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Chapter 20 

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Abraham And Abimelech  (ch. 20:1 - 18)


In verses 1 and 2 we see that Abraham and his people move southward, to what we'd call the southern region of Canaan, closer to Egypt.


In verse 2 we see Abimelech mentioned.  Abimelech is not a personal name.  It is a generic term for a Philistine king, much like the word Pharaoh is the Egyptian king.  Caesar would be another example.  It is more of a title than a name.


Earlier in Genesis we saw Abraham and his family move from the land of Canaan to Egypt because their was a great famine in Canaan.  We noted that this move was probably a lack of trust that Abraham had in God.  While in Egypt Abraham lied and tricked the Pharaoh into believing that Sarah was not his wife but his sister.  He did this because she was very good looking and he feared that they'd kill him to get to her.  This caused all sorts of problems we've already talked about.  We will learn in this chapter that Sarah was indeed Abraham's wife, but she was also his step-sister.  So in one sense of the word maybe Abraham didn't lie, but in reality he did.  He was not stating the full truth, but half of the truth.  We'll also learn that Abraham had thought all this through decades earlier, before he had even left Ur.   


In verse 2 we see Abraham doing the same thing now that he has moved south.  Obviously he did not learn his lesson from the first time.  When he entered this land he made it known to everyone that Sarah, now quite old, but I guess still good looking, was not his wife but his sister.  This had the same result as it had in Egypt.  Abimelech the king took Sarah to be his wife, or one of is wives.


It is interesting for me to note that Abraham lied shortly after God had made yet another promise, and the most specific to date, that Sarah would finally have a son.  It's my thinking that man, and maybe even satan got in the way and attempted to hinder or stop God's will from being done.  God had to step in and fix the situation caused by Abraham's lie.  This might have been somewhat innocent on Abraham's part, but I'm sure it wasn't on satan's part. 


The problem would have been, if Sarah would have had sex with Abimelech, and if she had have a baby boy as promised, whose son would he be?  Would he be Abraham's son or Abimelech's son?  This would have totally messed up the idea that Abraham's descendents had a real part to play in the will of God.  It would have brought much confusion into the whole matter.   Not knowing who Isaac belonged to would have totally destroyed the idea of God's special chosen people from which Jesus would be born.  You can see such satanic events as this all through the Old and New Testaments.  Satan is constantly trying to disrupt the will of God.


I see verse 3 as being extremely interesting.  The text says that "God came to Abimelech in a dream".   God can speak to those to whom He chooses to speak to.  They don't have to be Christian or Jews.  The nature of what God says is a warning.  He said, "you are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken, she is a married woman".     


God is upset with Abimelech but He knew Abimelech's actions were done in ignorance so God is giving Abimelech the chance to right the wrong he did in ignorance. If the wrong is not corrected, then Abimelech dies.  God is just.  He will always make room for repentance, even if the sin is done in ignorance or not.


In verse 4 we see that even though Abimelech took Sarah to be his wife, he had not yet had sex with her, and in his words, he had not come close to her.  So he asked the Lord, "will you destroy an innocent nation?"  First of all Abimelech calls God Lord, that's Lord with a capital "L", not lord with a small "l".  Abimelech knows to whom he is talking to.  He is the God of all there is.  He is the Creator God. 


Abimelech points out in verse 5 that he is innocent because he took Sarah to be his wife in ignorance of the fact that she was Abraham's wife.  His actions were based on Abraham's  lie.  Abraham told him that Sarah was his sister, not his wife.  How could God wipe out him, and his nation because of this?  This did not seem to be a righteous act on the part of God in the mind of Abimelech.


This sounds like when Abraham questioned God two chapters earlier.  Abraham asked God if He'd really wipe out the righteous with the wicked, which we know God wouldn't do.  Now Abimelech basically says that same thing.  Will you wipe out a nation because of a sin of ignorance.  So for this very reason, God gives Abimelech the chance to fix the situation he is in.  This is called repentance, that is, give Sarah back to Abraham. 


One thing we learn here is that Abraham, the man who God declared righteous, caused another man to sin.  We do the same today.  Many Christians cause others, both Christian and non-Christian alike to sin.  This should not be. 


