Bible Commentaries
Genesis 20

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verses 1-18

Genesis 20. Abraham Passes off Sarah as his Sister at Gerar.— The first complete narrative from E. The writer uses Elohim, but P’ s characteristics are absent. Phraseology as well as the use of Elohim instead of Yahweh forbid us to assign it to J, who has also a variant of the story ( Genesis 12:1-20); contrast Genesis 20:13 with Genesis 12:11-13. Features which point to E are the phraseology, the representation of Abraham as a prophet ( Genesis 20:7) and his home as in the Negeb ( Genesis 20:1), also the speaking of God in a dream; Sarah is obviously of an age and beauty to attract royal attention, therefore not ninety years of age ( Genesis 17:17). E presumably placed the incident soon after Abraham’ s entrance into Canaan; he is not, of course, responsible for the ages given in Genesis 12:4, Genesis 17:17. As compared with Genesis 12:12-20 our story exhibits a more refined moral feeling. In Genesis 12:12-20 Abrahamsaves his life at the cost of his wife’ s honour, and gets rich by the price he receives for her; Pharaoh discovers the truth by the plagues on himself and his household, and Abraham has no explanation to offer; he is accordingly deported. In Genesis 20 Sarah is taken into the harem but her honour is preserved by Abimelech’ s illness ( Genesis 20:17). He learns the truth through Divine communication, and Abraham’ s lie is reduced to a mental reservation. His wealth is acquired as a compensation for the injury, not to his wife’ s honour, but to her reputation, and he is encouraged to remain in the country. In Genesis 26:1-11 there is no actual peril to Rebekah, but Abimelech points out that Isaac’ s lie made such peril possible. The king has no thought of appropriating her, and Isaac’ s prosperity is due to Yahweh’ s blessing on his crops. Gerar is also represented as a Philistine city, which is not the case here.

Genesis 20:1 . Gerar: site uncertain, perhaps the Wady Jerur, 13 miles SW. of Kadesh.

Genesis 20:4 . nation: perhaps indefinite, “ righteous folk.” King, not nation, was threatened ( Genesis 20:3). Observe the ancient view that the act, however innocently done, might involve guilt and penalty ( Genesis 20:3), which might be averted by intercession ( Genesis 20:7), struggling with the sense that this was unjust where the act was done with pure motives and in ignorance. The prophet is a sacred person who may not be touched with impunity; his wife should therefore be restored. And as a prophet, he can offer prevailing intercession for the king’ s recovery. The use of the term is a sign that the narrative is later than Samuel ( 1 Samuel 9:9).

Genesis 20:10 . What sawest thou: rather, “ What possessed thee.”

Genesis 20:12 . No hint of this is given in Genesis 12:18 f. It may be E’ s alleviation of Abraham’ s lie. Marriage with a half-sister is regarded as possible in 2 Samuel 13:13, though forbidden in Deuteronomy 27:22, Leviticus 18:9; Leviticus 18:11; Leviticus 20:17.

Genesis 20:13 . In Genesis 12:11-13 the deceit is concocted for use in Egypt, not a scheme devised for general use in their wanderings.

Genesis 20:16 . thy brother: a delicate reproof.— a thousand pieces of silver: this amount of silver would now be worth about £ 137 10s., but its purchasing power would be vastly greater then than now.— behold . . . righted: the text is corrupt. The general meaning seems to be that Sarah’ s reputation has been re-established and adequate compensation made.

Genesis 20:17. The barrenness of the king’ s wife and harem is adequately explained by Abimelech’ s malady; possibly they were inserted by the hand to which we owe Genesis 20:18; this verse is a gloss— it uses the name Yahweh and misunderstands Genesis 20:17.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 20". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.