Genesis 20

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Abraham and Abimelech

1 From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between 1Kadesh and Shur; and he 2sojourned in 3Gerar.
2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, 4"She is my sister." And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
3 5But God came to Abimelech 6in 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, 7"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 8against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.
7 Now then, return the man's wife, 9for 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 10and all who are yours."
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, 11There is no fear of God at all in this place, and 12they will kill me because of my wife.
12 Besides, 13she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.
13 And when 14God 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, 15say of me, He is my brother.'"
14 Then Abimelech 16took 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, 17my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you."
16 To Sarah he said, "Behold, I have given 18your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is 19a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all[a] who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated."
17 Then 20Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.
18 For the LORD 21 had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.

Genesis 20 Commentary

Chapter 20

Abraham's sojourn at Gerar, Sarah is taken by Abimelech. (1-8) Abimelech's rebuke to Abraham. (9-13) Abimelech restores Sarah. (14-18)

Verses 1-8 Crooked policy will not prosper: it brings ourselves and others into danger. God gives Abimelech notice of his danger of sin, and his danger of death for his sin. Every wilful sinner is a dead man, but Abimelech pleads ignorance. If our consciences witness, that, however we may have been cheated into a snare, we have not knowingly sinned against God, it will be our rejoicing in the day of evil. It is matter of comfort to those who are honest, that God knows their honesty, and will acknowledge it. It is a great mercy to be hindered from committing sin; of this God must have the glory. But if we have ignorantly done wrong, that will not excuse us, if we knowingly persist in it. He that does wrong, whoever he is, prince or peasant, shall certainly receive for the wrong which he has done, unless he repent, and, if possible, make restitution.

Verses 9-13 See here much to blame, even in the father of the faithful. Mark his distrust of God, his undue care about life, his intent to deceive. He also threw temptation in the way of others, caused affliction to them, exposed himself and Sarah to just rebukes, and yet attempted an excuse. These things are written for our warning, not for us to imitate. Even Abraham hath not whereof to glory. He cannot be justified by his works, but must be indebted for justification, to that righteousness which is upon all and unto all them that believe. We must not condemn all as hypocrites who fall into sin, if they do not continue in it. But let the unhumbled and impenitent take heed that they do not sin on, thinking that grace may abound. Abimelech, being warned of God, takes the warning; and being truly afraid of sin and its consequences, he rose early to pursue the directions given him.

Verses 14-18 We often trouble ourselves, and even are led into temptation and sin, by groundless suspicions; and find the fear of God where we expected it not. Agreements to deceive generally end in shame and sorrow; and restraints from sin, though by suffering, should be thankfully acknowledged. Though the Lord rebuke, yet he will pardon and deliver his people, and he will give them favour in the sight of those with whom they sojourn; and overrule their infirmities, when they are humbled for them, so that they shall prove useful to themselves and others.

Cross References 21

  • 1. Genesis 16:7, 14
  • 2. Genesis 26:3
  • 3. Genesis 26:6
  • 4. See Genesis 12:13-20; Genesis 26:7-11
  • 5. Psalms 105:14
  • 6. Job 33:15, 16; Matthew 1:20; Matthew 2:12
  • 7. Genesis 18:23; [1 Chronicles 21:17]
  • 8. Genesis 39:9; Psalms 51:4
  • 9. 1 Samuel 7:5; Job 42:8
  • 10. [Numbers 16:32, 33]
  • 11. Proverbs 16:6
  • 12. Genesis 12:12; Genesis 26:7
  • 13. [Genesis 11:29]
  • 14. Genesis 12:1
  • 15. Genesis 12:13
  • 16. Genesis 12:16
  • 17. Genesis 13:9; Genesis 34:10
  • 18. [ver. 5]
  • 19. [Genesis 24:65]
  • 20. [James 5:16]
  • 21. [Genesis 12:17]

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. Hebrew It is a covering of eyes for all

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS 20

This chapter relates the removal of Abraham to Gerar, Ge 20:1; the king of Gerar's taking to him Sarah, whom Abraham had called his sister, Ge 20:2; who is rebuked of God for it in a dream, Ge 20:3; for which he makes an apology that is admitted, only he is ordered to restore to Abraham his wife, Ge 20:4-7; and accordingly early in the morning he called his servants, and acquainted them with what had happened, Ge 20:8; and then sent for Abraham, and expressed his resentment at his usage of him, Ge 20:9; which Abraham defended as well as he could, Ge 20:10-13; the issue of all which was, great kindness was shown to Abraham, and his wife restored to him, though with a reproof to her from the king, Ge 20:14-16; upon which Abraham prayed for the healing of Abimelech and his family, in which he was heard and answered, Ge 20:17,18.

Genesis 20 Commentaries