Genesis – Chapter 20

The Bible – Old Testament



Chapter 20


1 Abraham journeyed on to the region of the Negeb, where he settled between Kadesh and Shur. While he stayed in Gerar,


he said of his wife Sarah, «She is my sister.» So Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent and took Sarah.


But 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.»


Abimelech, who had not approached her, said: «O Lord, would you slay a man even though he is innocent?


He himself told me, ‘She is my sister,’ and she herself also stated, ‘He is my brother.’ I did it in good faith and with clean hands.»


God answered him in the dream: «Yes, I know you did it in good faith. In fact, it was I who kept you from sinning against me; that is why I did not let you touch her.


2 Therefore, return the man’s wife – as a spokesman he will intercede for you – that your life may be saved. If you do not return her, you can be sure that you and all who are yours will certainly die.»


Early the next morning Abimelech called all his court officials and informed them of everything that had happened, and the men were horrified.


Then Abimelech summoned Abraham and said to him: «How could you do this to us! What wrong did I do to you that you should have brought such monstrous guilt on me and my kingdom? You have treated me in an intolerable way.


What were you afraid of,» he asked him, «that you should have done such a thing?»


«I was afraid,» answered Abraham, «because I thought there would surely be no fear of God in this place, and so they would kill me on account of my wife.


Besides, she is in truth my sister, but only my father’s daughter, not my mother’s; and so she became my wife.


When 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 that I am your brother.'»


Then Abimelech took flocks and herds and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham; and after he restored his wife Sarah to him,


he said, «Here, my land lies at your disposal; settle wherever you please.»


3 To Sarah he said: «See, I have given your brother a thousand shekels of silver. Let that serve you as a vindication before all who are with you; your honor has been preserved with everyone.»


Abraham then interceded with God, and God restored health to Abimelech, that is, to his wife and his maidservants, so that they could bear children;


for God had tightly closed every womb in Abimelech’s household on account of Abraham’s wife Sarah.

1 [1-18] This story from the Elohist source (see note on ⇒ Genesis 4:25) combines elements found in the two very similar but distinct stories of the Yahwist source, in ⇒ Genesis 12:10-20; ⇒ 26:6-11.
2 [7] Spokesman: the Hebrew term nabi used here is regularly translated as «prophet,» but it simply means «one who speaks on behalf of another,» whether the latter is God, as in almost all cases, or another man, as in ⇒ Exodus 4:16.
3 [16] A thousand shekels of silver: not a gift distinct from that of the animals and the slaves (⇒ Genesis 20:14), but the monetary value of these.