Genesis 20 — But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die

Mercy and Grace — courtesy of

Read Genesis 20

The last we saw Abraham, he was in the place where he had stood before the Lord. He was standing on the promontory overlooking Sodom and Gomorrah. The valley was smoking, with dense smoke like smoke from a furnace, the Bible says. They were utterly and completely destroyed. God is to be feared for His judgement is perfect, and also thorough. (Genesis 19:28)

Now we see Abraham on the move again. He heads South to the Negev and while in the region of the Negev, he spends some time in Gerar, a Philistine city South of the Gaza Strip on Israel’s West coast. It’s here in Gerar where we see Abraham make the same mistake a second time. As he did in Egypt, Abraham feared that the king would become taken with his wife Sarah’s great beauty and kill him to get him out of the way, that the king might take Sarah into his harem. So Abraham describes her to the people of Gerar as his sister. And Sarah describes Abraham to the people of Gerar as her brother. A half truth because although Sarah was Abraham’s wife, Sarah and Abraham also had the same father but did not share the same mother. So Abraham’s telling a half truth about his half sister. His motivation to do so was fear — the fear of man. Abraham tried to speculate on what was going on in the king’s head. He assumed that king Abimelek would kill him so he could have Sarah for himself. A suspicion of evil in others is often the little bit of leaven that leads to the pollution of the whole loaf. That is to say that suspicion of evil in others is often the seed that sprouts and grows into more sin. There’s great wisdom in being charitable towards others, in giving others the benefit of the doubt. For more on the trap of the fear of man and speculating on people’s motives see the previous post on Genesis 12:10-20.

Predictably, king Abimelek sends for Sarah and takes her for himself. Things look desperate. Sarah’s gone from the family and has become a part of the king’s harem. How low Abraham must have been feeling at that moment. He’s lost his beautiful wife because of his cowardly behavior. However the next two words, as they so often do, bring hope and light to the situation. The next two words are “But God…” (v. 3)

But God came to Abimelek in a dream… and said to him, “You are as good as dead…” God comes to Abimelek and lays the whole thing out. You, Abimelek, are as good as dead! Because Sarah is a married woman. Notice here that Abraham’s sin has opened up Abimelek to sin. As Matthew Henry says, “The sin of one often occasions the sin of others; he that breaks the hedge of God’s commandments opens a gap to he knows not how many; the beginning of sin is as the letting forth of water.”

Abimelek, who hadn’t yet gotten anywhere near Sarah,  pleads his case and says, Lord, I’m innocent, and the kingdom of Gerar is innocent. Abraham told us that she’s his sister, and she told us that he’s her brother. My actions were based on the best information that I had at the time. What more can I do?

God replies, Yes, I know, that’s why I kept you from her, that’s why I didn’t let you touch her.

God prevents Abimelek from sinning, He also prevents Abraham from suffering from sin, and He prevents Sarah from both. People sometimes pose the question, “How could a loving God allow evil and suffering?” The answer is that, yes, it’s true, since Adam, the world is in a fallen state, and with the fall came evil and suffering. But as we see here, things aren’t as bad as hell and evil men would have them, because of God’s intervention. The Lord in His mercy prevents greater sin and suffering. Sin and suffering don’t come from the Lord. (2 Thessalonians 2:7)

Now return her to Abraham, for he’s a prophet of mine, and he’ll pray for you and you’ll live, God continues. But, if you don’t return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die. (v. 7)

Early the next morning Abimelek calls a big meeting of all his officials and when he tells them about his dream they freak. With his whole administration afraid because of what’s happened, it’s obvious to Abimelek what he has to do next.

Abimelek summons Abraham to return Sarah to him. But first he chastises Abraham, he says, What is the deal? What did I ever do to you that you would bring this guilt upon me and my kingdom? Notice here that Abimelek recognizes that his actions have consequences for his kingdom. This is a good reminder to you. You’re example to your people is one of the most powerful dimensions of your leadership. The sin of the leader often results in the suffering of those who follow him. And the integrity of the leader averts disaster and results in blessings. (Traveler and the Chaplain, Matthew Henry)

Abimelek continues, You’ve done things to me that should never be done! What were you thinking?

