1 And Abraham [Avraham] journeyed from thence toward the south country [Negev region], and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.

In Isaac shall thy seed be called - 21: 12

Abraham was ninety years old and nine, and Ishmael thirteen when they were circumcised (Gen. 17:24-25.). Isaac was born when he was one hundred. Between the circumcision of his household and the birth of Isaac, while he was yet living

"in the plain of Mamre which is Hebron,"

the Lord appeared to him, and again promised Sarah a son. At this crisis Sodom and Gormorrah were destroyed, and the dead sea formed.

After this catastrophy, Abraham journeyed from Hebron towards the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar of the Philistines (Gen. 20:1).

On his arrival there, he entered into an agreement with the king of the country, which they confirmed by an oath, by which he was permitted to dwell in any part of Philistia he pleased, and a certain well of water was restored to him, called Beer-sheba, which had been violently taken away by the king's servants (Gen. 20:15; Gen. 21:25,31)

After this arrangement Isaac was born according to promise. On the day he was weaned Abraham made a great feast. It was then Ishmael was detected mocking at Isaac which caused his and Hagar's expulsion from the family. These being cast out, Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba, and there "called on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God." Having thus settled himself,

"he sojourned in the Philistines' land many days" (Gen. 21:33, 34).

Elpis Israel ii.2.6.

God in truth had remembered the patriarch and his pleadings, and his "brother" 4 had been graciously delivered through the spirit of his entreaty. Lot had been gathered up by the angelic messengers and sent forth out of the midst of the overthrow. 5

But on the day that Abraham looked and lamented with astonishment and horror, he knew not that Lot was safe. The message of destruction he brought back to Sarah was dreadful indeed for Lot was her brother 6 and the thought of his death filled her with despair.

Sick with grief at the apparent failure of intercession, distressed at the magnitude of the divine judgement that evil men had made necessary, and saddened by the folly that had led a righteous man to dwell among such evil,

Abraham and Sarah felt a desperate urge to move away. The awfulness of the destruction created an overwhelming desire to escape from this place with such vivid memories of the holocaust. 7

The tents were packed and the household assembled for marching. The settled existence of nigh on twenty years in this place of fellowship and peace was terminated with abrupt suddenness, and the ground beneath the oak of Mamre lay bare again. The rugs of their tents lay lay rolled and strapped to the sides of the camels, swinging to the peculiar gait of the lurching beasts as they trod the path away from the plateau heights that overlooked the circle of the cities of the plain.

Their flight took them southwards through the mountains, as the Judaean hills eased their way down by degrees to the flatness of the Negeb. 8 The road along the plateau also took them to the west, but it was not far enough for the grieving man and his wife.

When they reached Beersheba they did not continue south into the Negeb itself, but instead turned sharply west again, moving up into the lowlands of the Philistines, until behind them the wall of hills finally blocked out completely the scene of Sodom's overthrow.

Abraham and Sarah arrived in Gerar bewildered, apprehensive, unsettled and afraid. They had not even thought about the consequences of their move. They had been settled in Hebron for so many years, that the question of their identity was a problem long forgotten.

Yet no sooner had they arrived than the matter of how to present themselves arose again in a strange land, with unfamiliar people and uncertain customs. Faced with a sudden urgent problem for which they were ill prepared in mind, they fell back upon old ways. 9 And unsurprisingly, a repetition of their old practice led to a repetition of an old crisis.

4 Genesis 14:14.

5 Genesis 19:29.

6 See Appendix 2 - "Who was Iscah?"

7 We are not told in the record why this migration occurred, although the phrase "from thence" in Genesis 20:1 is suggestive of a desire to get away. The suggestions made here, however, are consistent with the context of the events just recorded in Genesis 18-19, since Genesis 20:1 is the very next mention of Abraham after he beheld the holocaust ofthe plain in 19:27,28.

In addition, there may have been pressure on the highland's pasturelands from those fleeing from the Jordan valley upwards into the hill country. "From thence" would be from the place of Abraham's abode in Mamre (cp. 18:1,33).

8 The word for "south" in Genesis 20:1 is negeb and indicates the lowland areas south of Beersheba into the highlands of the Sinai Peninsula. That it was a territory is indicated by the use of the term in 13:1.

9 Reading the episode in Genesis 20 we feel surprised that Abraham would have used a stratagem that had brought such calamity upon them previously. But two details help. The first is that many of us have habits, weaknesses, besetting sins that we have been unable to conquer in many years. Abraham and Sarah were no different.

