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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 20

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-18


Why Abraham took the journey in Genesis 20:1 is not stated, but perhaps to better his pasturage, for he remained in the vicinity for some time (Genesis 21:34 ). Why he employed the same subterfuge about Sarah as before also is not stated except in a general way (Genesis 20:12 ), but it resulted as it did then (Genesis 20:2 ). The chapter illustrates certain principles of God’s dealings with different men:

1. Imputed righteousness, while instantaneously giving man a right standing before God, does not make that man instantaneously righteous in his own character. If it did, Abraham would not have been guilty of this falsehood, if it were such.

2. God can reveal Himself to the heathen as clearly as to one of His own people. Abimelech had no doubt that he had received a revelation from the God of Abraham.

3. The sin of a heathen is against God, no matter what religion he professes or what gods he worships: “I withheld thee from sinning against Me.”

4. God is the conservator of His own truth, and man cannot be trusted with it. Twice has He interposed against Abraham himself for the protection of his wife, in whom were deposited the hopes of the whole human race. These hopes would have been disappointed if Abraham had controlled them (Psalms 105:13-15 ).

5. Natural graces of disposition are not a ground of acceptance with God. Abimelech commends himself to us by his expostulation with Abraham (Genesis 20:9-10 ), his restoration of Sarah and his generous treatment of both (Genesis 20:14-16 ), and yet it is Abraham (whose conduct suffers by comparison) and not Abimelech who has the privilege and power of intercession: “He is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live” (Genesis 21:7 ).

6. God deals with His own people, those to whom His righteousness is imputed, on a different principle from that on which He deals with others. Abraham suffers no punishment for this repeated offense, although in the course of his life he had his share of chastisements and corrections, but God is dealing with him not as a criminal before a judge, but as a child before a loving father.


The circumstance in this section belongs to that of the previous one, although it seems to have taken place at a later time and subsequent to the birth of Isaac. Notice how God blessed Abraham in such a way as to glorify Himself (Genesis 21:22 ), and recall the teaching in an earlier lesson that this was His purpose in the whole history of Israel, which their disobedience at the present time has defeated. Abraham must have had much influence and power for Abimelech to have found it worth while to make a covenant with him (Genesis 21:23 ), but his “kingdom” was very likely limited to the city of Gerar and the surrounding territory. Abraham takes advantage of the occasion to present a claim for damages, as we would say (Genesis 21:25 ), and serious damages, too, when we reflect on the value of wells in an oriental country to the possessor of sheep and cattle. In Genesis 21:27-30 we have a repetition of the transaction in chapter 15. “Beer-sheba” means “the well of the oath.” This now becomes the dwelling place of Abraham for some time (Genesis 21:34 ). What new name is ascribed to God in the verse?


1. How does this lesson teach that the ground of our righteousness is objective rather than subjective?

2. What encouragement does it afford in preaching the Gospel to the unsaved?

3. How does it illustrate God’s faithfulness to His promises?

4. How does it exhibit the difference between the natural and the spiritual man?

5. Can you find here an illustration of Matthew 5:16 ?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Genesis 20". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/genesis-20.html. 1897-1910.
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