Abraham replies, I was thinking that there’s no fear of God in this place, and that you would kill me to get me out of the way so you could take my trophy wife from me. Oh, and by the way, she really is my sister you know. We both have the same father but different mothers. When God told me to travel from my father’s household, I figured that I better have a plan to deal with kings like you who might want to kill me for my wife. So I concocted this plan for Sarah to say that she’s my sister.

Then Abimelek did the same thing that Pharaoh did when he found himself in this situation, he gave Sarah back to Abraham and he gave him sheep, and cattle, and male slaves, and female slaves. And he gave Abraham 1,000 shekels of silver (around 25 lbs. or 12 kilos). Interestingly, when Abimelek does so he says to Sarah, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver,” (emphasis mine) reminding Sarah and Abraham that they deceived him by withholding that Abraham is Sarah’s husband. (v. 16)

And finally, Abimelek told Abraham to live wherever he wanted in the kingdom of Gerar.

All of these blessings were given to Abraham, not because Abimelek was impressed with Abraham, but rather, because Abimelek was impressed with Abraham’s God.

Now while Abimelek held Sarah, God had caused all the women in Abimelek’s household to become barren. So after the king returned Sarah to Abraham, Abraham prayed to the Lord and He healed all the women so they could have children again.

This brings us to the end of Genesis chapter 20.

God’s Digital Red One Camera:

My son Nathaniel has made a couple of independent films. He shot his first one on regular film but for his second movie, he used an amazing digital camera called the Red One.

What a difference. When he used regular film there was no easy way to take bad scenes and delete them from the reel of raw footage. All of the lousy scenes, all of the scenes that he and his team wished they could do over, may not have made it into the final version of the movie, but they remained on a reel of raw footage, in a canister, preserved there, forever.

But with the Red One camera, Nate and his team could, with relative speed and ease, delete scenes that they no longer wanted around.

Do you ever wish that you could delete scenes from your life? Do you ever wish that you could go back in time and do life over?

Of course you do! We all do. We all have regrets over the way we’ve handled different situations in life. No doubt Abraham did after lying to Pharaoh and then blowing it again with Abimelek. After making his wife vulnerable that way in order to preserve his own skin — twice.

I am so glad that I’m not God. If I were God, at this point in Abraham’s life, I’d be saying to him, “Are you kidding me?!? Didn’t we go through this same deal with Pharaoh, just a few chapters ago? What part of honoring Me through integrity and honesty don’t you understand? I was going to hold you up as the father of faith, but no more. From now on you’ll be known as the coward who hid behind his wife’s skirt. You blew it Abraham.”

But thankfully, I’m not God. And mercifully, God didn’t respond that way.

Instead God protected Sarah from Abimelek. Instead God protected Abraham from Abimelek and the army of his kingdom. Instead God blessed Abraham with favor from the king of Gerar.

Instead, in spite of Abraham’s sin, God calls him His prophet — Genesis 20, verse 7 is the first time in the Bible that the word prophet is used. Talk about grace, after Abraham lies and behaves in this milk-livered manner, God in His grace and mercy, identifies Abraham as His prophet, He tells Abimelek that Abraham belongs to Him.

Instead, and again in spite of Abraham’s sin, God uses him to heal Abimelek’s household through Abraham’s prayer.

Instead, God even calls Abraham the father of faith in Galatians 3.

And now, for you and for me, God, who’s perfect memory films, if you will, every moment of your life, and every moment of mine, the One who records even every thought in your mind, He is using the Red One camera.

Do you have some scenes in your life that you want to delete? Do you want a chance to start over? I have great news. God has provided a way. He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins. He sent his Son to erase from God’s perfect memory your sins and mine.

