Good evening, and welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the book of Genesis. Tonight is study #1 of Genesis, chapter 26, and we are going to read Genesis 26:1-5:
And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar. And JEHOVAH appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
I will stop reading there. This is the first thing God tells us, in Genesis 26:1:
And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham.
We went through that chapter a while ago, but let us turn back to Genesis 12:10:
And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.
This was another famine, which we are told was “beside the first famine,” which would make it the second famine, or at last the second reference to a famine since that time. As we know, a “famine” has a spiritual meaning in the Bible. For example, let us look at Genesis 41 when Pharaoh had a dream and Joseph interpreted it. Part of that dream indicated that there would be seven years of famine. It says in Genesis 41:53-57:
And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do. And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.
In this historical case, God revealed ahead of time what He was going to do, which allowed Joseph to interpret the dream of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and Pharaoh recognized that these things would come to pass, and he put Joseph in charge of everything in Egypt. And during the seven years of plenty, Joseph collected and stored a great amount of grain over against the famine. So the seven years of plenty had passed, and it was the time of famine, and they were opening the storehouses and feeding the people in Egypt that were under the care of Joseph. And this is a picture the Bible uses of the Great Tribulation, and we know it is a picture of the Great Tribulation because we read in Acts 7:11-13:
Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance. But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph's kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.
In verse 11, the two words translated as “great affliction” are the same two words that are translated as “great tribulation,” (megas-thlipsis) in Matthew 24 and a few other places. So the dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan was “great tribulation,” and it typified what God would do during the Great Tribulation period when He would bring a dearth or famine on what Chanaan represented, which was the outward representation of the kingdom of God on the earth, the New Testament churches and congregations. They would experience “famine” during the Great Tribulation, but…never fear…because God had a plan, as pictured by Joseph in Egypt storing up grain. God stored up truth in His Word, the Bible, until the time of the end and the Great Tribulation. Then He opened the storehouse of the Bible and took the seals off to reveal truths, one of which is the teaching that the church age had come to an end and it was time for the people of God to flee or leave all the world’s churches.
And the Lord’s people did so. We came out of the churches. Where did we go? Well, we went to “Egypt,” in the sense that Egypt can typify the world. And outside of the churches in the “Egypt” of this world, God fed His people. He spiritually nourished His people over the course of the Great Tribulation and that famine. And that famine continued in the corporate churches for the entire period of the Great Tribulation, which was 23 actual years. The spiritual definition in the Bible is found in Amos 8:11:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord JEHOVAH, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of JEHOVAH:
That is the type of famine that God will send, and He has sent it on the churches and congregations of the world. It accompanied His judgment. When the Holy Spirit came out of the churches, it was immediately as if a famine had come upon the churches and congregations in all the nations. Now the preacher could preach, and he could read the Scripture, and it could be a faithful sermon with Scripture from a faithful version of the Bible, like the King James; and the congregation could hear it with their physical ears, but no one would be given spiritual ears to hear and become saved. And that is what Amos 8:11 is saying. It is not a famine of bread or water, like the physical famines we see in the world, but that famine was a picture of a spiritual famine of “hearing the Word.” Remember that it said in Romans 10:17: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” And if there is a famine of hearing, the Word of God, there will be no faith or no salvation.
I think we can say this is always in view with the famines of the Bible. However, the problem is that when we read about famines in the Bible, it is not always the Great Tribulation that is in view, although when we get to the famine of Joseph’s today, that word “famine” is used about twenty times in chapters 41-47 of Genesis, and that will always be referring to the Great Tribulation, as well as some other places we find that word. But God’s historical outworking of His salvation and judgment program on the earth has unfolded in various “times and seasons,” with alternating periods of rain and famine. For example, it says in Joel 2:23:
Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in JEHOVAH your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.
This is what it says in the King James, but it would be better translated, “he hath given you the former rain righteously,” which is the first rain. Then it says, “and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain,” which would be the “early rain,” and that is the second rain; “and the latter rain in the first,” which would be the third rain. (This would be better translated as “and the latter rain as the first,” because it helps our understanding and it is permissible to translate it that way.) So we see there are three periods of rain. The Lord opened up Mr. Camping’s understanding to this, and I think he laid this out in his book, “The End of the Church Age and After,” where the Old Testament period was the “former rain moderately,” or the “former rain righteously, which produced the “harvest” of the Lord Jesus Christ. But, you see, the rain fell throughout the Old Testament period, and then Christ, the first of the firstfruits, entered into the world. And, yet, during His ministry of three and one-half years, there was a spiritual famine. There was a famine of hearing, and relatively few people became saved, especially given the tremendous miracles that Christ performed so often, and that we read about on the pages of the Bible. And being the perfect teacher, we would expect that thousands, upon thousands of people would have become saved. Now it is true that thousands thronged to Him. He fed four thousand at one time and five thousand at another time, and scores of thousands, undoubtedly, heard Christ, but they did not become saved at that time. We know that after Jesus went to the cross, and there was persecution, and there were just a little over one hundred that gathered together, according to the book of Acts. Where was everyone? Where were they? It was because it was a time of “famine.” Christ was the fruit that would come forth and be produced by the “former righteous rain,” and then famine. And following the period of Christ’s ministry which we can identify with famine, it was not too long after until the day of Pentecost, or the day of firstfruits, and on that day Peter preached one sermon and about three thousand became saved, and it ushered in the New Testament church age, a time wherein the “early rain” would fall, and God would save many more people than during Old Testament times. It was a time of plenty in many ways, and there was great blessing upon the Word. First of all, the Bible was completed and during that time churches were established in practically every nation, and the Bible was brought to all the nations of the world. There was plenty of Gospel and, yet, the church age ended in 1988, and then there was another famine of 2,300 evening mornings.
