by Robert Brow    (

Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: 2004

Introduction | Genesis 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11| 12| 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30

31 | 32 | 33| 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41| 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50| PostScript

Table Of Contents:

Genesis 20:1-2 Genesis 20:11-13
Genesis 20:3-7 Genesis 20:14-15
Genesis 20:8 Genesis 20:16
Genesis 20:9-10 Genesis 20:17-18

GENESIS 20:1-7     (King Abimelech takes Sarah into his Palace)

20:1-2   Abraham and Sarah had been living for fourteen years by the Oaks of Mamre in the area of Hebron (14:13; 16:16; 17:25; 18:1).  But when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed (19:27-29) Abraham decided to move 100  miles, 160 km,  south into the Negeb east of Kadesh Barnea.  Shur was the area Hagar escaped to from Sarah’s harassment on her way back to her home in Egypt (16:7, Exodus 15:22).    Later it was an area occupied by the tribe of Ishmael (25:18) and the Amalekites (1 Samuel 14:48, 27:8)

Abraham had settled  his family and his many retainers (14:14) in the territory of Abimelech (abimelech means “my father was King”).    He was  a Philistine King (26:1, 8) who belonged to the first wave of Sea People who came in from Crete via Cyprus (10:14, Deuteronomy 2:23).  Four hundred years later, perhaps after the volcanic destruction of the island of Thera near Crete c.1490 BC), a bigger migration of Philistines settled in the five cities of Gath, Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelon Gaza, Ashkelon (Joshua 13:3, 1 Samuel 6:17).   

Abraham had carefully settled on the border of Egypt about 30 miles, 48 km, from Abimelech’s capital in Gerar.    And when Abimelech’s spies came to check on this alien living in their territory Abraham told them that his wife Sarah was his sister.   This was a half truth because she was the daughter of his father, and so his step sister (see a similar situation when Abraham went into Egypt, 12:11).  Sarah, though already 89 years old, was a beautiful woman (12:11) and probably from Sumerian royal blood (see comment on 11:10, 11:27-30).  So she would have been a very desirable addition for Abimelech’s harem (compare 1 Kings 11:1-3).  Sarah was barren, so the conception of Isaac a few months later (21:1-2) was a miracle (Hebrews 11:11), though it seems she must have remained been sexually active. 

20:3-7   But before any sexual intercourse took place Abimelech was warned in a dream that Sarah was a married woman.  Abimelech sensed that he and his people were in great danger of God’s wrath (see 20:18), and he claimed that he was innocent of any immoral intention.  In another dream God then assured him that he recognized Abimelech’s integrity, and that he himself had kept Abimelech from adultery.  This reminds us that God can communicate through dreams with people outside the community of faith.    God also told Abimelech that Abraham was a prophet and he would pray for him.


GENESIS  20:8-    (Sarah returned to her husband Abraham)

20:8    After the second dream in the night, Abimelech gathered his household servants and told them exactly what had happened.  The servants realized that if God had not intervened, things would have gone very badly wrong.

20:9-10   Then Abraham was summoned from his tent 30 miles away (see 20:1), and Abimelech berated him for his foolish behavior.

20:11-13     Abraham tried to excuse himself by assuming that the King and people of Gerar had no faith in God or moral integrity (which obviously was not true, 20:6).  And he had tried to protect himself (at the cost of his wife’s honor) by misleading Abimelech’s servants with a half truth (see 20:2).   This was a second occasion when Abraham fell into the same despicable behavior (13:11-13).

20:14-15   Abimelech’s gracious response is surprising.   He could have had Abraham killed for deceiving him and putting him at severe risk of disaster.  Instead, he gave Abraham generous gifts, restored Sarah to him, and gave Abraham permission to live in his land wherever he chose.

20:16   He also spoke to Sarah, accepted the half-truth she had told when she claimed that Abraham was her brother. He also gave a thousand silver coins to exonerate her from the shame of what she had done.

20:17-18   As God had said (20:7), Abraham retained the authority to function as a prophet in spite of his abominable behavior.   As he prayed for healing in Abimelech’s family, the King’s wife and female slaves were restored from the total barrenness which had afflicted them from the time Sarah was taken into the harem.

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