The amazing thing here is that God still views Abraham as righteous.  That never changes no matter how many times Abraham sins.  This is very important to understand, because this proves more than ever that our salvation is by trusting God, not by any good or bad thing we do.  And, this trust not only gets us saved, but keeps us saved.  Keeping our salvation depends solely on trust.  Nothing else.  Some suggests this proves the doctrine of "once saved always saved", but it doesn't.  Abraham may have sinned, as we do, but he never gave up his trust.  When we give up our trust in God, at that point we lose our salvation, and not earlier.   Abraham may have failed to trust from time to time, but failing to trust is not giving up your trust for good.    


In verse 6 we see that God acknowledges the fact that Abimelech sinned in ignorance, as with a "clear conscience" as He puts it.  I think this tells us something about the justice of God.  We know that God is just and thus He must punish sin, but here we see that sin acted from a clear conscience does not seem to be punishable, but acting justly, God gives place for repentance. 


This might help answer, and I say might, because this is a large subject, the question that is often asked, "will god punish those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus?"  The bottom line answer to this question is, "God is just, and whatever He does, you can count on it being just".


We also learn in verse 6 that it was God himself that kept Abimelech from sinning.   Somehow behind the scenes God prevented Abimelech from having sex with Sarah.  This is important.  First of all, we see that the consummation of a marriage is important to God.  Abimelech took Sarah to be his wife, but as we see, God prevented them from having sex.  To me that suggests the importance of that first act of sex in a marriage as the act of final union of husband and wife.   


You might also notice that the sin wasn't against Sarah or against Abraham.  The text says that God prevented Abimelech from sinning against "Him", as in God Himself.  If Abimelech would have had sex with Sarah, God would have viewed that sin in a very personal way, as a sin against Himself. We see this as a basic element of sin.  We may sin against others, but in the long run, whatever the sin is, it is in fact a sin against God.  We need to see all sins we commit as sins against God. 


Yet another way we might want to view this sin of Abimelech's is that if he would have had sex with Sarah, causing the son to be born of Sarah to be in doubt, that is, who the father was, that would certainly be a sin against God.   That would have messed up God's plan for the chosen people for good and brought much confusion to the situation and the lineage that Jesus would be born from. 


In verse 7 God tells Abimelech to return Sarah to "the prophet".   The retuning of Sarah would be repentance on the part of Abimelech that would free him from God's judgment.  Repentance, a subject that does not get lots of attention these days is a prerequisite for escaping the wrath of God.  We need to speak of repentance much more than we do. 


We also see here that God called Abraham a prophet.  This is the first mention of such a designation given to Abraham.  You might ask in what way he was a prophet.  Well, God spoke many things to Abraham and Abraham in turned passed what God spoke along to others.  Hearing from the Lord, and then passing what you've heard along to others is in fact what prophecy is.  That's why we can call Abraham a prophet. 


Prayer was involved in Abimelech's repentance.  He would return Sarah to Abraham, and then Abraham would pray to God so God would withhold judgment against Abimelech.  The prayer of the saints for one needing repentance is often part of the repentance process.


The question arises, "why is Abraham portrayed as a prophet, as a godly man when he was the one who made Abimelech sin in the first place".  Once again, the answer boils down to one word, and that is the word "trust".  God declared Abraham to be righteous because he simply believed that God would do as He promised. That's it nothing else.  Abraham was not declared righteous because he was righteous.  It's clear that he was not all that righteous at times, and this occasion proves that. 


If I were Abimelech, I'd be obeying God at this point but scratching my head about Abraham being the one that should pray for me.  It just wouldn't seem right.


The last part of verse 7 says that if Abimelech didn't return Sarah, he'd surely die.  Judgment would come on him.  That too is part of the gospel message we preach today.  We all sin out of ignorance, as Abimelech did.  Yet once presented with the fact that we are sinners, that we sin against both God and man, we must repent.  If we don't repent we will suffer the wrath of God.  That' shows how important repentance is.


