Genesis 20:12
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Not the daughter of my mother.—This disproves the notion that Sarah was the same as Iscah (Genesis 11:29); for as Iscah was Terah’s granddaughter, the distinction between the identity of the father and the diversity of the mother would in her case be unmeaning. Sarah was apparently Abraham’s half-sister, being Terah’s daughter by another wife; and we gather from her calling her child Sarai—that is, princely (see Genesis 17:15)—that she was not a concubine, but belonged to some noble race.

20:9-13 See here much to blame, even in the father of the faithful. Mark his distrust of God, his undue care about life, his intent to deceive. He also threw temptation in the way of others, caused affliction to them, exposed himself and Sarah to just rebukes, and yet attempted an excuse. These things are written for our warning, not for us to imitate. Even Abraham hath not whereof to glory. He cannot be justified by his works, but must be indebted for justification, to that righteousness which is upon all and unto all them that believe. We must not condemn all as hypocrites who fall into sin, if they do not continue in it. But let the unhumbled and impenitent take heed that they do not sin on, thinking that grace may abound. Abimelech, being warned of God, takes the warning; and being truly afraid of sin and its consequences, he rose early to pursue the directions given him.Abimelek retraces his steps, and rectifies his conduct. He makes known his dream to his assembled court, who are filled with astonishment and apprehension. He then calls Abraham, and in bold and manly style remonstrates with him for leading him into error and sin. Abraham is apparently silent from confusion and self-condemnation. Abimelek, after a pause, demands of him his reason for so doing. Abraham now replies with great simplicity and candor. He had said within himself, "The fear of God is not in this place." This is another indication that polytheism was setting in. He concluded that his life would be in danger on account of his wife, and resorted to his wonted expedient for safety. He had learned to trust in the Lord in all things; but he did not think this inconsistent with using all lawful means for personal security, and he was not yet fully alive to the unlawfulness of his usual pretence. He pleads also in extenuation that she is in reality his sister (see Genesis 12:19-20). "Caused me to wander." The verb here is not necessarily plural. But if it be, it is only an instance of the literal, meaning of אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym, the Eternal Supernatural Powers, coming into view. "Thy kindness." The old compact of Abraham with Sarah tended to palliate his conduct in the eyes of Abimelek, as he would see that it had no special reference to himself.12. yet indeed she is my sister—(See on [8]Ge 11:31). What a poor defense Abraham made. The statement absolved him from the charge of direct and absolute falsehood, but he had told a moral untruth because there was an intention to deceive (compare Ge 12:11-13). "Honesty is always the best policy." Abraham's life would have been as well protected without the fraud as with it: and what shame to himself, what distrust to God, what dishonor to religion might have been prevented! "Let us speak truth every man to his neighbor" [Zec 8:16; Eph 4:25]. She is my sister, my near kinswoman; even as Lot upon the same account is called Abraham’s brother, Genesis 13:8.

She is the daughter of my father, i.e. the granddaughter; for grandchildren are commonly called the sons and daughters of their grandparents, as Genesis 31:28 Exodus 2:18. And besides, her father Haran dying before her grandfather, she was left more immediately under his care and education, and therefore was more peculiarly reputed Terah’s daughter, and Abraham’s sister. See Genesis 11:29.

But not the daughter of my mother, because Haran was Abraham’s brother only by the father’s side; for Terah had Haran by another wife.

How could Abraham marry one so near of kin to him?

Answ. There were larger allowances for marriages in those times, as it was convenient there should be; neither had God as yet given those prohibitions, Leviticus 18:1-30. Besides, among all nations, the mother’s side was more regarded than the father’s in all prohibitions of marriage. And yet indeed she is my sister,.... In the same sense as Lot was his brother; for she was sister to Lot, and both were the children of Haran, the brother of Abraham:

she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; she was the daughter of his father, being his granddaughter, grandchildren are sometimes called children, but not the daughter or granddaughter of Abraham's mother; Terah having had two wives, by the one he had Haran, the father of Sarah, and by the other Abraham. According to the Arabic writers (f), Abraham and Sarah were the immediate children of Terah, but by two mothers:"the mother of Abraham (they say) died, whose name was Juna, and Terah married another wife, whose name was Lahazib, some say Tahuitha, who bore him Sarah, afterwards married to Abraham; hence Abraham said, she is my sister on my father's side, but not on my mother's side:"

and she became my wife; as in those times it was judged lawful, and so it has been accounted lawful in many nations to marry sisters on the father's side, when those on the mother's were prohibited (g).

