Genesis 20: Abraham and Abimelech

1 From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar.

-As mentioned before, the Negeb is a desert region in the southern part of modern day Israel. According to Genesis 10, Gerar was on the border of the Canaanite territories. We appear to jump into this event out of nowhere but if this is chronological with the previous chapter, then perhaps Abraham is fleeing the area while God is destroying the Canaanite cities in Jordan just to stay out of the way.

2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.

-Here we go again. Did he not learn the first time? I suppose not because things seemed to work out in his favor. Given how wealthy and powerful Abraham was, it seems likely he had come here fleeing the area whether it was because of the destruction of Sodom and Gommorah or some other event. Otherwise, it seems bizarre he would feel the need to offer his wife to save his life again. Whatever the reason, Isaac has not been born yet so Abraham is showing doubt by not trusting the Lord to preserve his own life. He was even told exactly when Isaac was born. Unless Sarah was already pregnant and he thought maybe God would be done with him now that the seed is passed on. It’s also hard to believe given their ages at this point that Sarah would still be considered so attractive men would kill for her. Perhaps this chapter is out of order with the other events and this happened some time earlier. The only mention we had of Abraham last chapter is that he saw the destruction from a hill of Sodom and Gommorah. The chapter before, the three men were discussing it and Abraham was by the oaks of Mamre. Why would he move? Unfortunately, we don’t have the answers to these questions. The biggest evidence that this chapter is indeed in order is that we have it this way and God made sure to give us scripture correctly and that Abraham is referred to by his God given name indicating this happened after Genesis 18. Given the name usage, this could only have happened in the order it shows in the bible.

3 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.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 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.” 6 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. 7 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.”

-Instead of a plague, God actually tells Abimelech in a dream what is going on and prevents him from sinning. It is heavily implied that all the Egyptians had slept with Sarah in the previous story but in this one, it seems no one did. This might suggest that this event is in order and the Sarah may have been already pregnant with Isaac at the time and the men’s handling of her may have caused the birth not to happen as planned. It is interesting Abimelech claims not to have sinned when he took a man’s sister as a wife. We do not know if Abraham simply offered her in which case perhaps Abimelech could not be blamed. Either way, God showed great mercy in preventing him from sinning.

8 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. 9 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.” 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” 11 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.’ 12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. 13 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.”’”

-It seems this was a standard practice that Sarah was Abraham’s sister whenever they traveled so this was a habit going back to when they were in Egypt. Perhaps Abraham had gotten so used to this he wasn’t even thinking. He should have known God would protect both of them so that their son would be born. This could simply show that even though God molds us and shapes us into His servants, we still sometimes fall back on the same old sins.

14 Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” 16 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.”

-Once again, from this event Abraham and Sarah walk away financially benefited. This just shows that God knew this would happen and used this evil for good in ensure they are financially taken care of. It makes one wonder if something had happened to Abraham’s household and if he is now poor for some reason. Or this could have simply been protection since they would be gaining more servants while they travel in this region. We still don’t know why they were here, though.

17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. 18 For the Lord had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

-It seems odd that Abimelech had not slept with Sarah at all yet enough time had passed for the household to discover everyone had become barren. We know this event had to have taken place between the year of Sodom and Gommorah and Isaac’s birth so how could they have discovered this was true? Either they all believed that this was the case when Abimelech had told them of the dream or there were such a huge amount of female slaves constantly becoming impregnated like some kind of baby making factory that they noticed a “glitch” in their production. It might not be too much of a stretch, the huge populations of people had to come from somewhere because it had only been a few hundred years since the flood.

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