Genesis Chapter Twenty


Read Genesis 20:1-8 – Abraham Deceives Again


v.1And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.”


            After the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah and their companion cities; Abraham moves 100 miles, or more, further south in a coastal region later called Gerar.  Gerar was a city of the Philistine’s that came into existence many years later but is used here by Moses as a reference for Abraham’s location.  Gerar was on the coastal plain of the Mediterrean Sea.


v.2And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.”


            Abraham either didn’t learn anything when he deceived Pharoah before about his relationship with Sarah or has forgotten.


Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.” Genesis 12:13


And so he repeats his deception, this time with Abimelech, who is the ruler of this region.  Apparently though the times we have today are wicked enough, in that day if a man rich or powerful enough saw a woman that he desired he could just have her husband killed and take her into his house.  The woman apparently didn’t have anything to say about it.


v.3But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife.”


            God intervenes for Sarah.  He does not allow whatever fate Abimelech has planned for her to come about.  In his direct dealings with mankind and the nation of Israel this is not an unusual occurrence.  First we have a declaration in the speech of Elihu to Job:


Job 33:14-18 “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. 15In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; 16Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, 17That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. 18He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.”


The second in the testimony of the Holy Spirit through the psalmist that wrote:




v.4But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? 5Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.”


            When warned by God of the danger he was facing Abimelech pleads innocent and tells God that both Abraham and Sarah had said that she was his sister.  They made no mention that they were man and wife.  He makes a plea to God very similar to that of Hezekiah when Hezekiah was told that he was sick unto death:


II Kings 20:3I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.”


v.6And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.”


            God gives Abimelech his instructions.  He knows that Abimelech has not so much as touched Sarah and that his integrity is intact, that his heart is right.  God also knows who is at fault in this deception; in fact the guilty party, Abraham, as we noted, has done this before.


v.7Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.”


            Abimelech is to restore Sarah to her husband.  He is to have nothing to do with her.  If he obeys God in this respect he will live, if not he and all of his kingdom will be destroyed. 

We typically do not think of Abraham as being a prophet of God but here the Holy Spirit declares that he is.  In that function he will offer prayer to God that Abimelech should live, in order that God would remove the curse of death from him.  Abraham would serve much the same purpose in this as Job did after God gave instructions for their forgiveness to Job’s friends:


Job 42:8Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.”


v.8Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid.”


            Very early the next morning Abimelech calls in all of his servants and makes them aware of the situation at hand and God’ warning.  They all fear God and are now afraid.  This assures their cooperation in what now much be done.


Read Genesis 20:9-16 – Abimelech Confronts Abraham


v.9-10Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?”


            Abimelech calls this sin that Abraham almost caused him to commit a great sin.  It is interesting that even among these people who did not have the same kind of relationship with God as Abraham that adultery is considered a great sin.  It speaks well of them and as a comparison to the present day shows that perhaps a higher standard of morality was practiced by those that many people would call and ignorant, pagan people than those who live in our present day.  Abimelech charges Abraham with doing that which was not justifiable.  We find a very similar situation with one of Jacob’s daughters that did generate some very serious consequences:


And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob’s daughter; which thing ought not to be done.” Genesis 34:7


v.11And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.”


            Abraham gives the same excuse to Abimelech that he gave Sarai for deceiving the Egyptians:


Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.” Genesis 12:12


He assumes that Abimelech, nor those of his kingdom fear God, or follow the ways of righteousness.  However the anger displayed by Abimelech seems to tell us otherwise.


v.12And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.”


            So here we find the real relationship between Abraham and Sarah.  They were half-brother and half-sister, same father but different mothers.  So Abraham was technically correct when he told Pharoah and Abimelech that she was his sister but still a deception.  Why?  It was deception because even though they were half-siblings they had entered into a marriage covenant sanctioned by God and they tried to hide that relationship.  They tried to live a lie and that created problems as it always does.


v.13 And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt show unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.”


            Abraham tries to excuse his deception by claiming that he and Sarah had done this throughout their journey to Canaan.

            We see Abraham is a paragon of faith in God.  He is given to us as an example in the New Testament chapter that men call the hall or God’s honor roll of faith.


By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:” Hebrews 11:8-9 


Yet we also see that Abraham sinned.  He deceived other men regarding the relationship between him and Sarah.   In these verses we also see him as a man, who while he obeyed God, was so fearful of his life that he would sacrifice the sanctity his marriage and the honor of his wife because of that fear.  This gives us a much different picture of Abraham than we usually bring to our  minds when his name is mentioned.  Yes he was faithful to God but he was weak in some ways, and as susceptible to sin as any man.


v.14-15And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife. 15And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.”


            Just as Pharoah did in Egypt, Abimelech adds to the wealth of Abraham giving him more sheep, oxen and servants.  But contrary to Pharoah, Abimelech didn’t remove Abraham from his country but rather give him free access to go where and when he might choose.  Rather than doing away with Abraham, Abimelech actually rewards him because of his relationship with God.


v.16And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.”


            Abimelech not only gives Abraham an offering of restitution for taking Sarah in to his house but in addition gives him a royal gift of 1,000 pieces of silver.  This giving of gifts other than just returning what was wrongfully taken is very similar to that done by the Philistines when they returned the ark of God to Israel:


And take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go.” I Samuel  6:8


This is an example of real repentance.  It is more than just stopping our sin but also the giving of compensation or restitution to someone that we have sinned against.  In addition Abimelech admonishes Sarah that Abraham is to her a “COVERING OF THE EYES”.  What does that mean?  It means that she is to look to no other, nor is she to desire that she should be looked upon with desire by another.  Just as Job says in his declaration of his innocence of any great sin:


Job 31:1I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?”


All married people should make a similar covenant with their eyes that they not become guilty of adultery in their hearts as Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:28.


Read Genesis 20:17-18 – Abrahams Prays for Abimelech


v.17-18So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. 18For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.”


            Here we find more reason for Abimelech to be gracious to Abraham in spite of the fact that Abraham deceived him.  God was punishing Abimelech and his household for taking Sarah into his house with the intent of adding her as another wife or concubine.  Because of the repentance of Abimelech and the prayer of Abraham God removed the affliction that caused all the women in his household to be barren.