Abraham lies about Sarah, again
"Let me introduce my sister"1 Abraham moved his camp toward the Negev badlands. He settled for a time between the villages of Kadesh and Shur, but later moved on to the city of Gerar. 2 When Abraham introduced his wife Sarah to the people there, he said, “She’s my sister.” King Abimelech of Gerar took Sarah into his palace. 3 But that night God came to King Abimelech in a vivid dream. God said, “Listen to me. You’re a dead man. You have taken another man’s wife.” 4 Abimelech had not had sex with Sarah. So he said, “Lord, would you destroy an innocent nation? 5 Didn’t the man himself say, ‘She’s my sister’? Even the woman said, ‘He’s my brother.’ My intentions were honorable. I didn’t do anything wrong.” 6 God answered him, “Yes, I know you did nothing wrong. In fact, I’m the one who kept you from doing anything wrong. I didn’t let you touch her. 7 Now go ahead and give the woman back to her husband. The man is a prophet. He will pray for you, and that’s what will keep you alive. But if you don’t give his wife back to him, know this: you and everyone that belongs to you will die.” 8 Abimelech got up early the next morning. He called his servants together and told them about his terrifying dream, which frightened them, too.
Abraham busted9 Abimelech called in Abraham and said, “Why on earth did you do this to us? What have I done to you that you would dump this much shame onto me and my kingdom? No way should you have done this. 10 What were you thinking? Why did you do it?” 11 Abraham said, “I did it because I was afraid. I didn’t think anyone here would respect me or the God I serve. I thought someone would kill me so they could take my wife. 12 Actually, she really is my sister. We have the same father, but different mothers. But I admit it, she’s also my wife. 13 When God told me to leave home and travel around the area here, I told my wife, ‘Do me a huge favor. Wherever we go, tell the people that I’m your brother.’” 14 Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham. The king also gave Abraham gifts: sheep and cattle along with male and female slaves. 15 Abimelech told Abraham, “Look, this is my land that you see in front of you. You are welcome to settle anywhere you like.” 16 Abimelech told Sarah, “Look, I gave your brother 1,000 pieces of silver. It’s to compensate you for what happened, and to show everyone that you did nothing wrong.” 17 Abraham prayed for Abimelech and his people. God healed Abimelech and his wife and his female slaves. The women in Abimelech’s household started having babies again. 18 Earlier, the LORD had made all the women in Abimelech’s household infertile because of what Abimelech had done with Sarah.
In what is now southern Israel.
1,000 shekels, which weighs about 25 pounds (11.4 kg).
The Genesis writer says Abraham does it again, passing off his wife as his sister—for the same reason he did 25 years earlier: “I thought someone would kill me so they could take my wife” (20:11, compare to 12:12). Here’s the problem: Sarah was about 90 years old. Here’s the question: what on earth are we supposed to do with a story like this in the Bible? Should we believe it as it stands? Should we figure that some editor found a different version of the earlier story and thought it was a separate story, so he included both? Or should we figure that Abraham and Abimelech had cataracts and couldn’t see what gravity had done to Abraham’s wife?
Sarah ended up in the harem of the regional king named Abimelech (uh BIM uh leck). But the Genesis writer said God warned the king in a dream, “You’re a dead man. You have taken another man’s wife” (20:3). People in ancient times seemed to believe that the spirit world spoke to them in dreams. So they took the dreams seriously. Do you think they got it right—that sometimes God speaks to us in our dreams?
The king gave Abraham gifts: “sheep and cattle along with male and female slaves” (20:14). In addition, the king gave Abraham 1,000 pieces of silver. That was about 25 pounds (11.4 kg), which is more than the average herder would make in a lifetime. Does that sound like God rewarded Abraham for doing something wrong? Or was there something else going on here?
The king told Sarah, “I gave your brother 1,000 pieces of silver. It’s to compensate you for what happened, and to show everyone that you did nothing wrong” (20:16). Does a pay off like that suggest the king did nothing wrong or that he did something wrong? If the king had another motive for giving Abraham the silver, what do you think it might have been?
LIFE APPLICATION. Abraham rationalized that it was okay to tell half the truth in order to protect himself. He carried this so far that he ended up putting his wife at risk, landing her in the harem of another man. What kind of half-truths do people tell today to protect themselves? And what kind of risks do they take when they do that?