The second is that this episode is separated from that of Genesis 12 and the journey into Egypt by over twenty years, enough time certainly for memory to fade. In addition, the sudden nature of their arrival in Gerar had helped precipitate this crisis of decision.

Abraham and Sarah Ch 6

2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.

She was at his court for a considerable time (verse 18). He [Abimelech] supposed her to be an unmarried woman and free, and his desires were towards her.


Abimelech = Father of a King. Abraham 's wanderings in the wilderness of Gerar (= rolling, ref. to terrain), the great south country, dusty flat plains leading to the deserts of the Negev and Sinai, teach many lessons.

They remind us‭ ‬that we also are passing through a waste howling wilderness where nothing favourable to the Truth grows, and where perils lie at every turn (1 Cor 10). Gerar lay close to the Brook Besor (1 Sam.30. 9-21).

How easy it is to get ensnared in a situation, which only with great difficulty we can extricate ourselves, and then only with Yahweh's help. One crisis resolved leads on to another, and so we learn the hard way through the trials and experiences of life, looking to that eternal city, whose builder and maker is God, and true peace and harmony will prevaiI.

'By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God'.(Heb 11:9,10)

We get a glimpse‭ into the perilous ‬precarious existence of Abraham, and his company, but Yahweh delivered him out of all his troubles, (Pslm 34:6,7)

The Apocalyptic Messenger, March 2016

3 But Elohim 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.

Abraham's next trial (Gen. 20) is a repetition in the land of the Philistines of the circumstances that happened in Egypt. Once again he attempts to ensure his own safety by deception regarding his relation to Sarah, once again he creates for himself and others much greater danger than that he sought to avoid; and once again he is humiliatingly rebuked by the foreigner he has deceived.

It is not our position to judge Abraham. His place in God's purpose is a fixed and glorious one. He is one of the few great men of the race, towering far above us. But it IS our duty to be guided and warned by his mistakes, and their consequences. Abraham's conduct did not reflect glory to God in this matter.

With the best of intentions, in the exercise of his own judgment, Abraham followed a course of apparently harmless deception which instead of helping him, brought him and Sarah into very serious complications. "She is my sister." It was technically true, but it was said to create a false impression.

The Scriptures exalt Truth very highly. Like purity and holiness, it is a fundamental characteristic of eternity and incorruptibility. Truth, and Truth alone, is enduring and substantial. All deception contains the seeds of corruption and decay, however well-meaning its purpose and harmless its intentions.

It was not necessary for Abraham to descend to deception. God had proclaimed himself Abraham's "Shield and exceeding great Reward" (Gen. 15). Why need he cheapen himself with subterfuge?

But is it possible that the course Abraham followed was perfectly acceptable with God, and in harmony with God's eternal standards? It does not seem so, in light of the consequences both times. Abraham is rebuked and humiliated. It would set too low a value on dignity and integrity. It does not harmonize with utter and complete "Truth in the inward parts" which is the only satisfactory ideal (Psa. 51:6).

Truth must be absolute to have any value. Permit the smallest amount of falsehood to mingle with Truth, and Truth begins immediately to take the shape of mere expediency, and the colour of hypocrisy. We cannot believe that Abraham's conduct in these instances represents the ideal we are striving toward.

But it will be said that God Himself makes use of deception. Many instances will come to mind, such as when He causes armies to flee at the noise of an imaginary enemy (2 Kgs. 7:6). Even further, God has instructed man in the use of deception. The stratagem whereby the city of Ai was taken by ambush was at the direct command of God (Josh. 8:2). Abraham very likely used a similar device in defeating Chedorlaomer and rescuing Lot. Deception is one of the basic, universally recognized first principles of warfare, and God has in the past legitimized war.

Does this destroy our viewpoint? Must we then be content with something less than pure truth and perfection in our ideals? Still we hear the voice of the Psalmist,

"Thou desirest Truth in the inward parts". . . "Blessed is he that speaketh the Truth in his heart."

God Himself can with complete propriety use deception if it suits His all wise purpose. He is over and above all. He knows and controls all. Therefore, there is no injustice or incongruity in His using deception as a judicial measure. He would never deceive except to punish.

He creates evil, and uses it, yet evil is not holy, or pure, or eternal, and it is forbidden to His children, except at His direct instruction. We are told (2 Thess. 2:10-12) that because men receive not the love of Truth, God sends them "strong delusion" and causes them to "believe a lie." That is deception -- judicial deception, and a fitting retribution for rejecting the love of Truth.

