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Genesis 20

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Abraham at Gerar.#Abraham again passes off his wife Sarah as his sister to escape trouble in a foreign land (cf. 12:10–13:1, the J source). The story appears to be from a different source (according to some, E) and deals with the ethical questions of the incident. Gn 26:6–11 is yet another retelling of the story, but with Isaac and Rebekah as characters instead of Abraham and Sarah. 1From there Abraham journeyed on to the region of the Negeb, where he settled between Kadesh and Shur.#Kadesh and Shur: Kadesh-barnea was a major oasis on the southernmost border of Canaan, and Shur was probably the “way to Shur,” the road to Egypt. Gerar was a royal city in the area, but has not been identified with certainty. While he resided in Gerar as an alien, 2Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent and took Sarah. 3But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him: You are about to die because of the woman you have taken, for she has a husband. 4Abimelech, who had not approached her, said: “O Lord, would you kill an innocent man? 5Was he not the one who told me, ‘She is my sister’? She herself also stated, ‘He is my brother.’ I acted with pure heart and with clean hands.” 6#Abimelech is exonerated of blame, but by that fact not cleared of the consequences of his act. He is still under the sentence of death for abducting another man’s wife; the consequences result from the deed not the intention. God answered him in the dream: Yes, I know you did it with a pure heart. In fact, it was I who kept you from sinning against me; that is why I did not let you touch her. 7So now, return the man’s wife so that he may intercede for you, since he is a prophet,#Prophet: only here is Abraham explicitly called “prophet,” Hebrew nabi (cf. Ps 105:15). that you may live. If you do not return her, you can be sure that you and all who are yours will die.
8Early the next morning Abimelech called all his servants and informed them of everything that had happened, and the men were filled with fear. 9Then Abimelech summoned Abraham and said to him: “What have you done to us! What wrong did I do to you that you would have brought such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have treated me in an intolerable way. 10What did you have in mind,” Abimelech asked him, “that you would do such a thing?” 11Abraham answered, “I thought there would be no fear of God#Fear of God is the traditional though unsatisfactory rendering of Hebrew yir’at YHWH, literally, “revering Yahweh.” The phrase refers neither to the emotion of fear nor to religious reverence of a general kind. Rather it refers to adherence to a single deity (in a polytheistic culture), honoring that deity with prayers, rituals, and obedience. The phrase occurs again in 26:24; 43:23; and 50:19. It is very common in the wisdom literature of the Bible. in this place, and so they would kill me on account of my wife. 12Besides, she really is my sister,#My sister: marrying one’s half sister was prohibited later in Israel’s history. but only my father’s daughter, not my mother’s; and so she became my wife. 13When God sent me wandering from my father’s house, I asked her: ‘Would you do me this favor? In whatever place we come to, say: He is my brother.’”#Gn 12:13.
14Then Abimelech took flocks and herds and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham; and he restored his wife Sarah to him. 15Then Abimelech said, “Here, my land is at your disposal; settle wherever you please.” 16To Sarah he said: “I hereby give your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This will preserve your honor before all who are with you and will exonerate you before everyone.” 17Abraham then interceded with God, and God restored health to Abimelech, to his wife, and his maidservants, so that they bore children; 18for the Lord had closed every womb in Abimelech’s household on account of Abraham’s wife Sarah.
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Abraham Goes to Gerar
1Abraham left that place and traveled to the Negev. He settled in the city of Gerar, between Kadesh and Shur. While in Gerar, 2Abraham told people that Sarah was his sister. King Abimelech of Gerar heard this. Abimelech wanted Sarah, so he sent some servants to take her. 3But one night God spoke to Abimelech in a dream and said, “You will die. The woman you took is married.”
4But Abimelech had not yet slept with Sarah, so he said, “Lord, I am not guilty. Would you kill an innocent man? 5Abraham himself told me, ‘This woman is my sister,’ and she also said, ‘This man is my brother.’ I am innocent. I did not know what I was doing.”
6Then God said to Abimelech in a dream, “Yes, I know that you are innocent and that you did not know what you were doing. I saved you. I did not allow you to sin against me. I was the one who did not allow you to sleep with her. 7So give Abraham his wife again. He is a prophet. He will pray for you, and you will live. But if you don’t give Sarah back to him, I promise that you will die. And all your family will die with you.”
8So very early the next morning, Abimelech called all his servants and told them about the dream. The servants were very afraid. 9Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “Why have you done this to us? What wrong did I do to you? Why did you lie and say that she was your sister? You brought great trouble to my kingdom. You should not have done this to me. 10What were you afraid of? Why did you do this to me?”
11Then Abraham said, “I thought no one in this place respected God. I thought someone would kill me to get Sarah. 12She is my wife, but she is also my sister. She is the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother. 13God led me away from my father’s house. He led me to wander to many different places. When that happened, I told Sarah, ‘Do something for me. Wherever we go, tell people you are my sister.’”
14So Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham. Abimelech also gave Abraham some sheep, cattle, and slaves. 15And Abimelech said, “Look all around you. This is my land. You may live any place you want.”
16Abimelech said to Sarah, “I gave your brother Abraham 1000 pieces of silver. I did this to show that I am very sorry. I want everyone to see that I did the right thing.”
17-18The Lord made all the women in Abimelech’s family not able to have children. God did this because Abimelech had taken Sarah, Abraham’s wife. But Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his servant girls.