Want to start your life over again? Jesus said you can be born again. (John 3:1-17)

Want to delete some scenes from your life? Enter into the new covenant with Jesus Christ and the Lord will forgive you and delete your sins from His memory. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

In spite of Abraham’s sin, in spite of the fact that Abraham is committing the same sin for the second time, God is abundantly merciful and gracious to Abraham. And just think, this is before the new covenant! Just think how much more merciful and gracious God will be toward you and toward me now that Christ has died on our behalf. Now that Christ has torn the curtain of the temple in two from top to bottom.  (Mark 15:38) Now that the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39)

You can start over. You can have the sin in your life erased from God’s memory.

Accept Jesus Christ as your savior.

Take hope in the words of Jesus:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:17

See So Your Life Is Falling Apart .

Genesis 20:

Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.

But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”

Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”

Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so 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 who belong to you will die.”

Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.” And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”

Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”

Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”

To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”

Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, for the LORD had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.


Traveler and the Chaplain – A Christian Parable

Bible Gateway

Ben Courson

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson

Both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father–Genesis 19:30-38

Lukewarm Christian

Revelation 3:16

Read Genesis 19:30-38

In verse thirty we read that Lot became afraid to stay in the little town of Zoar. Perhaps he thought that because Zoar was in the plain it would meet the same demise as Sodom and Gomorrah. Or perhaps he found Zoar to be just as debauch as Sodom. Or perhaps he simply came to the realization that he had insisted upon his own plan instead of following the instruction given him by God’s messengers, which is always a losing proposition. Whatever the reason, Lot took his daughters out of Zoar and took up residence in a cave in the mountains.

In 1 Kings, another one of God’s men found himself in a cave. After Elijah had called down fire from heaven, after Elijah had defeated the prophets of Baal, in fear for his life he fled from Jezebel to a cave in the side of a mountain. Elijah found himself in the cave of depression.

When the Lord asked, “What are you doing here Elijah?”

Elijah responded, “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left…”

The Lord answered by letting Elijah know how far from reality he was. God said, in effect, Hey, you’re not the only one left. There are still 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. So snap out of it. I have things for you to do. (1 Kings 19)

In Lot’s cave his two daughters decide that Lot is the only man left on earth with whom they might have sex with to carry on their family name.

Both Elijah and Lot’s family were dwelling in the cave of depression where reality becomes distorted. In Elijah’s case, Elijah wasn’t the only one left. In Lot’s daughter’s case, Lot wasn’t the only man left. It’s helpful to remember that when you’re in the cave of depression, everything seems 7,000 times worse than it really is.

So Lot’s daughters, so accustomed to the lascivious culture of Sodom, so polluted by the culture they grew up in, decide that their only hope for having a family is to engage their father in an incestuous relationship. They concoct a plan to make Lot drunk with wine and then to have sex with him while he’s so out of it that he doesn’t know what’s happening.

Eldest daughter enacts the plan the first night.

Youngest daughter takes the next night.

And they both become pregnant.

Here we see again the influence of Sodom on Lot and his family. Lot becomes drunk. Lot’s daughters, rather than seeking the Lord for a solution to their problem, come up with their own plan involving incest. And the result is that the eldest daughter gave birth to Moab, Lot’s son and grandson simultaneously, and the father of the Moabites. And Lot’s second daughter gave birth to Ben-Ammi, father of the Ammonites. Of course both the Moabites and the Ammonites would become enemies of Israel making war against them and killing Israelis. The wages of sin is death, literal physical death, in this case.

Incest is an obvious sin, as is drunkenness. But there’s another mistake that Lot made here in chapter 19. One that’s easily overlooked. Lot, there in his cave on the side of the mountain, living in relative isolation, allowed himself to fall asleep, so to speak. With the influences of Sodom no longer around him, Lot fell into perhaps the most subtle and dangerous trap that a believer can fall into. Lot became sleepy, he lost his edge, he lost his spark, he let his guard down. Lot relaxed.

In Acts chapter twenty we find the story of a young man named Eutychus who was listening to the Apostle Paul teach late into the night. The young man was seated on the sill of a third story window. As the night wore on he became sleepier and sleepier until finally, he fell completely asleep and fell out of the window, plummeting to the ground from three stories up.