Deception is part of the same fabric as evil and war, and is legitimate only in circumstances where they are legitimate. It has no place in the daily lives and contacts of those who are striving to conform themselves to eternal things, and to manifest God to man. It had no place here -- in the relationship between Abraham and Abimelech.

It may be said that as it was not wrong for Abraham to use war, it was also not wrong for him to use deception. But this does not follow. David's charge against Joab was that he deceitfully shed the blood of war in peace (1 Kgs. 2:5). Abraham, using deception, set in motion forces that well nigh brought about the death of many (naturally speaking) innocent people.

And more important than his relations with Abimelech were his relations with Sarah. All the dignity and beauty of marriage depends upon its conformity with the great antitype Christ and the Ecclesia. Could Christ, to avoid persecution, conceal his relationship to the Ecclesia, or she her's to him? Many Christians lost their lives because they would not permit the slightest obscuring of this relationship. We remember Daniel and his fearlessly opened window that brought him to the lions' den (Dan. 6:10). It is an inspiring testimony for all time.

The false church, on the other hand, not perceiving the deep significance of its bonds and communion with Christ, or treating them lightly, said, "He is only my brother, I am still free to marry the king of Egypt for present advantage," so they sought the world's companionship and citizenship, and persecution ceased.

Bro Growcott - Shall a child be born

When deceit brings danger and distress

There must have been something extraordinary about Sarah to cause Abimelech to act thus in adding her to his household. It may have been a political alliance, which bound him to Abraham in a pact that secured their mutual safety. After all, the patriarch presided over a large household in his own right, and commanded a formidable army from within his own encampment, one that had already achieved success in battle. 10 Such an alliance by marriage was a common means to prevent war and preserve amity.

But Abimelech, whose depth of character will unfold throughout this story, may also have found Sarah to be a woman with a personality, mind and character that he appreciated and enjoyed. Being both in name and status the princess of Abraham's tribe, Sarah was certainly of acceptable social standing for Abimelech to contemplate marriage, and, unaware of her present condition 11 he simply saw in Sarah a woman who was still attractive, and that there could be decided advantage in the association.

No sooner had the woman been taken into his household however, than a strange and debilitating affliction fell upon him. God had moved swiftly to safeguard the promise. Nothing would happen to this woman within the house of Abimelech. Only then did God appear to Abimelech to inform him of the circumstances.

...Abimelech must have been shocked to learn that his life was in danger because of this event. The affliction that had befallen him had already brought unease. To learn that it might be life-threatening-brought fear. He protested that he had not touched Sarah. It was true that he had not come near her, but Abimelech could not claim this as a matter of virtue on his part, for it was of God that he had been prevented from doing so.

It was true, however, to say that he acted in the integrity of his heart and innocency of his hands. Abimelech had believed the testimony of Abraham, and felt that his actions were righteous by the custom of the day. This travelling chieftain recently arrived, had clearly indicated that the woman was but his relative, and Abimelech had no reason to doubt what Abraham had affirmed.

But he had also believed Sarah's words, for she had told him personally that Abraham was indeed her brother. Here was a matter of mutual deceit. Whatever Abraham might have said, Sarah had joined in the subterfuge. 12 She, no less than he, had assured Abimelech of her position, complicit in the matter of misinforming the king. 13

The anxiety of the holocaust upon Sodom, and the stress of their hasty relocation to Gerar, had put both of them under strain. Sarah was distressed by the thought that Lot her brother was probably dead. With the memory of the catastrophe still so fresh, the last thing she wanted was the death of her husband also at this moment of uncertainty and fear.

Faced yet again with a dilemma for which no easy answer existed, she moved to protect her husband, trusting in God who alone could rescue them 14 and mindful perhaps of that earlier occasion where He had indeed delivered them both from a similar predicament.

But the decision was a mistake. They had not pondered this vital moment in their lives, nor where it might lead. Mutual deceit by mutual consent led to consequences that were to their mutual detriment, and to a tangle of circumstance that they would regret deeply.

10 Genesis 14:14,15.

11 Genesis 18:11.

12 Abimelech's words clearly indicate his ire and disappointment with both of them, and perhaps with Sarah in particular - "Said he not unto me, She is my sister?And she, even she herself said, He is my brother" (Genesis 20:5).

