Genesis 20

Abraham and Abimelek

1 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,
2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3 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.”
4 Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation?
5 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.”
6 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.
7 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.”
8 Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid.
9 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.”
10 And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11 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.’
12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.
13 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.” ’ ”
14 Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him.
15 And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”
16 To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels[a] of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”
17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again,
18 for the LORD had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.

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 33

  • 1. Genesis 18:1
  • 2. S Genesis 12:9
  • 3. S Genesis 14:7
  • 4. S Genesis 16:7
  • 5. Genesis 26:3
  • 6. Ge 26:1,6,17
  • 7. ver 12; S Genesis 12:13; Genesis 26:7
  • 8. ver 14; Genesis 21:22; Genesis 26:1
  • 9. S Genesis 12:15
  • 10. Numbers 22:9,20
  • 11. Genesis 28:12; Genesis 31:10,24; Genesis 37:5,9; Genesis 40:5; Genesis 41:1; Numbers 12:6; Deuteronomy 13:1; Job 33:15; Daniel 2:1; Daniel 4:5; Matthew 27:19
  • 12. Exodus 10:7; Exodus 12:33; Psalms 105:38
  • 13. ver 7; Genesis 26:11; 1 Chronicles 16:21; Psalms 105:14
  • 14. S Genesis 18:25
  • 15. S Genesis 12:19
  • 16. S Genesis 17:1
  • 17. Psalms 7:8; Psalms 25:21; Psalms 26:6; Psalms 41:12
  • 18. 1 Samuel 25:26,34
  • 19. S Genesis 13:13; Psalms 41:4; Psalms 51:4
  • 20. Deuteronomy 18:18; Deuteronomy 34:10; 2 Kings 3:11; 2 Kings 5:3; 1 Chronicles 16:22; Psalms 105:15
  • 21. ver 17; Exodus 8:8; Numbers 11:2; Numbers 12:13; 1 Samuel 7:5; 1 Kings 13:6; Job 42:8; Jeremiah 18:20; Jeremiah 37:3; Jeremiah 42:2
  • 22. S ver 3; S Psalms 9:5
  • 23. S Genesis 12:18; Genesis 26:10; Genesis 34:7
  • 24. Genesis 42:18; Nehemiah 5:15; Job 31:23; Psalms 36:1; Proverbs 16:6
  • 25. S Genesis 12:12; Genesis 26:7; Genesis 31:31
  • 26. S Genesis 12:13
  • 27. Deuteronomy 26:5; 1 Chronicles 16:20; Isaiah 30:28; Isaiah 63:17
  • 28. S Genesis 12:1
  • 29. S ver 2
  • 30. Genesis 12:16
  • 31. Genesis 13:9; S Genesis 45:18
  • 32. S ver 7; Job 42:9
  • 33. Genesis 12:17

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. That is, about 25 pounds or about 12 kilograms

Chapter Summary


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

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