1. And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
2. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
3. 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.
4. But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.
15. And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.
16. 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.
17. So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.
18. For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.
Taken from BlueLetterBible.org KJV
I just re-read this chapter of the Bible as part of my daily readings, as I am striving to know more about God and re-learn my Faith. I’ve concluded the New Testament, and I’ve began reading the old from Genesis. I think it will be important to analyse and understand this chapter and its implications of God and the impressions it gives of Christianity.
First of all, how do we read it? Do we read it as a true narrative, historical account of an event between Abraham, Sarah, Abimelech and God? Or do we read it as a fictional account to teach us about proper conduct among believers? I take it as the former, but the way many people, including Christians, approach the Bible is as the latter.
Sure, they may not say it’s fiction, but the way they choose to draw lessons from such biblical accounts seems to suggest that they think it was ‘staged’ for them to learn righteousness, especially those who consider every word of it “the inerrant Word of God”. They assume that God condoned the behaviour of those considered righteous, and thus, we can fully emulate them, even when they are apparently in error, because God was on their side, and/or they succeeded. I am saying this, because someone has used such accounts to support his belief that God supports pre-marital sex (aka fornication)!
As a true narrative, however, we can draw the right lessons from such accounts. WHEN WE KNOW GOD AND HIS TRUTH, we can discern right from wrong, and make righteous judgments. Since it wasn’t staged or a work of fiction written for our benefit, we do not have to assume what the moral of the story is… We can actually learn a lot about God’s grace, God’s righteousness, God’s favour, God’s long suffering, man’s weakness and more, from a honest reading, with a heart that is intimate with God, through His Holy Spirit.
Here are a few lessons that could be wrongly drawn from this account, by those who do not truly have God’s heart nor His Spirit.
1. It was okay for Abraham and Sarah to pretend that they were not man and wife. This is easy to draw, because the account doesn’t actually show that God rebuked Abraham for what he did. However, Abimelech did. Even if they were technically brother and sister, they still LIED about being married, by omission, with intent to deceive. This sort of behaviour is not the exemplary behaviour we should be learning from our Patriachs, but reveals their lack of faith and their susceptibility to fear and sin.
2. God condones incestuous relations today. We know from reading Leviticus 18:6-18, that God considered such practices abominable. So why was God silent on this issue with Abraham and Sarah? I suppose it would be for the same reason that He permitted Adam and Eve’s children to sleep with themselves, in order to populate the Earth.
If truly we believe that they were the first two humans, and were given charge to populate the Earth, then we know that during THIS DISPENSATION, and also after the great flood, it was needful and essential for those closely related to mate! But, as the Earth became populated again, God made His will on this matter known to the Israelites. In Christianity, we are taught to stay away from sexual immorality, and incest is among them (1 Corinthians 5, 1 Cor 6:18-20).
3. God condones polygamous marriages and extra marital affairs among His saints. It appears from a simple reading of this account that God would have had no issue with Abimelech taking another woman to bed, even though it was written that he had a wife! It seems that the issue was simply about Sarah, who was 1. married to someone else and 2. that someone was God’s own Prophet!
So, does that mean that God is okay with men having multiple wives and sexual partners? We see that Solomon and David and many of the Kings of Israel and Judah were promiscuous in this respect, and God made no issue with them, except when they sought wives from foreign, idolatrous nations or took advantage of those less fortunate (i.e the case of David and Bathsheba and Uriah, her husband). Even though God permitted (or better yet, did not oppose) them in those times, that is not His will for Believers in the New Covenant.
Some would say that this goes against the belief that God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). However, these people show their simplicity and ignorance, by misunderstanding the message here. The New Covenant, by its very existence, show us that God doesn’t deal with all men the same, and has changed His approach with man over time; such that to decide to do what was permitted in the past, because God allowed it then, when you have been shown a greater light (Jesus) is just rebellious and foolish!
Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 19:8 that it was because of the hardness of their hearts that God had permitted them to divorce in times past. I am of the belief that God put up with men, and was long-suffering with their iniquity in this and other matters, because of the hardness of their hearts. They could not handle His standard. But with the New Covenant, we have the promise of new hearts and new spirits, that are able to obey God’s law of love (Eze 36:26-27, Gal 5:14-16, Rom 13:8-10).
Yes, God is essentially the same. His message of love is unchanged. His justice and wisdom is unchanged. But what has changed is our REVELATION of Him, how He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. That is why it is wrong to assume the same weight of authourity to all Scripture, because the revelation was PROGRESSIVELY given, and the greatest is Christ (who brought Grace and Truth – John 1:17). Consider Jesus’ teachings on the Sermon on the Mount, saying “you have heard it said, but I tell you…” (Matthew 5 to 7).
Even within the New Testament and among Paul’s writings, we can see how their knowledge and understanding of many things grew, but some things remained the same. We need the Spirit of God to be so discerning of the difference. We need also to remember that to whom more knowledge, wisdom and understanding is given, more is expected (Luke 12:47-48)! We, who have been called to a new and better covenant can no longer walk in the dim light of the old!
There are probably more lessons that one might choose to walk away with from reading this Bible chapter. Your revelation of God will determine what you are able to see. And your intimacy with God will determine your level of understanding. But if our hearts are divided, or worse evil, we will see exactly what we want to see, an excuse and justification to walk in sin. Paul’s word to Titus is true for the latter to their shame:
“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:15-16).
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