Genesis 20


‘Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, ‘She is my sister.’ Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her. But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, ‘You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.’ Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, ‘Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.’ Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.’ Genesis 20:1-7

After witnessing the events surrounding Sodom, Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, Abraham is on the move again, this time he goes to the region of the Negev. It appears Abraham didn’t learn from his previous experience in Egypt concerning his wife Sarah and trusting God, Genesis 12:14-20.

He asks Sarah to pretend to be his sister, despite her being his wife and actually half-sister, despite this being a half-truth, it was still a complete lie. Sarah must have looked younger than she was, but she was certainly beautiful, in the Old Testament the focus seems to be on her outward beauty but in the New Testament she’s complemented for her inward beauty, Hebrews 11:11 / 1 Peter 3:1-5.

The reason Abraham asks her to lie about their relationship is simply because the ruling king would have the right to Sarah, if she was single, as his wife. If she claimed to be already married, the ruling kind may well kill Abraham in order for him to take Sarah as his wife. So, to a degree we understand why Abraham lied but, he was willing to sacrifice his wife, Sarah in order to save his own life.

Abraham is falling into the same sin trap again because he didn’t trust that God would protect them in order for the seed promise to be fulfilled through him and Sarah, Genesis 12:1-3.

Notice instead of God going to Abraham, God went to Abimelek. I believe Abimelek was acting out of pure ignorance, he was totally unaware that Sarah was actually married to Abraham, in those days the more wives you had, meant you had more power because you were a part of a bigger family. It’s clear that he was a righteous man and the nation he ruled was righteous.

Somehow God in a miraculous way managed to stop Abimelek from touching Sarah, which was good news for him, otherwise judgment would have come upon him and his nation. God commanded him to return Sarah to Abraham, and declared that Abraham was a prophet, Hebrews 1:1.

The word Abimelek isn’t a name but a title, ‘Emolech’ means the god of the universe but Yahweh, the Holy high God passes judgement on Abimelek. In other words, God was in control and if Abimelek actually did have sexual relations with Sarah there would have been devastating consequences to pay.

‘Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, ‘What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.’ And Abimelek asked Abraham, ‘What was your reason for doing this?’ Abraham replied, ‘I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, ‘He is my brother.’ Genesis 20:8-13

Abraham is rebuked again from a pagan king and like I mentioned earlier, this is the second time this has happened to him, Genesis 12:14-20. Now remember that Abraham is a stranger in the land where Abimelek reigns.

The practices of Abimelek’s land were very much different from what Abraham was used too, especially when it comes to marriage. Abraham had married one of his father’s daughters through another wife other than his mother. And so well aware that he was in a different country, Abraham had made an agreement with Sarah that wherever they went, Sarah would say she was his sister, when actually she was only his stepsister.

Abraham’s excuse may seem plausible, but it seems as though he feared men more than he feared God, in fact, he’s almost indirectly blaming God. And make no mistake about it, half-truths with the intent to deceive are a lie.

‘Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelek said, ‘My land is before you; live wherever you like.’ To Sarah he said, ‘I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offence against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.’ Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, for the LORD had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.’ Genesis 20:14-18

I mentioned earlier that Abimelek was righteous and he’s doing what the godly person is doing. Notice that Abimelek is giving gifts to Abraham, Romans 12:20 and he accepts them, Genesis 14.

I think we can see the character of Abimelek when he sent Sarah back to Abraham and gave them a whole bunch of silver to cover any offence this whole ordeal may have caused. The offering didn’t stop there though, he actually offered Abraham the opportunity to live anywhere in his land. This in some ways was a covenant between Abimelek and Abraham.

Sarah in a sense, is being politely rebuked by Abimelek as he tells her she should never be ashamed to declare that Abraham was indeed her husband. The Hebrew word for ‘vindicate’ is ‘yakach’ which means setting right, setting right the wrong that was done. Remember Sarah isn’t in the wrong here, Abraham was.

It’s clear that God had intervened in this sad, unnecessary event because the text tells us that Abimelek’s wife and female servants couldn’t have children during the whole time Abraham and Sarah were living there, until God intervened again and healed them, so they could have children.

Go To Genesis 21



"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."