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In Genesis 21:25 we see Abraham "buying" a water well in the land of Beersheba in a contract with the king Abimelech. In Genesis 26:18 we read that Isaac dug some old water wells (which had been dug in the days of Abraham). We see that the herdsmen of Gerar quarrelled with Isaac saying: The water is ours!

Are they talking about the water wells that Abraham bought in verse 21:25?

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    Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Please remember to take the tour (link below left) to better understand how this site works.
    – Dottard
    Dec 1, 2023 at 20:54
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    See 'The Wells of Salvation' by John Metcalfe who shows they are the same well and draws out lessons regarding the need of succeeding generations to maintain the spiritual 'digging' of those who preceded them. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 2, 2023 at 0:25

2 Answers 2

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I offer two comments in the words of other commentators:

  1. Gen 26 describes a new but similar treat to that of Gen 21.

The Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on Gen 26:32 -

Abimelech's Treaty with Isaac. - The conclusion of this alliance was substantially only a repetition of renewal of the alliance entered into with Abraham; but the renewal itself arose so completely out of the circumstances, that there is no ground whatever for denying that it occurred, or for the hypothesis that our account is merely another form of the earlier alliance; to say nothing of the fact, that besides the agreement in the leading event itself, the attendant circumstances are altogether peculiar, and correspond to the events which preceded.

  1. Same well or a different well?

Ellicott on Gen 26:32 -

(32) We have found water.—As there are two wells at Beer-sheba, it is uncertain whether this was Abraham’s well, re-opened by Isaac (see Genesis 26:25), or a new one.

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Rather than expressing a personal opinion I will follow @Dottard's example, which shows that Christian commentators see it various ways. Let me add a Jewish opinion and the finding of certain modern critical scholars.

Among Jewish sages, Rambam (Maimonides) says:

It appears feasible to me that this is the same well which Abraham dug, in connection with which he gave Abimelech seven lambs as a witness. The Philistines, however, stopped it together with the other wells, whereupon Isaac dug it again and called it by the same name which his father had called it. It is for this reason that the name of the city is Beer-sheba: on account of the well (be’er) which both the father and the son called by that name because there they swore both of them.

Source critics who accept the documentary hypothesis, on the other hand, see this as an example of the same story being told twice in different traditions that informed the author of Genesis. A footnote in the NABRE says:

Scholars generally judge the account of the dispute over water rights and its settlement by a legal agreement between Isaac and Abimelech to be a Yahwist version of the similar story about Abraham in 21:22–34.

Among the evidence for this version being from the Yahwist source is that the name of God in this episode is yhwh, rendered as 'Jehovah' or 'the LORD' in English. In chapter 21's version, it is elohim, rendered as God.

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