Verse 33. "He called it Shebah" - This was probably the same well which was called Beersheba in the time of Abraham, which the Philistines had filled up, and which the servants of Isaac had reopened. The same name is therefore given to it which it had before, with the addition of the emphatic letter h he, by which its signification became extended, so that now it signified not merely an oath or full, but satisfaction and abundance.
"The name of the city is Beer-sheba" - This name was given to it a hundred years before this time; but as the well from which it had this name originally was closed up by the Philistines, probably the name of the place was abolished with the well; when therefore Isaac reopened the well, he restored the ancient name of the place.
Verse 34. "He took to wife-the daughter, &c." - It is very likely that the wives taken by Esau were daughters of chiefs among the Hittites, and by this union he sought to increase and strengthen his secular power and influence.
Verse 35. "Which were a grief of mind" - Not the marriage, though that was improper, but the persons; they, by their perverse and evil ways, brought bitterness into the hearts of Isaac and Rebekah. The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, and that of Jerusalem, say they were addicted to idol worship, and rebelled against and would not hearken to the instructions either of Isaac or Rebekah. From Canaanites a different conduct could not be reasonably expected. Esau was far from being spiritual, and his wives were wholly carnal.
THE same reflections which were suggested by Abraham's conduct in denying his wife in Egypt and Gerar, will apply to that of Isaac; but the case of Isaac was much less excusable than that of Abraham. The latter told no falsity; he only through fear suppressed a part of the truth.
1. A good man has a right to expect God's blessing on his honest industry. Isaac sowed, and received a hundred-fold, and he had possession of flocks, &c., for the Lord blessed him. Worldly men, if they pray at all, ask for temporal things: "What shall we eat? what shall we drink? and wherewithal shall we be clothed?" Most of the truly religious people go into another extreme; they forget the body, and ask only for the soul! and yet there are "things requisite and necessary as well for the body as the soul," and things which are only at God's disposal. The body lives for the soul's sake; its life and comfort are in many respects essentially requisite to the salvation of the soul; and therefore the things necessary for its support should be earnestly asked from the God of all grace, the Father of bounty and providence. Ye have not because ye ask not, may be said to many poor, afflicted religious people; and they are afraid to ask lest it should appear mercenary, or that they sought their portion in this life.
They should be better taught. Surely to none of these will God give a stone if they ask bread: he who is so liberal of his heavenly blessings will not withhold earthly ones, which are of infinitely less consequence. Reader, expect God's blessing on thy honest industry; pray for it, and believe that God does not love thee less, who hast taken refuge in the same hope, than he loved Isaac. Plead not only his promises, but plead on the precedents he has set before thee. "Lord, thou didst so and so to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and to others who trusted in thee; bless my field, bless my flocks, prosper my labour, that I may be able to provide things honest in the sight of all men, and have something to dispense to those who are in want." And will not God hear such prayers? Yea, and answer them too, for he does not willingly afflict the children of men. And we may rest assured that there is more affliction and poverty in the world than either the justice or providence of God requires. There are, however, many who owe their poverty to their want of diligence and economy; they sink down into indolence, and forget that word, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; nor do they consider that by idleness a man is clothed with rags. Be diligent in business and fervent in spirit, and God will withhold from thee no manner of thing that is good.
2. From many examples we find that the wealth of the primitive inhabitants of the world did not consist in gold, silver, or precious stones, but principally in flocks of useful cattle, and the produce of the field. With precious metals and precious stones they were not unacquainted, and the former were sometimes used in purchases, as we have already seen in the case of Abraham buying a field from the children of Heth. But the blessings which God promises are such as spring from the soil. Isaac sowed in the land, and had possessions of flocks and herds, and great store of servants, ver. 12-14. Commerce, by which nations and individuals so suddenly rise and as suddenly fall, had not been then invented; every man was obliged to acquire property by honest and persevering labour, or be destitute. Lucky hits, fortunate speculations, and adventurous risks, could then have no place; the field must be tilled, the herds watched and fed, and the proper seasons for ploughing, sowing, reaping, and laying up, be carefully regarded and improved. No man, therefore, could grow rich by accident. Isaac waxed great and went forward, and grew until he became very great, ver. 13. Speculation was of no use, for it could have no object; and consequently many incitements to knavery and to idleness, that bane of the physical and moral health of the body and soul of man, could not show themselves. Happy times! when every man wrought with his hands, and God particularly blessed his honest industry. As he had no luxuries, he had no unnatural and factitious wants, few diseases, and a long life.
O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint, Agricolas! O thrice happy husbandmen! did they but know their own mercies.
But has not what is termed commerce produced the reverse of all this? A few are speculators, and the many are comparatively slaves; and slaves, not to enrich themselves, (this is impossible,) but to enrich the speculators and adventurers by whom they are employed. Even the farmers become, at least partially, commercial men; and the soil, the fruitful parent of natural wealth, is comparatively disregarded: the consequence is, that the misery of the many, and the luxury of the few, increase; and from both these spring, on the one hand, pride, insolence, contempt of the poor, contempt of GOD'S holy word and commandments, with the long catalogue of crimes which proceed from pampered appetites and unsubdued passions: and on the other, murmuring, repining, discontent, and often insubordination and revolt, the most fell and most destructive of all the evils that can degrade and curse civil society. Hence wars, fightings, and revolutions of states, and public calamities of all kinds. Bad as the world and the times are, men have made them much worse by their unnatural methods of providing for the support of life. When shall men learn that even this is but a subordinate pursuit; and that the cultivator. of the soul in the knowledge, love, and obedience of God, is essentially necessary, not only to future glory, but to present happiness?