The Chief End of Man (14)
In this chapter we find yet another case of Abraham passing Sarah as his sister for fear of being killed by a king out of desire to possess her. In this case it is Abimelech king of Gerar. The king does take Sara for a wife, but is unable to consummate the marriage.
God comes to Abimelech in a dream and uncovers Abraham and Sarah’s deception. The king pleads innocence, which God acknowledges. One point of importance is that it is within this dream that God announces that Abraham is a prophet.
20 7Now then restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you, and all that are yours.”
The king summons Abraham and indignantly asks why he has done this wrongful thing. Abraham replies that it is his settled practice to call Sarah his sister when they enter places that they consider to be without fear of God and that in fact Sarah is a half-sister.
The king gives Sarah back to Abraham along with livestock and treasure. He also gives them leave to live as they please in his land. Abraham then prays for the king and his household, lifting the threat of death and a curse of infertility, for the LORD had closed the wombs of the king’s wives.
The repetition of these brother-sister deception stories raises many difficult questions. For one, it is usually the king who does not know God who ends up looking more moral than does Abraham and Sarah. Also, Sarah’s advanced age is repeatedly stressed when discussing childbearing and yet she apparently still possesses the stunning beauty to draw attention from any king in the vicinity. I confess that these passages remain closed to my understanding. I fully trust that they hold treasures of holy knowledge that will someday be opened to my grateful spirit.