Abimelech, being thus warned of God in a dream, takes the warning, and, as one truly afraid of sin and its consequences, he rises early to obey the directions given him.
I. He has a caution for his servants, Gen. 20:8. Abraham himself could not be more careful than he was to command his household in this matter. Note, Those whom God has convinced of sin and danger ought to tell others what God has done for their souls, that they also may be awakened and brought to a like holy fear.
II. He has a chiding for Abraham. Observe,
1. The serious reproof which Abimelech gave to Abraham, Gen. 20:9, 10. His reasoning with Abraham upon this occasion was very strong, and yet very mild. Nothing could be said better; he does not reproach him, nor insult over him, does not say, “Isa. this your profession? I see, though you will not swear, you will lie. If these be prophets, I will beg to be freed from the sight of them:” but he fairly represents the injury Abraham had done him, and calmly signifies his resentment of it. (1.) He calls that sin which he now found he had been in danger of a great sin. Note, Even the light of nature teaches men that the sin of adultery is a very great sin: be it observed, to the shame of many who call themselves Christians, and yet make a light matter of it. (2.) He looks upon it that both himself and his kingdom would have been exposed to the wrath of God if he had been guilty of this sin, though ignorantly. Note, The sins of kings often prove the plagues of kingdoms; rulers should therefore, for their people’s sake, dread sin. (3.) He charges Abraham with doing that which was not justifiable, in disowning his marriage. This he speaks of justly, and yet tenderly; he does not call him a liar and cheat, but tells him he had done deeds that ought not to be done. Note, Equivocation and dissimulation, however they may be palliated, are very bad things, and by no means to be admitted in any case. (4.) He takes it as a very great injury to himself and his family that Abraham had thus exposed them to sin: “What have I offended thee? If I had been thy worst enemy, thou couldst not have done me a worse turn, nor taken a more effectual course to be revenged on me.” Note, We ought to reckon that those do us the greatest unkindness in the world that any way tempt us or expose us to sin, though they may pretend friendship, and offer that which is grateful enough to corrupt nature. (5.) He challenges him to assign a cause for his suspecting them as a dangerous people for an honest man to live among: “What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? Gen. 20:10. What reason hadst thou to think that if we had known her to be thy wife thou wouldst have been exposed to any danger by it?” Note, A suspicion of our goodness is justly reckoned a greater affront than a slight upon our greatness.
2. The poor excuse that Abraham made for himself.
(1.) He pleaded the bad opinion he had of the place, Gen. 20:11. He thought within himself (though he could not give any good reason for his thinking so), “Surely the fear of God is not in this place, and then they will slay me.” [1.] Little good is to be expected where no fear of God is. See Ps. 36:1. [2.] There are many places and persons that have more of the fear of God in them than we think they have: perhaps they are not called by our dividing name, they do not wear our badges, they do not tie themselves to that which we have an opinion of; and therefore we conclude they have not the fear of God in their hearts, which is very injurious both of Christ and Christians, and makes us obnoxious to God’s judgment, Matt. 7:1. [3.] Uncharitableness and censoriousness are sins that are the cause of many other sins. When men have once persuaded themselves concerning such and such that they have not the fear of God, they think this will justify them in the most unjust and unchristian practices towards them. Men would not do ill if they did not first think ill.
(2.) He excused it from the guilt of a downright lie by making it out that, in a sense, she was his sister, Gen. 20:12. Some think she was own sister to Lot, who is called his brother Lot (Gen. 14:16), though he was his nephew; so Sarah is called his sister. But those to whom he said, She is my sister, understood that she was so his sister as not to be capable of being his wife; so that it was an equivocation, with an intent to deceive.
(3.) He clears himself from the imputation of an affront designed to Abimelech in it by alleging that it had been his practice before, according to an agreement between him and his wife, when they first became sojourners (Gen. 20:13): “When God caused me to wander from my father’s house, then we settled this matter.” Note, [1.] God is to be acknowledged in all our wanderings. [2.] Those that travel abroad, and converse much with strangers, as they have need of the wisdom of the serpent, so it is requisite that that wisdom be ever tempered with the innocence of the dove. It may, for aught I know, be suggested that God denied to Abraham and Sarah the blessing of children so long to punish them for this sinful compact if they will not own their marriage, why should God own it? But we may suppose that, after this reproof which Abimelech gave them, they agreed never to do so again, and then presently we read (Gen. 21:1, 2) that Sarah conceived.
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