Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 20

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1-2
Genesis 20:1-2. And Abraham sojourned in Gerar — Which belonged to the Philistines. We are not told upon what occasion he removed; whether terrified by the destruction of Sodom, or, as some of the Jewish writers say, because he was grieved at Lot’s incest with his daughters, and the reproach which the Canaanites cast upon him for his kinsman’s sake. The king of Gerar sent and took her — To his house, in order to the taking of her to his bed.

Verse 3
Genesis 20:3. But God came to Abimelech in a dream — It appears by this that God revealed himself by dreams, which evidenced themselves to be divine and supernatural, not only to his servants the prophets, but even to those that were out of the pale of the church; but then usually it was with some regard to God’s own people.

Verse 4
Genesis 20:4. Wilt thou also slay a righteous nation? — He probably referred to the late destruction of Sodom and the cities of the plain, which, no doubt, must have caused great consternation, if not also some degree of reformation, in that neighbourhood. As Abimelech’s plea was not rejected by the Lord, there is reason to hope that both he and his subjects were not only free from the abominations of Sodom, and from the reigning idolatries of Canaan, but that the fear of God, and some remains of true religion, were found among them.

Verse 6
Genesis 20:6. I withheld thee, &c. — It is God that restrains men from doing the ill they would do; it is not from him that there is sin, but it is from him that there is not more sin, either by his influence on men’s minds, checking their inclination to sin, or by his providence, taking away the opportunity of committing it. It is a great mercy to be hindered from sinning, which God must have the glory of, whoever is the instrument.

Verse 7
Genesis 20:7. He is a prophet — A person favoured with peculiar intercourse with God, who is made acquainted with his will and purposes in an extraordinary way, and is the interpreter of that will, and the revealer of those purposes to others. This seems to be the meaning of the appellation prophet, first, as we here see, given to Abraham in the Scriptures.

Genesis 20:9-10. Thou hast done deeds that ought not to be done — Equivocation and dissimulation, however they may be palliated, are very ill things, and by no means to be admitted in any case. He takes it as a very great injury to himself and his family, that Abraham had thus exposed them to temptation and sin. What have I offended thee? — If I had been thy worst enemy thou couldest not have done me a worse turn, nor taken a more effectual course to be revenged on me. He challenges him to assign any just cause he had to suspect them as a dangerous people for an honest man to live among. What sawest thou that thou hast done this thing? — What reason hadst thou to think, that if we had known her to be thy wife, thou wouldest have been exposed to any danger by it?

Verse 11
Genesis 20:11. I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place, and they will slay me — 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 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!

Verse 13
Genesis 20:13. When God caused me to wander from my father’s house — Then we settled this matter. It may be, that God denied Abraham and Sarah the blessing of children so long, to punish them for this sinful compact they had made to deny one another: if they will not own their marriage, why should God own it? But we may suppose that, after this reproof, they agreed never to do so again, and then presently we read, (Genesis 21:1-2.) that Sarah conceived.

Verse 16
Genesis 20:16. He, or this, is to thee a covering of the eyes — For the words may be expounded either of the money given to Abraham to buy a veil for the covering of her face, and to be worn in token of her subjection to her husband; or of Abraham, that he must be a covering of her eyes, that she should look at no other, nor desire to be looked at by any other. Yoke- fellows must be to each other for a covering of the eyes. The marriage covenant is a covenant with the eyes, like Job’s; Job 31:1. Thus she was reproved — Or instructed. The Septuagint is και παντα αληθευσον, speak thou the truth in all things, referring, no doubt, to the equivocation she and Abraham had used.