Genesis Chapter 20


Abraham’s sojourn at Gerar, Sarah is taken by Abimelech. (Verse 1-8.)

Abimelech’s rebuke to Abraham. (Verse 9-13.)

Abimelech restores Sarah. (Verse 14-18.)

Going south or going down is often seen as a negative direction spiritually speaking in the Word of God as it is here in this story. This is one of two times that Abraham asks his wife to say she is his sister and neither chapter in which Abraham does this is the promise of a seed mentioned. It is mentioned thirteen times in fifteen other chapters however.

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

[Gen 26:6]

compare with the same mistake made in 12:10-20

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

[Gen 12:13]

Abimelech’s name means my father is King in Hebrew and this pagan king only after Abraham was heading south again asked Abraham about Sarah and Abraham forgetting the lessons from his previous time with Pharaoh said the same thing (a little white lie), no, a lie.

I know she is his sister as well as his wife but Abraham meant to deceive. You may say, Yes, but it was  for a good reason but that does not make it okay because God has promised he would protect Abraham on numerous occasions.

God could not allow anything the happen to the future mother of the Jewish people because the God of the Universe had promised Abraham that he would have a Son with Sarah.

Sarah must have been quite the beauty for Abimelech to want her considering that she was over 90 years old! (see 17:17)

3 But 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.

[Gen 26:8, Gen 31:24, Matt 1:20]

God hates adultery and Abraham almost allows his wife and Abimelech to commit this awful deed all because Abraham was afraid. Why should Abraham be afraid?

He has received promises from God of his supernatural protection because he is to be the father of the Jewish Nation. We sometimes forget who we are as did and get into a mess of trouble. Abimelech

One of the main reasons that God hates adultery is because marriage is the union of two into one just as is Marriage for life so we become one with God eternally in our salvation. Marriage is a picture of our salvation.

4 But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?

5 Said 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.

6 And 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.

[Gen 31:7, 1st Sam 25:26, 1st Sam 25:34]

God tries to keep us from sinning through the conviction of his word and the conviction of his Holy Spirit – we must decide which way to yield as shown in Romans chapter six.

7 Now 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.

[1st Sam 7:5, Job 42:8, James 5:14]

Abimelech asks God if he will slay “also” a righteous nation. He is aware that God destroyed Sodom and he could do the same to his nation if he so desired but Abimelech appeals to God by saying they (Sodom) were a wicked nation and his was righteous in comparison.

Abraham is said by God to be a prophet although he never prophesied anything. His life however was a life of fulfilled prophecy as well as the life of his family and his Servant were prophetic pictures of God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Messiah (Son of God).

Since God made a Covenant with Abraham when he was called Abram, Abraham was untouchable to Abimelech or Pharaoh. Just because Abraham was supernaturally protected by God does not mean that you are.

If you choose to do something stupid you will suffer the consequences of your stupidity. Well God meant for me to lose my arm while mowing my grass some may say, not so!

If you are stupid enough to stick your arm under a spinning mower don’t blame God for your stupidity. If you text and drive and you kill 13 people it is not God’s will that they died. What is God’s will? That you don’t text and drive. Don’t blame God!

God had to do for Abraham what Abraham wouldn’t do for his wife and the future nation of Israel. God wasn’t about to let Abraham’s weakness keep him from fulfilling his promise to bring forth a nation out of him and Sarah.

8 Therefore 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.

Hebrews 1:1 God at sundry times and diverse manners spake in times past unto fathers.

God spoke to a Pagan King in a dream and told him not to touch his Prophet. He was a liar, but he was still the man God was using at that time to bring about a future Kingdom of Israel and nothing any king or prophet did was going to stop God from doing his will.

This is not a precedent for you to do whatever you want and claim it as God’s will. This was a different dispensation. A dispensation of Promise.

9 Then 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.

[Gen 12:18, Gen 26:10]

10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?

Abraham saw the physical realm around him at that moment and did not remember by faith what he had been told. It is hard to let the spiritual realm override the physical but we must walk in the Spirit so we do not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Abraham wanted or lusted to stay alive more than to do the right thing

11 And 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.

[Gen 12:12]

12 And 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.

remember the comments from the previous lesson on this verse – anything less than whole truth is a lie!

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 shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.

Abraham was the one who did not fear God enough to trust him. He feared what Abimelech would do more than doing God’s will. Abraham was acting in opposition to God’s will by lying to Abimelech which would have led to terrible consequences if God had not intervened.

14 And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.

[Gen 12:16]

15 And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.

[Gen 13:9, Gen 47:6]

16 And 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.

God would have blessed Abraham in far greater amounts if he would have been obedient unto him. Abimelech was practicing Genesis 12:1-3 without even knowing it because God spoke to him in a dream and told him that Abraham was his Prophet.

Abimelech wanted God to bless him and not curse him so he blessed Abraham and told him he could live wherever he wanted. Notice that Abimelech didn’t shame Sarah when he said Abraham was her brother, but reproved her and in a way that didn’t embarrass her too much.

17 So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.

18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.

[Gen 12:17, 1st Chron 16:21, Psa 105:14]

God was going to do a work very shortly with Sarah and Abimelech (whose name means my Father is King) was not going to come in and mess things up. How many times did Abraham tempt God and yet God still remained merciful?

God was going to use Sarah to bring in the promised seed to Abraham and her having conceived with Abimelech would have really messed things up.

One thing that is interesting to note in this chapter like in the chapter where Abraham goes into Egypt and calls his wife his sister that God does not repeat his promise of an heir in these two chapters where Abraham is out of God’s will.

the inability to produce children can be a judgment from God, but this is not necessarily always the case; in the final analysis however, it is God that controls the womb – read I Samuel chapter one.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Verse 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.

Verse 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.

Verse 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.