1 Abraham Sojourns in Gerar 2 Abraham Loses Sara 3-7 God Speaks to Abimelech 8-16 Abimelech and Abraham 17-18 Abraham Prays for Abimelech
Abraham Sojourns in Gerar

1Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negev, and settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar.

Without being told why Abraham leaves Mamre, where he has been for almost twenty years, we are told that he leaves from there. He goes back to the land of the Negev, that is to the south. What Abraham is doing now reminds us of Genesis 12, where he also travels south and ends up in Egypt (Gen 12:10-2010Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.11It came about when he came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman;12and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live.13Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you.”14It came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful.15Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.16Therefore he treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.17But the LORD struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.18Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?19Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go.”20Pharaoh commanded [his] men concerning him; and they escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.). Here he doesn’t go as far as that. He comes to Gerar, the border area. It was not a way of faith at that time, nor is it a way of faith at this time. At that time he had to learn a humbling lesson. Now he has to learn that again.

We too sometimes have to learn the same lesson a few times. This teaches us what slow learners we are. God allows these histories of great believers to be recorded to show that they too are ordinary, fallible people.

Abraham comes to Gerar, which is in the land of the Philistines. Egypt is a picture of the world. The Philistines are a picture of nominal Christians, people who confess that they are Christians, but do not take God into account (2Tim 3:5a5holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.). They do live in the land God promised His people and even claim it – as can be seen from the name Palestine derived from Philistia – but they have no right to it. Nominal Christians claim to know and do God’s will, but distort the Scriptures and give them their own interpretation. Spiritually speaking, Abraham ends up with them.

Abraham Loses Sara

2Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.

The result of his stay there is that he denies his true relationship with Sara and loses her. From Galatians 4 we know that Sarah is a picture of grace (Gal 4:23-24a23But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.24This is allegorically speaking, for these [women] are two covenants: one [proceeding] from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.). Abraham represents here a believer who, through his dealings with nominal Christians, loses the sense of grace. The nominal Christian knows nothing about this. He abuses grace for his own pleasure and turns it into debauchery (Jude 1:44For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.). Abraham’s failure here is worse than in Genesis 12. Here he denies his relationship to the mother of the heir. It is a low point in the life of the believing Abraham.

God Speaks to Abimelech

3But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.” 4Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “LORD, will You slay a nation, even [though] blameless? 5Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. 7Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore [her], know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

God intervenes in grace for His failing servant and appears in a dream to Abimelech. God will always speak up for His own against their enemies (Zec 2:88For thus says the LORD of hosts, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.) and maintain them against the world (Num 23:7-10,18-237He took up his discourse and said,
“From Aram Balak has brought me,
Moab’s king from the mountains of the East,
‘Come curse Jacob for me,
And come, denounce Israel!’
8“How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?
And how can I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced?
9“As I see him from the top of the rocks,
And I look at him from the hills;
Behold, a people [who] dwells apart,
And will not be reckoned among the nations.
10“Who can count the dust of Jacob,
Or number the fourth part of Israel?
Let me die the death of the upright,
And let my end be like his!”18Then he took up his discourse and said,
“Arise, O Balak, and hear;
Give ear to me, O son of Zippor!
19“God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
20“Behold, I have received [a command] to bless;
When He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it.
21“He has not observed misfortune in Jacob;
Nor has He seen trouble in Israel;
The LORD his God is with him,
And the shout of a king is among them.
22“God brings them out of Egypt,
He is for them like the horns of the wild ox.
23“For there is no omen against Jacob,
Nor is there any divination against Israel;
At the proper time it shall be said to Jacob
And to Israel, what God has done!
; 24:2-92And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him.3He took up his discourse and said,
“The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,
And the oracle of the man whose eye is opened;
4The oracle of him who hears the words of God,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered,
5How fair are your tents, O Jacob,
Your dwellings, O Israel!
6“Like valleys that stretch out,
Like gardens beside the river,
Like aloes planted by the LORD,
Like cedars beside the waters.
7“Water will flow from his buckets,
And his seed [will be] by many waters,
And his king shall be higher than Agag,
And his kingdom shall be exalted.
8“God brings him out of Egypt,
He is for him like the horns of the wild ox.
He will devour the nations [who are] his adversaries,
And will crush their bones in pieces,
And shatter [them] with his arrows.
9“He couches, he lies down as a lion,
And as a lion, who dares rouse him?
Blessed is everyone who blesses you,
And cursed is everyone who curses you.”
). In the dream he rebukes Abimelech for his actions (1Chr 16:2222“Do not touch My anointed ones,
And do My prophets no harm.”
; Psa 105:1515“Do not touch My anointed ones,
And do My prophets no harm.”
). Nevertheless, the whole history is humbling for Abraham, as the sequel shows.

