Genesis 20


Verse 1 - And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.

I.    The move to Gerar.

A.     Why did he move?  He was all settled in Mamre.

1.       Facts about Abraham's reputation in Mamre.

a.      There is no indication of any trouble.

b.      He had many friends in Mamre.

c.      He had a good reputation in Mamre and was regarded as a hero because he brought Lot back.  (Gen. 14).

2.       He had just received confirmation of the promise of a son.  There is no need to change anything.

3.       Chapter 13:10 - The first move toward Egypt was because of a famine.  There is no mention of a famine now.

4.       Maybe he decided to move because of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

a.      Maybe Abraham thought he had failed to save the cities from destruction.

b.      It ought to be noted that there is no mention of Abraham and Lot ever being together again.

B.     Reasons for the move.

1.       Heb. 11:8-10 - By faith he was looking for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

2.       It just may be that Abraham doesn't understand exactly why he must "move on".

3.       His desire is to have a closer relationship with God, and thinks by moving he can find that thing that is lacking in his life.


II.    Settled in Gerar.

A.     The land of the Philistines.

1.       Gen. 26:1 - Abimelech is still the king.  (When Isaac goes there.)

2.       This is probably why he thought God wasn't there.

B.     This is still the land of promise although it is inhabited by others.  One day Israel will take it over, according to God's promise.

C.     This shows us that no matter how old we get or how much God will bless us,

1.       We still do foolish things, even after we have received the promises of God.

2.       We still trust ourselves rather than God.


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

I.    This is the second time Abraham and Sarah pull this trick.  (See Gen. 13:10-20)

A.     You would think they would learn their lesson the first time.

1.       We are just like they are.  We very seldom learn from our mistakes.

2.       We need to be very careful not to criticize others for we fall into the same mistakes, and sins.

B.     The human reasoning is the same in both instances, Gen. 13:13, and 20:11.

1.       Human reasoning is always faulty.

2.       We need to depend on what God has written in His Word and not trust what we think.

C.     Sarah is Abraham's sister. (Gen. 20:12)

1.       It should be noted that Sarah is 90 years old.

2.       Most people think that only the young think about sex.  This is error.

3.       Most people think old people are not jealous of each other.  This is error.


II.    The result of lying. (or stretching the truth)

A.     The result wasn't what Abraham or Sarah desired.

1.       They desired safety and security.

2.       Instead, they got separated and in danger of losing virtue.

B.     If Sarah had known Abimelech in a sexual way:

1.       There would be some doubt that the promised seed belonged to Abraham.

2.       It would be a sin for Abraham to have sexual relations with her.

a.      Deut. 24:1-4 - Abimelech would, of course, marry Sarah before he had sexual relations with her.  She would then be unable to "remarry" Abraham.

b.      Deut. 22:22 - Under the law given by God, both Sarah and Abimelech would give their lives for their sexual relations with each other.

c.      This is why God said in Gen. 20:3 that Abimelech was but a dead man.  (God would kill Abimelech so there would be no doubt that the promised child was from Abraham.)


Verse 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.

I.    "But God" - This is the intervening grace in all of our lives.

A.     Eph. 2:4 - But God, saved us when we were dead in trespasses and sins.

B.     It was God that stopped all possibility of sin.

1.       Abimelech, King of Gerar, was stopped from the sin of adultery.

2.       Abraham said nothing when his wife was taken away.  And he knew there was a danger of her being involved with Abimelech.

a.      In a moment of weakness, Abraham failed to love his wife like he should.

b.      Eph. 5:25 - Husbands are supposed to love their wives enough to die for them.

3.       Sarah did nothing except what she was told to do, being completely in subjection to both men.

a.      This was before the days of "women's liberation".

b.      She is in total subjection to her husband, even with her body.


II.    Abimelech's vision.

A.     This is from God.

1.       This is no indication that he is saved, for a lost man also received a vision.  (Acts 10 - Cornelius)

2.       God makes mention of the broken scripture and the judgment because of the sin.


Verse 4, 5  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.

