Genesis 20:18
For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.
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20:14-18 We often trouble ourselves, and even are led into temptation and sin, by groundless suspicions; and find the fear of God where we expected it not. Agreements to deceive generally end in shame and sorrow; and restraints from sin, though by suffering, should be thankfully acknowledged. Though the Lord rebuke, yet he will pardon and deliver his people, and he will give them favour in the sight of those with whom they sojourn; and overrule their infirmities, when they are humbled for them, so that they shall prove useful to themselves and others.These verses record the fact of Abraham's intercession for Abimelek, and explain in what sense he was on the point of dying (Genesis 20:3). "They bare" means that they were again rendered capable of procreating children, and in the natural course of things did so. The verb is in the masculine form, because both males and females were involved in this judicial malady. The name Yahweh is employed at the end of the chapter, because the relation of the Creator and Preserver to Sarah is there prominent.

- The Birth of Isaac

7. מלל mı̂lēl "speak," an ancient and therefore solemn and poetical word.

14. חמת chêmet "bottle," akin to חמה chāmâh, "surround, enclose," and הוּם chûm "black. באר שׁבע beêr-sheba‛, Beer-sheba', "well of seven."

22. פיכל pı̂ykol, Pikhol, "mouth or spokesman of all."

23. נין nı̂yn "offspring, kin;" related: "sprout, flourish." נכד neked "progeny," perhaps "acquaintance," cognate with נגד ngd, "be before" (the eyes) and נקד nqd, "mark."

33. אשׁל 'êshel "grove;" ἄρουρα aroura, Septuagint.; אילבה 'ı̂ylābâh, "a tree," Onkelos.

This chapter records the birth of Isaac with other concomitant circumstances. This is the beginning of the fulfillment of the second part of the covenant with Abraham - that concerning the seed. This precedes, we observe, his possession of even a foot-breadth of the soil, and is long antecedent to the entrance of his descendants as conquerors into the land of promise.

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]. This phrase elsewhere notes barrenness, as 1 Samuel 1:5,6, and so many understand it here. Against which some learned men object that that could not so soon be discovered, for all this happened between the conception and birth of Isaac. Which objection may seem not valid, because the evidences of women’s being with child go so long before the birth of the child, and those evidences not appearing in any of their women, who before that time were generally fruitful and child bearing, they might discern God’s hand in it, especially upon God’s admonition to their king. But because this history seems to have been done in a far less space of time, it not being probable either that God would suffer Sarah to be long with Abimelech ere he warned him, or that he being warned, and so severely threatened, and actually punished, would delay the execution of God’s command, or that upon his obedience to God the mercy and deliverence promised would be delayed by God; that seems more probable which others think, that this was an indisposition, or plague, or sore in the secret parts, by which they were hindered from cohabitation and mutual converse, and consequently from hopes of conception and child-bering; upon the removal whereof, it is said that

they bare children, where, as ofttimes in Scripture, the last and consummating act is put for all the preceding acts: q.d. and they were restored to the conjugal use, and conception, and, in due time, to child-bearing.

For the Lord had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech,.... With large tumours probably, so that they could not cohabit with their husbands and conceive; nor could those that had conceived bring forth: and this disorder they were smitten with:

because of Sarah Abraham's wife; who was taken into the house of Abimelech, in order to be his; to rebuke and punish for which, and to convince of the evil of it, and cause to abstain from it, this disorder was inflicted on them.

For the LORD {p} had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.

(p) Had taken away from them the gift of conceiving.

18. For the Lord] An editorial addition, explanatory of Genesis 20:17. “Jehovah” is here used for the only time in this narrative.

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.

Genesis 20:18After this reparation, God healed Abimelech at Abraham's intercession; also his wife and maids, so that they could bear again, for Jehovah had closed up every womb in Abimelech's house on Sarah's account. אמהות, maids whom the king kept as concubines, are to be distinguished from שׁפחות female slaves (Genesis 20:14). That there was a material difference between them, is proved by 1 Samuel 25:41. כּל־רחם עצר כּל does not mean, as is frequently supposed, to prevent actual childbirth, but to prevent conception, i.e., to produce barrenness (1 Samuel 1:5-6). This is evident from the expression "He hath restrained me from bearing" in Genesis 16:2 (cf. Isaiah 66:9, and 1 Samuel 21:6), and from the opposite phrase, "open the womb," so as to facilitate conception (Genesis 29:31, and Genesis 30:22). The plague brought upon Abimelech's house, therefore, consisted of some disease which rendered the begetting of children (the coitus) impossible. This might have occurred as soon as Sarah was taken into the royal harem, and therefore need not presuppose any lengthened stay there. There is no necessity, therefore, to restrict ויּלדוּ to the women and regard it as equivalent to ותּלדנה, which would be grammatically inadmissible; for it may refer to Abimelech also, since ילד signifies to beget as well as to bear. We may adopt Knobel's explanation, therefore, though without approving of the inference that Genesis 20:18 was an appendix of the Jehovist, and arose from a misunderstanding of the word ויּלדוּ in Genesis 20:17. A later addition Genesis 20:18 cannot be; for the simple reason, that without the explanation give there, the previous verse would be unintelligible, so that it cannot have been wanting in any of the accounts. The name Jehovah, in contrast with Elohim and Ha-Elohim in Genesis 20:17, is obviously significant. The cure of Abimelech and his wives belonged to the Deity (Elohim). Abraham directed his intercession not to Elohim, an indefinite and unknown God, but to האלהים; for the God, whose prophet he was, was the personal and true God. It was He too who had brought the disease upon Abimelech and his house, not as Elohim or Ha-Elohim, but as Jehovah, the God of salvation; for His design therein was to prevent the disturbance of frustration of His saving design, and the birth of the promised son from Sarah.

But if the divine names Elohim and Ha-Elohim indicate the true relation of God to Abimelech, and here also it was Jehovah who interposed for Abraham and preserved the mother of the promised seed, our narrative cannot be merely an Elohistic side-piece appended to the Jehovistic account in Genesis 12:14., and founded upon a fictitious legend. The thoroughly distinctive character of this event is a decisive proof of the fallacy of any such critical conjecture. Apart from the one point of agreement-the taking of Abraham's wife into the royal harem, because he said she was his sister in the hope of thereby saving his own life (an event, the repetition of which in the space of 24 years is by no means startling, when we consider the customs of the age) - all the more minute details are entirely different in the two cases. In king Abimelech we meet with a totally different character from that of Pharaoh. We see in him a heathen imbued with a moral consciousness of right, and open to receive divine revelation, of which there is not the slightest trace in the king of Egypt. And Abraham, in spite of his natural weakness, and the consequent confusion which he manifested in the presence of the pious heathen, was exalted by the compassionate grace of God to the position of His own friend, so that even the heathen king, who seems to have been in the right in this instance, was compelled to bend before him and to seek the removal of the divine punishment, which had fallen upon him and his house, through the medium of his intercession. In this way God proved to the Philistine king, on the one hand, that He suffers no harm to befall His prophets (Psalm 105:15), and to Abraham, on the other, that He can maintain His covenant and secure the realization of His promise against all opposition from the sinful desires of earthly potentates. It was in this respect that the event possessed a typical significance in relation to the future attitude of Israel towards surrounding nations.

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