Genesis Chapter 20
In this chapter we come to an event that is really similar to Genesis chapter 12 when the then Abram and Sarai sojourned in Egypt in the face of famine. Only this time they were sojourning near Gerar where king Abimelech was in power. Also, this time they are commissioned in covenant with God with the sign of circumcision and new names (as we considered in Genesis Chapter 17), which speak to their new identities which are rooted in God’s existence, power, and commission to them. Tension is introduced too, because of the looming promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah.
So Abraham and Sarah journeyed to the Negeb and were living between Kadesh and Shur, and they were journeying in Gerar. Abraham told Abimelech that Sarah was his sister and Abimelech took her. God came to Abimelech in a dream though telling him he was a dead man because he took a man’s wife. He was deceived and plead innocence to God, and God told him that He knew he did it in innocence and that’s why God didn’t allow them to become intimate. God told Abilmelech to return Sarah to her husband, because he is His prophet, and if he prays for Abimelech he will live. If he didn’t return her he would die. So Abimelech returned her early in the morning, and asked Abraham why he did this. Abraham explained that he did it because there was no fear of God in that place and he thought they’d kill him because of Sarah. Then he explained that she is technically his sister as the daughter of his father but not his mother. Genesis 20:13 illustrates that this was he and Sarah’s plan for when they would come across these kinds of circumstances, this wasn't purely reactionary...it was premeditated.
It does seem that Abraham is trying to fulfill God’s covenant to make him into a great nation by himself. He knows that if he would die in Gerar the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son named Isaac through him and Sarah would be thwarted. Abraham seems to take self-preservation into his own hands in order to fulfill the promises God has made to him. He doesn’t seem to understand that God is trustworthy to fulfill His promises without him needing to take matters into his own hands.
So after Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham, livestock, servants, 1,000 pieces of silver (indicating her innocence), and he also gave him the opportunity to settle in his land wherever it would please Abraham. (Gen. 20:15) Abraham then prayed for Abimelech as God’s prophet, and God healed Abimelech’s house, and He opened the wombs of the women in Abimelech’s house, because he had closed them because of Sarah being taken into his house.
Here again we see that God is continuing to sustain Abraham and Sarah to fulfill His covenant to them, and to give them a son, Isaac. Further, we see the drama with all the tensions and resolutions that surround the prolonging of Eve's seed through Abraham and Sarah's family to ultimately bring a Savior to the the World in Jesus Christ. Even when we, like Abraham and Sarah, try to take things into our own hands in sin, we know that God will keep His covenant to save His people through the messiah. The beauty is that we know who that Messiah is, because we live in a time after He has been fully revealed in Jesus Christ.