And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
Verse 1. - And Abraham journeyed (vide Genesis 12:9) from thence. Mamre (Genesis 18:1). In search of pasture, as on a previous occasion (Keil); or in consequence of the hostility of his neighbors (Calvin); or because he longed to escape from the scene of so terrible a calamity as he had witnessed (Calvin, Wilier, Murphy); or in order to benefit as many places and peoples as possible by his residence among them (A Lapide); or perhaps being impelled by God, who designed thereby to remind him that Canaan was not intended for a permanent habitation, but for a constant pilgrimage (Poole, Kalisch). Toward the south country. Ne-gob, the southern district of Palestine (Genesis 12:9; Genesis 13:1); the central region of Judaea being called Hahor, or the Highlands; the eastern, towards the Dead Sea, Midhbar; and the western Shephelah (Lange). And dwelled between Kadesh and Shur (vide Genesis 16:14 and Genesis 16:7), and sojourned in Gerar (vide Genesis 10:19).
And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
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).
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.
Verse 3. - But God - Elohim; whence the present chapter, with the exception of Ver. 18, is assigned to the Elohist (Tuch, De Wette, Bleek, Davidson), and the incident at Gerar explained as the original legend, of which the story of Sarah's abduction by Pharaoh is the Jehovistic imitation. But
(1) the use of Elohim throughout the present chapter is sufficiently accounted for by observing that it describes the intercourse of Deity with a heathen monarch, to whom the name of Jehovah was unknown, while the employment of the latter term in Ver. 18 may be ascribed to the fact that it is the covenant God of Sarah who there interposes for her protection; and
(2) the apparent resemblance between the two incidents is more than counterbalanced by the points of diversity which subsist between them - came to Abimelech in a dream - the usual mode of self-revelation employed by Elohim towards heathen. Cf. Pharaoh's dreams (Genesis 41:1) and Nebuchadnezzar's (Daniel 4:5), as distinguished from the visions in which Jehovah manifests his presence to his people. Cf. the theophanies vouchsafed to Abraham (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 15:1; Genesis 18:1) and to Jacob (Genesis 28:13; Genesis 32:24), and the visions granted to Daniel (Daniel 7:1-28; Daniel 10:5-9) and the prophets generally, which, though sometimes occurring in dreams, were yet a higher form of Divine manifestation than the dreams - by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, - literally, behold thyself dying, or about to die - σὺ ἀποθνήσκεις (LXX.). Abimelech, it is probable, was by this time suffering from the malady which had fallen on his house (vide Ver. 17) - for (i.e. on account of) the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife - literally, married to a husband, or under lordship to a lord (cf. Deuteronomy 22:22).
But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?
Verse 4. - But Abimelech had not come near her. Apparently withheld by the peculiar disease which had overtaken him. The statement of the present verse (a similar one to which is not made with reference to Pharaoh) was clearly rendered necessary by the approaching birth of Isaac, who might otherwise have been said to be the child not of Abraham, but of the Philistine king. And he said, Lord, - Adonai (vide Genesis 15:2) - wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Anticipating that the stroke of Divine judgment was about to fall upon his people as well as on himself, with allusion to the fate of Sodom (Knobel), which he deprecates for his people at least on the ground that they are innocent of the offence charged against him (cf. 2 Samuel 24:17). That Abimelech and his people, like Melchisedeck and his subjects, had some knowledge of the true God, and that the Canaanites generally at this period had not reached the depth of moral degradation into which the cities of the Jordan circle had sunk before their overthrow, is apparent from the narrative. The comparative virtue, therefore, of these tribes was a proof that the hour had not arrived for the infliction on them of the doom of extermination.
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.
Verse 5. - Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother. From which it is clear that the Philistine monarch, equally with the Egyptian Pharaoh, shrank from the sin of adultery. In the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. I.e. he assumes the right of kings to take unmarried persons into their harems,
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.
Verse 6. - And God said unto him in a dream, - "It is in full agreement with the nature of dreams that the communication should be made in several, and not in one single act; cf. Genesis 37, and 41; Matthew 2." (Lange) - Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart - i.e. judged from thy moral standpoint. The words do not imply a Divine acquittal as to the essential guiltiness of the act, which is clearly involved in the instruction to seek the mediation of God's prophet (Ver. 7). For I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her (vide on Ver. 4).
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.
