Genesis 26:32-33 records that on the same day that Isaac had made a peace treaty with Abimelech, the king of Gerar, his servants came to him and told him regarding the well they had dug, that they had found water and Isaac called that well Shebah (and hence the name of the city where he had moved to is Beersheba). Shebah means an oath in Hebrew.
What is important to note is that it is to Beersheba that Abraham first brings Isaac after the sacrifice on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:19) and dwelt there. It is in Beersheba that Abraham makes an oath of peace with Abimelech, the then king of Gerar (Genesis 21:22-34). Why is Beersheba important? Because it was a step in the direction of the promised land that God had promised Abraham.
The contention over the wells of Abraham, namely Esek and Sitnah, by the herdsmen of Gerar made Isaac retreat to a place of no contention as he names the well that he dug there Rehoboth (Genesis 26:20-22). To Abraham and Isaac, the wells were a sign of God’s provisions while to the philistines and the men of Gerar, it was a sign of property which made them fill/stop the wells that Abraham had dug (Genesis 26:17) and fight over the one that Isaac had dug (Genesis 26:19). The contention that ensues, can be seen, in hindsight, as God nudging Isaac to move toward the promised land.
However, what is noteworthy is that Isaac does not stay where the well Rehoboth was (even though there was no contention there), but instead moves to Beersheba (possibly because he trusted in God as did his father, looking forward toward a city whose builder and maker was God himself (Hebrews 11:10)), and on that same night, the Lord appears and assures Isaac of his covenant with his father, Abraham. Isaac responds by building an altar first, and worshipping the Lord God before pitching his tent there and digging a well there. (Genesis 26:25). After the peace treaty amongst whom he deemed were his enemies (who hated him), his servants report of finding water (Genesis 26:32).
Points to ponder:
While the digging of the well indicates that one intends to live in that land and use the water to sustain his family and flocks, we see here that Isaac did not dig the well, first to find water, before pitching his tent and building an altar to worship God. In fact, that order was reversed. He gave God the priority over his and his family and flock’s physical needs. He built the altar first, worshipped God and then pitched his tent and dug the well, and God enables him to find water in that well.
This resonates with the very model Jesus laid out for us – that we ought to seek the spiritual things first (God’s kingdom) and all the things that are needed to sustain us shall be added unto us (Matthew 6:33). In other words, in order to find water that sustains us physically, we ought to seek first the living Water that saves us spiritually, i.e., seek the living water that only Jesus can provide – the water that bring not just sustenance of life, but salvation to life aka eternal life (John 4:10-15). Have you found (living) Water? i.e., have you believed in Jesus’ Lordship and saving grace?
Genesis 26:32-33 (KJV)
32 And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac’s servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water.
33 And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beersheba unto this day.