Breishis 26:6 says :

  1. And Isaac dwelt in Gerar.
  2. And the men of the place asked about his wife, and he said, "She is my sister," because he was afraid to say, "[She is] my wife," [because he said,] "Lest the men of the place kill me because of Rebecca, for she is of comely appearance."

But at that point Avraham and his family were well known in that area. In fact, we know that many important men of that generation, including Avimelech, came to Avraham's weaning party for Yitzchak. It seems like the identities of Yitzchak's immediate family would be common knowledge. Wouldn't the local people know that Yitzchak didn't have a sister?

  • 4
    According to some opinions, Yitzchak did have a (at the very least half-) sister. sefaria.org/Bava_Batra.16b.10?lang=bi Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 20:34
  • Extending @Salmononius2's comment - Yishma'el was his half-brother. It's possible that Hagar had a daughter, thus Yitzhak would have a half-sister, which, as Avraham explained regarding Sarah, would commonly be called just "sister".
    – DanF
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 20:50
  • @danf or Keturah, whether she was Hagar or not, could have had a daughter. We know she had lots of kids, relatively speaking.
    – Heshy
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 21:17
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    I’d think the bigger question is how the same Avimelech could have fallen for this again. Shouldn’t his response be “Yeah, your father said the same thing, and look what happened there” and immediately launched into “If anyone so much as touched Rivkah he’ll be killed”?
    – DonielF
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 21:21
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    Ok, but even so, wouldn't the local people know who that sister was? In fact, one can ask a related question - wouldn't Yitzchak's marriage to Rivkah have been common knowledge?
    – user9806
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 21:22

1 Answer 1


Toldos 26:7 shows that it was not Avimelech but the residents of the place who asked him as soon as he arrived. He then, as he later explained to Avimelech, suspected that they would behave in the same way as the Egyptians would have behaved with Sarah. In fact as Rav Hirsch says

That Isaac's precaution was not without cause is proved by the fact that, once the true relationship between Rebecca and Isaac became known, Avimelech found it necessary to protect them by a decree of the death penalty for any assault.

Indeed we see that they started feeling less threatened as time went on that they became less cautious in their behavior and Avimelech realized that they were man and wife.

We should note that this was after the death of Avraham so that Eisav and Yaakov were old enough to masquerade as members of the extended clan rather than their sons.

Since this was a matter of the general populace rather than Avimelech, they would have a vague idea of who Yitzchak was, but not a full realization of the family relations. Note that they had filled in the wells that Avraham had dug and apparently tried to bury the history involving Avraham and his teachings.

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