13 The phrase, "for she is a man's wife" in Genesis 20:3 is unusual in the Hebrew (haal, haal), indicating that she was 'married to a husband'. The only other occurrence of the phrase is in Deuteronomy 22:22 where a woman 'married to a husband' who was then found with another man was condemned with the man.

The law deemed her involvement to indicate her consent and she was therefore held equally accountable for their sin and suffered the same judgement. This expression suggests therefore that in this episode, Sarah as 'married to a husband' bore equal responsibility with Abraham for the deceit that led to her being under Abimelech's roof.

Bro Roger Lewis - Abraham and Sarah Ch 6

4 But [Avimelech] had not come near her: and he said, Yahweh, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? [goy tzaddik?]

Scripture Names Doctrinally Applicable to Christ

Abimelech, Father King.

"His name shall be called the everlasting Father; of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom."—(Isaiah 9:7)

The Christadelphian, June 1873

6 And Elohim 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.

This had happened before‭ (‬Gen.12.14-20). Yahweh intervened and prevented Sarah being defiled.


This instance bears two ways, first, with respect to Abraham; God invisibly protected his wife in the dangerous position in which she was placed through Abraham's own prudence. Secondly, with respect to Abimelech, who seems to have been a righteous man (verse 4).

He was withheld from doing a thing which, while legitimate from his own point of view, would have been a wrong against God. He would not be aware of the fact. From day to day, domestic events and his own mood would simply take that turn, apparently in the ordinary course, which would keep him from the course that seemed open and desirable to him. God was withholding him and he did not know it.

Why did he withhold him? Because he was animated by integrity of heart in the matter. This is the point of the case in its bearing in subsequent times; for it was intended for subsequent times. The Spirit in Paul informs us that these things were "written for our learning" (Rom. 15:4). They were not written as human records are written-merely for their historic interest. They were not even written for Abraham's sake alone, but for us also (Rom. 4:23-24). They were written for our instruction, guidance and comfort.

Consequently, if we set ourselves, with earnest purpose, to pursue the ways of righteousness, Abimelech's case shows us that we pray not a vain prayer when we pray "deliver us from evil." Nor is it an empty allusion when Jude ascribes glory-

"To Him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (verse 24).

The lesson of the case is both comforting and purifying. It is the lesson embodied in the words of Peter:

"Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to Him IN WELL DOING as unto a faithful Creator."

The Ways of Providence Ch 3

Protected by the power of providential care

The reaction of the aggrieved and bewildered monarch was understandable. The king of Gerar was a man of integrity. 15 and his actions above reproach with regard to his spirit and intent. Abimelech however had to learn that he was caught up in a drama that reached well beyond his own circumstances. Both this man and this woman were the prophets of God; and both were soon to be the recipients of a divine unction as the anointed ones of the Lord. 16

Despite their error, they both sustained a closer relationship to God than he did, and Abimelech was bidden to understand this and to bow before its reality. The special providential care of God was upon husband and wife alike for the furtherance of His sovereign purpose, and for that very reason Abimelech was invited into the deeper things of God that he might play his part.

He had become involved in a matter far greater than himself Others also, through their contact with the people of God, have been caught up in the power of the divine purpose at work, and the experience has oftentimes been to change their lives completely, as Abimelech's would be from this episode. 17

The 'rights' of men are incidental to the divine purpose. Here was a man who was absolute monarch of his realm, with the power of life and death at his command. Yet Abimelech, irrespective of his kingship, and despite his relative integrity, was to have no authority or power to influence the outcome of these events. The lives of the patriarchal couple were protected, despite their deceit. The life of Abimelech was not.

The threat of death hung over him unless he complied with the divine instructions communicated to him. Whether innocent or not made no difference to his status. He was a stranger, beyond _ the ambit of the covenant, and utterly dependent on the mediatorial work of the very man he had just condemned.

Abraham, for all his faults, would stand on behalf of Abimelech as his intercessor before God. Sarah likewise bore such a special relationship to the One who had appeared to Abimelech by dream, that he was bluntly advised that to touch her was to sin directly against God, and that only a divine smiting had prevented him from this error.

This has been the position the people of God have held in every generation. To the outward eye they appear as all others, citizens in common with their neighbours, and subject to both success and failure. To the Father however, they are the subjects of His guardian direction and care, possessing a rank before Him that exceeds in status all the sons of men.

But our status in His eyes rests not on our worth but in His purpose with us. The providential care of God does not rescue and redeem and restore us because we necessarily deserve it, but because He is working in us both to will and to work His good pleasure.

