Like Father, Like Son

Genesis 26:1-35

This passage contains the only stories in the Torah in which Isaac is not identified with his father or his sons, yet it is remarkably reminiscent of Abraham’s adventures.


Moved by famine, Isaac decides to leave his home in search of fertile land. After God tells him not to leave the land which He has promised to Abraham’s offspring, Isaac settles in Gerar, land of the Philistines, instead. Like his father before him, he passes his wife off as his sister, for fear that the locals might kill him and take her. As time goes by, however, nobody interferes with Rebecca, and one day Abimelech, king of Gerar, notices that the pair behaves more like a married couple than siblings. He confronts Isaac, who explains his fears. Abimelech accuses Isaac of courting catastrophe, and issues a decree that no one may touch Rebecca.


Isaac grows wealthy in the land of Abimelech, and his people become jealous. They block the wells Abraham had dug, and Abimelech himself urges Isaac to leave. Isaac moves on, redigging the wells his father dug before, and calls them each by the names his father gave them. With each new well Isaac’s men discover, the Philistines dispute their claim, until finally Isaac digs a well and is left alone. This well he calls Rehoboth, as God has at last granted him ample space to grow. From there, Isaac returns to Beersheba, where he builds an altar and his servants dig a well.


Abimelech comes to see Isaac, who is surprised by the king’s appearance after he asked Isaac to leave his land. Abimelech seeks a treaty with Isaac, like with Abraham before him (see Genesis 21:22-23), and Isaac agrees.


The chapter closes with the marriage of Esau to Judith and Basemath, two Hittite women whom his parents despised.


When God tells Isaac not to leave the land, He blesses Isaac as he blessed Abraham: that his offspring shall be like the stars in the sky. The Israel Bible cites the poetry of partisan fighter Hannah Senesh to explain the connection. “There are stars whose radiance is visible on earth though they have long been extinct,” Senesh wrote. “There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for mankind.” How fitting a comparison to the Jews, whose role in the world is to serve as a “light unto the nations”!


Virtual Classroom Discussion

What do you think is the significance of Isaac retracing his father’s footsteps? What can we learn from the subtle differences in their experiences?

Comments ( 7 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • First of all Jitschaq is retracing his father’s steps only in the land that was given to our people., as if HaShem is stressing that you have to take your inheritance and show you are the rightful heir. In following his father’s steps he harvested the admiration of other people, but you have to persevere. The well digging is a clear example of it.

  • I have been told that digging wells is symbolic of planting the Torah in an area; that just as Abraham taught the people of the land the Torah (digging wells), so did Yitzack.

    • I have learnt from another person that the word "well" in Hebrew means "oath", hence Isaac was making oaths to Yahweh that he would serve Him, he would live out the Torah.

  • There is a Country music song by Lionel Cartwright, "Like Father Like Son", that I love to sing. As a general rule, we are products of our upbringing. Yitzak may well have followed in Avraham's footsteps because that was the example set for him. We all look to Avraham as an essence of righteousness. It's written of him that "he walked before YHVH". Even so, he was just a man like unto us. When Hashem says "stay where I put you", the man follows his physical eyes and goes "to the other side where the grass is greener". Wealth and physical gain is NEVER better than obeying Adonai!

    • Danny, on your point of "the man follows his physical eyes…", I differ since we are told that Yitzack is the only Patriarch who never left the land of Israel.

  • When Avraham began his journey, he went out on blind faith and established his relationship with Elohim through that faith. Yitszak didn't have to take a journey into the unknown to establish his relationship with Elohim as he basically inherited it through his father.
    However, before he could fully enter into the covenant promises that he'd inherited, he had to endure some trials in order to establish for himself his own personal relationship with Elohim. We can't claim relationship based on another person's experiences. We must go through the process of establishing ourselves in a covenant relationship or our faith won't work when trials and troubles come upon us.
    Yitszak has to deal with conflicts that were unknown to his father in order to establish himself with the people around him. This gives him wisdom and confidence and although he stumbles with Abimelech just as his father did before him when he lies about his wife, we see that he comes out of this experience with the same reward that his father earned in his day.
    Baruch Hashem.

  • The sons of Israel will also retrace the steps of the fathers. We should all walk the land and cherish it.

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