(f) Elmacinus, p. 51. Patricides, p. 17. apud Hottinger. Smegma Oriental. p. 281. (g) Vid. Philo. de Special. Leg. p. 779. Clement. Alex. Stromat. l. 2. p. 421.

And yet indeed she is my {m} sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.

(m) By sister, he means his full cousin, and by daughter Abraham's niece, Ge 11:29 for so the Hebrews use these words.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. she is indeed my sister] See Genesis 11:29, Genesis 12:19. The marriage with a half-sister was evidently permitted in David’s time (cf. 2 Samuel 13:13); and it was practised in the days of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 22:11), though forbidden by the laws of Leviticus 18:9; Leviticus 18:9; Leviticus 18:11; Leviticus 20:17; Deuteronomy 27:22. It is said to have been permitted in Phoenicia and Egypt.

Abraham’s excuse is based upon a half truth. Sarah may have been truly his sister; but this statement was no moral justification for his suppression of the fact that she was his wife. The further excuse in Genesis 20:13, that as he travelled about he always practised this mental reservation concerning Sarah, scarcely adds dignity to his line of defence.Verse 12. - And yet indeed she is my sister. This was the second of the patriarch's extenuating pleas, that he had not exactly lied, having uttered at least a half truth. She is the daughter of my father (Temh), But not the daughter of my mother. That Sarah was the grand-daughter of Terah, i.e. the daughter of Haran, and sister of Lot, in other words, Iscah, has been maintained (Josephus, Augustine, Jerome, Jonathan). That she was Terah's niece, being a brother's daughter adopted by him, has received some support (Calvin); but there seems no reason for departing from the statement of the text, that she was her husband's half-sister, i.e. Terah's daughter by another wife than Abraham's mother (Rosenmüller, Kalisch, Keil, Knobel). And she became my wife. Abimelech, who had not yet come near her, because God had hindered him by illness (Genesis 20:6 and Genesis 20:17), excused himself on the ground that he had done no wrong, since he had supposed Sarah to be Abraham's sister, according to both her husband's statement and her own. This plea was admitted by God, who told him that He had kept him from sinning through touching Sarah, and commanded him to restore the woman immediately to her husband, who was a prophet, that he might pray for him and save his life, and threatened him with certain death to himself and all belonging to him in case he should refuse. That Abimelech, when taking the supposed sister of Abraham into his harem, should have thought that he was acting "in innocence of heart and purity of hands," i.e., in perfect innocence, is to be fully accounted for, from his undeveloped moral and religious standpoint, by considering the customs of that day. But that God should have admitted that he had acted "in innocence of heart," and yet should have proceeded at once to tell him that he could only remain alive through the intercession of Abraham, that is to say, through his obtaining forgiveness of a sin that was deserving of death, is a proof that God treated him as capable of deeper moral discernment and piety. The history itself indicates this in the very characteristic variation in the names of God. First of all (Genesis 20:3), Elohim (without the article, i.e., Deity generally) appears to him in a dream; but Abimelech recognises the Lord, Adonai, i.e., God (Genesis 20:4); whereupon the historian represents האלהים (Elohim with the article), the personal and true God, as speaking to him. The address of God, too, also shows his susceptibility of divine truth. Without further pointing out to him the wrong which he had done in simplicity of heart, in taking the sister of the stranger who had come into his land, for the purpose of increasing his own harem, since he must have been conscious of this himself, God described Abraham as a prophet, whose intercession alone could remove his guilt, to show him the way of salvation. A prophet: lit., the God-addressed or inspired, since the "inward speaking" (Ein-sprache) or inspiration of God constitutes the essence of prophecy. Abraham was προφήτης as the recipient of divine revelation, and was thereby placed in so confidential a relation to God, that he could intercede for sinners, and atone for sins of infirmity through his intercession.
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