Sometimes we forget the greatness of this truth, and when we do, all that is weak and evil in our nature comes to the fore as we seek to master our own destinies, and forget that they are already known unto Him who sees the counsels of the heart.

14 1 Peter 3:5.

15 The word "integrity" in Genesis 20:5 is tom, indicating an action devoid of wilful or deliberate wrong, and this ingenuous spirit of Abimelech is in marked contrast to Abraham and Sarah who had both deliberately sought to mislead him (cp. 2 Samuel 15:11; 1 Kings 22:34).

16 The Spirit's commentary on this episode is enshrined in Psalm 105:13-15. Here both the words "prophets" and "anointed" are in the plural (cp. ASV, RSV, Rotherham, etc.) indicating the providential care of God upon both Abraham and Sarah alike.

Abraham is described as a prophet in Genesis 20:7. Sarah will be seen as a prophetess in 21:6,7,10. Both of them were to be anointed for the conception and birth of the miraculous child to come. Truly they were united together in this story!

17 Cp. Rahab the Harlot in Joshua 6:25, and Simon of Cyrene in Mark 15:21 as but two illustrations.

Bro Roger Lewis - Abraham and Sarah Ch 6

10 And [Avimelech] said unto [Avraham], What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?

Abimelech was given no option but to comply with the divine request. His life was forfeit otherwise and the lives of his entire household. There was no delay on his part, for he understood the crisis he was in. With the same decisive spirit the patriarch himself would later show, 18 he called his kingdom together the very next morning and placed the whole account before them.

There is more than comfort in having counsellors in time of crisis. 19 There is wisdom in the collective guidance of many minds, and Abimelech's men, in mortal fear at the report he gave, agreed as one that Abraham should be instantly called. Not only did they wish for him to give an honest account, but they also needed his complete involvement in setting the matter right before all, and especially before God whose threat hung like a sword over the city.

When Abraham received the summons, his spirit almost failed. His walk to the council of Gerar was a terrible journey of remembrance, as step by step he relived his earlier encounter with an angry monarch, and knew again the anxiety of fear and the anguish of shame.

Certainly the visage of the king was sternly familiar, as were his words of retribution and blame. Abimelech was unsparing, claiming not only that Abraham had wronged his kingdom and people, but that he had also misjudged the king himself.

Given that he had received a visitation from God, Abimelech only spoke what he felt he could aver with honesty, since he was aware that God watched from on high and that his life was still in the balance. But he felt certain enough to demand of Abraham an account of what he had been thinking, to bring such calamity upon the house of his benefactor and host.

18 There is an earlier occasion in Genesis 19:27, but the episodes in 21:14 and 22:3 both illustrate the same principle as Abimelech. Burdened with a problem that needed to be resolved, Abraham faced the issue immediately, and rose up early to do so. It is a faithful virtue that all his children should emulate.

19 Proverbs 11:14; 15:22.

11 And [Avraham] said, Because I thought, Surely the fear [yirat] of Elohim is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake [on account of my isha].

Abraham had grievously misjudged the spirit of the king, and acted unwisely as a result. His explanation was that the fear of God was not in Abimelech or his people, but the reality was that the fear of man was in Abraham.

...There are times when our attempts at explanation only add to our culpability. This was one of them. To deny that we have sinned is the worst outcome of all, for it indicates a heart hardened against the truth. But to seek to justify what cannot be excused, is also a wrong that only adds sin to sin. Confession, however hard it may be, is always the best policy for dealing with sin, for it leads immediately to the cleansing powers of repentance, forgiveness and change.

"Because I thought", has been the unhappy prefix to many an excuse, where what we imagined and what we thought were quite unrelated to the truth of the matter. Subsequent events have only served to confirm that what 'we thought' was completely wrong, and that our subsequent and hasty reaction was wrong also.

Discerning truth, judging righteously and deciding justly require great care that we first know all the circumstances before seeking to respond, and that even then our response is framed by the counsels of God for the purpose of good, and with the desire that we might honour Him.

In Abraham's case he had made judgement prematurely, hastened by their mutual distress and anxiety at the time. And yet there was an aspect to their relationship that he now sought to explain .

Sarah, whilst not Abraham's sister, was his niece, bemg the daughter of Haran, Abraham's older brother, and probably by a different wife to Terah. Haran was considerably older than Abraham, so much so, that his daughter was but ten years younger than the patriarch, a fact that made it easier to suggest that Sarah was his younger sister.

