Genesis 20:6
And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.
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Genesis 20:6. I withheld thee, &c. — It is God that restrains men from doing the ill they would do; it is not from him that there is sin, but it is from him that there is not more sin, either by his influence on men’s minds, checking their inclination to sin, or by his providence, taking away the opportunity of committing it. It is a great mercy to be hindered from sinning, which God must have the glory of, whoever is the instrument.

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. I know that thou didst not this knowingly and maliciously, but imprudently and inconsiderately, which is indeed an extenuation of thy sin, though not a total excuse. Compare 1 Kings 9:4 1 Chronicles 29:1.

I also withheld thee, partly by my restraining grace, and partly by my powerful providence, and the plague mentioned Genesis 20:17. Which plainly shows that ignorance is not always an excuse for sin. See Luke 12:48. This sin, though directly committed against Abraham and Sarah only, is said to be against God, as other such sins are, Genesis 39:9 Psalm 51:4, because it was against God’s command written in men’s minds, though not yet published by express word or writing; and against God’s honour; and that here in a particular manner, because it would have rendered Isaac’s original, and thereby God’s promise, doubtful.

And God said unto him in a dream,.... The same dream continued:

yea, or "also"

I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; not only thou knowest, but I, who know all things, know and acknowledge that this was so done by thee. Abimelech's plea is admitted, and a very great testimony borne to his integrity in this matter; and throughout the whole account he appears to be a man of great honour and uprightness, especially in this affair, if not a good man:

for I also withheld thee from sinning against me; for had he committed adultery with her, it had been not only a sin against her, and against her husband, but against God being contrary to his will revealed in the minds of men by the law and light of nature, before the law of Moses was given: and indeed all sin against the neighbour is ultimately against God, see Psalm 51:4; and now from the commission of this sin God restrained Abimelech, either by some impulse upon his mind not to take her to be his wife as yet, or by throwing some thing or other in the way of it, in his providence, or by inflicting some disease upon him, which rendered him incapable of it, Genesis 20:17,

therefore suffered I thee not to touch her; that is, to have carnal knowledge of her, see 1 Corinthians 7:1; as there is nothing done but what is done by divine permission, so many more evils would be committed than there are, were it not that men are restrained from them by the power and providence of God, not suffering them to do them; and in particular this sin was prevented, that it might not in any respect be a doubtful point whether Isaac, whom Sarah had now conceived, was a legitimate son of Abraham; and these expressions of Abimelech not coming near her, Genesis 20:4; and not touching her as here, are used for that purpose.

And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also {g} withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.

(g) God by his holy Spirit restrains those who offend in ignorance, that they not fall into greater offence..

6. from sinning against me] The violation of moral law is sin against God.

suffered I thee not] The explanation of this sentence is supplied in Genesis 20:17.

Verse 6. - And God said unto him in a dream, - "It is in full agreement with the nature of dreams that the communication should be made in several, and not in one single act; cf. Genesis 37, and 41; Matthew 2." (Lange) - Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart - i.e. judged from thy moral standpoint. The words do not imply a Divine acquittal as to the essential guiltiness of the act, which is clearly involved in the instruction to seek the mediation of God's prophet (Ver. 7). For I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her (vide on Ver. 4). Genesis 20:6Abimelech, 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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