Genesis 20:1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife.
4 But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?
5 Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.
6 And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.
7 Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.
8 Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid.
9 Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.
10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?
11 And 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.
12 And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.
In chapter 20 we read of another low point in Abraham’s life. Abraham had the privilege of interceding on behalf of his nephew in chapter 18. He was a man who loved the Lord, but he had a stain on his record earlier by lying about his wife. Now, after God has changed both Abraham and Sarah’s names, and repeatedly reminding Abraham that He will bless him with a son of promise from God, Abraham still doubted God’s ability to protect him and his marriage.
Abraham knew that God was well able to protect him. He knew that God was favouring him because he walked in the fear of the LORD. Yet in this matter of his wife, he was a failure. This would now be the second time he lied about his relationship with her. As we see in this text, he tried to defend his choice of words because his wife was the daughter of his father, but not the daughter of his mother. The fact is that she was his wife. As the husband, it was his duty to protect his wife from other men and from any other harm.
Abraham chose to let Sarah go live in another man’s house who would surely interfere with God’s promise given to Abraham and Sarah. If this would have played out as these types of things normally do, how could Abraham ever know if the child that Sarah would have was his or whether it was Abimelech’s. Abraham was sinning against God and abusing his wife in his attitude here.
In verse 3 we see that God protected Sarah even when Abraham refused to do so. God warned Abimelech in no uncertain terms that he had made a very wrong choice. He was warned that he was but a dead man for the actions he had taken. He did not kill Abraham in order to get Sarah. He did not kidnap Sarah in order to get her. He pleaded with God that he was innocent in this matter.
God acknowledged this was an innocent act on behalf of the king. He had no idea that he had taken another man’s wife. However, God insisted that Abimelech must return Sarah to her husband. Abimelech did not have a good night that night. He rose early in the morning and called his servants and told them what he had experienced. They were fearful of what had transpired, just as Abimelech was.
Abimelech then called Abraham and asked him why he lied to him in this matter? Abraham again revealed a very bad testimony to a foreign king. God noted that Abimelech had acted in the integrity of his heart in taking Sarah. Abraham certainly did not act in the integrity of his heart in refusing to protect his wife. He lacked the necessary trust in God. As we have noted, he knew that God was faithful to His promises. He knew he was going to have a son soon. How could he have that son if he were to be killed by someone? Abraham was not thinking very clearly. Thus he was once again put to shame.
Abraham certainly needed to recognize the mercy of God. Why would God continue to work with Abraham when he was such a poor testimony? God demonstrated His holiness and His faithfulness to Himself. He was going to keep His Word regardless of what others would do. He was not going to allow Abraham to take away from Who He was and what He had promised.
Abimelech confronted Abraham with his lie and Abraham made a lame excuse for his actions. As if it mattered to Abimelech that on a technicality, Sarah was Abraham’s sister. We know that God did not excuse Abimelech on that basis. He threatened Abimelech with death. This was a serious matter. Abraham knew better, but he chose to act as a coward in regard to his wife. His own life was more important to him than his wife’s purity.
God protected Sarah from harm again. He made sure that His promise would be fulfilled. He made sure there would be no doubt as to who the father of Isaac would be. God was not going to allow a weak man to interfere with His holy will.
Further on in this chapter, Abimelech warned his people to leave Abraham and Sarah alone. He warned them not to try to take advantage of them. He enriched Abraham and offered him the best of the land.
This would have been quite the slap in the face to Abraham. He was a marked man for the wrong reasons. He was protected but the people knew that he had not been a good husband. He was a stranger in a new land, and God was blessing him in many ways. Abraham was throwing a road block in the way of what God wanted for him. As we have noted, he did not spoil God’s character. He spoiled his own character.
God made sure His will was done. Abraham and Sarah would have a son. There would not be any interference in God’s promise. The promised son would come according to God’s timetable and in His way.
Again we need to understand that we do not look at Abraham’s sin and think we can use him as an excuse for our sins. We cannot do that. What Abraham did here was wrong. He got caught in his sin. He would suffer the consequences of his sin. However, Sarah was protected and Isaac would be born at just the right time.
There are lessons we can learn from this as well. We see that just as God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, so too, God promised humanity a Messiah. That Messiah did not come according to man’s timetable, but according to God’s. At just the right time, Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. Joseph was a just man and he did not interfere with the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. He accepted his place and he glorified God.
Every promise of God is sure. He keeps His Word in every detail. Those who are saved are privileged in being able to see God’s hand at work in making His Word come to pass at just the right moment and always in the right way. God is never caught off guard. He gives man freewill. Abraham chose to doubt God’s power to protect him. Abraham’s lack of faith did not interfere with God’s promise to him. Abraham needed to learn more lessons from God yet.
We can learn that God is able to keep His promises to us as well. We can know that He is not willing that any should perish. We can know He wants all to repent and be saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ fulfilled all the prophecies regarding His first coming. Jesus Christ laid down His life for the sheep. He was not tricked into being arrested. He warned the disciples of what was coming. He willingly went to the cross and shed His blood so that every person would have the opportunity to be forgiven and saved. He rose again victorious over sin and death the third day. He ascended back to heaven and is seated on the right hand of God the Father now. He is the only Mediator between God and man. He is coming back again soon to take the New Testament saints out of this world. The lost will regret their rejection of the truth. Today those reading this who are not saved, have another opportunity to repent and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Don’t delay. Trust in the Lord and begin to enjoy His blessings.