Their common descent did probably result in some family likeness, lending support to their claim to be siblings. Abraham therefore endeayoured to explain it as an action on their part that at least in measure was true. It was not.

The final words, which at least Abraham felt compelled to admit, was that she had become his wife, and there the matter ended. It had been a lie all along, because it was uttered for the purpose of concealing their true state.

His explanation, laboured and long, failed to acknowledge his misjudgement of Abimelech, sought to justify their subterfuge, and did not frankly avow his own mistake.

He would not recall this day with gladness in later years, but it would yet become a turning point in their lives. Often our moments of greatest failure carry within them the seed of transformation that only awaits our humble acknowledgment to bring forth the fruit of change.

20 See Appendix 2 - "Who was Iscah?"

Bro Roger Lewis - Abraham and Sarah Ch 6

Because I thought

there was one thing he had said that was both true and revealing, namely that their action in claiming kinship as siblings was not simply the decision of the moment. It had long been their settled position for any time they crossed into a new land. The patriarch, spiritually-minded and God-fearing, was not immune to the crises of life, nor was he a man of natural courage when facing adversity.

Faced with a danger that the customs of the day made real,21 and knowing that they might encounter this danger many times on their travels, had led to a decision when faith was young as to how best they might respond. Yet this arrangement was not forced upon Sarah by an autocratic and demanding husband, who expected subservience in all things.

Abraham was indeed Lord in her heart, 22 but he had not won this response of love and support in his wife by callous disregard for her position, or by an overbearing and imperious spirit that demanded unquestioning obedience. He had asked it of her as a loving kindness. 23 and part of the marvel of this woman's spirit is that she gave it freely for the man she loved.

It is true that the stratagem had failed, but it had been devised with the objective of safeguarding them both in troublous times, since it offered the chance of moving on, if a difficulty with Sarah were to arise. It was not just a matter of an old habit unresolved. It was more a case of an old problem for which a better solution had not yet been found.

Few of us have known the reality of a circumstance where to declare our faith plamly could threaten our lives, and few of us have known the emotion of fear that is almost tangible. "To him who is in fear, everything rustles. 24

Through fear we imagine outcomes that might never occur, and seek to control and manipulate events for our protection or betterment, all the while depending on ourselves and not on the Lord who is our helper.' Only when we have surrendered control into the Father's hands and found that He on our side do we realise that we need not fear what man can do unto us. 25

For both of them in this episode, their spirit had displayed a want of faith in the Almighty who had so evidently overshadowed their lives for many years now. Abraham was doubly to blame on this occasion compared to his earlier weakness in Egypt. Since then he had learned that the child must come from his loins, 26 and that it must be nourished in Sarah's womb. 27

But Sarah also knew this, yet raised no demur. 28 From the beginning God had declared that their lives were under His special care, even in the midst of other peoples. 29 And was not the power of the promise so recently granted to them 30 but to guarantee that their lives were inviolate at this very moment?

Yet faith, certain in Abraham as to the birth of the child, did not extend to a realisation that since his own life was safe in God's hands, prevarication and dissembling were neither necessary nor honourable. And Sarah, aware of the fact that she would bear the promised seed, did not appear to comprehend that ifher life was still under divine care, there was no need for dissimulation on her part.

This lack, however, where the knowledge of the mind was not as yet engraved as the knowledge of the heart, is distressingly common to us all. So often we assent to the principles of God, yet do not see their application in our lives, especially in moments of great difficulty and fear.

We see the lesson in the life of an Abraham or Sarah, being either astonished at their strength, or puzzled by their weakness, but do not see the identical principle awaiting the obedience of faith in a matching circumstance in our own life.

Part of the power of Scripture is that it is able to guide every generation of the people of God. And part of the journey of faith is to learn with painful slowness that God and His purpose are bound into everything we do, that the daily round, the common task, the ordinary things of everyday life are pregnant with our destiny. 31

21 The custom of the day for kings to maintain a royal harem was widespread. In addition, the king's word was law, and any woman might be the object of his sovereign choice, whether for beauty or alliance. Against such a custom there was no defence for a stranger and a sojourner passing through the king's realm, and Abraham and Sarah were frequently in this position, wandering as they were by divine edict until the land of the promise was reached.

