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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 20

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-7

GENESIS - CHAPTER TWENTY

Verses 1-7:

The Scriptures do not reveal Abraham’s reason for leaving the Plains of Mamre to journey southward. It may have been because he wished to leave the vicinity of the terrible scene he had witnessed in Sodom’s destruction. The region to which he traveled was between Kadesh and Shur, in the southern region of Palestine, near the site of Beersheba. The name of the region was Gerar.

Abraham sought to perpetuate the same deceit he had practiced in Egypt, years before (see Ge 12:13). He who was the "Father of the Faithful" was guilty of a severe breach of faith.

"Abimelech" is not a proper name, but a title, "father king." He was the king of Gerar. When Abraham arrived in his country, it was obvious that he was man of great wealth. He had huge herds of livestock. And he maintained a private army of over three hundred soldiers. An alliance with so wealthy and powerful a chieftain would be very advantageous. A propitious means of arranging such an alliance would be marriage. Since Abraham had told Abimelech Sarah was his sister, the king saw nothing wrong with taking her into his harem, doubtless intending to marry her at the earliest opportunity.

Sarah at this time was past ninety years of age. It is strange to modern thought that a woman of this age would be a prime target for marriage!

Abimelech was evidently restrained by Divine intervention from consummating any marriage with Sarah. The language implies that he was stricken with a malady of some sort that made the marriage impossible for a time. He did not have sexual relations with Sarah at any time. It is absolutely necessary that the Divine record include this notice, lest some should say that Abimelech was the father of Isaac who would yet be born.

Abimelech feared and recognized Jehovah as God. God revealed to him in a dream that the new addition to his harem was in reality the wife of another man. This frightened Abimelech. He disclaimed any knowledge of this, and affirmed his innocence of any immorality. God instructed him to restore Sarah to Abraham, for he was a prophet. None should harm a prophet nor any of his household.

Verses 8-16

Verses 8-16:

When Abimelech awoke from sleep, he quickly summoned his servants and told them what God had said. He confessed his own fault, and determined to correct his error. He explained the danger to his servants. They too were afraid. The circumstances show that Abimelech was a godly, humble man; also his servants shared his faith and humility.

Abimelech summoned Abraham, and demanded an explanation.

He implied that Abraham’s deceit had placed him and his kingdom in grave danger, and had led him to the brink of committing a grave sin. It is ironic that such true accusation against the "Father of the Faithful" would come from one who had no share in the Divine Covenant.

Abraham lamely sought to excuse his deceit by attributing it to fear for his safety. It was not uncommon for one chieftain or king to assassinate another, in order to take his harem for his own. This is what Abraham feared. It was a mark of unbelief, for God had unconditionally promised that He would be with him, to lead and protect him in all his journeys.

Sarah was in one sense Abraham’s sister: they both had the same father but not the same mother. But in the manner in which Abraham presented Sarah, he was guilty of lying. A half-truth is a whole lie! The facts were accurate - up to a point," but they were calculated to deceive and this was a sin. Sarah was evidently a willing accomplice to this deception.

Abimelech recognized Abraham as a prophet of the God he himself worshipped. He presented rich gifts to Abraham, and restored Sarah to him. The alliance he sought by marriage was now consummated by other means. And it was confirmed by the gifts Abimelech offered. The king gave Abraham to dwell in his land in peace and safety.

Abimelech did not let Sarah go without offering her a reprimand. He gave to Abraham a generous gift of silver, in addition to the slaves and livestock. The silver was specifically on account of Sarah. The expression "he is to thee a covering of the eyes," appears to indicate that Abraham, not Abimelech, would be her husband and her authority and protector.

Verses 17-18

Verses 17, 18:

Abraham prayed unto God (the Elohim), the God to whom he belonged, and who alone could cure the malady afflicting Abimelech and his household. In some manner, God rendered barren every female in Abimelech’s household. Perhaps the reason for this was to protect the purity of the promised seed.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 20". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-20.html. 1985.
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