Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 20:14-18

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.

When Pharaoh discovered that Abraham was Sarah’s husband he sent them on their way. Abimelech, on the other hand, shows much more graciousness in his response. He expresses his frustration to Abraham and Sarah, reproves them for their deceit, but then offers them a gift and invites them to dwell in his land wherever they prefer.

One might say that this was just Abimelech trying to enter Abraham’s good graces so that the prophet would intervene for his sake, but the record shows that even after Abraham prayed for Abimelech’s household and everything was returned to normal that the two of them remained honorable towards one another.

We don’t learn too much about this king in the biblical record, but he seems to be a man of great maturity and integrity. When he was offended, he expressed it plainly, but immediately afterwards did his part to repair relationships and establish goodwill.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 20:7, 9-12

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.

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.

God tells Abimelech what he must do to remove the threat of destruction from his house, and when Abimelech awakens the next day he quickly follows through. He doesn’t hold back in expressing his frustration with Abraham, though. “Thou hast done deeds that ought not to be done!”

And now Abraham is frank and forthcoming. “I thought the fear of God is not in this place.” He also admits the exact nature of his relationship to Sarah, yes her husband, but also that he actually is her half-brother.

At last Abimelech and Abraham are having a real and honest communication. Abimelech expresses his genuine offense and Abraham discloses his genuine fears, and now at last the two men are seeing each other honestly. It may not be the happiest of conversations, but their understanding of one another is now in harmony with the truth, which is the only foundation that a real relationship can be built on. Assumptions and unspoken fears lead to relationships that are not congruent with reality, and that disparity always causes harm.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 20:6

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.

Obviously we should all do our utmost to preserve good and prevent evil. This verse gives an important reminder that God will be championing these same causes as well, independent of us. Things were looking like they might have gone a bad way for Abimelech, Sarah, and Abraham, but God intervened and did not let that happen.

I have had times in my own life where God has intervened to prevent me from evil, He has even saved me from my own willful foolishness. I have also had times where I wanted to help another, but had no way to do so, and God assured me that He also wanted that person to be helped, in fact He wanted it even more than I did, and He would take care of it.

So yes, we should do what every good thing that we can, but the good that we cannot do we should surrender to God, trusting that He is capable of bringing good and preventing evil all by Himself.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 20:2-6

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.

God came to Abimelech with a strong sentence: “thou art but a dead man!” But when Abimelech professed innocence of any wrong God admitted that he already knew this to be the case. He was actually only warning Abimelech from destruction.

But why did God approach the matter in this way? Why start by pronouncing a punishment for a crime that Abimelech was innocent of? I can’t know for sure, but one possibility might be that God was helping Abimelech to evaluate the state of his own heart.

Being put on trial is often thought of as an unpleasant thing, but sometimes it can be a cleansing, justifying experience. By taking a close inventory of all their actions and motivations, the innocent are relieved to find that their heart really is pure, more so than they even realized. They can look anyone in the eye and honestly testify of their own worthiness. It could be that this experience was what God sought for Abimelech, even if it took a little fire to get him there.