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. Genesis 20:12"What sawest thou," i.e., what hadst thou in thine eye, with thine act (thy false statement)? Abimelech did this publicly in the presence of his servants, partly for his own justification in the sight of his dependents, and partly to put Abraham to shame. The latter had but two weak excuses: (1) that he supposed there was no fear of God at all in the land, and trembled for his life because of his wife; and (2) that when he left his father's house, he had arranged with his wife that in every foreign place she was to call herself his sister, as she really was his half-sister. On the subject of his emigration, he expressed himself indefinitely and with reserve, accommodating himself to the polytheistic standpoint of the Philistine king: "when God (or the gods, Elohim) caused me to wander," i.e., led me to commence an unsettled life in a foreign land; and saying nothing about Jehovah, and the object of his wandering as revealed by Him.
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