Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
Ge 20:1-18. Abraham's Denial of His Wife.
1. Abraham journeyed from thence … and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur—Leaving the encampment, he migrated to the southern border of Canaan. In the neighborhood of Gerar was a very rich and well-watered pasture land.
And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
2. Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister—Fear of the people among whom he was, tempted him to equivocate. His conduct was highly culpable. It was deceit, deliberate and premeditated—there was no sudden pressure upon him—it was the second offense of the kind [see on Ge 12:13]—it was a distrust of God every way surprising, and it was calculated to produce injurious effects on the heathen around. Its mischievous tendency was not long in being developed.
Abimelech (father-king) … sent and took Sarah—to be one of his wives, in the exercise of a privilege claimed by Eastern sovereigns, already explained (see on Ge 12:15).
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife.
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.
But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?
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.
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.
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.
Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid.
Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.
9. Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said … What hast thou done?—In what a humiliating plight does the patriarch now appear—he, a servant of the true God, rebuked by a heathen prince. Who would not rather be in the place of Abimelech than of the honored but sadly offending patriarch! What a dignified attitude is that of the king—calmly and justly reproving the sin of the patriarch, but respecting his person and heaping coals of fire on his head by the liberal presents made to him.
And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?
And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.
11. And Abraham said … I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place—From the horrible vices of Sodom he seems to have taken up the impression that all other cities of Canaan were equally corrupt. There might have been few or none who feared God, but what a sad thing when men of the world show a higher sense of honor and a greater abhorrence of crimes than a true worshipper!
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.
12. yet indeed she is my sister—(See on 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].
And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.
And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.
And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.
And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.
So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.
For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.