In verses 8 and 9 we see that Abimelech calls Abraham in.  Abimelech is very upset because Abraham has placed him and his nation in a state of guilt before God.  Abimelech has the right to be very upset with Abraham.  Abimelech asked Abraham what his reasoning was for doing such a thing.


In verse 11 Abraham begins to answer Abimelech.  He thought to himself that there was no fear of God in this place, and that was probably true by what he saw in the people.  Because this nation had no fear of God, Abraham once again feared that they'd kill him so the men of the nation could take Sarah.   Again, this is the second time Abraham has done this.  The man of faith seemed to be unable to trust God in this matter.


In my thinking, one thing that Abraham failed to notice is that he really didn't have any fear of God either.  The fear of God produces real trust in God, and at this point, Abraham failed to trust God.  Abraham lacked the same fear of God that he claimed Abimelech's nation lacked. 


After all we've learned about Sarah, we learn something important in verse 12.  Abraham, as part of his defense is suggesting that what he told Abimelech although was a lie, was only partially untrue.  Still, something that is not fully the truth, is a lie.  Abraham says that Sarah is his half sister, and his wife.  They both had the same father, but different mothers.  This was his defense. 


Verse 13 clearly states that this lie was the plan of Abraham from the very beginning.  Before he left Ur years and decades ago, Abraham told Sarah the plan she had to follow.  Whenever she was asked of Abraham, she was to say that he was her brother.  Yes, partly true, but certainly not fully true.  How much trouble we get ourselves in at times when we choose not to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.


In verses 14 and 15 we see the graciousness of Abimelech.  He actually returned Sarah with all sorts of cattle.  Abraham, as in Egypt , has now benefited from his lie.  He ends up with more than what he had before he lied.  And even more so, Abimelech stretched forth his hand as a gesture to let Abraham know that he is welcome to settle anywhere he wishes.  God's hand was truly on Abraham, as unrighteous as he was, and even with his lack of faith.   I'd also go as far to say that God's hand is still on Israel, even as unrighteous as she is today.


Back in Genesis 12, part of the Abrahamic Covenant as stated by the words of God said that He would bless those who bless Abraham and curse those who curse Abraham.  Abimelech may not have understood this, but after being confronted by God with the curse of death, he knew what he had to do.  Abimelech blessed Abraham with all these things and avoided the curse.


We need to note here that Abimelech blessed Abraham even though Abraham was clearly in the wrong, but that doesn't change the situation.  God chose Abraham, and for this reason alone the blessings and the cursings of the covenant were in effect.  The same applies to Israel today.  God has chosen Israel, and for this reason a along the covenant concerning blessings and cursing is in tact.  Israel does not have to be walking with their God in order for God to bless those who bless Israel.  The reverse is true as well.  Israel does not have to be walking with their God in order for God to curse those who curse Israel.  This is part of the meaning behind Genesis 20. 


The reason why we need to bless Israel is simply because God chose them to be a special nation.  That's it.  No other reason is necessary.   


Another point to consider here is the reason why Abimelech blessed Abraham.  It wasn't because he feared Abraham.  Abimelech and his army was most likely stronger than Abraham and his people.  Abimelech feared God.  Abimelech feared what God would do to him if he did not bless Abraham.  The same should apply to us today.  We don't bless Israel because we fear them or anyone else.  We bless Israel because we fear God and what He will and can do if we don't.  The fear of God is clearly lacking in western nations today.         


In verse 16 Abimelech said to Sarah that he was giving Abraham a large sum of money to cover the offence.  He not only gave Sarah back, but he gave Abraham money and cattle.  Sometimes repentance requires restitution, yet I believe this particular act of restitution might well have been voluntary.  One thing that restitution shows is that the repentance is real.  


Verse 17 tells us that Abraham prayed for Abimelech and so God healed him, his wife and his slave girls.  Verse 18 tells us what the problem was.  God closed the wombs of Abimelech's wife  and also his slave girls because he took Sarah to be his wife. But now, God fixed that.  This means that Abimelech could now have sex with his wife and his slave girls in order to have children.  This raises the question concerning adultery here.   Was God  suggesting that it was okay for Abimelech to have sex with his slave girls?

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