The focus of the narrative shifted back to Abraham who moved to Gerar. Here, Abraham let his wife be taken again by the king of Gerar, Abimelech. The events between Abraham and Abimelech warn us that as the followers of God, we are not immune from committing mistakes. The story also teaches us how God remains faithful to His promise in spite of our shortcoming.
Did You Know...?
- Shur (20:1) is a wilderness region in the northern part of the Sinai peninsula east of Egypt (Gen 25:18). It was also referred to as an indication of direction, for people living in Palestine, generally meaning “toward Egypt” (1 Sam 27:8). [ref]
- Gerar (20:1) is a city near Gaza on the southern border of Palestine (Gen 10:19). Most scholars identify Gerar with Tell Abu Huereirah, 11 miles (18 km.) south of Gaza, on the western bank of the valley of Gerar (Gen 26:17). [ref]
- Abimelech (20:2): In Hebrew, the name literally means, “Father is the king.”
- A Prophet (20:7): According to the Scriptures, a prophet is sent and ordained by the Lord (Judg 6:8; Jer 1:5). God puts His words in the mouth of the prophet and his words will come to pass (Deut 18:18; Jer 28:9, 37:6). A prophet prays for others (Gen 20:7; Jer 37:3, 42:2, 4), speaks in God’s name (Deut 18:18), inquires of the Lord for God’s people (2 Kgs 3:11), heals the sick (2 Kgs 5:3), tells a dream or a vision of the Lord (Jer 23:28; Ezek 7:26) and prophesies (2 Chr 15:8).
- Vindicates (20:16): In Hebrew, this word literally means “a covering of the eyes.”
- Rebuked (20:16): This word can be translated in Hebrew as “set right,” righted,” or “justified.”
Why did Abraham tell Sarah to say that she is his sister instead of his wife? What was the result? See also Gen 12:11-13.Hide Answer
When Abraham first went down to Egypt, he told Sarah to say that she was his sister. Abraham did this out of fear of being killed by the Egyptians due to Sarah’s beautiful countenance (Gen 12:11-13). This time in Gerar, Abraham did similarly because he was afraid that the people of Gerar would kill him on account of his wife, Sarah (Gen 20:11). As a result, in Gerar, Abimelech sent and took Sarah for his wife (Gen 20:2-3).
How would you view Abraham’s act in Genesis 20:2 in the light of God’s previous promise to him and his wife in Genesis 17:16, 19, 21?Hide Answer
In Genesis 17:16-21, God already confirmed His promise to Abraham that He would give him a son by Sarah. Furthermore, God promised Abraham that He would establish an everlasting covenant with the son of Abraham and Sarah. Abraham’s decision in giving out Sarah to Abimelech as a wife not only jeopardized his marriage but also belittled God’s promise to him and Sarah of an everlasting covenant.
How did the LORD intervene between Abimelech, the king of Gerar, and Sarah?Hide Answer
Before Abimelech came near to Sarah, the LORD came to Abimelech in a dream and said to him, “Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife” (Gen 20:3).
What was Abimelech’s defense for his action?Hide Answer
Abimelech said to the LORD that he took Sarah as a wife in the integrity of his heart and in the innocence of his hands. Abimelech took her because Abraham told him that Sarah was his sister and Sarah herself said that Abraham was her brother (Gen 20:5).
What was the purpose of God’s warning to Abimelech?Hide Answer
God appeared to Abimelech in a dream. He warned Abimelech to withhold him from sinning against God. Therefore, God did not let Abimelech touch Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Furthermore, God also warned Abimelech that if he did not restore Sarah, then he and all who were his would surely die (Gen 20:6-7).
What can we learn from God’s warning to Abimelech about prevention and punishment?Hide Answer
In Abimelech’s dream, the Lord said to him that He withheld him from sinning against God by touching Sarah, the wife of Abraham (Gen 20:6). The warning prevented Abimelech from committing a sin against God. Likewise, God can give His warning to us through His words, through other people and things or events that happen in our surroundings. And such a warning is for preventing us to continue ourselves in the life of sin. Once, the Lord Jesus met the man whom He healed previously in the temple and warned him not to sin anymore (Jn 5:14). Since the Lord already healed him and he had been made well, the Lord prevented the man to continue sinning again lest a worse thing came upon him.
