Abraham and Abimelech
20 From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”
Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.” Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
Genesis 20 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Abraham lies. God protects.
Pulling up his stakes, Abraham took his entire clan and journeyed further south. Settling in Gerar it wasn’t long before people noticed this wealthy man and all his possessions, in particular King Abimelech. When questioned, Abraham fell back into his old ways and lied telling the people and the King, Sarah was his sister. Truly it is a strange thing when you consider the interaction between Abraham and God. God had proven Himself over and over again, had faithfully visited him, provided so many things for Abraham; had been with him every step of the way. But this shows how old ways of ourselves are never that far from our lips. Even though Abraham is known as a hero of faith, it wasn’t a stretch for him to lie whenever he was in a perceived dangerous situation.
So the King not knowing any difference, took Sarah into his harem. God intervened and spoke firm warning to this pagan king in a dream. Remarkably, God prevented King Abimelech from sinning against Sarah. Just consider this. God intervened in a situation of Abraham’s foolishness and sin, protecting both Sarah and the King (who was told he was as good as dead). This is the mercy of God.
How many times has He done the same for us? How many times has He protected us and others from our own foolish sinful ways by intervening? The battle we face daily with our old selves is real and so hard – we could all testify to this. Even though we could be hard on Abraham for slipping up and say, “How could he?” the rawness of this story shows our own slipping back to ways we were freed from is a breath away.
Thank God for His mercy. Thank Him for His protection over things we have done and potential consequences. Seek Him for renewal and commitment to living this day in trust and denial of our old ways.
Genesis 20 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Once again Abraham lied. Once again he told a foreign king his wife was his sister. And once again he was rebuked by a foreigner.
It seems to me, in His grace, God withholds the justice that was due to Abraham. He had already stumbled once in this same manner. Fearing once again that his life would be in danger, Abraham tells a half-truth for protection. This is the second time he has portrayed Sarah as his sister (ironically, his son Isaac would pass off his wife as his sister as well).
On top of this, Abraham sort of blames God for his problems instead of owning up to his lies.
So when God had me wander from my father’s house, I said to her: Show your loyalty to me wherever we go and say about me: ‘He’s my brother.'”Genesis 20:13 HCSB
It’s like Abraham is saying, “Well, God made me wander, so of course I had to protect myself using this method.” Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be much pushback from God with these statements, which has left many commentators to either justify Abraham’s behavior or simply excuse it.
Personally, I think it speaks toward the grace of God. Even with a pagan king, it was God who supernaturally protected him from having relations with Sarah.
Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you did this with a clear conscience. I have also kept you from sinning against Me. Therefore I have not let you touch her.Genesis 20:6 HCSB
Consider the gravity of this statement. It was God who held back the enemy and the flesh so that the purity of the royal line of Christ could be preserved.
“Suppose Abimelech had taken Sarah and God had not intervened? Two seeds would have been at the door to Sarah’s womb, and to this day an element of doubt would cling to the ancestry of our Lord.”Donald Barnhouse
It’s possible that the shame of being rebuked and corrected by a pagan king was enough of a consequence for Abraham. It was surely embarrassing as he was corrected previously by Pharoah from Egypt. Abraham’s response, however, goes to show how open his heart was to the correction of God. He prayed for Abimelech and God healed them. In the end, we can be confident Abraham learned his lesson and that all the glory went to the Lord.