I.    Abimelech's reply.

A.     He had not come near her, therefore was totally innocent of any sin.

B.     His answer appealed to the justice of God, for he knew that God knew that he was innocent.

C.     Note: The danger we fall into by being in a bad situation even if nothing bad has happened.

1.       We often think that we will not be guilty or judged of guilt if we are in a bad situation, yet do not partake of the sin.

2.       This is not so.  God stands ready to judge us for being in a particular evil place, even if we do not commit sin.

a.      He knows our heart and how we so swiftly commit sin.

b.      If God didn't keep us from sinning, we would sin against Him even worse than we do.

c.      I Thess. 5:22 - This is why God says, "Abstain from all appearance of evil."

D.     We cannot always depend on other people to tell the truth, even people we know and love and who God is using and intends to use more.

1.       We can get into trouble in our innocency.

2.       There is a sacrifice for sins of ignorance.

3.       We should pray that God will forgive us and cleanse us from our secret sins.  Prs. 19:12-14, "Cleanse me from my secret sins."

4.       He took the word of Abraham and Sarah, but both lied to him and it almost cost him his life.


Verse 6, 7  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.

I.    God kept the innocent one from sinning in ignorance.

A.     Abimelech was innocent and God kept him from Sarah.

1.       If we will try to trust God and do the very best we can do, God will keep us from many sins.

2.       There will be things that we could get into that God will keep us from, and we won't even realize He is doing it.

B.     If we decide we'll sin in some way, and then trust God to keep us out of trouble, we are only kidding ourselves. 

1.       Trouble will justly come.

2.       We can't jump in the fire and not be burned.


II.    The command to make things right.

A.     There is still a chance to do it right.  And Abimelech will take it.

1.       There is a point of no return where nothing we can do will set things right.

2.       Example - a woman gets pregnant out of wedlock.  She may wish it hadn't happened, but it did and nothing she can ever do will change that.

3.       She may get an abortion, but she had added murder to her sins and still hasn't changed the fact that she was pregnant out of wedlock.

B.     Many times we stand at a crossroads such as Abimelech.

1.       The judgment because of our sins (now being willful for we were warned) will affect us for the rest of our lives.

2.       The judgment will also affect those we love.  Those nearest to us.

3.       A man that refuses to admit his mistake has stood at this crossroads and made the wrong decision.

4.       Not only will the man pay for his sins, but his entire family will also pay.

5.       If God has called your attention to a particular sin and you don't stop that sin and call on God for forgiveness, you will pay, but all of your family will also pay.

6.       How many families have stopped coming to church and hearing the gospel because somebody got mad and stopped coming and then their entire family stopped coming and the children died lost and went to hell?

7.       The actions of the father affects their families.  What a responsibility this is!


Verse 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.

I.    Men must be told of the danger they are in.

A.     Lost people must be told they are on the way to hell and how Jesus died for their sinfulness and how salvation is a free gift from God.

B.     Saved people need to be told how they are under the judgment of God because of their sins and unfaithfulness to God's commandments.


II.    Abimelech freely admitted why they had a problem.  (Verse 18, the result of the judgment of God wasn't manifest, but was "held in store", waiting on the action of Abimelech.)

A.     May God always give us grace to freely admit when we have endangered somebody's life.

B.     May God always give grace to those under those who listen to ministers of the gospel, not blaming them for innocent mistakes and may they back them, helping them to get those things right.


III.    The result.

A.     The men were afraid.

1.       They had the fear of God in them.

2.       This, no doubt, was increased by the fear of God in their leader.

B.     Men sometimes get afraid when they are facing the judgment of God and His righteousness.

1.       May God help us to have a genuine fear of the judgment of God and His righteousness.

2.       May God give us grace to always follow Him and correct the errors of our life.


Verse 9, 10  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?

