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Genesis Twenty

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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Genesis 20:1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.

Gerar. Gerar was capital of the Philistine colony on the seacoast. The Philistines were descendants of Ham through Mizraim, and apparently were originally from Crete. Some centuries later, they all migrated to Canaan and became a strong coastal nation, inveterate enemies of Israel. The name Palestine came from them. The title of their kings at this time was Abimelech, similar to Pharaoh in Egypt.

Genesis 20:2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.

my sister. How Abraham and Sarah could have entered into the same type of deception for which they had long before been rebuked in Egypt (Genesis 12:10-20) is hard to understand, but apparently the situation took them by surprise and they got trapped into the same old subterfuge before they realized it.

Abimelech. Abimelech was evidently a title, like Pharaoh in Egypt. Gerar was a prosperous Philistine settlement along the coast, near the Egyptian border, and Abraham must have journeyed there for business purposes.

Genesis 20:3 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.

Genesis 20:4 But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?

Genesis 20:5 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.

Genesis 20:6 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.

Genesis 20:7 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.

a prophet. This is the first use of the word “prophet” or “prophecy” in Scripture. As the context indicates, its meaning is not primarily that of foretelling the future, but of being God's spokesman, conveying His words by divine inspiration to man (compare 2 Peter 1:19-21). God exacts strong punishment on any who harm His prophets, even when they themselves are blameworthy (Psalm 105:15).

Genesis 20:8 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.

Genesis 20:9 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.

Genesis 20:10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?

Genesis 20:11 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.

will slay me. The fact that Abimelech did not deny Abraham's expressed charge indicates that his fears may well have been justified.

Genesis 20:12 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.

my sister. Sarah was Abraham's half-sister. In the early centuries after the Dispersion, close marriages were often necessary, with very small tribal populations. This may have been especially desirable in godly families, in order to preserve faithfulness to God's revelation and His purposes. As noted before, this situation was not harmful genetically until many harmful mutations could have accumulated in the nation's genetic pool. By the time of Moses, this had apparently become a problem, and laws against incest were established.

Genesis 20:13 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.

Genesis 20:14 And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.

Genesis 20:15 And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.

Genesis 20:16 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.

Genesis 20:17 So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.

Genesis 20:18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.