Genesis 20 - Outline of Genesis (Book Notes menu page)
20:1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country {the Negev},
and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
20:2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She [is] my sister:
{cp. Gen 12:13}
and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
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.
20:4 But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said,
Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?
{cp. Gen 18:23}
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.
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
{ie., allowed} I thee not to touch her.
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.
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.
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.
20:10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham,
What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?
{ie., What did you 'see in vision' (as a prophet) that prompted you to do this?}
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.
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.
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 shew unto me;
at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He [is] my brother.
Abraham's temporary lapse of faith, is astonishing, in view of...
  1. his previous similar failure while in Egypt, about 22 years earlier (12:10-20).
  2. his subsequent walk of faith & fellowship with God, in ch.18.
  3. the sharp contrast between his walk of faith and Lot's carnal mindedness, in ch.19.
  4. God's recent and specific promise that Sarah would bear the promised son within a year (18:14).
    Sarah's desirability & beauty at age 90 is also astonishing, and gave evidence of the renewal of her youth in preparation for Isaac's birth.
Abimelech appears more noble than Abraham, to human eyes, but God sees differently.
(Note: 'Abimelech', lit., 'father of the king,' is not a man's name but a title for kings in that region.)
God gave notice that -
  1. Abimelech was under a death sentence (v.3), though he had acted in integrity and innocency (v.5).
  2. Abraham was 'a prophet' whose prayers were necessary to save Abimelech's life (v.7).
    By nature, Abraham was cowardly, false, and no better than any other man.
    But God sees His own as already perfect in the righteousness of Christ. cp. Rom 8:33,34
    That which sets God's children apart from nature's children is what He Himself has done for them. cp. Num 23:21; Zech 2:8; 3:2
Abraham was in need of the rebuke & correction delivered to him via Abimelech (v.9,10).
Abimelech obeyed the warning which he received from God in a dream. However, his sarcastic question ('What sawest thou?') indicates that his respect toward Abraham, as God's prophet, was damaged. Yet, in fear of God, he honored His man (v.14-f).
Abraham's confession (v.11-13) -
his sin: unbelief, self-reliance (cp. Rom 14:23 b) -
  1. At his original departure from Ur, because he had certain reservations about God's ability to care for him, he had developed this fleshly scheme for self-protection (which had produced trouble previously, Gen 12:10-20).
  2. His recent travels had taken him beyond the southern boundaries of the land of Canaan. Being unfamiliar with the people in Abimelech's country, he had felt outside of God's protection (v.11). He had acted according to fleshly sight, in the fear of man, rather than with faith in God. But now it was evident that, even while he was distant from the land of promise, the Lord had not left him.
    How easily we fail in similar faithlessness. cp. Psa 139:1-10; 2Cor 5:6-9; Heb 13:5,6
20:14 And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants,
and gave [them] unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.
20:15 And Abimelech said, Behold, my land [is] before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.
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.
20:17 So Abraham prayed unto God:
and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare [children].
20:18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech,
because of Sarah Abraham's wife.
The moral inconsistency of God's man had prevented physical births in this land.
Only God knows the extent to which sin, in the lives of Christians, hinders the spiritual 're-birth rate' in the world today. cp. 2Tim 2:19-21; 1Cor 11:28-32
Sarah's womb had also been closed, up until this time.
God could not fully bless Abraham while his sin went unjudged.
After he confessed and turned from his sin, God fulfill His promise. Gen 21:1,2

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