Chapter 20

Sarah Rescued from Abimelech

    • Abraham traveled to the Negev region. For a while he lived between Kadesh and Shur, but then he moved to Gerar.

    • While living in Gerar, Abraham again introduced Sarah as his sister, and the King of Gerar- Abimelech- sent for Sarah to be brought to him.

      • At Sarah’s age of 90, would the king have been so enamored that he made her a part of his harem? HCSB offers this cultural insight, “As to Sarah’s age, it is significant that beauty is not mentioned as the reason for taking her into the king’s harem, as it was before (Genesis 12:14-15). The likely reason for taking her was her wealth, since, as Abraham’s presumed “sister”, she would have had some control over the family’s vast holdings. It is worth noting, in addition, that in upper Mesopotamia where Abraham came from it had been common for a wealthy man to legally adopt his wife as his sister, thus enhancing her social status.”

      • Why would Abraham yet again present Sarah as his sister? Two different views:

      • The first from HCSB commentary: “Abraham had told Pharaoh that Sarah was his sister and, though forced to leave Egypt when the deception was discovered, he left a much wealthier man than he had come (12:16, 13:2). Thus, it may have appeared to Abraham that God blessed his deception.”

      • The second is from Guzik’s commentary, “This is the same lie Abraham told back in Genesis 12:10-13. He showed that it was easy to slip back into sinful habits. Abraham stumbled in a place that he stumbled before. Instead of trusting God to keep his family together, he devised his own plan to do it. His plan would fail completely…Age does not automatically sanctify us. Unless yielded to the Spirit of God, we will repeat in our old age the sinful patterns of our youth.”

    • God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him that he was about to die because he had taken a married woman.

      • Barnhouse points out the full gravity of the situation and why it demanded such a drastic response, “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.”

    • But Abimelech had not slept with her so he said to the Lord, “Would you destroy an innocent nation? My conscience is clear- Abraham said she was his sister and Sarah affirmed it.”

    • God told Abimelech in his dream, “I know you haven’t slept with Sarah because I have prevented it. Give Sarah back to Abraham or you and all your people will die. Abraham is a prophet, he will pray for you and you’ll live.”

      • “Because Abimelech’s heart was right in this regard, God kept him from worse sin. God’s protecting power can guide even a pagan king.” (Guzik)

    • When Abimelech got up the next morning, he called his servants together and told them everything that had happened and they were terrified.

    • Abimelech then called Abraham in and asked, “Why would you bring such guilt on me and my kingdom when I have done nothing to you? You should never have done this. What would cause you to do this?”

    • Abraham replied, “I knew that no one feared the Lord here and I was afraid you would kill me for my wife. She is indeed my half sister. When God commanded us to travel, I instructed her to introduce herself as my sister.”

      • “This was another attempt to justify his lie, by saying it was really the truth. But a half-truth, said with intent to deceive, is always a whole lie.” (Guzik)

      • Abraham’s deception does exhibit a lack of faith in God, and his response to Abimelech is an attempt at self justification. Guzik points out, “Age does not automatically sanctify us. Unless yielded to the Spirit of God, we will repeat in our old age the sinful patterns of our youth.”

    • Abimelech returned Sarah to Abraham and also gave him sheep, cattle, slaves, and told him to settle anywhere that he wished in his land. He also gave Abraham 1,000 silver pieces as verification of Sarah’s purity.

    • Because of Abimelech’s unintentional sin, the Lord had rendered Abimelech’s wife and all his female slaves sterile. When Abraham prayed to God on Abimelech’s behalf, God healed them all.

      • “The Bible reminds us that, ultimately, it is God who opens and closes wombs. The theme of women being unable to conceive, then later being able to bear children, is a recurring motif in chapters 12-50.” (HCSB commentary)