Falling asleep is so easy to do for you and for me in today’s culture. If you think about it, even those of us with modest means live much better today than did the kings and queens throughout most of human history. We have air conditioning, and central heat, and grocery stores, and fast food, and two hundred channels, and a thousand news outlets, and video games, and e-books, and the list goes on and on. The creature comforts we have today are amazing. There has never been a time in history when so many were so comfortable. We’re far more comfortable than Eutychus was while he was sitting on that window sill.

And that’s the problem, like Lot when we’re comfortable we’re prone to drift off course.


“Not this morning, the game’s on TV.”

“I’m supposed to play a video game with a friend I met online.”

“We’re going out to eat later.”

“I just need to stay home and relax. I just need to sleep in.”

It’s so easy to get sleepy. Perhaps easier today than at any other time in history. And when you get sleepy bad things happen. You fall out of the third story window, or you fall into sin as Lot did, or you become a body at rest that tends to remain at rest. You become a lukewarm Christian, filling your life with secular things, comfortable things, things that cause you to drift away from your Lord.

I remember a time when I felt completely in my comfort zone. Things were going well at work, I was playing basketball and golf on my days off. I spent quite a bit of time playing video games and watching TV.

“So what’s the problem?” You might be saying.

“There’s no sin in that,” you might be thinking.

Nothing that I was doing was a problem or sinful in and of itself. The problem was that I wasn’t engaged in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I was living for pleasure. Other than a short prayer in the morning when I woke up, I wasn’t doing anything that would draw me closer to Him! I was on cruise control and asleep at the wheel. I was having zero influence on anyone for God’s kingdom. Nada. Nothing. I wasn’t praying for people. I wasn’t praying for the Holy Spirit and consequently I didn’t have much in the way of love for others. I was lukewarm. All Christians have their ups and downs but I believe that had I continued that way, I would have crashed and burned, eventually. During that time in my life I was the one who Jesus said in Revelation 3:16-19 He would spit out of His mouth.

If you, dear reader, are in such a comfortable place, please, wake up! Don’t remain lukewarm. Don’t risk getting spit out. It’s not too late. After Eutychus fell three stories, Paul ran to him, embraced him, and revived him.

Run to Christ, run to church, run to your Bible, run to your prayer closet and ask God to do whatever it takes to make your relationship with Him everything He wants it to be!

He loves you. Leave the comfortable sleepy place you’re in and go to Him because of Jesus’ words:

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Matthew 16:25-26

Genesis 19:30-38:

Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.

[Image via Linda N – Creative Commons]


Bible Gateway

Ben Courson

Blue Letter Bible

Matthew Henry

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson

Genesis 14:1-12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom

The person you become is determined by the company you keep.

At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley).  For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim  and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert.  Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills.  The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away.  They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

Genesis 14:1-12

Trouble Seems To Follow Lot

Chapter 14 starts out with a battle. In fact, this is the first mention of war in the Bible. Five kingdoms, or city-kingdoms if you will, were subject to Kedorlaomer the king of Elam. This had been the situation for twelve years until the five kingdoms decided to rebel. Kedorlaomer the king of Elam and three of his allies, the city-kingdoms of Shinar, Ellasar, and Goyim entered into battle against the five rebelling kingdoms, two of which were Sodom and Gomorrah, and defeated them. In the process they also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom. (v.12)

Poor Lot. Trouble seems to follow him wherever he goes. Over the years I’ve heard that phrase used concerning celebrities who repeatedly find themselves in trouble, with the law, or in their marriage, or with alcohol and drugs. “Trouble seems to follow him (or her) wherever he goes.” Or does it? When you examine these celebrity’s lives more closely you find that the company they keep includes people who repeatedly get into trouble.

It was the same with Lot. Genesis 13:13 tells us that Lot chose to live with people who were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD. Their battles became his battles. Their losses became his losses. Their problems became his problem.

