of Isaac. Remember the Philistines represent the flesh and they dwell in a place of dragging away. This is a picture of the flesh being envious of the spirit, or one living a life supplied by the wellspring of living water. So, what did the Philistines do? They “stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug.” The Philistines filled with earth the wells of the living water of Jesus, spiritual life, that made Isaac rich. The earth represents the flesh (man is made of the dust of the earth but God’s breath or Spirit makes him a living being). So, out of envy and jealousy, the king of the fleshly people tells Isaac to go away from them. The flesh is trying to take over and rule the spirit.
So, Isaac leaves Gerar and goes to the valley where he digs the wells of water again that the Philistines had stopped. Isaac gave these wells the same names that Abraham gave them. Notice that Isaac didn’t insist on staying where he was, remaining in the flesh. God told him to sojourn. So, Isaac picked up and moved to a new place. In the new place, he dug wells again. Isaac was seeking the life of Christ, seeking to overcome the flesh, so that he could be blessed again.
When Isaac’s servants dug the first well, the herdsmen of Gerar came and quarreled with them. Those of the flesh came and said “This water is ours.” So, Isaac named this well Esek. Esek means to quarrel or wrangle. When we are going deep, digging through the rock, to get to the water of eternal life, Jesus, the flesh is going to quarrel and wrangle with our spirit. The flesh is going to try to claim the blessing of God as its own. The flesh says, “This is my water. This is my life.”
So, Isaac’s servants went and dug another well. Despite the flesh, the spiritual person keeps digging a well to connect with Jesus. But, the herdsmen came a quarreled with Isaac’s servants at this well too. The flesh does not give up easily. Isaac called this well Sitnah. In the Hebrew, the name of this well is actually two words – sitnah and satan. Basically, the name of this well means the adversary or opponent comes with a charge, an accusation, an indictment. Not only does the flesh quarrel with the spirit, but the flesh becomes an adversary that accuses and indicts the spirit.
But, Isaac remains a sojourner, moving about the land. So, he goes and digs another well. Finally, Isaac had a well where there was no quarreling. Isaac called the name of this well Rehoboth. Here again, the name of this well is made of two Hebrew words. The first means an open place. The second, while similar, means to open oneself wide. Isaac had reached an open place where he could fully open himself to the fullness of the eternal life flowing from the well of Jesus. The spirit is overcoming the flesh.
From this well, Isaac went to Beersheba. Beersheba means the well of underground water. And, it was there that the Lord appeared to Isaac. Isaac’s sojourning and repeatedly digging wells until he finds the well of underground water is a picture of the struggle we all face between the spirit and the flesh until we find the abundant life in Jesus. For Isaac, that very night the Lord appeared to him and said, “Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.”
To conclude the story, Abimelech comes with his adviser and the commander of his army. Isaac asks why they have come to him since they hate him. He thinks the flesh has come to attack the spirit again. But, Abimelech says that they clearly see that the Lord is with Isaac. Abimelech asks that they make a pact, a covenant, that they will not do each other harm. Abimelech says, “You are now blessed of the Lord.” So, they have a feast and exchange oaths. “And Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace.” The spirit has overcome the flesh, sends the flesh away, and has peace.
Having sent the flesh away, that same day Isaac’s servants came and told him of the well they dug. They have found water. And, Isaac called the well Shibah and the name of the city was called Beersheba. Shibah means to give in abundance, to be abundant. Isaac has found the well that is Jesus, the well of abundant life, the well of living water, the well that he can drink from and never be thirsty again, the well whose water will well up to eternal life in him.
Jesus is the well of living water that we all thirst for.