Genesis 20:2
And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
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(2) She is my sister.—Twenty years before, Abraham had acted in the same way in Egypt, and Pharaoh had rebuked him, but sent him away with large presents. We learn from this chapter, Genesis 20:13, that the false representation which twice brought them into trouble was habitual with the two; nor does Abraham ever seem conscious that he was acting in it wrongfully. To us it seems cowardly, in one who had so many men trained to battle, thus to expose his wife to danger; and to have recourse to deceit, at the very time when such abundant revelations were being made to him, also shows an apparent want of faith in God. But Holy Scripture neither represents its heroes as perfect, nor does it raise them disproportionately above the level of their own times. Its distinguishing feature rather is that it ever insists upon a perpetual progress upwards, and urges men onward to be better and holier than those that went before. Abraham was not on the same high spiritual level as a Christian ought to be who has the perfect example of Christ as his pattern, and the gift of the Holy Ghost for his aid; and the fact that God rescued him and Sarah from all danger in Egypt may have seemed to him a warrant that in future difficulties he would have the same Divine protection. Human conduct is ever strangely chequered, but we have a wholesome lesson in the fact, that it was Abraham’s politic device which twice entangled him in actual danger.

Abimelech (called in Genesis 26:1, king of the Philistines, where see Note) . . . took Sarah.—She was now ninety years of age, and naturally her beauty must have faded. Some, however, think that with the promise of a son her youth had been renewed, while others suppose that the purpose uppermost in the mind of Abimelech was political, and that what he really desired was an alliance with the powerful sheik who had entered his territories.

20:1-8 Crooked policy will not prosper: it brings ourselves and others into danger. God gives Abimelech notice of his danger of sin, and his danger of death for his sin. Every wilful sinner is a dead man, but Abimelech pleads ignorance. If our consciences witness, that, however we may have been cheated into a snare, we have not knowingly sinned against God, it will be our rejoicing in the day of evil. It is matter of comfort to those who are honest, that God knows their honesty, and will acknowledge it. It is a great mercy to be hindered from committing sin; of this God must have the glory. But if we have ignorantly done wrong, that will not excuse us, if we knowingly persist in it. He that does wrong, whoever he is, prince or peasant, shall certainly receive for the wrong which he has done, unless he repent, and, if possible, make restitution.Abimelek takes Sarah. Abraham had been dwelling near Hebron. But the total separation between him and Lot, and the awful overthrow of Sodom and Amorah in the vicinity, may have loosened his tie to Hebron, and rendered it for the present not an agreeable place of residence. He therefore travels southward and takes up his abode at Gerar (see note on Genesis 10:19). Sarah, though now eighty-nine years of age, was as youthful in look as a person of forty would now be. She had, moreover, had no family, was remarkable for her good looks, and was at present, no doubt, renewed in health and vigor Genesis 12:11-16.2. Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister—Fear of the people among whom he was, tempted him to equivocate. His conduct was highly culpable. It was deceit, deliberate and premeditated—there was no sudden pressure upon him—it was the second offense of the kind [see on [6]Ge 12:13]—it was a distrust of God every way surprising, and it was calculated to produce injurious effects on the heathen around. Its mischievous tendency was not long in being developed.

Abimelech (father-king) … sent and took Sarah—to be one of his wives, in the exercise of a privilege claimed by Eastern sovereigns, already explained (see on [7]Ge 12:15).

Abraham said this lest they should slay him for his beautiful wife’s sake, as himself tells us, Genesis 20:11. For though Sarah was ninety years old, yet she retained her beauty in good measure, partly, because she had not been broken by bearing and nursing of children; partly, because in that age of the world men and women, as they lived longer, so they did not so soon begin to decay, as now they do; and partly, because of God’s especial blessing upon her.

Abimelech took Sarah, not without violence, for it is not to be thought that either Abraham or Sarah would consent to it. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, she is my sister,.... This he gave out in all conversation he came into, and said it to every one that asked who she was, which was little better than a lie; it at least was an equivocation and deception, and not at all justifiable, and tended to expose his wife's chastity, and discovered a distrust of divine Providence; the same infirmity be had given way to, and the same evil he had fallen into in Egypt, Genesis 12:11, and therefore was the more inexcusable now; good men not only fall into sin, but have their relapses:

and Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah; having heard or seen what a beautiful woman. Sarah was, though ninety years of age, having never bore children; and understanding she was a single person, sent his servants to take her, and bring her to his house, in order to be his wife, which seems to be done with some kind of force; and it can hardly be thought that Abraham and Sarah would freely agree to it, at least it must be done with reluctance on their parts. Whether Abimelech was the first king of Palestine of this name, is not certain; if he was, which is not improbable, it became usual afterwards for the kings thereof to be so called, as Pharaoh was a common name to the kings of Egypt; it signifies "father" and "king", as kings should be the fathers of their people.