God’s warning to Abimelech also served as a punishment if he continued to disobey the Lord. In Genesis 20:7, God says to Abimelech, “If you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” If Abimelech were to disregard God’s warning and continued to commit a sin against God by touching Sarah, then God would punish him and his kingdom as a result of the disobedience. In the gospel of John, the Lord Jesus also warned the man of a punishment to come. If the man, after being healed by the Lord from his infirmity, continued to live in sin, then a worse thing would come upon him (Jn 5:14). Additionally, the writer of the book of Hebrews explains that if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, not only will there be no sacrifice for sins but there also will be a fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation to perdition (Heb 10:26, 27, 39).
How did God’s help to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 20 similar to the one in Genesis 12?Hide Answer
In Genesis 12, when Pharaoh took Sarai into his house, the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues. Afterwards, Pharaoh sent Abraham away with his wife (Gen 12:17, 20). Similarly, in Genesis 20, when Abimelech took Sarah to be his wife, the LORD closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech. Later, Abimelech restored Sarah to Abraham (Gen 20:14, 17).
To Abraham, how was the previous event in Genesis 12 different from the one in Genesis 20?Hide Answer
In Genesis 12, Abraham let his wife be taken by the Egyptians for the first time out of his fear of being killed by them (Gen 12:12, 13). But in Genesis 20, Abraham had received the confirmation from God of His protection, guidance and promise. After Abraham rescued Lot, God comforted him not to be afraid and confirmed him His promise of an heir (Gen 15:1, 2). Later, in Genesis 17 God re-confirmed His promise of a son through Sarah (Gen 17:15-16). Then in Genesis 18, the Lord told Abraham the exact time of the fulfillment of His promise (Gen 18:10). Therefore, before Abraham moved to Gerar, he had already received several times of God’s confirmation of His promise and guidance. Yet he committed a similar mistake like he did in Genesis 12.
How did Abimelech react after the warning from God?Hide Answer
After Abimelech received God’s words at night in a dream, he rose early in the morning and told all the things to all his servants. They were much afraid of God’s warning. Abimelech even told Abraham that he had done deeds to him and his kingdom that ought not to be done (Gen 20:8-10). Not only did Abimelech feared and took heed of the Lord’s warning but he also sought to amend his wrongdoings.
How did Abraham react to Abimelech’s words?Hide Answer
In answering Abimelech’s question, Abraham gave several defences. First, Abraham said he thought they did not fear God and would kill him for Sarah (Gen 20:11). Second, Abraham said that Sarah was truly his sister—she is the daughter of his father but not the daughter of his mother (Gen 20:12). Third, Abraham said he had made an agreement with Sarah that she was to say of Abraham “He is my brother” in every place, wherever they went (Gen 20:13).
Judging from Abraham and Abimelech’s deeds, who feared the Lord the most?Hide Answer
In his reply, Abraham commented that the fear of God was not in Abimelech’s place (Gen 20:11). But the book of Genesis explains that all of Abimelech’s servants were afraid after hearing all the warnings of the Lord given to Abimelech in a dream (Gen 20:8). Even Abimelech himself obeyed the Lord’s warning by returning Sarah to her husband, Abraham (Gen 20:16).
Though Abraham considered himself to be a believer of God (Gen 20:13), he had done deeds to Abimelech that ought not to have been done (Gen 20:9)—giving a married woman to someone as a wife and lying to others about the status of that woman. In addition, by letting Abimelech take Sarah as a wife, Abraham violated God’s covenant which promised Sarah to bear a son from Abraham and not from Abimelech or any other man (Gen 17:16).
How was Abimelech’s question to Abraham in Genesis 20:8, 9 similar to the mariners’ to the prophet Jonah in Jonah 1:8-10?Hide Answer
After Abimelech received a warning from God, he quickly said to Abraham, “What have you done to us,” asking him regarding the deeds that ought not to be done (Gen 20:8, 9). Similarly, when the mariners learned that the mighty tempest had been caused by the Lord, they said to Jonah, “Why have you done this,” knowing that Jonah had fled from the presence of the Lord (Jon 1:9, 10). Both Abimelech and the mariners realized and questioned the patriarch Abraham and the prophet Jonah concerning the deeds that they should not have done.
