In chapter 20 the focus of the account returns to Abraham and Sarah. When the events described in this chapter took place, Sarah may have already been pregnant, because the Lord had told them in Mamre, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son” (Genesis 18:10).
Abraham and his family had lived near Mamre for about 20 years. But now something led them to relocate. Perhaps there was a famine. Perhaps there was simply a need to move to new pastureland. Whatever the case may have been, Abraham eventually came to live near Gerar in the land of the Philistines.
READ GENESIS 20:1–13 阅读创20:1-13
This is the second time that something like this happened. The first time Abraham lied about his wife was in Genesis 12:10-20, when Abram and Sarai agreed to lie to the Egyptians. Now the same sin is repeated again.
What motivated Abraham and Sarah to lie about their relationship (20:11)?
In verse 3 God told Abimelech that he was as good as dead if would touch Sarah. Then he told Abimelech. “I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.” (verses 6-7). 在第三节中，神告诉亚米比勒，如果他胆敢亲近撒拉，就是个死人。然后他告诉亚米比勒：“我也拦阻了你，免得你得罪我，所以我不容你沾着她。现在你把这人的妻子归还他。因为他是先知，他要为你祷告，使你存活。你若不归还他，你当知道，你和你所有的人都必要死”（第6-7节）。
Why was God so intent on keeping Abimelech away from Sarah?
What four excuses did Abram offer for his plan to deceive Abimelech? (20:11-13)
In 20:12 Abraham explains that Sarah was actually his half-sister, the daughter of his father, Terah, by another wife. Was marrying your half-sister allowed? Look at these verses:
• Ezekiel 22:11 - “In you one man violates his sister, his own father’s daughter.”
• Leviticus 18:3, 9 - “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.”
Let’s remember that the commandments God gave to Moses were hundreds of years after the time of Abraham. As the human race began to re-populate the world after the flood, marrying those who were related to you was often necessary and not as awful as it came to be later. We do not know for sure whether Terah was married before or after he was married to Abraham’s mother.
READ GENESIS 20:14–18 阅读创20:14-18
It is clear that Abraham and Sarah were lying and deceiving Abimelech. So why did they prosper as a result of it?
Let’s analyze the lie/half-truth that Abraham and Sarah engaged in. Was it a lie or not? Is telling a half-truth a lie? Is telling only part of the truth the same as lying? And if they were lying, why weren’t they punished for it?
The Scripture contains several incidents when people told lies and were not punished for it, but even commended for it.
The Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah lied about (Exodus 1:15-21) the birth of the baby boys and God blessed them for it. Rahab lied about the spies that she hid in her house (Joshua 2:4-7) and the New Testament even commends her for what she did. (“In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” – James 2:25)
But the Bible clearly condemns lying as a sin. “Do not lie. Do not deceive one another” (Leviticus 19:11). “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful” (Proverbs 12:22). “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” (Colossians 3:9). And Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead when they told a lie (Acts 5).
Does God approve of lying in some (exceptional) cases? Where do we draw the line? For example, if you were applying for a job and they asked you, “What religion are you?” If you answer “Christian” then you will not get the job. What should you do?”
How did this event serve to advance the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham?
Once again the events of this chapter reinforce God’s grace and faithfulness. In spite of Abraham’s failure to act in faith, God blessed him and turned what could have been a disaster into a way to bring even more blessings to Abraham and Sarah. It was as Abraham’s servant later declared: “Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master.” (Genesis 24:27)
In our next lesson we will see how God kept one of his most important and seemingly impossible promises to give Abraham and Sarah a son in their old age.