Genesis 20:2 Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
Read Genesis Chapter 20
Abraham Says Sarah is His Sister…Again
Well, old Abraham has gone and done it again! Remember back in Genesis 12 Abraham told Pharaoh that Sarah was his sister! When he did this Pharaoh’s men brought Sarah into Pharaoh and God brought a plague onto Pharaoh and his men. The sages teach that this was a plague of impotence.
Now we find that Abraham has moved on. He has gotten circumcised, encountered the Presence of the LORD on the third day after his circumcism, prayed mercy for Sodom and Gomorrah, and now moved into Gerar.
The second verse in this chapter tells us that “Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.”
The In Betweens
Let’s take a minute and look at what all has transpired between the taking of Sarah in Egypt and Gerar.
- Leaving Egypt Abraham received sheep, oxen, asses, male and female servants, she – asses, and camels; because of Sarah.
- God expanded his promise to Abraham; he will be “the ancestor of a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 17:4)
- Lot has given birth to two nations, the Moabites and Ammonites.
- Abraham has a son, Ishmael, with Hagar; and God tells Abraham this promise for Ishmael, “He will be the father of 12 princes and I (God) will make him a great nation.” (Genesis 17:20)
- Abraham receives the promise of Isaac. (Genesis 17:16)
- The promise of Isaac is reiterated in Genesis 17:21 and Genesis 18:10, 14.
Abraham is fairing well, yet he still tells Abimelech that Sarah is his sister. What does this say about his relationship with God? Let’s look back at a previous post for a moment. Going back to the post on Genesis 12 we learned:
- Canaan represents merchant and wealth; a level of spiritual bounty and closeness to God. Canaan represents those times when our spiritual relationship with God equals that of a spouse; a developed relationship where we feel passionately in love with God.
- Egypt (Mitzrayim) represents constraints; limitations; a level of limited spirituality with severe boundaries holding us back. It teaches us that even in difficult times we still have an inborn relationship with God at a sibling level where the innate love, although not as passionate, is still present and accessible. – Chabad
Even though Abraham had stood in the presence of God, he still struggled with his emotions as a human. Fear still crept in at times. Genesis 20:11 “Abraham said, ‘Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill be because of my wife.’” When we allow our emotions to take control of our thoughts, we allow doubt to enter in and this lessens our trust in God. This doesn’t remove us from God; it just changes our relationship from that of “Husband/Wife” compatibility to that of “Brother/Sister” compatibility. We still maintain that inborn relationship with God, it’s just not as passionate but it is still present and accessible.
In Spite of Fear and Emotions
God shows us once again in chapter 20 that He will protect us and bless us in spite of our fear and emotions. He shows us in 20: 3-7 how He protected not only Sarah but also Abimelech, 20:6 “Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.’”
Abraham’s fear and emotions had placed them all in this situation, and Abimelech was acting on the information he was given, “She is my sister,” and what he believed. Things could have been much worse for all of the involved parties here, but God intervened “because of Sarah.”
Belief Systems and Word of Mouth
As I said above, Abimelech acted on what he believed, what he had been told. Why did he believe that Sarah was Abraham’s sister? Because Abraham told him so. What about our own belief systems? Have you ever asked yourself why you believe what you believe? Do you even know what you believe? I do not ask them to say you are right or wrong in what you believe. I ask this because of a personal experience. Several years ago, while sitting in a church pew listening to the Pastor’s sermon, a deep hunger arose in me. One that could not be satisfied by anything the pastor was preaching. He was preaching truth. He was preaching Scripture straight from the Bible, but my soul desired something deeper. So, I prayed for TRUTH. And boy did God answer my prayer! The truth He revealed to me did not come packaged as I expected it to. And even more, it made me do a LOT of self reflection. I had been saved for more than 20 years. I was an avid church member who regularly attended services, paid my tithes, and worked in the church; but why did I believe the things I did? Was it because God said so or was it because it was passed down to me from my grandparents, parents, fellow Christians, etc.? It is good to learn from others, but it is also good to study and show ourselves approved. What does this mean? Don’t get too comfortable, too complacent where you are. Question yourself and your beliefs. If you can’t answer your own questions will you be able to share your beliefs with others? What if they ask you a question about what you believe?
Through this hunger and search for truth, God took my whole belief system and through it up in the air like a tossed salad. The pieces are still falling into place like a jigsaw puzzle. Some of my beliefs have changed, while others remain. One thing is for certain, I no longer just blindly believe something because someone said it. I search it out in Scripture, I pray about what I read in these Scriptures, and I ask God to impart His wisdom and understanding.
What Have You Done to Us?
Abimelech asked Abraham, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you that you have brought on me and my kingdom great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” (Genesis 20:9) Yes, out of fear, Abraham said that Sarah was his sister. However, Sarah went along with it. She did not protest her husband, and Abimelech believed what was said without further questioning. Abraham did not maliciously trap Abimelech. He reacted to his fear.
We have a CHOICE in all matters. We are created with free will, and this means that we also have a choice in how we react to others and to our emotions. If you are a parent with teenage children you may be able to better understand what I am saying. Sometimes our teenagers can push us to the limits. They try our patience while attempting to identify who they are. They are no longer children who play all day, but they aren’t quite adults who can make the wisest choices either. How do we react to their outbursts? Do we argue with them? Do we speak in anger and hurt?
Let me encourage you, before you react to something that teen has said or done, calm yourself. Remind yourself that you have a choice in how you react. Doing this protects you from saying something you can’t take back. And YOUR REACTION speaks louder to your teen and others than your actual words.
