Genesis 20:5
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.
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(5) In the integrity of my heart . . . —Not only does Abimelech assert this, but Elohim (see Genesis 20:6) admits the plea. And yet this Philistine king indulges in polygamy, and claims the right of taking the female relatives of any one passing through his territory to add them to his harem. But the words mean no more than that he was not consciously violating any of his own rules of morality, and thus illustrate the Gospel principle that men will be punished not by an absolute decree, but equitably, according to their knowledge (Luke 12:47-48). Abimelech was doing wrong, and was suffering punishment, but the punishment was remedial, and for his advancement in right-knowing and right-doing. It is thus by means of revelation that men have attained to a proper understanding of the moral law. Though often called “the law of Nature,” yet Nature does not give it, but only acknowledges it when given. The inner light is but a faint and inconstant glimmering, but Christ is the true light; for only by Him does the law of Nature become a clear-rule for human guidance (John 1:9; Romans 2:14-15; Matthew 6:23).

20:1-8 Crooked policy will not prosper: it brings ourselves and others into danger. God gives Abimelech notice of his danger of sin, and his danger of death for his sin. Every wilful sinner is a dead man, but Abimelech pleads ignorance. If our consciences witness, that, however we may have been cheated into a snare, we have not knowingly sinned against God, it will be our rejoicing in the day of evil. It is matter of comfort to those who are honest, that God knows their honesty, and will acknowledge it. It is a great mercy to be hindered from committing sin; of this God must have the glory. But if we have ignorantly done wrong, that will not excuse us, if we knowingly persist in it. He that does wrong, whoever he is, prince or peasant, shall certainly receive for the wrong which he has done, unless he repent, and, if possible, make restitution.The Supreme Being here appears as God אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym, and therefore in his eternal power and independence, as he was antecedent to the creation of man. He communicates with Abimelek in a dream. This prince addresses him as אדני 'ǎdonāy, "Lord." We have already seen that the knowledge of the true God had not yet disappeared from the Gentile world, who were under the Noachic covenant. "Thou wilt die." Thou art dying or at the point of death if thou persist. A deadly plague was already in the body of Abimelek, on account of Sarah. "Wilt thou slay a righteous nation also?" Abimelek associates his nation with himself, and expects that the fatal stroke will not be confined to his own person. He pleads his integrity in the matter, which the Lord acknowledges. Gentiles sometimes act according to the dictates of conscience, which still lives in them, though it be obscured by sin. Abimelek was innocent in regard to the "great sin" of seizing another man's wife, of which God acquitted him. He was wrong in appropriating a woman to himself by mere stretch of power, and in adding wife to wife. But these were common customs of the time, for which his conscience did not upbraid him in his pleading with God. "And the God." The presence of the definite article seems to intimate a contrast of the true God with the false gods to which the Gentiles were fast turning. Abimelek was at least in the doubtful ground on the borders of polytheism.3. But God came to Abimelech in a dream—In early times a dream was often made the medium of communicating important truths; and this method was adopted for the preservation of Sarah. Without any adulterous design in my heart, or outward actions tending to it, being wholly ignorant of what thou now informest me.

Said he not unto me, she is my sister?.... By this it appears, that Abimelech had a personal conversation with Abraham, and inquired of him about Sarah, who she was, and what relation she was to him, who told him that she was his sister; and for the truth of this he appeals to the omniscient God, who knew that Abraham had told him this:

and she, even she herself said, he is my brother; when Sarah was asked what relation she stood in to Abraham, and he to her, she declared he was her brother; so that Abimelech had reason to conclude, from what both of them had said, that this was the truth of the matter, and especially from what Sarah said, who he thought might be depended on, and would speak out the whole truth on such an occasion:

in the integrity of my heart, and innocency of my hands, have I done this; hereby declaring, that his design was not to defile the woman, and to gratify his lust, but to take her to be his wife; and this he thought to be no evil, though he had a wife, Genesis 20:17; polygamy not being reckoned a sin in those times; and that he had used no violence in taking her, they both seemingly agreeing to it.

Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my {e} heart and {f} innocency of my hands have I done this.

(e) As one falling by ignorance, and not doing evil on purpose.

(f) Not thinking to do any man harm.

5. integrity] Heb. “perfectness.” Cf. Genesis 6:9.

innocency of my hands] Cf. Psalm 26:6.

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, Genesis 20:5Abimelech, who had not yet come near her, because God had hindered him by illness (Genesis 20:6 and Genesis 20:17), excused himself on the ground that he had done no wrong, since he had supposed Sarah to be Abraham's sister, according to both her husband's statement and her own. This plea was admitted by God, who told him that He had kept him from sinning through touching Sarah, and commanded him to restore the woman immediately to her husband, who was a prophet, that he might pray for him and save his life, and threatened him with certain death to himself and all belonging to him in case he should refuse. That Abimelech, when taking the supposed sister of Abraham into his harem, should have thought that he was acting "in innocence of heart and purity of hands," i.e., in perfect innocence, is to be fully accounted for, from his undeveloped moral and religious standpoint, by considering the customs of that day. But that God should have admitted that he had acted "in innocence of heart," and yet should have proceeded at once to tell him that he could only remain alive through the intercession of Abraham, that is to say, through his obtaining forgiveness of a sin that was deserving of death, is a proof that God treated him as capable of deeper moral discernment and piety. The history itself indicates this in the very characteristic variation in the names of God. First of all (Genesis 20:3), Elohim (without the article, i.e., Deity generally) appears to him in a dream; but Abimelech recognises the Lord, Adonai, i.e., God (Genesis 20:4); whereupon the historian represents האלהים (Elohim with the article), the personal and true God, as speaking to him. The address of God, too, also shows his susceptibility of divine truth. Without further pointing out to him the wrong which he had done in simplicity of heart, in taking the sister of the stranger who had come into his land, for the purpose of increasing his own harem, since he must have been conscious of this himself, God described Abraham as a prophet, whose intercession alone could remove his guilt, to show him the way of salvation. A prophet: lit., the God-addressed or inspired, since the "inward speaking" (Ein-sprache) or inspiration of God constitutes the essence of prophecy. Abraham was προφήτης as the recipient of divine revelation, and was thereby placed in so confidential a relation to God, that he could intercede for sinners, and atone for sins of infirmity through his intercession.
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