Verse 7. - Now therefore restore the man his wife. Literally, the wife of the man, God now speaking of Abraham non tanquam de homine quolibet, sod peculiariter sibi charum (Calvin). For he is a prophet Nabi, from naba, to cause to bubble up; hence to pour forth, applied to one who speaks by a Divine afflatus (Deuteronomy 13:2; Judges 6:8; 1 Samuel 9:9; 1 Kings 22:7). The office of the Nabi was twofold - to announce the will of God to melt Exodus 4:15; Exodus 7:1), and also to intercede with God for men (Ver. 7; Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:11). The use of the term Nabi in this place neither proves that the spirit of prophecy had not existed from the beginning (cf. Genesis 9:25-27), nor shows that the Pentateuch, which always uses this term, cannot be of greater antiquity than the time of Samuel, before which, according to 1 Samuel 9:9, the prophet was called a seer (Bohlen, Hartmann). As used in the Pentateuch the term describes the recipient of Divine revelations, and as such it was incorporated in the Mosaic legislation. During the period of the Judges the term Roeh appears to have come into use, and to have held its ground until the reformation of Samuel, when the older theocratic term was again reverted to (vide Havernick, § 19). And he shall pray for thee (vide supra), and thou shalt live. Literally, live thou, the imperative being used for the future in strong prophetic assurances (cf. Psalm 128:5; vide Gesenius, § 130). And if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, - literally, dying thou shalt die (cf. Genesis 2:17) - thou, and all that are thine.
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.
Verse 8 - Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, - an evidence of the terror into which' he had been cast by the Divine communication, and of his earnest desire to carry out the Divine instructions - and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: - confessed his fault, explained his danger, and affirmed his intention to repair his error; a proof of the humility of this God-fearing king (Lange) - and the men were sere afraid. It spoke well for the king's household that they received the communication with seriousness.
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.
Verse 9. - Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him (in the presence of his people), What hast thou done unto us? - identifying himself once more with his people, as he had already done in responding to God (Ver. 4) - and what have I offended thee (thus modestly allowing that he may himself have unwittingly occasioned the sin of Abraham), that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? The gravamen of Abimelech's accusation was that Abraham had led him and his to offend against God, and so to lay themselves open to the penalties of wrong-doing. Thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. Literally, deeds which ought not to be done thou hast done with me (cf. Genesis 34:7; Leviticus 4:2, 13; vide Glass, 'Philol. Tract., 1. 3. t. 3. 100. 6.). The king's words were unquestionably designed to convey a severe reproach.
And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?
Verse 10. - And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, - either, What hadst thou in view? (Knobel, Delitzsch, Keil, Murphy, et alii), or, What didst thou see? Didst thou see any of my people taking the wives of strangers and murdering their husbands? (Rosenmüller, 'Speaker's Commentary') - that thou hast done this thing?
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.
Verse 11. - And Abraham said (offering as his first apology for his sinful behavior the fear which he entertained of the depravity of the people), Because I thought, - literally, said (sc. in my heart) - Surely the fear of God is not in this place; - otherwise, there is not any fear of God, רק having usually a confirming sense with reference to what follows (cf. Deuteronomy 4:6; 1 Kings 14:8; vide Gesenius, p. 779) - and they will slay me for my wife's sake.
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.
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.
And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.
Verse 13. - And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander (or to go on pilgrimages) from my father's house, - Elohim, usually construed with a singular verb, is here joined with a verb in the plural, as an accommodation to the polytheistic stand-point of Abimelech (Keil), as a proof that Elohim is to be viewed as a Pluralis Majes-taticus (Kalisch), as referring to the plurality of Divine manifestations which Abraham had received (Lange), as showing that Elohim here signifies angels (Calvin), or, most likely, as an instance of the literal meaning of the term as the supernatural powers (Murphy. Cf. Genesis 35:7; Exodus 22:8; 2 Samuel 7:23; Psalm 58:12 [Psalm 58:11] - that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt show unto me. The third plea which the patriarch presented for his conduct; it had no special reference to Abimelech, but was the result of an old compact formed between himself and Sarah. At every place whither he shall come, say of me, He is my brother (cf. Genesis 12:13).
And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.