And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, {b} She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.

(b) Abraham had now twice fallen into this sin: such is man's frailty.

2. She is my sister] See notes on Genesis 12:13. It seems almost incredible that, after the event recorded in Genesis 12:13-20, Abraham should once again have displayed the same faults of cowardice and dissimulation. Sarah also is advanced in years; and, in Genesis 18:10-14, had received the promise of a son. The narrative most probably is a duplicate of the tradition of Genesis 12:13-20. Its present position, between the promise of a son in Genesis 18:10-14, and its fulfilment in chap. 21, becomes intelligible on the supposition of its derivation from an independent source, not connected with chap. 18.

Abimelech] i.e. “my father is Melech.” This is probably a name compounded with that of a Canaanite deity, Milk (= Molech in the English Bible).Verse 2. - And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister. As formerly he had done on descending into Egypt (Genesis 12:13). That Abraham should a second time have resorted to this ignoble expedient after the hazardous experience of Egypt and the richly-merited rebuke of Pharaoh, but more especially after the assurance he had lately received of his own acceptance before God (Genesis 15:6), and of Sarah's destiny to be the mother of the promised seed (Genesis 17:16), is well nigh unaccountable, and almost irreconcilable with any degree of faith and piety. Yet the lapse of upwards of twenty years since that former mistake may have deadened the impression of sinfulness which Pharaoh's rebuke must have left upon his conscience; while altogether the result of that experiment may, through a common misinterpretation of Divine providence, have encouraged him to think that God would watch over the purity of his house as he had done before. Thus, though in reality a tempting of God, the patriarch's repetition of his early venture may have had a secret connection with his deeply-grounded faith in the Divine promise (cf. Kalisch in loco). And Abimelech - i.e. Father-king, a title of the Philistine kings (Genesis 21:22; Genesis 26:1; Psalm 34:1), as Pharaoh was of the Egyptian (Genesis 12:15), and Hamor of the Shechemite (Genesis 34:4) monarchs; cf. Padishah (father-king), a title of the Persian kings, and Atalik (father, properly paternity), of the Khans of Bokhara (Gesenius, p. 6) - king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. I.e. into his harem, as Pharaoh previously had done (Genesis 12:15), either having been fascinated by her beauty, which, although she was twenty years older than when she entered Egypt, need not have been much faded (vide Genesis 12:11; Calvin), or may have been miraculously rejuvenated when she received strength to conceive seed (Kurtz); or, what is as probable, having sought through her an alliance with the rich and powerful nomad prince who had entered his dominions (Delitzsch). From Zoar Lot removed with his two daughters to the (Moabitish) mountains, for fear that Zoar might after all be destroyed, and dwelt in one of the caves (מערה with the generic article), in which the limestone rocks abound (vid., Lynch), and so became a dweller in a cave. While there, his daughters resolved to procure children through their father; and to that end on two successive evenings they made him intoxicated with wine, and then lay with him in the might, one after the other, that they might conceive seed. To this accursed crime they were impelled by the desire to preserve their family, because they thought there was no man on the earth to come in unto them, i.e., to marry them, "after the manner of all the earth." Not that they imagined the whole human race to have perished in the destruction of the valley of Siddim, but because they were afraid that no man would link himself with them, the only survivors of a country smitten by the curse of God. If it was not lust, therefore, which impelled them to this shameful deed, their conduct was worthy of Sodom, and shows quite as much as their previous betrothal to men of Sodom, that they were deeply imbued with the sinful character of that city. The words of Genesis 19:33 and Genesis 19:35, "And he knew not of her lying down and of her rising up," do not affirm that he was in an unconscious state, as the Rabbins are said by Jerome to have indicated by the point over בּקוּמה: "quasi incredibile et quod natura rerum non capiat, coire quempiam nescientem." They merely mean, that in his intoxicated state, though not entirely unconscious, yet he lay with his daughters without clearly knowing what he was doing.
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