What lesson can we learn from Abimelech’s phrase “you have done deeds to me that ought not to be done”? See also
1 Cor 8:9, Lk 17:3 and Lev 19:17-18.Hide Answer
Although Abraham was a prophet, Abimelech reminded him that he had done deeds that ought not to be done. In other words, the deeds that Abraham had done—by giving his own wife to Abimelech as a wife and by lying to Abimelech about Sarah’s status—were not tolerable, especially as a prophet of God. As a believer of God, Abraham had committed deeds that were not acceptable to the Lord or to other people whom Abraham considered as the ones who did not fear God.
The phrase “you have done deeds that ought not to be done” reminds us that as followers of Christ, we ought to be more careful in what we do, what we say and what we think. Even the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians warns us not to become a stumbling block to others (1Cor 8:9). We ought not use our liberty in Christ, as God’s chosen people, to do things that are not accepted even by unbelievers. By doing so, not only do we humiliate the Lord and ourselves as followers of Christ, but we also become a stumbling block to other people who wants to follow God.
Furthermore, Abimelech’s phrase also teaches us to be firm in reminding others who have done wrong. Though the Lord told Abimelech in his dream that Abraham was a prophet of God, Abimelech was firm in rebuking Abraham of his mistake. Abimelech wanted Abraham to know and repent from his wrongdoings. In the gospel of Luke, the Lord Jesus says that if a brother sins against us, we ought to rebuke him (Lk 17:3). Sometimes we are hesitant in rebuking others’ mistake due to an uncomfortable feeling and relationship caused by such an act. But rebuke must be done so that the person who has done wrong can realize his mistake and repent.
Finally, from Abimelech’s phrase, we learn that rebuking and reminding must be done in love. Even though Abimelech and his kingdom were plagued because of Abraham’s deeds, Abimelech did not seek to revenge his loss to Abraham, nor did he bear any grudge against Abraham. After Abimelech rebuked Abraham, he gave gifts to him and accepted him to freely stay in his kingdom (Gen 20:14, 15). Likewise, the book of Leviticus tells that rebuking others should not be done out of hatred of the heart, nor out of vengeance; but rather out of love toward others just as we love ourselves (Lev 19:17-18).
As followers of Christ, how do we prevent ourselves from doing the deeds that ought not to be done to others?(The answer is empty)Hide Answer
How was Sarah vindicated before all? And what did her vindication mean?Hide Answer
Sarah was vindicated before all who were with her and before everybody after Abimelech had given Abraham a thousand pieces of silver (Gen 20:16). Sarah’s vindication means that she is clear from any accusation. First, she has not been touched by Abimelech. Second, she is justified from the deeds that ought not to be done—being a man’s wife yet taken as another man’s wife.
How did God remain faithful to His covenant in front of: Abraham;Hide Answer
Though it was Abraham who disregarded the promise of God by giving out Sarah, his wife and the mother of the promised heir, to Abimelech as a wife; the Lord remained faithful to His promise. Through Abimelech, God reprimanded Abraham that such deeds ought not to be done (Gen 20:9). Even the so-called non-God-fearing Abimelech feared and respected the Lord’s warning more than Abraham. Moreover, the Lord through Abimelech restored Sarah to her husband, Abraham, gave livestocks, servants and pieces of silver to Abraham without being harmed (Gen 20:14-16). Abraham could safely dwell in the land of Gerar with his wife, Sarah, due to God’s guidance.
In Genesis 17, the Lord already promised Sarah to be the mother of the promised heir (Gen 17:19). God remained true to His promise. To preserve Sarah from being touched by Abimelech, God closed all the wombs in the house of Abimelech until Abimelech restored Sarah to her husband (Gen 20:17, 18). Though Sarah was willing to sacrifice herself for her husband, God came to deliver Sarah out of Abimelech’s hands.
God’s direct intervention to Abimelech showed His faithfulness to His covenant. Through a dream, God warned Abimelech because he took a man’s wife, Sarah (Gen 20:3). Through the warning, the Lord told Abimelech not to touch the mother of the promised heir. Thus, preserving Sarah to be returned to her husband and preventing Abimelech from sinning against Him (Gen 20:6). At the end, the Lord healed Abimelech and his kingdom after he had obeyed God’s warning (Gen 20:17).
Share your experience of how the Lord remain faithful to you despite of your shortcomings.(The answer is empty)Hide Answer