In parshat Toldot, we see a number of situations that occur to Yitzhak that are (almost) identical to those that occurred to his father, Avraham. Examples:

  • There is a famine. Yitzchak seeks to go to Egypt, except that G-d tells him not to. (Genesis 26:1-6)
  • When he goes to Gerar, he tells everyone that Rivka is his sister instead of his wife. Same excuse or for the same reasoning that Avrham said that when he went to Gerar. (Genesis 26:7)
  • The people stuffed up the wells that Avraham dug, and they then stole the wells that Yitzhak dug himself. (Genesis 26:15-21)
  • Avimelech makes a covenant with Yitzhak like he did with Avraham. (Genesis 26:26-31)

When Avimelech made the covenant with Avraham, he reproves Avimelech about the wells that he / his people stole. Yitzhak doesn't do as his father did. Why not?

  • 2
    Avraham was more "at an advantage" as G-d had admonished Avimelech in his sleep for taking Sara and had then gone to Avraham for a blessing to heal him after G-d had closed his orifices. Yitzchak was not at such an advantage, Avimelech had protected him and Rivka with the force of law. – CashCow Nov 10 '15 at 15:42

Based on the way that the p'sukim are written it appears that the servants of Avimelech did not try (this time) to seize the wells by force. This time the used "lawfare" by claiming that the water was legally theirs. Thus, Avimelech did not try to defend himself by saying that he had never been told about it. That is also why Yitzchak just moved elsewhere to dig a different well. He did not want to get involved in lawsuits.

As I say in Is Ber. 26 in the proper chronological place?

We have the medrashim that Eisav was already leading a band of men. These men were the "family defense force". That is why the servants of Avimelech were unable to attack Yitzchak and instead resorted to "lawfare". That is suing him and claiming that the water in the wells that he dug belonged to them.


It is possible that Yitzchak did rebuke them, as it says in Bereishis 26:20:

וַיָּרִ֜יבוּ רֹעֵ֣י גְרָ֗ר עִם־רֹעֵ֥י יִצְחָ֛ק לֵאמֹ֖ר לָ֣נוּ הַמָּ֑יִם וַיִּקְרָ֤א שֵֽׁם־הַבְּאֵר֙ עֵ֔שֶׂק כִּ֥י הִֽתְעַשְּׂק֖וּ עִמּֽוֹ׃ וַֽיַּחְפְּרוּ֙ בְּאֵ֣ר אַחֶ֔רֶת וַיָּרִ֖יבוּ גַּם־עָלֶ֑יהָ וַיִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמָ֖הּ שִׂטְנָֽה׃

I believe that Netziv intends to say this here:

כי התעשקו עמו – היה בזה רוב דברים אשר הוכיח יצחק כי מים חיים המה, והמה נתווכחו עמו, וזה מיקרי ״עשק״... ויקרא שמה שטנה – אחר שראו שעלה בידם לגזול הבאר בטענה בדויה, הוסיפו לגזול בלי טענה רק עמדו לשטן, וגם אז העלימו השרים עין.

  • He might have reproved the shepards but not Avimelech himself – user15464 Aug 22 '19 at 22:30

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