22 Genesis 18:12; 1 Peter 3:6.

23 The term "kindness" (as Abraham asked of Sarah in Genesis 20: 13) is chesed, the term of God's own covenant love for His people. The phrase is indicative of the spirit that existed between Ab::aham and Sarah in their arrangements, and suggests not dommance but mutual agreement.

24 Sophocles.

25 Psalm 118:6; Proverbs 29:25; Hebrews 13:6.

26 Genesis 15:4.

27 Genesis 17:16.

28 In other incidents such as Genesis 16:5 and 21:10 it is clear that Sarah was free to express her view to Abraham at any time, and that he would hear her counsel, whatever decision they might finally make. Sarah's compliance with Abraham's request on this occasion is indeed a demonstration of her loving obedience, but made her complicit in the matter.

29 Surely the words, "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee" had promised this (Genesis 12:3)?

30 Genesis 18:10.

31 The phrase is drawn from Robert Roberts (The Christadelphian, Vol. 9, page 266):

"Therefore, now is the time of action. Let every man look to what he is doing - and every woman. Let them remember that their present daily life dull, uninteresting, unimportant though it may appear, is really pregnant with their destiny. All depends upon how they turn the present time to account. Future position will be determined entirely by present deportment."

Bro Roger Lewis - Abraham and Sarah Ch 6 

16 And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver [kesef]: behold, he [it is - the silver not "thy brother" as the KJV implies] is to thee a covering of the eyes [kesut einayim (exoneration)], unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved [vindicated].

"A thousand pieces of silver" - Silver is the metal of redemption (Exod. 30:13; Lev. 5:15).... Isaiah quotes this figure as the rate of hire of a vineyard (Isa. 7:23); and that in the Song of Solomon this same amount is quoted as the tribute payment for the Bride's vineyard (Song 8:11). Abimelech now paid this amount for the "loan" he had of Abraham's "sister."

"Behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes" - It was the custom for a bride to cover her face, including her eyes, with a veil (See Gen. 24:65). Abimelech claimed that the payment of the money, and the return of Sarah, restored her to Abraham as his wife. As such she could cover her face, and so manifest her proper status.

Bro HP Mansfield - The Christadelphian Expositor

Ahimelech's restoration of Sarah

After Abraham had evaded, Abimelech acted. His restitution was in deed, not word, and displayed an astonishing spirit of humility, insight, courtesy and tact. Abimelech was a better man by far than the Pharaoh of their earlier encounter. Pharaoh had been pleased to bless Abraham with gifts at the time of receiving Sarah, the offerings of a man well pleased with the addition to his household, and which recognised his new relationship with Abraham. 32

Abimelech's gifts were not so given. For his were provided when restoring Sarah, an act of unexpected graciousness at a time when Abraham might have least expected such endowments. What spirit was this, which prompted the wronged one to offer presents unto he who had offended him? And if the gifts of Pharaoh had burdened Abraham's conscience, as indeed they had, how did both he and Sarah feel upon receipt of these presents of peace from Abimelech? Both of them would be humbled this day by such magnanimous conduct.

Even the king's offer for them to dwell wherever they would in his land was to experience the embarrassment of uncalled for kindness. Here was another thoughtful gesture to complete the process of their separation, but without conflict or tension, as Abimelech permitted Abraham to lead his large encampment out to a place of pasture and water at Abimelech's expense.

It was a thoroughly Abrahamic spirit, 33 but on this occasion the Gentile outshone the patriarch in his spirit of generosity. More was to come. The primary difficulty had yet to be resolved, and that concerned Abimelech's return of Sarah into Abraham's care. He was of Course now vitally aware of Abraham's position in the sight of God.

His generous gifts were an acknowledgment of that standing, and he also knew that he still needed Abraham's prayer for his own healing. Before that could come however, the man's wife must be restored, and that with all careful diplomacy. One final gift was to come, intended for Sarah herself, and Abimelech addressed her directly in stating its purpose.

A thousand pieces of silver was a lordly sum, his gift to her of personal appeasement, intended as a formal declaration on his part that she belonged unto Abraham. In offering this gift of atonement 34 and compensation; Abimelech acknowledged his wrong. If Abraham accepted it the matter was ended, and Sarah's position was put right, with all criticism precluded. But the gift, 35 which was intended for her as a covering of the eyes, was given not to her, but to Abraham her 'brother'.