Now we should also point out that during the 23-year period of the Great Tribulation, it was as though there were two distinct famines. The first 2,300 evening mornings broke up the early rain from the Latter Rain because it began on May 21, 1988 and continued through September 7, 1994, during which time virtually no one was saved anywhere in the world. It was a “famine of hearing,” and it was not just in the churches. The early rain had stopped, and the Lord had not yet sent forth the Latter Rain, so virtually no one became saved in the nations of the world or in the congregations. After that famine ended on September 7, 1994, a Jubilee Year, the Lord stretched forth His hand a second time to recover the remnant of His people, and the “rain” began to fall. It was a great rain upon the nations of the world, but within the corporate churches there was no Latter Rain. They had no rain. For them, it was a continuance of the 2,300 evening mornings where God has said that if the character of that grievous 2,300 evening mornings had continued worldwide, the elect could not be saved. But for the elect’s sake, He shortened the days. We read that in Matthew 24:21-22:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
This is referring to the overall character of that 2,300 days (six years and almost four months). If it had continued worldwide, then the elect could not be saved that would be the “great multitude” saved out of Great Tribulation. But God shortened the character of that Great Tribulation outside of the churches by sending forth the Latter Rain to save the great multitude, and all would be saved without the churches, and none within. So the awful, grievous famine continued for the remaining about 17 years of the Great Tribulation for an exact 23 years or 8,400 days within the world’s churches. There was no salvation of any kind; there was a famine of hearing the Word of JEHOVAH, so faith could not come.
You know, it complicates things when we are looking at a famine, like the two famine in the days of David; or the famine in the days of Ruth; or the famine in the days of Elijah, where we read there was a famine of three and one-half years. The book of James comments on that and tells us that the duration was three and one-half years. So when we are looking at the famine in Genesis 12, or at this famine in our chapter in Genesis 26. We have various possibilities as to what could be in view. It could be referring to the famine in the days of Christ, the famine that had to do with the famine of the 2,300 evening mornings that started the Great Tribulation; or it could be the famine that identifies with the entire 23 years within the churches.
I have been looking at this famine in Genesis 26 and praying about it, but I have not been able to pinpoint it. The Lord has not opened my understanding to pinpoint where this famine would apply in His program of times and seasons, and which famine it is that follows which period of rain. So I am not going to comment further on it at this time. If the Lord should open up some information, I will touch on it again, but at this time we are going to move on.
It says in the last part of the verse in Genesis 26:1:
…And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.
Isaac went unto Abimelech, king of the Philistines, unto Gerar. This may spark our memory, because we read about Abimelech back in Genesis 20:1-2:
And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
Here, Abimelech was said to be the king of Gerar, and not the king of the Philistines, and I am not sure about this. Later in the Bible, we know there were five major cities of the Philistines that had lords over them, so maybe at that time there were these “royals” that would rule over a particular city. But, in our verse, it not only says that Abimelech was king in Gerar, but also a king of the Philistines.
Now it should be pointed out that, in all likelihood, the Abimelech we are reading about in Genesis 26 is a different “Abimelech,” a later descendant. Maybe it was a son, or possibly a grandson, and that is because when Abraham was journeying to Gerar with Sarah, it was following God’s promise that Sarah would have a son within the next year, which means that Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was 89 years old. In the next chapter, we read that the Lord visited Sarah, and she would bare a son. So that means that what took place in Genesis 20 is about 80 to 100 years earlier than the events we are reading about here in Genesis 26. We can know that because in Genesis 20, Isaac was not even born yet. It would still be a year; he had not even been conceived. So it was definitely a year before Isaac was born. If we go to Genesis 25, we know it says in Genesis 25:20 that Isaac was 40 when he took Rebekah to wife and in Genesis 25:26, Isaac was 60 when Jacob and Esau were born. And we know from verses 27-34 that Jacob and Esau grew, and then they had that incident with the pottage when Jacob purchased the birthright from Esau. We do not know exactly how old they were, but it would seem they had to be at least in their 20s or 30s, because we do know that at the end of the chapter, we read in Genesis 26:34 that Esau was 40 years old when he took two women to wife. And when Esau was 40 (because Isaac had Jacob and Esau was 60), it meant that Isaac would be 100 years old, and this would indicate that with the events in chapter 26, Isaac would have been somewhere in his 90s. And that would mean that this “Abimelech” could not be the same “Abimelech” of Genesis 20 ninety years later, especially since it says he was king of the Philistines. When we read about kings in the Bible, we find that some of the longest periods of rule are around forty years. Uzziah who began to reign in a co-regency reigned 52 years.) But for a king to reign for eighty or ninety years, that is unheard of among men. So I think there is no question that this is a later descendant called “Abimelech.” It could even be a title like “Pharaoh” or “Caesar,” but this would at least be a son or grandson of the Abimelech we read of earlier.