Genesis 20:8–18

208 Early in the morning, Abimelch rose and summoned all of his servants and spoke all of this. The men were terrified. 9 Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? What offense did I commit against you that you have brought this great offense to me and my kingdom? Deeds not to be done you have done to me.” 10 Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you foresee when you did this thing?”
     11 Abraham said, “I thought to myself, ‘No one reveres God here and they will kill me on account of my wife.’ 12 Factually, she is my sister, my father’s daughter though not my mother’s daughter, and she became my wife. 13 When the gods caused me to wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is the faithfulness I expect from you: in each place to which we come, tell them, “He is my brother.”’”
     14 Abimelech took flocks, cattle, male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham; Abimelech sent back Sarah, his wife. 15 Abimelech said, “My land is before you. Settle wherever seems good in your eyes.” 16 To Sarah, he said, “I’ve given your brother one thousand pieces of silver. Let it serve you as a shield against public disapproval and a sign you are publicly vindicated.” 17 Abraham interceded with God; God restored Abimelech, his wife, and his women servants to health, and they gave birth… 18 for YHWH had obstructed every womb in Abimelech’s household on account of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

To have a vision is one thing; to act on a vision is quite another thing. Abimelech acts on his vision that he is facing a life or death situation. First, Abimelech acknowledges his fear in a manner not befitting a king by sharing it with others. Second, Abimelech calls out a source of his problem—Abraham.

Two issues surface regarding Abraham’s character. The first is his lack of ability to see YHWH at work beyond what YHWH is doing with Abraham. Though working most obviously at a tribal level, YHWH is doing so within a context of all creation which has been divided at Babel and shown its dark-side with the “sons of gods and daughters of men” and inhospitality at Sodom.

Secondly, Abraham has been living in fear since leaving Haran. His beautiful half-sister and wife is not only a joy to his inner self but a source of danger in the wider world. A stronger man may desire Sarai/Sarah and kill Abram/Abraham, as husband, to capture Sarah. If Abraham tells a half-lie, as brother, he may both stay alive and get additional substance by acting as a pimp with Sarah.

Before this revelation, readers were not aware of Abraham’s long-standing Plan B—deniability—for self-preservation—descendants be damned.

We also now learn that the threat to Abimelech had a sign or plague that was active before the vision. A long-enough time had elapsed for it to be noticed there were no more births in the pipeline of Abimelech’s household. This may have sensitized Abimelech to the importance of his dream that identified Sarah as the cause of tribal infertility.

Bottom-line, Abraham gets Sarah back, plus more sheep and cattle and silver and land and slaves—a lucrative deal. Abimelech gets fruitfulness and multiplication restored to him—not profitable in the short-term, but better than death.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.