Overcoming Evil With Good

When you have the skills, use them.

Genesis 26:17-22 (ESV)

So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. But when Isaac's servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”

Isaac moves to the suburbs only to find amazingly unreasonable neighbors. He digs a well and instead of being grateful, they insist the water is theirs. Isaac’s response to this is the perfect model of righteous behavior. He lets them have the well and digs another.

This sequence of events is puzzling – until you add one key deduction. The herdsmen apparently don’t know how to dig a well. Also, they don’t seem to be the same people who stopped up the old ones.

Without modern tools (even a steel shovel) digging a well is quite a challenge. Knowing where to dig is important too. Abraham figured all this out and he taught it to Isaac. This unique and valuable skill makes Isaac a star. The herdsmen may be arrogant about property rights, but they’re not stupid.

When Isaac is able to repeat the trick of producing water from the ground, they stop thinking of the particular wells as what’s valuable and, instead, see Isaac’s skill as “the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

So Isaac just keeps digging wells until the herdsmen get the point.


Isaac knew something the herdsmen didn’t. This gave him an opportunity to overcome hostility with charity. This is analogous to our knowledge of the gospel and of human behavior.

Nowadays, people know how to get water; it’s happiness that they chase after. It never dawns on some folks that happiness is easy to find.

We’re called to be generous with happiness. Material possessions aren’t the answer, and people who covet and hoard those things shouldn’t be interfered with. That gives them the best chance to notice what their possessions don’t deliver.

We’re always ready to dig a well of living water for anyone. Just by living life as a Christian we display what works.

That attracts people.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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