I.    Abimelech is the king of Gerar and can do anything he wants to and answers to no man.

A.     He has the right to kill Abraham and Sarah for they have proven themselves to be his enemies.

1.       This is even a worse sin because Abraham comes as his friend and proves himself to be against him entirely.

2.       It would have been better if Abraham had come out in the open and said he was the enemy.

3.       This is a very deceitful way of doing things.

B.     Because Abimelech knows that Abraham is a prophet of God, he treats him with utmost kindness while being very just with him.

1.       Abimelech reveals his hurt as being so treated by a prophet of God.

2.       Abimelech reveals that he does have a fear of God, even if Abraham doesn't think so.

3.       Abimelech says that an enemy could have done no greater harm to his kingdom.

4.       Note the carefulness of Abimelech questions.

5.       There are no rash accusations, but simply statements of fact, and a wondering why Abraham should do such a thing.

C.     Our lesson:

1.       Our treatment of the men of God is very important.

2.       God sees how we treat the men of God who minister to us.

3.       We need to remember that these men do not have a choice about their field of labor or the problems they will encounter, or the way they will handle their problems.  They must go by the Word of God.

4.       Preachers do make mistakes.

5.       Some of the mistakes we can see are deliberate lies or means of protection for themselves.  Sometimes these mistakes (sins) reveal a lack of faith on the part of the minister.  But it's never our part to rail on them.

6.       Abimelech never did call Abraham a liar.  Neither should we call our ministers a liar, or angrily accuse him of anything.

a.      I Tim. 5:1 - Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father.

b.      I Tim. 5:19 - Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

7.       Even if a minister's sins (or misjudgments) would cause us direct harm, we have no right to be angry, but it is right to confront the minister and give him a chance to clear himself.



Verse 11-13 Abraham's three answers.


Note that Abraham placed confidence in Abimelech by answering him.  In chapter 13, Abraham gave no answer to Pharaoh.  In Egypt, God's plan for Abraham's life would have meant little if anything.  But in Gerar, before this Godly man, Abraham realized that he could bare all his heart and this man would understand.


Verse 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.

(See sermon outline titled "Fear" at the end of this section.)

A.     The fear of God is not in this place.

1.       We cannot tell where the fear of God is.

2.       The customs of the people were different, leading Abraham to believe they did not fear God like he did.

3.       We need to watch out for this trap -- thinking that our way of worship is the only way of worship.

4.       We need to learn to trust God to protect us even in places where the fear of the Lord is not at.

5.       God might allow others to see our fear of God and them be converted to serve the Lord.

B.     They will slay me for my wife's sake.

1.       17:17 - Sarah is at least 90 years old.

2.       12:11-13 - Sarah was a beautiful woman at age 65, and apparently hadn't lost very much of her beauty.

3.       It's also possible that those people looked for something more than outward beauty.  They could have been looking for an inward beauty which Sarah possessed.

4.       It turned out to be a real surprise when Abraham learned that his being married to Sarah was what caused him to be kept alive!

5.       Sometimes our thoughts about a certain matter are a long way from being right.






There are two kinds of fear:

1.       Being afraid of something or someone.

2.       Have reverence for something or someone.


Text:  Gen. 20:11 - Abraham thought the people of Gerar didn't have the fear of God.  Just exactly what was Abraham expecting to find concerning the fear of God?


I.    Wasn't expecting:

A.     To see the people running around in fear, anxiously looking toward heaven expecting God to strike them down any minute.

B.     To see anybody worshipping God as God or giving him any glory at all.


II.    Expected:

A.     Rom. 3:18 - There is no fear of God before their eyes. (All lost people).  Rev. 12:12 -

1.       I couldn't find any place in the Bible that stated that the Devil or his demons had any fear of God at all.

2.       In the above text, Satan knowing that he has only a short time to fight God, shows no sign of repentance at all, but works even harder against God.

