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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 20

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-18

Chapter 20

Abraham journeyed from there toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and he sojourned in Gerar ( Genesis 20:1 ).

So Abraham was living in the area of Hebron, but now he is still sort of a nomadic person. If you go over to Israel today, you'll see the Bedouins living in their tents and they are nomadic people. They'll live for awhile in an area and then they'll get up, pack their tents and move and live in another area. And Abraham was living in tents. He never had a house to dwell in, dwelt in tents as a Bedouin, as a stranger, as a sojourner.

It is interesting that Lot sought to settle down in a city, whereas Abraham always realized that he was just a sojourner, "he was looking for a city which hath foundation, whose maker and builder was God" ( Hebrews 11:10 ). And he counted himself just a stranger and a pilgrim upon the earth. So Abraham now is moving over into the country of the Philistines. Gerar is the area of the Philistines.

And so Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech the king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah into his harem ( Genesis 20:2 ).

Now this is a second time this has happened. Abraham did it when they went to Egypt years earlier, and he was rebuked by the Egyptian Pharaoh for doing such a thing. Now again he's doing the same thing and this certainly says something about Sarah because she's about ninety years old at this point and still retaining her beauty. So if we could only discover the kind of creams and all that she could use, that she used, we can probably make a fortune. She is still so beautiful that Abraham is afraid that they're going to kill him in order that they might take his wife.

And so he says now you just say you're my sister so that they won't kill me. And so Abimelech saw her and took her into his harem and Abimelech had not come near her.

But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said unto him, You're a dead man ( Genesis 20:3 ),

Or "you're dead", man. It's all how you put the punctuation. And in reality, if you notice that's exactly what God said. That "art but" is inserted. You notice it's in italics, it means that the translators inserted that because they didn't know the way we talk today. And God said, "Hey, you're dead, man", and so Abimelech, he said,

because of the woman which you have taken; she's another man's wife. But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, will you also slay a righteous nation? Said he not unto me, She's my sister? and even she herself said, He is my brother: it was in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands I have done this ( Genesis 20:3-5 ).

God evidently smote him with some kind of a deadly plague and says, "Hey, you've had it, man. You're dead man because you've got a woman there who is another man's wife". And so he said, "Hey, Lord, I'm innocent. Hey, I didn't know it. She'd said she was the sister and that's what he said about her and I'm innocent, Lord. I didn't really know". And God said, "Yes, I know that you did it in the integrity of your heart for I also have withheld you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not allow you to touch her". So God's hand working in the background, God not allowing him to touch Sarah.

Now therefore [God said] restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you will live: and if you don't restore her, know that you will surely die, and all that are yours. And therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and he called all of his servants, and he told these things in their ears: and the men were very frightened. Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What have you done to us? and what have I done to you, that you've brought upon me and my kingdom this great sin? And thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that you've done this thing ( Genesis 20:7-10 )?

In other words, what did I do to you that you do this to me? Why did you do this to us? And he's challenging the man of God.

Abraham is known as the father of those who believe. He is used throughout the Scripture as the classic example of men who believed God and the word of God. And whenever the Bible wants to use a classic example of faith, it always points to Abraham, because "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness" ( James 2:23 ).

But you know, I like the honesty of the Bible. The Bible doesn't pretend at all that Abraham's faith was perfect. It tells us even of these lapses of faith. It is not faith for Abraham to say, "Hey, she's my sister". That's not really having faith in God; that's a lapse of faith. And somehow I get comfort from it because if Abraham's faith were totally perfect, then I think "Oh, there's no chance for me". You know if the guy was in everything just absolutely perfect, you say, sure look how God blessed him, and no wonder God blessed him the guy's perfect. God blesses perfect people.

But Abraham was not at all perfect, though he is used as a classic example of those who believe in God. What does it mean? It means that God will honor my little faith, too. And God will bless me though I am imperfect also. It doesn't mean that my faith has to be perfect and constant and steadfast at all times, never wavering, never doubting, never fearing, never questioning. It means that God can bless me and God will bless me just because of my simple trust in Him as faltering or as failing as it might be at times in certain circumstances.

There are a lot of tests that I fail. God has put me to a lot of tests where I failed miserably. I went out of classroom with an "F", but He let me take the test again. And some of them I failed two or three times before I passed. God is gracious and God is patient. And Abraham our father of those who believe was a man who had great faith in God that brought him recognition in history, and yet the faith was not perfect.

Here we find him deceiving the king concerning his wife because of fear. Twice he was put to this test; twice he failed on this particular test of faith. In the supreme test of faith, man, the guy passed with flying colors. Isn't it interesting how that we can have such great faith in some areas and then just turn right around and get totally wiped out. It makes us realize that even the faith that we have has come to us as a gift from God so that we can't boast in that.

So the king is rebuking Abraham. "What have you done, man? What have I ever done to you that you'd do this kind of a thing to me? How come you said she's your sister?"

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 ( Genesis 20:11 ).

He looked around and said, "Man, these people don't fear God. They're going to kill me for my wife".

And [he said] indeed she is my sister; for she is the daughter of my father, but she's not the daughter of my mother ( Genesis 20:12 );

So she was a half-sister to Abraham.

and she became my wife. And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is the kindness which you will show to me; every place where we go, say that he is my brother. And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and he gave them to Abraham, and restored Sarah his wife. And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before you: dwell wherever you're pleased. And to Sarah he said, Behold, I have given your 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 others: thus she was reproved. So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and the maidservants; and they bare children. For the LORD had caused a barrenness to come to the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife ( Genesis 20:12-18 ).

Sarah could have been with him for a period of time before this all took place. And yet he had never come to her intimately though she was a part of the harem. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Genesis 20". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/genesis-20.html. 2014.
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