Abraham Tricks Abimelech
1Abraham left Hebron and traveled to southern Canaan where he stayed awhile between Kadesh and Shur. When he moved to Gerar, 2he told people that his wife Sarah was his sister. Abimelech king of Gerar heard this, so he sent some servants to take her. 3But one night God spoke to Abimelech in a dream and said, “You will die. The woman you took is married.”
4But Abimelech had not gone near Sarah, so he said, “Lord, would you destroy an innocent nation? 5Abraham himself told me, ‘This woman is my sister,’ and she also said, ‘He is my brother.’ I am innocent. I did not know I was doing anything wrong.”
6Then God said to Abimelech in the dream, “Yes, I know you did not realize what you were doing. So I did not allow you to sin against me and touch her. 7Give Abraham his wife back. He is a prophet. He will pray for you, and you will not die. But if you do not give Sarah back, you and all your family will surely die.”
8So early the next morning, Abimelech called all his officers and told them everything that had happened in the dream. They were very afraid. 9Then Abimelech called Abraham to him and said, “What have you done to us? What wrong did I do against you? Why did you bring this trouble to my kingdom? You should not have done these things to me. 10What were you thinking that caused you to do this?”
11Then Abraham answered, “I thought no one in this place respected God and that someone would kill me to get Sarah. 12And it is true that she is my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but she is not the daughter of my mother. 13When God told me to leave my father’s house and wander in many different places, I told Sarah, ‘You must do a special favor for me. Everywhere we go tell people I am your brother.’ ”
14Then Abimelech gave Abraham some sheep, cattle, and male and female slaves. He also gave Sarah, Abraham’s wife, back to him 15and said, “Look around you at my land. You may live anywhere you want.”
16Abimelech said to Sarah, “I gave your brother Abraham twenty-five pounds of silver to make up for any wrong that people may think about you. I want everyone to know that you are innocent.”
17Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his servant girls so they could have children. 18The Lord had kept all the women in Abimelech’s house from having children as a punishment on Abimelech for taking Abraham’s wife Sarah.
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Sarah Taken into the King’s Harem
1Abraham journeyed from the oaks of Mamre to the southern region of Canaan # 20:1 Or “the land of the Negev.” and settled between Kadesh and Shur, to live as a temporary resident in Gerar. # 20:1 This would have been an arduous journey as Abraham was a very wealthy man with hundreds of servants and many flocks and herds of livestock. Gerar means “lodging place” and was a Philistine city-kingdom south of Gaza. 2Now Abraham had said about his wife Sarah, “She’s my sister.” So Abimelech, # 20:2 Abimelech has two possible meanings: “Melech [Molech] is my father” or “my father is king.” king of Gerar, sent for her and took her into his harem. # 20:2 Sarah was ninety years old. God had supernaturally rejuvenated her and made her attractive to a king. According to Jewish tradition, “her flesh was rejuvenated, her wrinkles smoothed out, and her original beauty was restored” (Bava Metzi’a 87a). The Dead Sea Scrolls likewise comment on Sarah’s miraculous restoration due to her faith in the promise of God with these words: “Fair indeed are her eyes . . . and all the radiance of her face . . . and her hands how perfect. Her legs how beautiful and without blemish her thighs . . . And when the king heard the words of [his three officials], he desired her exceedingly, and he sent [them] at once to bring her to him, and he looked upon her and marveled at all her loveliness . . . and he [God] sought to slay me.” See The Message of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Simon & Schuster, 1957. 3One night, God appeared to Abimelech in a dream # 20:3 We see from this not only that God speaks in dreams to the righteous, but that he will also come to the lost and share his heart with them (see Prov. 21:1). Dreams are powerful avenues into the human spirit. God may speak to you in dreams, if you will listen. and said to him, “You’re as good as dead, for you have taken into your harem a married woman!”
4Now Abimelech had not touched Sarah, so he said to the Lord, “Would you really destroy people who are innocent? # 20:4 Or “Would you really slaughter an innocent nation?” 5Didn’t the man tell me, ‘She is my sister’? And didn’t she agree and say, ‘Yes, he’s my brother’? I’ve done this with clean hands and a clear conscience.”
6Then God answered him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience. Furthermore, it was I who kept you from sinning and kept you from touching her. 7Now return the man’s wife, and because he is a prophet, # 20:7 This is the first time the word “prophet” is found in the Bible. The Hebrew word navi’ means “to bubble up,” referring to the stirring of the Holy Spirit that bubbles up through the prophet with divine utterance. Navi’ is the most common word used for “prophet” and can also be translated “to declare” or “one who declares.” However, some etymologists connect it with Akkadian word nabû, “to call.” Assyrian kings had the title of “the one called,” that is, called by the gods. The form navi’ in Hebrew could also signify “one who receives the [divine] call.” he will intercede on your behalf that you may live. But if you don’t give her back—you will certainly die, you and your entire household.” # 20:7 See Ps. 105:15.
8So Abimelech rose early in the morning and gathered all his servants. When he told them about his dream, they were terrified! 9Abimelech summoned Abraham and asked him, “What is this trick you have played on us? I did nothing wrong to you. Why would you bring such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done to me what no one should ever do to another.” 10Then Abimelech asked, “What is your purpose in doing this?”
11Abraham answered, “Because I thought, ‘There’s no one here that fears God. They will kill me to get to my wife.’ # 20:11 Or “over the matter of my wife.” 12Besides, she really is my half sister. She’s my father’s daughter, but not my mother’s, so I married her. 13When God sent me out to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘Here is how you can show your love for me. Everywhere we go, you must say about me, “He’s my brother.” ’ ”
14Then Abimelech gave Abraham’s wife Sarah back to him. In addition, he gave him sheep, cattle, and both male and female servants. 15Abimelech told him, “Look, my land is now before you; feel free to settle wherever you please.” 16Then he turned to Sarah and said, “I am giving your brother a thousand pieces of silver # 20:16 Or “a thousand shekels,” which would amount to about twenty-five pounds of silver. as compensation to settle any claim against me, to exonerate you in the eyes of all who are with you, # 20:16 Or “a covering of eyes.” The Hebrew is uncertain. and to clear your reputation.”
17Then Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech! He also healed Abimelech’s wife and female servants of their infertility and they began to have babies again. # 20:17 Considering that Abraham’s wife had never given him a child, it was an amazing miracle for Abraham to pray for someone else to give birth! The very first healing in the Bible was through the prayer of a childless man, Abraham. He had no confidence in himself as he prayed this prayer of faith. However, he could pray in total confidence that it had to be God doing the miracle. He prayed for the very thing he had not yet received. When the last two verses of Gen. 20 are read together with the first two verses of Gen. 21, we see that Isaac’s conception occurred as a result of Abraham’s prayer for another person with an identical need. 18For Yahweh had shut all the wombs of the women of Abimelech’s household because he took Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
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