Genesis 20 (NRSV)
Abraham and Sarah at Gerar
From there Abraham journeyed toward the region of the Negeb, and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While residing in Gerar as an alien, 2Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” And King Abimelech of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
Second verse . . . same as the first . . .
3But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “You are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a married woman.”
God Almighty has to intervene!
4Now Abimelech had not approached her; so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent people? 5Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ I did this in the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands.”
6Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart; furthermore it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7Now then, return the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.”
Bible commentator Donald Barnhouse says, “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.”
8So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants and told them all these things; and the men were very much afraid. 9Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said to him, “What have you done to us? How have I sinned against you, that you have brought such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that ought not to be done.”
It is true. Abimelech, the pagan king, is in the right, and Abraham, the man of God, is in the wrong.
10And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What were you thinking of, that you did this thing?”
Memo #2 to Abraham:
As a dog returns to its vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly.
–Proverbs 26:11 (NIV)
11Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place,
Read that, “There is no fear of God in my heart, at least regarding this situation . . .”
and they will kill me because of my wife. 12Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. 13And 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.’“
Really, Abe, this is pathetic! (Long pause.) Yet I must ask myself, How many times do I repeat the same mistake, the same sin, in my life? I confess: too many times. Lord, have mercy on me, as you had mercy on Abraham.
“Abraham should have said: ‘Forgive me, Abimelech, for dishonoring both you and my God. My selfish cowardice overwhelmed me, and I denied my God by fearing that He who called me could not take care of me. He is not as your gods of wood and stone. He is the God of glory. He is the living God, the Creator, the most High God, possessor of heaven and earth. He told me He would be my shield and my exceeding great reward, and supplier of all my needs . . . In sinning against Him, I sinned against you. Forgive me, Abimelech.’”
–Donald Grey Barnhouse
14Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him. 15Abimelech said, “My land is before you; settle where it pleases you.”
16To Sarah he said, “Look, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; it is your exoneration before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”
17Then Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. 18For the Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
All of this protection of Sarah’s womb was necessary so there would never be a doubt as to who was the father of this long awaited son, arriving soon!
I love how God protects this couple on their way to becoming a family, in spite of their confusion and their misdeeds. HERE is a chorus about being part of God’s family. I remember singing this as a child and asking my mother what “sod” was!
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.