With Abimelech there is a certain respect for what God says, but in any case no confession of guilt. He justifies himself. Certainly, Abraham is much more responsible than Abimelech, but that does not acquit Abimelech. His talking about innocence and purity of hands is recognized by God in this case. But although he is before God, it does not bring him to acknowledge other sins which he has abundantly in his life.

God tells him that He has prevented him from sinning in this case. It would also have been a serious sin, for the woman he took is married. She belongs to a man. Taking her as a wife means adultery, but God prevents it. Sin is sometimes planned and intended in the heart of people that never is executed because God prevents people from committing that sin.

The same goes for those who belong to Him, as we see in the history of David, if he wants to punish Nabal for the treatment he has received from this man. To prevent this, God uses Abigail, but He has the honor: “Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me, 33and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand” (1Sam 25:32-3332Then David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me,33and blessed be your discernment, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodshed and from avenging myself by my own hand.).

Abimelech’s wrong-doing is also evident from the punishment God imposes on the people of Abimelech (verse 1818For the LORD had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.). There can only be liberation from this punishment when Abraham prays for him. He is not such a good boy. That is now the nominal Christian, who will always maintain himself against God and men. He doesn’t know about bowing down. The mistakes of others are enhanced by him, those of himself are reasoned away by him. That is how we can be.

The word “prophet” appears here for the first time in the Old Testament. With ‘prophet’ we should not only think about predicting the future. It is not even the main idea. A prophet passes on the words from someone else (Exo 7:11Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I make you [as] God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.), here from God. God uses a prophet to communicate to His people, or even to those who do not belong to His people, something that He considers necessary for the addressed person to know.

Abimelech and Abraham

8So Abimelech arose early in the morning and called all his servants and told all these things in their hearing; and the men were greatly frightened. 9Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” 10And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What have you encountered, that you have done this thing?” 11Abraham said, “Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. 12Besides, she actually is my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife; 13and it came about, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is the kindness which you will show to me: everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”‘“ 14Abimelech then took sheep and oxen and male and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him. 15Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; settle wherever you please.” 16To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; behold, it is your vindication before all who are with you, and before all men you are cleared.”

Abimelech calls Abraham come to him. That already indicates in what dependent position the great man of God has come against this man of the world. The reproaches from Abimelech to Abraham are right. Abraham’s defense is weak. He has consulted within Himself, not with God. He has noticed that there is no fear of God in that place, and out of pure self-preservation, i.e. selfishness, he has denied his relationship to Sarah.

In so doing, he has resorted to half a truth, which is often worse than a whole lie. Here he gives an excuse for his insincerity. This insincerity also lies in what he says about God, that He “caused him to wander from my father’s house” (verse 1313and it came about, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is the kindness which you will show to me: everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”‘“). It is not God who has made him wander; he himself has started wandering. Here, the language of faith is completely lacking.

Abimelech lectured him and ended the conversation with words indicating that Abraham is free to leave. In another translation, the end of verse 1616To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; behold, it is your vindication before all who are with you, and before all men you are cleared.” reads: “And be taught.” Let us also learn from it.

Abraham Prays for Abimelech

17Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, so that they bore [children]. 18For the LORD had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

Abraham prays for Abimelech, after which the plague God had laid on the house of Abimelech is removed. Thus God healed Miriam as Moses prayed for her, after God punished her with leprosy for evil speaking against Moses (Num 12:1313Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!”). The same is true of Job who has to pray for his friends because they have not spoken of God what is right (Job 42:8b-98Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you [according to your] folly, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”9So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite [and] Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job.).

After Abraham has been brought back into the right relationship with God and the wrong that has come between him and Abimelech through his fault has been cleared up, he can again be used as a blessing for others. In a way, he was the cause of this plague being imposed on the people of Abimelech. When believers become unfaithful to the Lord, they are no longer a blessing to their surroundings, but rather a curse. If they clean up the wrong thing, they can be used again until they are ready for their environment.

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