Genesis Chapter 20-21

This teaching is our 19th session in our verse-by-verse study of the Book of Genesis by pastor Barry – given as part of our family service on 16th July 2017.

**Please note: we had some technical problems with part of the audio recording for this study**

After the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah (which Abraham would have been able to obseve at a distance from Hebron), Abraham ups and goes to the land of the Philistines, and spends a year or more with Abimelech. Once again, Abraham omits to mention that Sarah is his wife, for fear that he might be killed because of her beauty. Proverbs 29: 25 tells us that the fear of man brings a snare!

Seemingly, despite the promises and assurances that God had given him, to bless and prosper him (“I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” – Genesis 12:2-3) – Abraham had become more focussed on the current circumstances and allowed them to take his eyes of his Lord. We do the same! What makes God’s promises so ‘exceedingly great and precious’ is that it is God who gives them. But if we forget that fact, if we allow the ‘present sufferings’ to cloud our minds, we do not have the peace that comes from knowing of the glory that shall be revealed in us (see Romans 8:18).

It wasn’t wrong to say that Sarah was his sister, but it was wrong to hide the fact that she was his wife! Abraham had allowed the ‘covering’ that he should have been for his wife to be removed. Something he should not have done.

As Dr Bill Cooper points out in his book ‘The Authenticity of Genesis’, the discovery of the Nuzi tablets have shed some interesting insight on the actions of Abraham in the chapter. There existed at this time a law whereby a woman could be made both a sister and a wife – thereby elevating her status. As Bill Cooper states: “such legal transactions were a newly-established feature of the law which governed much of Mesopotamia where Abraham and his forebears came from. This is why the pharaoh was flummoxed by it, as Egypt knew no such provision; and so was Abimelech or Gerar, a Philistine king. Thier puzzlement was doubtless due to the comparative novelty of the sister-wife law at that time, again attesting to the antiquity of these events. But it also explains why Abraham was sent away from both kings loaded with gifts. Abraham, no doubt, was able to demonstrate his lawful integrity by the presentation of the contracts under which Sarah had become first his sister, and then his wife, even as  Isaac would have been able to do at a later date. Kings who discover that they been duped by a rascal, do not usually send him away the richer for his lies. He’d be lucky to escape with his life!” (ISBN 978-0-950-20-90-8-1).

But what is the real point of this chapter?

Utimalty, Abraham’s sojourn with Abimelech ended up serving as an object lesson for Abraham and Sarah. You see, the result of Abraham’s omission that Sarah was his wife led to Abimelech taking Sarah into his harem. The result of that was that God closed up the wombs of Abimelech’s wife, his maidservants and of the other women ‘in his house’. When everything came to light – probably after about three months of Abraham being there – God told Abraham to pray for Abimelech and He then opened their wombs so that they could conceive.

The lesson was simple but profound: God is able to open closed wombs! God had promised to do his part for Abraham and Sarah and bless them with a son, but they needed to do their part! Surely it is no coincidence that following this demonstration of God’s miracle working power in opening closed wombs, Sarah then conceived, and 9 months later gave birth to Isaac! Sometimes God will use circumstances around us to get our attention back on to His greatness, and to remind us that He is able!


You can listen to the audio on this web page, or save it for listening to later.  We have also made available the Powerpoint slides (in PDF format) that outline the key points of this study.

We hope and pray this teaching will bless you and encourage you to undertake your own personal study and adventure in God’s Word!


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