And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
The true fear of God was at that moment in Abimelech's heart, and not in Abraham's; it was Abimelech who was playing the Christian part, that of the child of the light and of the day; Abraham for the moment was the child of fear, darkness, and night.
I. Consider first the origin of the habit of harsh judgment. There are two main sources from which it springs. (1) The first a heathen Roman can illustrate for us: "With a great sum obtained I this freedom" (Acts 22:27-28). The thing has cost us much; we feel it is hard to believe that it can be widely shared. Abraham had made a terrible sacrifice to assure his calling. As for those easy, jovial, prosperous heathen, surely the fear of God was not there. (2) A second source of this harshness of judgment is the predominance in all of us of the natural aristocratic principle over the Christian principle of communion. Men naturally believe in election. But with rare exceptions, they naturally believe themselves to be the elect. It is hard indeed to believe that a private possession gains instead of loses by being shared by all mankind.
II. The histories of Scripture are a perpetual warning against narrow and selfish judgments of men. It is as if the Spirit had resolved that the virtues of those outside the pale should be kept clearly before the eyes of men. God is no respecter of persons, and He keeps hold in ways, of which we little dream, of the most unlikely human hearts.
III. The true Christian policy in judging mankind: (1) let your personal fellowship be based on the clear explicit manifestation of that which is in tune with your higher life and Christ's; (2) as for those who are without, believe that God is nearer to them than you wot of, and has more to do with them than you dream.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 402.
References: Gen 20—Parker, vol. i., p. 226; R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 336.
And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.