By nature I am an emotional person. I am very gracious and merciful, which can cause me to allow myself to be taken advantage of. I also have a very strong-willed daughter who easily speaks her mind, not always thinking about how her words are received by others. This child, teenager, will argue with a stop sign as long as it argues back. It took me 15 years to learn this, but when she is in this argumentative frame of mind, I simply look at her and say, “I have a choice in whether or not to argue with you. I choose NOT to argue with you. You go for a walk and calm yourself, and when we can talk without arguing I will be glad to hear what you have to say.” After saying this, I walk away from her because it takes at least two people to argue. Honestly, she doesn’t desire an argument; she is just passionate about the topic and gets frustrated. By choosing not to argue with her, I also offer her protection from speaking something that may be hurtful to her or me.
Your emotions only have the power over you that you allow them to have. Also, other people only have power over you that you allow them to have. You can choose to remove yourself from the situation.
Blessing Through Honesty and Prayer
Genesis 20: 11-18 Abraham said, “Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. 12. Besides, she actually is my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife; 13. and it came about, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is the kindness which you will show to me: everywhere we go, say of me, he is my brother.’” 14. Abimelech then took sheep and oxen and male and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him. 15. Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; settle wherever you please.” 16. To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; behold, it is your vindication before all who are with you, and before all men you are cleared.” 17. Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, so that they bore children. 18. For the LORD had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
Once confronted with telling Abimelech that Sarah was his sister instead of his wife, Abraham confessed all to Abimelech. He explained his actions and accepted responsibility for what he had done. Abimelech also accepted responsibility for his actions through restoring Sarah to Abraham and blessing them with sheep and oxen, male and female servants, and land to settle on. We also see when Abimelech is addressing Sarah, as Abraham’s sister, that he gave Abraham a thousand pieces of silver. He did not address her as Abraham’s wife when mentioning the vindication of her before all men.
Once Abimelech accepted his responsibility for his actions and took action to right this wrong, Abraham prayed to God on behalf of Abimelech and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his maids. It took honesty from both Abraham and Abimelech to start this process, but it also took ACTION from both in order to correct it. Abimelech had to do his part in restoring Sarah as the wife of Abraham, and Abraham had to pray to God on behalf of Abimelech!
This is not the end of the story though. We need to look at what this restoration really meant.
Now for the exciting part, the RESTORATION of Sarah to Abraham as his wife:
“And Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and men-servants and maid-servants and gave them unto Abraham and RESTORED him Sarah his wife. And Abimelech told Abraham he could dwell anywhere in his land that he pleases.” (Genesis 20:14-15) This is “covenant language”, “peace treaty” language. Essentially he is entrusting Abraham, to anything in his kingdom.
And then Abimelech says to SARAH, “Behold, I have given your brother one thousand pieces of SILVER (Hebrew: “kesef”), it (the silver) is a COVERING (Hebrew: “kesuth”) of the eyes.”
There is a lot of Hebrew word play going on here: kesef (Silver) in another vowel form is kasaf which is the Hebrew root “to long for”. Abraham’s protective attitude towards Sarah was that others would “long for her” and cause trouble for him. “Kesuth” the Hebrew word for “covering or clothing in order to conceal” has the same first two letters, Kaf and Samech, and is from the root, Kasa (Kaf-Samech-Hey), to “conceal or cover”. So note the last suffix of the word is changed here, from Kaf-Samech-Pe (silver) to Kaf-Samech-Yod-Tav, and its root Kaf-Samech-Hey. “Silver/Long for” turns into “covering/clothing”. The COVERING/SILVER is an OUTWARD garment that can be seen by all, and get this from the next verse: “AND BEFORE ALL MEN YOU ARE RIGHTED!”
In other words, the adornment of 1,000 pieces of silver is the covering/clothing meant to conceal that which is “longed for”, and is a testimony that the wearer IS RIGHTEOUS!
The silver Abimelch presented to Abraham to “cover” Sarah was HIS gift to Abraham, and to the Almighty. As a result, Abraham prayed to God, and God HEALED Abimelech, his wife, and his maid-servants, and they bore children!!!, Genesis 20:17, for God had closed up the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Abraham’s wife.
So while Abraham’s wife Sarah was in the house of Abimelech, God had made his house barren, not because Abimelech was abusing her in any way, but because she was not restored (and recognized) in her proper position and role as Abraham’s wife. Abimelech *righted* that situation by honoring Abraham with the gifts and especially the silver, that from that point forward, Sarah would no longer be able to deny being Abraham’s wife and fly under the radar as his sister!
It was the SILVER, the clothing/covering that set Sarah apart as the wife of the prophet Abraham to be longed for only by her only husband. Vayyera
Father, God of Abraham and Sarah, thank you for your Word which shows us many things. Thank you for using your word to show us that even though we desire the husband/wife relationship with you, our emotions and fears, lack of trust, and doubt move us more into a brother/sister relationship. Thank you that we still have access to you! Just as we see in John 17:6, 9 “They have kept your word…My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you.” Lord, you gave Abimelech to Abraham to cover in prayer. Thank you for allowing us to see that the results of our unbelief can be rectified through actions and prayers to YOU! Thank you for your forgiveness you so willingly offer to us. Lord, I pray now that You will ever go before us. That you will protect us and those we encounter from the consequences of our fear and emotions. Lord, I choose today not to walk in fear and emotions, but to walk in Your grace and mercy. May I be a light to others, and may they also be a light. May your restoration come through us. Lord, may each reader of this blog be blessed. May you use the readers and me to bring restoration to Your people, and to the nations. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
- Prayer’s Unbroken Fellowship (prayercommunicationwithgod.wordpress.com)
- Abraham’s Decisions in Egypt and Gerar (megepayne.wordpress.com)
- Answers to Your Prayer, But not the Answer You Were Looking For (prayercommunicationwithgod.wordpress.com)
- This Gospel Blog 4: The Old Testament in a flash (Genesis) (thisgospelblog.wordpress.com)