Its been a long one, but we still have a lot to go through, so let's jump right in and see what the passage has for us today.
1 Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. 2 And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”
Genesis 26:1-5 (ESV)
So, this chapter, God transfers the blessings given to Abraham, to his son Isaac. But, we also learn that there was a famine that had gotten worse (or rather extended beyond) what had been in Abraham's days. This lead Isaac to seek out a safe haven in a larger city. Isaac chose to go into Gerar where Abimelech was the king. Going into Gerar, Isaac would have naturally needed to seek the king's permission to set up residency for him and all of his people, something that isn't specified in the text, but was common practice at the time. The way the text reads in literal translation however, points this out (explained below).
A little about Abimelech:
The name Abimelech ('Abimelek - pronounced ab-ee-mel-ek) literally means "father of the king", so the name Abimelech is often used as a title, but can also be used as a proper name. There are four people in scripture who carry the name (or title) Abimelech. Two of them are Philistines and two of them are Israelites; so care should be taken in reading passages so as not to confuse the four men.
The Abimelech listed here is probably being used as a proper name as the text literally reads "Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines in Gerar", or yalak (went to) Yishaq (Isaac) al (to) 'Abimelek (Abimalech) melek (king) pelishti (Philistines) gerar (Gerar). The doubling up of 'Abimelek and melek would otherwise read "The father of the king, king of Gerar" which wouldn't make much sense. Therefore, I am of the opinion that Abimelech here, is not a title, but a proper given name of a man who was king.
A little about the Philistines:
The Peleshti (or Philistines, Philistites) where the inhabitants of Peleshet (pronounced pel-eh-sheth), which is a place in Syria also known as Philistia, Palestina, or Palestine. The word Peleshet literally means "to roll in" and denotes a migration or invasion. The Philistines are part of the people group called the "Sea People" who invaded Canaan and Egypt around 1175–1100 BC. Some of these peoples came from the island of Crete, which is probably the same group who later set up the five city states called the Pentapolis of the Philistines (Gaza, Askelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath). Eventually, the Philistines became one of Israel's dominant enemies and even later become absorbed into the surrounding cultures, exiting history as a unique people group.
We also learn in this passage that after arriving in Gerar, the LORD appeared to Isaac. As stated in previous articles, the word "appeared" is ra'a, which means "to see" but can be used in a figurative sense. So, the method of this appearing is probably visually, but we can't know for certain.
The LORD then transfers the future promises which he laid out for Abraham, to Isaac. These promises are proceeded by a warning not to continue traveling south into Egypt, but to set up in a place that will be shown to Isaac later. Then the promises are given, with the condition that Isaac lives in the place that the LORD tells him. The promises are as follows:
1. I will be with you
2. I will bless you
3. I will give the land to you and your offspring
4. I will establish the covenant with you that I established with Abraham
5. I will multiply your offspring and give them these lands
6. In your offspring all of the nations will be blessed because Abraham obeyed me, kept my commandments.
So, while the LORD transfers the promises, he hasn't yet transferred the covenant. The covenant remains to be established until Isaac has done what God has told him to do. If you don't remember what the covenant entails, you can go back to the article The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 15:7-21).
The next article we will deal with more on Abimelech and see what type of character he is. Until then, may God bless and guide you in the study of His word.