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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 20

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-18

Genesis 20:1 , Gerar, in the tribe of Simeon, then a royal residence. Abimelech was the common name of the kings that reigned there.

Genesis 20:2. She is my sister. It is not said whether Sarah was daughter of Terah, Abraham’s father, by a second wife, or whether she was daughter of Haran, and sister of Lot. The Jews are divided here, for brevity in the text seems to occasion obscurity. Yet being called daughter-in-law of Terah, Genesis 11:31, she must, it would seem, have been the daughter of Haran. How then could she be the daughter of Abraham’s father? Because grandchildren are often called children in the holy scriptures, and the cousins of our Saviour are called his brethren. The scriptures having thus marked the weakness of Abraham’s faith, his fault needs no further comment.

Genesis 20:3. A dead man. Sarah was pregnant with Isaac when Abimelech took her, which he probably did with some design of forming an alliance with Abraham: add to this, that she was ninety years of age. The crime of taking a man’s wife from his bosom by wily seduction, we here learn merits the punishment of death. Ten thousand deaths did not excuse it when Helen was carried away from Greece to Troy. No doubt, Sarah was a fine person, bearing the bloom of youth beyond meridian days.

Genesis 20:13. God caused me to wander. The God of glory had appeared to him in Mesopotamia, and said, “Get thee out of thy country.”

Genesis 20:16. A thousand shekels of silver, as the Chaldaic reads. These gifts were acceptable fruits of repentance, and grounds of future friendship. A heart which generously recovers from an error, shows a fortitude against a future relapse. It is a consolation to find these traces of the religion of Noah. But alas, idolatry was daily gaining the ascendency, and truth and worth very much expired with those who had revered and worshipped the true God. Religion and its doctrines should never be left to the caprice of men.


What an idea must Abraham have had of the wickedness and tyranny of the petty princes, that he should have made this weak and unjustifiable agreement with Sarah, on leaving Chaldea to say, that she was his sister! How grateful should we be for a great and paternal government, and for the salutary operation of long established laws, in the protection of persons and property.

How grateful also should we be that in giddy youth, and in the hour of temptation, God has withheld us from sin. Esau, when withheld from killing Jacob; and David, when prevented from killing Nabal, blessed God for his restraining hand. We owe our preservation, not to nature, but to grace.

We learn also that sins of ignorance are with God great and grievous sins; for no man should take a doubtful step without enquiry and caution. Hence he did not accept of Abimelech’s plea, that Sarah was Abraham’s sister.

God graciously warned the king against the crime by a dream; and he warns all men in the hour of danger, either by misgivings of mind and reproaches of conscience, or by his revealed word, and friendly admonition; and they who reject the voice of warning, shall be compelled to hear the voice of judgment.

The cattle and gold given to Abraham, though they changed not the nature of the crime, were evident and acceptable fruits of repentance. It is well for a man who has sinned to repair his fault as far as he can, and then to ask forgiveness of the Lord.

Consequently we ought to be cordially reconciled to such a penitent, and pray for him as Abraham did, that his and our future life may be crowned with every blessing of the new covenant.

If God, according to St. Paul, reproved kings for the sake of the patriarchs, then christians, while wandering in the desert land, have no need to equivocate through the fear of man; rather let us be simple and confident as little children, for our heavenly father watches over our safety and defence. Happy is the man who has faith so to rely on the divine protection.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 20". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-20.html. 1835.
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