Verse 14. - And Abimelech - as Pharaoh did (Genesis 12:18), but with a different motive - took sheep, and oxen, and men-servants, and women-servants. The LXX. and Samaritan insert "a thousand didrachmas" after "took," in order to include Sarah's present, mentioned in Ver. 16; but the two donations are separated in order to distinguish them as Abraham's gift and Sarah's respectively (Rosenmüller, Delitzsch), or the sum of money may indicate the value of the sheep and oxen, &c. which Abraham received (Keil, Knobel, Lange, 'Speaker's Commentary'). And gave them unto Abraham. To propitiate his favor for the wrong he had suffered. Pharaoh's gifts were "for the sake of Sarah" (Genesis 12:16). And restored him Sarah his wife.
And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.
Verse 15. - And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee. Literally, in the good in thine eyes; the generous Philistine offering him a settlement within his borders, whereas the Egyptian monarch hastened his departure from the country (Genesis 12:20).
And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.
Verse 16. - And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy Brother a thousand pieces of silver. Literally, a thousand of silver, the exact weight of each piece being uncertain. If sacred shekels (Gesenius, Keil, Kalisch) their value would be over £130, if shekels ordinary somewhat less. Behold, he - i.e. thy brother; or it, i.e. the present (LXX., Vulgate, Targums, Syriac) - is to thee a covering of the eyes. כְּסוּת עֵינַיִם (from a root signifying to cover over) has been understood as
(1) a propitiatory gift - τιμὴ (LXX.), or
(2) a veil for the protection of the face;
and, according as the subject of the sentence has been regarded as Abraham or the sum of money, the sense of the clause has been given as either
(1) he, i.e. thy brother, will be to thee a protection, hiding thee like a veil, from the voluptuous desires of others (Aben Ezra, Cajetan, Calvin, Kalisch); or
(2) it, i.e. this present of mine, will be to thee a propitiatory offering to make thee overlook my offence (Chrysostom, Gesenius, Furst, Knobel, Delitzsch, Keil, Murphy); or
(3) a declaration of thy purity, and so a defense to thee against any calumnious aspersions (Castalio); or
(4) the purchase-money of a veil to hide thy beauty, lest others be ensnared (Vulgate, Amble, Kitto, Clark); or
(5) the means of procuring that bridal veil which married females should never lay aside (cf. Genesis 24:65; Dathe, Vitringa, Michaelis, Baumgarten, Rosenmüller). The exact sense of this difficult passage can scarcely be said to have been determined, though of the above interpretations the choice seems to lie between the first and second. Unto all that are with thee, and with all other. I.e. in presence of thy domestics and of all with whom thou mayest yet mingle, either Abraham will be thy best defense, or let my gift be an atonement, or a veil, &c. Thus she was reproved. וְנֹכָחַת. If a third person singular niph. of יָכַח (Onkelos, Arabic, Kimchi, Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Furst), then it is the historian's statement signifying that Sarah had been convicted, admonished, and left defenseless (Gesenius); or, connecting the preceding words וִאֶתאּכֹּל, that, with regard to all, right had been obtained (Furst), or that all had been done that she might be righted (Murphy); but if a second person singular niph. (LXX., Vulgate, Delitzsch, Keil, Lange, Murphy, Kalisch), then it is a continuation of Abimelech's address, meaning neither καὶ πάντα ἀλήθευσον (LXX.), nor memento te deprehensam (Vulgate), but either, "and thou art reproved" (Wordsworth), or, "and thou wilt be recognized" (Kalisch), or, again connecting with the preceding words, "and with all, so thou art justified or set right" (Delitzsch, Keil, Lange), or, "and all this that thou mayest be righted " (Murphy) or "reproved" (Ainsworth).
So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.
Verse 17. - So Abraham prayed unto God. Literally, the Elohim, the personal and true God, and not Elohim, or Deity in general, to whom belonged the cure of Abimelech and his household (Keil), as the next clause shows. And God (Elohim, without the art.) healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maid-servants; - i.e. his concubines, as distinguished from the women servants (Ver. 14) - and they bare children. The verb may apply to both sexes, and the malady under which they suffered may be here described as one which prevented procreation, as the next verse explains.
For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.
Verse 18. - For the Lord (Jehovah; vide supra on Ver. 3) had fast closed up all the wombs - i.e. prevented conception, or produced barrenness (cf. Genesis 16:2; Isaiah 66:9; 1 Samuel 1:5, 6; for the opposite, Genesis 29:31; Genesis 30:22); "poena convenientissima; quid enim convenientius esse poterat, quam ut amittat, qui ad se rapit aliena" (Musculus). Vide Havernick, § 19 - of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife - the motive obviously being to protect the purity of the promised seed.