Praying For God’s Crew

I was 22 years old. Kathy was 19, and eight and one half months pregnant. My job at the cabinet shop was cut back from 40 hours a week to 8 hours a week. We were living in a rented 8′ x 28′ trailer on a friend’s property deep in the woods of Oregon. The trailer was heated with a wood stove and was so small that you either boiled in the living room where the wood stove was or you froze in the only bedroom at the other end of the trailer. The shower was so small that if Kathy, pregnant with our first son, dropped the bar of soap, she had to ask me to come pick it up because there wasn’t enough room in the shower to stoop down to grab it.

Growing up I made poor choices when it came to friends. In middle school I hung out with an older boy who liked to burglarize houses which resulted in me getting in trouble with local law enforcement. In high school and college I liked to hang with the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll crowd. So it was as much of a surprise to me as it was to anyone else when, desperate for a job to support my wife and my first born son only a few weeks from arriving, I started going for walks in the woods outside our tiny trailer and praying for a workplace where I’d find Christians to hang with. The amazing thing is, I wasn’t yet a Christian myself. The only explanation I can come up with is that God had His hand on my life in a very intimate and personal way.

At the same time I was praying in the woods outside our trailer, I was applying for jobs — everywhere. The lumber mill, orderly jobs at nursing homes, McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell. The economy was in a terrible recession at the time and I was rejected by all of them, except one. The fire department was hiring and that turned out to be the only job offer I had. The first crew I was assigned to had a firefighter on it who invited me to join a Bible study that the crew held in the station at the end of each work day.

I could hardly believe it.

God used the Christian men I was exposed to on the fire department to completely change who I was. I went from being a burglar who loved sex and drugs to a firefighter who loved Jesus Christ.

Your Ideal You

All this brings us to the question: What is your ideal image of yourself? If someone were describing who you’re ideal self, what would they say?

“He’s a man who loves Jesus so much, he lives to do His will.”

“He’s a man who loves Jesus with everything he has, and loves others as himself.”

“She’s a woman who is a great blessing to her Lord, her family, and her friends.”

“He’s a man full of God’s wisdom.”

“She’s a woman who never says a bad word about anybody.”

“He’s a man full of God’s grace.”

I have a secret: You can become that person.

All it takes is a few simple actions on your part.

1) Petition Jesus to make you into that person — petition Him daily.

2) Find people who fit your description of who you want to become.

3) Find ways to spend time with those people and don’t give up until you do.

You Become Who You Hang With

I once set a goal for myself to become ranked in the top 5 as an amateur tennis player in my age group in the Pacific Northwest. The town I lived in has a good junior program. At the time they had a number of regionally ranked players and even a few nationally ranked players who were bound for division 1 college tennis programs and had a chance to become professionals. At age 43, my strategy was to join the junior tennis program and do whatever they did. When they practiced, I tried to practice. When they took a lesson, I tried to take a lesson. When they played a tournament, I tried to play a tournament. At 43 and working full time I was far from perfect in matching all of the activities of the ranked juniors. I didn’t do it completely but for the most part I prioritized my relationship with Christ, my family, and my work ahead of tennis. But even with these priorities in place, this principle is so powerful that at the end of the year I was ranked #2.

Do you want to follow Jesus more closely? Find people who love him with everything they have and connect with them.

Do you want to spend more time in God’s word? Find people who love God’s word and hang with them.

Do you desire more godly wisdom? Find wise godly people to spend time with.

The Most Important Person

Nothing will influence who you become more than spending time with Jesus.

Spend time with Jesus in prayer, in worship, in his word, in fellowship with His followers both inside and outside of church. Spend time with him regularly. Make your time with him as deep and meaningful as possible. Invest yourself in him, imitate him, and over time, you’ll become more like him.

Shortly after Jesus went up to heaven, Peter and John had to appear before the rulers, elders, and teachers of the law. The Bible says,

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

Peter and John were changed because they had been with Jesus. They were unschooled, ordinary men, yet they demonstrated such courage, and represented Jesus so impressively that they astonished the authorities in Israel. They went on to become great leaders in the early church.

You can have a very similar experience.

Traveler and the Chaplain


Bible Gateway

Jon Courson

David Guzik

Traveler and the Chaplain