By this word and by this gift Abimelech both owned the error of his action, but declared the innocence of his intention. Given the threat to his own life and that of his household, this was no time for sarcasm or contempt. It was finely balanced and well wrought, this declaration of the king. His speech was earnest, and every word was intended to play its part in the restoration of Sarah to her husband's side.

This, after all, was the principal reason why Abimelech had received his angelic visitation, and had been given the instructions that he had. There had been no difficulty for God to intervene in the matter to prevent a liaison between Abimelech and Sarah, but what was needed now was for Abimelech to make public renunciation.

This then was no private requital. Abimelech made it clear that he wanted everyone to know. It was to be Sarah's vindication before all, and so it became. She was Abraham's. Let none doubt it. The king had spoken, and had restored in full.

32 In Genesis 12:16 the record is clear that Pharaoh's gifts were the result of having taken Sarah into his household. It was surely unheard of to receive gifts as Abraham did from Abimelech, when returning his wife!

33 The very phrase, "my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee" in Genesis 20:15 is very reminiscent of Abraham's Own kindness to Lot when separating from him in 13:9.

34 Compare the similar idea and expression in Genesis 32:20 where Jacob's gift to 'cover the face of Esau' was clearly intended as an offering of atonement. Although kaphar is used in 32:20 and kecuwth in 20:16, the essential idea of a covering to appease is similar.

35 Although the AV states "he (Abraham) is to thee a covering", other translations make it clear that it was the gift of the thousand pieces itself. Thus RSV - "it is your vindication in the eyes of all". GLT - "Behold, it is for you a covering of the eyes". Rotherham - "Lo, that is for thee as a covering of eyes". Rotherham, margin "as a propitiation, making amends".

Bro Roger Lewis - Abraham and Sarah Ch 6

18 For Yahweh had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of [Avimelech], because of Sarah [Avraham]'s wife.

Experiencing the triumph of faith together

In our weakness we sometimes fall into circumstances that jeopardise the operations of God. His strength however is perfected in our weakness, and if our spirit is right and our response sincere, we learn the wonderful and comforting truth that Almighty God is at work at all times in our lives.

He is truly everywhere and there is no place, no circumstance beyond the reach of His providential care, nor is there any folly on our part that can ultimately prevent the fulfilment of His purpose. Indeed, God is able to lift us to new heights out of failure, if in our moments of crisis we turn to Him in prayerful supplication.

The journey. of faith brings us all to this realisation eventually There is nothing too hard for the Lord, not even the worst entanglement of our own sinful weakness. Abraham and Sarah were about to know the fulness of this, and at a moment of such importance in their lives, that the outcome could only but leave them forever grateful and thankful for the Lord's interposition.

It was an astonishing thing. In the very midst of their own weakness and failure, Sarah suddenly saw that the prayers of her husband could open wombs.

Yet he had been praying for twenty-five years and more that hers might be opened, and that the child of promise might be born. And if his prayers were effectual for such a result in Abimelech's household, and the Lord heard Abraham even when his petitions deserved not to be heard, why could her womb not be opened?

Why not indeed? Suddenly, she knew. She understood. The only barrier, the sole impediment, was she, herself. God was waiting for her faith to reach its triumph where finally, empty of self, she trusted utterly, believed totally in Him. Well, she was there now, right beside her husband. The time had come.

Different though their journeys to this moment may have been, they would experience the triumph of faith together and wondrous would that moment be. In the exquisite timing of God's care, He had brought them both by their own special paths to this point, where despite the knowledge that their bodies were dead, they each believed in God's power to perform what He had promised to them.

"And [Abraham] considered not his own body now dead ... but was strong in faith, giving glory to God ... being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform." (Romans 4:19-21)

"Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised." 39 (Hebrews 11:11)

What glorious counterparts they were to each other, these two who walked the valleys and hills of life together. At some moment then, and no doubt after the healing of Abimelech's household, an old yet anointed couple knelt within the sanctuary of their own tent and offered further prayer for the conception of the son who would seal the promises.

And this time, dwelling together according to the knowledge of their mutual and triumphant faith, yearning together as one for the grace of quickening life, their prayers were not hindered.

Sarah herself would experience healing power from her husband's fervent prayer. The Lord in heaven heard, and in the sublime wisdom that marks all the arrangements of God, it was now, at this moment, when they least anticipated, least expected, least deserved this son, that Almighty God to whom belong the "blessings of the breasts and of the womb" would intervene in their lives. It was indeed to be all of Him.

39 See Appendix 7 - "Did Sarah herself receive strength ?" for further comment on this passage.