Genesis 20:7
Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.
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(7) He is a prophet.—This is not said as an aggravation of Abimelech’s sin, but as an encouragement to him to restore Sarah. It is therefore rightly joined with the words “He shall pray for thee.” For the word prophet is used here in its old sense of spokesman (comp. Exod. Genesis 7:1, with Genesis 4:16), and especially of such an one as mediates between God and man. There was a true feeling that God in His own nature is beyond the reach of man (Job 9:32-33; Job 16:21; 1Timothy 6:16); and this in heathen nations led to men peopling their heavens with a multitude of minor deities. In Israel, after the founding of the prophetic schools by Samuel, the prophets became an order, whose office it was partly to enliven the services of the Temple with sacred minstrelsy (1Chronicles 25:1), but chiefly to be God’s spokesmen, both declaring His will to Jew and Gentile ( Jeremiah 1:5), and also maintaining religion and holiness by earnest preaching and other such means. In this way they were forerunners, and even representatives, of Christ, who is the one true and only Mediator between God and man. Not only Abraham, therefore, but the patriarchs generally are called “Christs and prophets (Psalm 105:15), as being speakers for God to man, and for man to God, until the true Christ and prophet came. Abimelech, moreover, is thus taught that he does not himself hold a near relation to God, but requires some one to speak for him; perhaps, too, he would gather from it that he had need of fuller instruction, and that he ought to try to attain to a higher level, and that Abraham would become a prophet to him in its other sense of being a teacher. (For the prophet as an intercessor, see Exodus 8:28-29; Deuteronomy 9:19-20; 1Samuel 7:5; 1Samuel 12:19; 1Samuel 12:23; 1Kings 13:6; Job 42:8.)

Genesis 20:7. He is a prophet — A person favoured with peculiar intercourse with God, who is made acquainted with his will and purposes in an extraordinary way, and is the interpreter of that will, and the revealer of those purposes to others. This seems to be the meaning of the appellation prophet, first, as we here see, given to Abraham in the Scriptures.

Genesis 20:9-10. Thou hast done deeds that ought not to be done — Equivocation and dissimulation, however they may be palliated, are very ill things, and by no means to be admitted in any case. He takes it as a very great injury to himself and his family, that Abraham had thus exposed them to temptation and sin. What have I offended thee? — If I had been thy worst enemy thou couldest not have done me a worse turn, nor taken a more effectual course to be revenged on me. He challenges him to assign any just cause he had to suspect them as a dangerous people for an honest man to live among. What sawest thou that thou hast done this thing? — What reason hadst thou to think, that if we had known her to be thy wife, thou wouldest have been exposed to any danger by it?

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.Abraham is here designated by the Lord a prophet. This constituted at once the gravity of Abimelek's offence Psalm 105:15, and the ground of his hope of pardon. It is at the same time a step in advance of all the previous spiritual attainments of Abraham. A prophet is God's spokesman, who utters with authority certain of the things of God Exodus 7:1; Exodus 4:15. This implies two things: first, the things of God are known only to him, and therefore must be communicated by him; secondly, the prophet must be enabled of God to announce in correct terms the things made known to him. These things refer not only to the future, but in general to all such matters as fall within the purpose and procedure of God. They may even include things otherwise known or knowable by man, so far as these are necessary to the exposition of the divine will. Now Abraham has heretofore received many communications from God. But this did not constitute him a prophet. It is the divinely-authorized utterance of new truth which raises him to this rank. And Abraham's first exercise in prophecy is not in speaking to men of God, but to God for men. "He shall pray for thee." The prophetic and the priestly offices go together in the father of the faithful. These dignities belong to him, not from any absolute merit, for this he has not, but from his call to be the holder of the promise, and the father of that seed to whom the promises were made.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. He is a prophet, a person very dear to me, and familiarly acquainted with me, and therefore the injuries done to him I take as done to myself. See Psalm 105:15.

He shall pray for thee, which is one part of a prophet’s work, Jeremiah 14:11 15:1.

Thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine; which was not unjust, because they all had sins of their own, for which they deserved death whensoever God thought fit to inflict it; and God might take this occasion to do it, that in punishing them he might also punish the king, whose subjects they were.

