After the death of Abraham, the scripture says that Isaac settled in Gerar, which belonged to Abimelech king of the Philistines. God blessed Isaac there and he became very wealthy. As a result of this the Philistines envied Isaac and Abimelech told Isaac to leave their territory. Isaac moved a short distance away from the city of Gerar and settled there. In Gen. 26:18 the scripture says, “Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the same names which his father had given them.”
In the verses following this statement, the scripture tells us that the Philistines quarreled with Isaac about these newly restored wells, so he moved a little further away and dug another well. They quarreled with him about this well also, so Isaac moved once again. Finally, when he had moved far enough away to satisfy the Philistines, he dug another well and was able to settle there.
This process was necessitated because the Philistines had stopped up these wells after Abraham’s death. There is no indication in scripture that the wells had gone dry, or that they had become polluted, or become otherwise unusable. The wells were, in fact, still perfectly good, but the Philistines purposely made them unusable. They did so as a sign of disrespect for Abraham and for his family. Thus Isaac had to dig them again in order to benefit from the water hidden beneath them.
This series of events perfectly illustrates what happens when we neglect or distort the scriptures. The scriptures are the source of the water of life, by which we are saved (Jas. 1:21). God our Father dug this well, as it were, when He breathed out the scriptures to the inspired writers of the Old and New Testaments (2 Pet. 1:20-21). The scriptures, as God revealed them, are pure in every respect. They are everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), and they equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If we come to the scriptures with an honest heart and a desire to know the truth, we will find the refreshing water of life that will sustain us all the way to our heavenly home.
Over time, however, the well of God’s word has become polluted and stopped up by various man-made attitudes and dogmas. Like the Philistines who stopped up Abraham’s wells, men who have no respect for God have filled the well of His word with the rocks and debris of human philosophy, false teaching, and neglect. When one comes to this stopped up well, he cannot find the water of life because man-made teachings are blocking access to it. The only way to drink the water of life is to re-dig the old well by clearing away every bit of man-made doctrine and human philosophy that has stopped it up.
There is no question that this is hard work, but it is what must be done in order to reach the pure water of life that God has revealed in His word. Re-digging the old wells means devoting oneself to consistent and systematic study of the scriptures. Jesus told some believing Jews, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn. 8:31-32). To do so these Jews had to remove all the clutter of Jewish tradition in order to faithfully follow the Son of God. We today must remove all the clutter of human traditions and search the scriptures daily, so we can know the truth (Acts 17:11). To re-dig the old wells, we must have the same attitude that Paul had, who said, “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Rom. 3:4).