B.     OR - People having a fleshly fear of God with no spiritual cognizance of God's love or mercy.  DO WE FIT INTO THIS CATEGORY?

1.       Gen. 9:2 - Animals having a fear (dread) of man.

2.       Deut. 2:25 - Nations fear Israel, but have no submitting respect or awe to God's will.  They continue fighting God until they are dead.

3.       Ex. 19:16, 20:18-21 - Israel was troubled with a fleshly fear - not going to obey commands of God, would die of curiosity because of disobedience.

a.      Compare with Ex. 19:23 - Moses had no thought of disobeying god and thought everybody else wanted to obey God too.

b.      Compare with 20:18-21 - Israel had a fear of God, but Moses had a different kind of fear. (reverent respect and awe.)

4.       Joshua 2:8-11 - Many nations had a fear of Israel because they knew God was with them, but only Rahab had the kind of fear that yielded salvation.

5.       Mark 6:20 - Herod feared John, knew he taught the truth, yet didn't truly believe the things he taught.  (At least he didn't put it into action.)

6.       Mark 11:18 - Scribes and Chief Priests feared Jesus, yet didn't believe to the saving of their souls.


III.    The right kind of Godly fear - The willful obedience of God's commands coupled with a refusal to indulge in sinful practices, caused by the highest regard for God.

A.     Phil 2:12,13 - Work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

B.     I Peter 1:17 - Pass our lives in fear.

C.     Eph. 5:21 - Submit one to another.

1.       If we have the right kind of fear of God, we won't submit to one another.

2.       The Devil doesn't have any fear of God at all and he's accusing the brethren, Rev. 12:10.  That's what some "saved" people are doing.

D.     No fear - true love - and service.

1.       Matt. 25:25 - The man with one talent was afraid and hid the talent.

a.      Th reason was he really didn't understand the love and mercy of Christ.

b.      He had a misconception of God and what He expected and how God got His glory.

2.       I John 4:15-21 - Perfect love casteth out fear.  We can gain perfect love by dwelling in God, and letting God dwell in us.

a.      This is much more than simply saying we love God and want to serve Him.

b.      It is like putting our money where our mouth is.

c.      We can dwell in God by learning what God is like and emulating (acting like) Him.

d.      Then we will have no fear of the judgment because we are confident that God has forgiven us of all of our sins and hold nothing against us.

e.      Then we can go on to love our brother (even if he is wrong) because God loved us when we were wrong!

f.       Then we will have the things talked about in "A", "B", and "C".  They will come as fruit, not being forced from us.




Verse 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.

A.     He excuses his misinformation by declaring it is a half truth.

1.       Sarah is his half sister.

2.       She became his wife.

B.     This is true, but we can also see that there is a deliberate attempt to confuse the issue.

C.     Marrying your half sister or half brother is unacceptable today, but in those days, it was perfectly acceptable.  (Cain married either his sister or niece.)


Verse 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 show unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.

A.     This is their custom.

1.       This was first started when God caused him to be a wanderer.  (Gen. 13:11-13)

2.       It's almost as if Abraham was blaming God for putting him in this dangerous position of traveling with so beautiful a woman.  I don't think this was his intent although it bears upon it.

B.     Some people have strange customs to us.

1.       Although we may not understand why Abraham and Sarah agreed to such a thing, it is not our place to accuse them or think hard of them.  We don't know what we would do in their place.

2.       This is not a commendable thing, but it is the truth.

3.       Note how the truth is more acceptable than a lie.

a.      A lie hides our true feelings and purposes from those around us, and they will remain suspicious of us.

b.      The truth may not be as uplifting to us, because it lays bare all our false pride and high thinking.  But it lets others see us as we really are.  When they really see us, they realize they would probably do the same things and don't feel so hard at us.

c.      If the people we are telling this to have no feelings for the truth or the God of the truth, our telling the truth will do nothing at all to them.

d.      Don't cast your pearls before the swine.

