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Genesis: Chapter 20

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1From there Abraham journeyed toward the region of the Negeb, and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While residing in Gerar as an alien, 2Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” And King Abimelech of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “You are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a married woman.” 4Now Abimelech had not approached her; so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent people? 5Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ I did this in the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands.” 6Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart; furthermore it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7Now then, return 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.”

8So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants and told them all these things; and the men were very much afraid. 9Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said to him, “What have you done to us? How have I sinned against you, that you have brought such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that ought not to be done.” 10And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What were you thinking of, that you did this thing?” 11Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. 12Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. 13And when God caused me to wander from my father's house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.’ ” 14Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him. 15Abimelech said, “My land is before you; settle where it pleases you.” 16To Sarah he said, “Look, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; it is your exoneration before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.” 17Then Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. 18For the LORD had closed fast all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.

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20.1–18 : The second story of endangerment of the matriarch

(cf. 12.10–20; 26.6–11 ). Many scholars have argued that chs 20–22 contain the first major block of an Elohistic (E) source parallel to the Yahwistic (J) source found in chs 12–19 and extending through the rest of the Pentateuch (cf. 15.2–5n. and the Introduction). Nevertheless, Abraham's brief request in 20.2 that Sarah claim to be his sister would not make sense without the explanation of a similar request in 12.11–13 (often attributed to J). Thus the present version of ch 20 probably is not part of a separate “Elohistic” source.

3–7 :

The depiction of Abimelech is far more detailed and sympathetic than that of the foreign king in either of the parallel accounts (cf. 12.15–19; 26.9–10 ).

7 :

To Abraham is attributed the intercessory role of prophet; this is the only designation of Abraham as a prophet in the Torah (but see Ps 105.15 ).

12 :

The narrator never asserts that Sarah is Terah's daughter (cf. 11.27–30 ). Nevertheless, faced with Abimelech's passionate questioning, Abraham claims to be her half‐brother by way of his father. Though many have taken his assertion at face‐value, it is read by others as an attempt to provide as many excuses for his behavior as possible (cf. 20.11 ).

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