Now therefore restore the man his wife,.... Which will be a full proof and evidence to all of the integrity of thy heart, and the innocence of thine hands, which thou pleadest, and which I:own:

for he is a prophet; familiar with God, dear unto him, a friend of his, to whom he communicates his secrets; is able to foretell things to come, as well as to interpret the mind of God, and instruct in the knowledge of divine things, all which agrees with Abraham's character; and he is the first man that is dignified in Scripture with the title of a prophet; so he is called in the Apocrypha:"Beware of all whoredom, my son, and chiefly take a wife of the seed of thy fathers, and take not a strange woman to wife, which is not of thy father's tribe: for we are the children of the prophets, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: remember, my son, that our fathers from the beginning, even that they all married wives of their own kindred, and were blessed in their children, and their seed shall inherit the land.'' (Tobit 4:12)Jarchi thinks this is observed to encourage Abimelech to return his wife to him, because being a prophet he knew he had not touched her, and therefore would receive her more readily, and entertain no ill opinion of her; but rather it is mentioned for the reason following:

and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live; it being one part of the business of a prophet to pray for others, and make intercession for them, especially in any distress or trouble, see Jeremiah 27:18. Prophets were praying persons, had usually a great gift in prayer, and great power with God, and prevailed with him for the good of others; and such an one was Abraham; and it is here intimated, that upon the restoration of his wife to him, as he was familiar with God, and had an interest with him, he would make use of it, and pray for Abimelech, that whatsoever offence he had been guilty of to God or men, it might be forgiven, and that he might be healed of the disease with which he was smitten, and so recover of it, and live in health and happiness:

and if thou restore her not, know thou, that thou shalt surely die,

thou, and all that are thine: if he proceeded to take her to be his wife, and defile her, he is strongly assured that he should die, death being the punishment for adultery before the law of Moses, see Genesis 38:24; and not only he, but all his family, especially such who had been, or would be accessory to this affair, and even all who might he justly punished of God for other sins they had committed; and Abimelech being punished, both in his own person, and in his servants and subjects, the greater his punishment was, the greater abhorrence and detestation was shown to the sin he would be guilty of, to deter him from which this threatening is given out.

Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a {h} prophet, and he {i} shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.

(h) That is, one to whom God reveals himself familiarly.

(i) For the prayer of the godly is of force towards God.

7. for he is a prophet] Abraham is here given the title of “prophet,” or “nâbî” (the first occurrence of it in Scripture). The prophet—the one who utters or pours forth—is one who is in intimate relations with God, moved by His Spirit, protected by His Power. From 1 Samuel 9:9 we learn the nabi was in old times called roeh, or Seer. To call Abraham a “prophet” (nâbî) is, therefore, an anachronism, indicating the atmosphere of the monarchical period. The prophet was one who was privileged to have intercourse with God, and was bound to communicate “the word” to his own kith and kin (Genesis 18:19). He was their representative, their intercessor, their spokesman. He who has the vision, rô’eh, must declare the message, nâbî.

A comment on this passage is supplied by Psalm 105:14-15, “he suffered no man to do them wrong … and do my prophets no harm.” Perhaps the prophets of Israel traced their “guild” back to Abraham as their founder, as well as to Moses, their greatest leader (Deuteronomy 34:10).

pray] i.e. intercede. For the efficacy of a “prophet’s” intercession, cf. Deuteronomy 9:20; 1 Samuel 7:5; 1 Samuel 12:19; 1 Samuel 12:23; Jeremiah 7:16.

Verse 7. - Now therefore restore the man his wife. Literally, the wife of the man, God now speaking of Abraham non tanquam de homine quolibet, sod peculiariter sibi charum (Calvin). For he is a prophet Nabi, from naba, to cause to bubble up; hence to pour forth, applied to one who speaks by a Divine afflatus (Deuteronomy 13:2; Judges 6:8; 1 Samuel 9:9; 1 Kings 22:7). The office of the Nabi was twofold - to announce the will of God to melt Exodus 4:15; Exodus 7:1), and also to intercede with God for men (Ver. 7; Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:11). The use of the term Nabi in this place neither proves that the spirit of prophecy had not existed from the beginning (cf. Genesis 9:25-27), nor shows that the Pentateuch, which always uses this term, cannot be of greater antiquity than the time of Samuel, before which, according to 1 Samuel 9:9, the prophet was called a seer (Bohlen, Hartmann). As used in the Pentateuch the term describes the recipient of Divine revelations, and as such it was incorporated in the Mosaic legislation. During the period of the Judges the term Roeh appears to have come into use, and to have held its ground until the reformation of Samuel, when the older theocratic term was again reverted to (vide Havernick, § 19). And he shall pray for thee (vide supra), and thou shalt live. Literally, live thou, the imperative being used for the future in strong prophetic assurances (cf. Psalm 128:5; vide Gesenius, § 130). And if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, - literally, dying thou shalt die (cf. Genesis 2:17) - thou, and all that are thine. Genesis 20:7Abimelech, 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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