C.     I do not believe Abraham is blaming God for his wanderings.

1.       He is accepting them with a full heart, looking by faith to a better land.

2.       He is merely stating why he is a wanderer and not permanently located in a particular place.


Verse 14-16, 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.

I.    It's not like Abraham and Sarah thought it would be.

A.     Instead of heathens, they found people that feared God.

B.     Instead of people that took away from others, they found people that gave to others, even if they didn't need it.

C.     Instead of being in danger, they're being protected.

D.     Instead of the people taking Abraham's wife, they gave her back to him.  This shows the fear of God.


II.    The gifts.

A.     Evidently the gifts are worth about 1,000 pieces of silver.  (23:15 - a mountain is worth 400 shekels of silver.)

B.     Chapter 14:23,24 - Abraham refuses to take anything of the spoils.

1.       In chapter 14, Abraham is dealing with lost people and he knows that they will be grateful for a little while, but after a while will forget the trouble they were in and what Abraham did in rescuing them.  Then they will blame Abraham for all of their misfortune.

2.       In this chapter, Abraham is dealing with people who have a fear of God.  He knows they will not later turn on him and blame him for anything.

3.       This gift is not what Abraham has rightfully earned.  This is a peace offering.

4.       Abraham will not keep this gift and remember what he has accomplished, he will keep this gift and remember what somebody else has done for him. (grace)


III.    Sarah's rebuke.

A.     Called Abraham her brother - in rebuke.

B.     The gift will be a constant reminder to Sarah that she ought to look only to her husband, not to anybody else.


IV.    It seems odd that Abimelech gave the gift to Abraham and that Abraham didn't give a gift to Abimelech.  Abimelech was the one wronged, yet he gave the gift of peace!

A.     The fear of God was in him.

1.       Verse 3 - God was going to kill him if he wasn't good to God's man.

2.       Verse 18 - God had closed all the wombs of his house because of Sarah.

B.     If somebody wrongs us and will receive our gifts, let us give him gifts of peace and love.

C.     Let them still abide in our land, like Abimelech did, not run them off.

D.     If somebody wrongs us and will not receive our gifts, then let God's judgment be on their own head.  Let them abide where they will.

E.      Abimelech's desire for Abraham to pray for him.

1.       The head of this great nation had to swallow his pride and allow this "greater" man of God to pray for him.

2.       If you've wrong somebody, you should pray for them when they ask.

3.       If somebody has wronged you, they should pray for you when you ask.


Verse 17, 18, 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.

I.    The prayer for healing.

A.     James 5:16 - The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

1.       Note that God didn't command Abraham to pray for Abimelech, He told Abimelech that when Abraham prayed for him he would be healed.

2.       Even though preachers are men of God, we ought to be willing to listen to others and do things for them even if God didn't tell us directly.

3.       This is also true for lay members.  God has placed a leader over the church.  If God has given you your pastor, then you should willingly follow this man of God even if God hasn't spoken directly to your heart about the particular matter He spoke to the pastor about.

B.     Wife - singular.  Abimelech apparently didn't have many wives, but one wife and the rest were maidservants. (concubines)


II.    The result of proper praying.

A.     There is an answer - God always answers prayers prayed right.  See notes on praying - the yellow folder "Miracles and Signs - healing and suffering")

B.     The forgiveness of sins and the healing of bodies not directly involved in the capture of Sarah.

1.       Our sins affect other people.  Sometimes people that have no involvement in our sins.

2.       Let us be very careful about our sins.  We don't know who will be hurt because of us.


III.    This scripture shows a certain time period of unknown duration.

A.     The length of time Sarah was in Abimelech's custody is unknown.

B.     It was long enough for Abimelech to realize that God had closed the wombs of his women.

C.     It wasn't long enough to stand in the way of God's promise to Abraham and Sarah.

D.     Note how well God controls our going astray from Him and our foolish sinning that these things never stop Him from accomplishing His plans in our lives.