New Defender's Study Bible Notes
26:2 the LORD appeared. This is apparently the first time in over fifty years that God had appeared to Isaac; here He confirmed the covenant made with Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah. It was also the first famine in the land of promise since Abram had gone down to Egypt over a century earlier. Isaac, unused to such testings, now needed special assurance.
26:5 my laws. Long before Moses, there were divine commandments and laws, and Abraham obeyed them. Certain law codes found among the Babylonians, the Hittites and others also antedate Moses and agree in many respects with the Mosaic laws, perhaps reflecting a primeval system given by God (possibly only verbally) that disappeared after Babel except for those, like Abraham, who retained and obeyed the truth. Note also the same implication in Job 23:12.
26:7 my sister. Critics allege that this is merely another version of the story of Abraham’s experience in Gerar (Genesis 20:1-8). This is not possible; the scribal “redactors” whom these same critics think brought the different components of Genesis together would have been far too shrewd to deliberately create such an obvious barrier to its acceptance by their readers. The event must have taken place as described. Isaac and Rebekah repeated the same fabrication that Abraham and Sarah had attempted over a century earlier, for essentially the same reasons, and with essentially the same results–human rebuke for their deception, but God’s protection in spite of this.
26:9 she is thy wife. The Nuzi tablets, from northern Mesopotamia and describing life and customs in the patriarchal age, indicate that it was possible for a man to adopt a woman as his sister, then later also take her as his wife. It is thus at least possible that Rebecca was both wife and sister to Isaac–the same for Abraham and Sarah.
26:12 hundredfold. This is the first mention of seed-sowing in the Bible. Throughout the Bible, seed-sowing is commonly symbolic of Christian witnessing, and this aspect is paramount in the first mention of seed-sowing in the New Testament (Matthew 13:23). In both cases, it is providentially significant that the good seed brought forth a hundredfold.
26:25 builded an altar. According to records, this is the only altar built by Isaac. God appeared to him again after he was back at Beer-sheba (“well of the covenant”), where he had lived in his closest fellowship with God. The well had belonged to Abraham, and it was accepted as such by the Philistines (still a relatively small body of settlers that had come from their own homeland in Crete), so Isaac knew he was now justified in staying there. The ancient town of Beer-sheba has been partially excavated, and visitors today are shown a well claimed to be that of Abraham and Isaac.
26:31 betimes. An archaic expression meaning “promptly.”
26:35 grief of mind. Here is further proof of God’s wisdom in choosing Jacob. Esau disregarded both God’s primeval principle of monogamy and the need to marry a wife who believed in the true God. Instead he married two pagan Hittite women, whose idolatry and ungodliness grieved his parents. Even more tragically, Isaac seems to have made no attempt to prevent this, and was still resolved to give Esau his patriarchal blessing.