MDB 12: Genesis 20

Nathan Shurden

"There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife."--Genesis 20:11 

Sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of a royal mess without even being aware of it. Such was the case for King Abimelech.

As Abraham journeyed through the land of Gerar, on his way to the Negeb, fear got the better part of him. Wide eyed to all the dangers he and his wife Sarah could face as they passed through a pagan land, Abraham devised a genius plan. What was the plan? To lie! When anyone would inquire of Sarah, she was to say, "He [Abraham] is my brother." Likewise, if anyone was to inquire of Abraham, he was to say, "She [Sarah] is my sister."

Sure enough, as Abraham and Sarah enter Gerar, King Abimelech inquired of Sarah to Abraham. As planned, Abraham lied and said, "She is my sister." The path seeming clear, King Abimelech seized the opportunity to take Sarah for himself.

In the middle of the night, God appeared to Abimelech in a dream and spills the beans, "You're a dead man, because the woman you have taken is a man's wife." (20:3) Shocked and bewildered, Abimelech pleads ignorance and asks for mercy. Seeing the integrity of his heart, God relents and Abimelech approaches Abraham. "What did you see, that you did this thing?" (20:10). Abraham answers, "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.'" (20:11)

Abraham claimed that His motivation for lying was the lack of fear of people of Gerar in Yahweh, but in actuality, the problem was that Abraham did not fear God--he feared man instead. The scheme he concocted was driven by concern for his own life, not the righteousness of God. He was more focused on his own self protection than resting in the surety God's promises and obeying God's will regardless of the outcome.

There are times in Abraham's life where he fears the Lord and the glory of divine wisdom shines brightly (see Prov.1:7). This, however, is not one of them. The same lesson is learned though, only in the negative--that the fear of man is the beginning of foolishness. If there was ever a time in need of hearing this particular Word from God, it is on our own. By God's grace, let us learn it today.