May 14, 2014

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

                     

Lesson II.E.2: Abraham Rebuked for Deceiving Abimelech. Gen. 20:9-18.                                 

 

 

 

Genesis 20:9-18 (KJV)

 

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

 

 

 

Introduction

 

The king spoke of the great guilt Abraham’s actions brought on him (v. 9) and he spoke to Sarah of his (Abimelech’s) offence against her (v. 16). He sensed that his plan to bring her into he is haram was wrong, so he made amends by giving the patriarch livestock (sheep and cattle; 21:27{8]) and slaves (v. 14), allowing him to live in the land (v. 15), and giving Abraham (whom he called Sarah’s brother!) a thousand shekels of silver (v. 16).

 

 

Commentary

 

Abimelech, having been warned by God in a dream, takes the warning to heart, and because he was truly afraid of sin and its consequences, rose early and set about to do all that God commanded of him.

 

 

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.

 

Imagine how humiliated Abraham was when Abimelech called for him, confronted him with the lie he told, and rebuked him for doing it. It is hard enough to submit to the criticism of a Christian sister or brother, but to accept rebuke from an unsaved person demands a great deal of honesty and humility. Abimelech said to Abraham, “Thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.” Those words cut deep. Christians need to be careful how they relate to those outside the family of faith (Col. 4:5{1]).

 

 

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

 

The cat’s out of the bag. Abraham is a loser, for now he has lost his ministry, because instead of being a source of blessing (Ge. 12:1-3{2]), he was the cause of judgment. No babies were born during Abraham’s sojourn in Gerar (vs. 17-18). When a child of God gets out of the will of God, the discipline of God usually follows. Jonah caused a storm that nearly wrecked the ship (Jonah 1); Achan brought defeat to the army (Josh. 7); and David brought sorrow to his family (2 Sam. 12:16).

 

 

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.

 

Abraham is now talking to Abimelech who is very angry with him for lying about his wife, and telling everyone including Abimelech that Sarah was his sister. Once again, we see that Abraham is not trusting God. He thought he was moving to a godless place, but he discovers that Abimelech has a high sense of what is right and wrong. Abimelech puts a tremendous value upon character, and apparently he is a man who knows God. Poor Abraham doesn’t look good here when compared to Abimelech.

 

In verses 11-13, Abraham offered three reasons for his lie:

  1. His perception from the horrible vices in Sodom that all other cities had no fear of god, including Gerar.
  2. His fear of death as a mitigating factor for what he had done.
  3. His wife actually being his half-sister as justification for lying and hiding their marital status. Abraham did not need fraud to protect himself. God was able to provide all the protection he needed.

 

 

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.

 

Abraham lets it all out now. He says, “To tell the truth it’s a half-lie. Sarah is my sister, and she is also my wife.”

 

Abraham almost lost Sarah and Isaac. In that day, a king had a right to take into his haram any single woman who pleased him. Abimelech thought Sarah was a single woman, so he took her; and had it not been for the intervention of God, the king would have had sexual relations with her. What the king did threatened God’s great plan of salvation, so the Lord had to act to protect Sarah and Isaac. Whenever we do something that causes God to intervene, we are tempting God, and tempting God is sin (Deut. 6:16{3]).

 

Perhaps the saddest consequence of Abraham’s sin was Isaac’s repetition of it years later (Gen. 26:7-11{4]). It is sad when our sins affect outsiders, but it is even sadder still when our sins are duplicated in our own families. In fact, Isaac’s sin was worse than his father’s because Sarah really was Abraham’s half-sister, while Rebekah was only Isaac’s cousin.

 

When believers sin, they are disciplined by God until they come to a place of repentance and confession. This discipline is not enjoyable, but it is profitable, and in the end, it produces happiness and holiness to the glory of God.

 

 

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, at this point in his life, did not have complete confidence and trust in God, and so when they started out, he and Sarah made a pact that anywhere they went where it looked as if Abram might be killed because of his wife, Sarah would say that Abraham was her brother. Abraham and Sarah thought that that would prevent Abraham from being killed. They made that little agreement, and they used it down in Egypt and they are using it again in Abimelech’s kingdom. This sin must be dealt with before God is going to hear and answer Abraham’s prayer for a son. Isaac will not be born until this is dealt with.

 

How many Christians are there who will not deal with the sin in their lives, and the result is that there is no blessing in their lives? If those who are in places of leadership in our fundamental churches would acknowledge the sin in their lives and seek forgiveness from God, I frankly believe there would be a great revival. I do not believe there will be any blessing until sin is dealt with. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Co. 11:28-32). Blessing is being withheld from the church and from the lives of many believers because we will not deal with the sin in our lives. This is a tremendous spiritual lesson here in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Genesis. This narrative was included in the Bible as a warning, not for us to imitate.

 

Notice that Abraham tries to put some of the blame for his wrong actions on God, saying it began, “When God caused me to wander.” In other words, he is saying that he would not have found it necessary to lie if God had not forced him to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees.

 

 

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

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

 

While God did not defend Abraham’s sin, He did defend Abraham and so control circumstances so that His servant was not completely defeated. In fact, God called Abraham a prophet and made it clear that Abraham’s intersession was the only thing that stood between Abimelech and death—“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 (v. 7). The fact that God answered Abraham’s prayer for Abimelech is evidence that Abraham had confessed his sins and the Lord had forgiven him (Ps. 66:18-20{4]).

 

God does not reject his children when they sin any more than a parent rejects a disobedient son or daughter (Isa. 49:13-16{5]). Abraham was justified by faith and had a righteous standing before God (Rom. 4:1-5{6]). Justification does not change; we are accepted in Jesus Christ no matter what we are in ourselves (Eph. 1:6{7]). Of course, the fact that we are justified before God means there will be a change in our lives; for “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). But our position in Christ (justification) is not altered by our practice on earth (sanctification).

 

The important thing is that we deal with our sins humbly and honestly, confess them to God, judge them and forsake them, and claim His promises of forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Abraham and Sarah made a new start, and so can you.

 

 

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.

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.

 

God had stricken all the women who belonged to the king, with infertility, as a warning to Abimelech for having taken Abraham’s wife.

 

God’s preventing the destruction of Abraham’s marriage by adultery reinforced the fact that the Israelites should not destroy their marriages by adultery. Here the stress was also on the protection from intermarriage with pagans. To take the wife of another man is a life-and-death issue. God punishes such a sin.

 

So the message was clear: God did not want Israel to intermarry with pagans—especially when adultery or divorce was involved. Israel seldom remembered this (Mal. 2:10-17{9]).

 

Although the Lord will rebuke (discipline), He is pleased to pardon and deliver His people, and for His own glory, he will bless them and honor their prayers. He will show them partiality in the eyes of those they dwell among. And when they are afflicted with infirmities, He will even overrule their infirmities and make them an occasion for good to them and others.

 

The patriarch departed from Abimelech a wiser, if a sadder, man. He was learning that Jehovah’s hand was upon him to fulfill his destiny.

 

 

scripture reference and special notes

 

{1] (Col. 4:6)Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

 

{2] (Ge. 12:1-3) Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great ; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

 

{3] (Deut. 6:16) Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.

 

{3] (Ge. 26:7-11) And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon. And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife. And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her. And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us. And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.

 

{4] (Ps. 66:18-20) If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.

 

{5] (Isa. 49:13-16) Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

 

{6] (Rom. 4:1-5) What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

 

{7] (Eph. 1:6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

 

{8] (Ge. 21:27) And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.

 

{9] (Mal. 2:10-17) Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts. And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

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