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Genesis 20:1-18 - Exposition

Abraham in Gerar, or two royal sinners.


1. An old sin repeated . "Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister." Twenty years before the same miserable equivocation had been circulated in Egypt. A sin once committed is not difficult to repeat, especially if its legitimate consequences, as in the case of Abraham and Sarah, have been mercifully averted. One is apt to fancy that a like immunity will attend its repetition.

2. A worthless lie propagated . "Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent and took Sarah." Designed for protection in both Egypt and Gerar, the ignoble expedient of the patriarch was in both places equally ineffectual. So does all sin tend to outwit itself, and in the end generally proves abortive in its designs.

3. A deliberate fraud practiced . As Abraham explained to Abimelech, it was no sudden impulse on which he acted, but a preconcerted scheme which he had put in operation. Intended for the extenuation of his fault, this was in reality an aggravation. Sin leisurely and knowingly gone about is ever more heinous than that into which the heart and will are surprised.

4. An unjustifiable suspicion entertained . All the preceding sins had their origin in what the event proved to be an altogether unwarranted estimate of Abimelech and his people. The patriarch said to himself, "Surely the fear of God is not in this place, and they will slay me for my wife's sake," without reflecting that he was not only deciding without evidence, but doing an injustice to the monarch and the people into whose land he was crossing.


1. How hard it is to lay aside one's besetting sin. The character of the patriarch, otherwise so noble, appears to have had a natural bias towards deception.

2. How difficult it is to lead a life of faith. One would have thought that by this time every vestige of carnal policy would have been eliminated from the walk of Abraham.

3. How possible it is for an eminent saint to relapse into great sin. If Abraham illustrated the virtues, he likewise remarkably exemplified the weaknesses of God's believing people.

4. How wrong it is to cherish and act upon uncharitable views of others. True religion always leans to the side of charity in judging of the characters of men.


1. A common sin. The popularity of an action, though not sufficient to make it good, may serve, in some degree, to extenuate its guilt where it is wrong.

2. An unconscious sin. The narrative distinctly represents Abimelech as a prince who feared God and shrank from incurring his displeasure—a character which all kings should study to possess. Abimelech himself claimed to have perpetrated no offence against the law of God in acting as he did, which shows that the voice of conscience always speaks according to its light. The avowal which he makes of his integrity is admitted by Jehovah as correct—a proof that God judges men according to their privileges. Yet it was—

3. A great sin. Implied in the Divine direction to seek the friendly intercession of the patriarch, it was admitted by Abimelech when once his mind was enlightened as to the true character of the deed he had committed.

See here—

1. A lesson of charity concerning peoples and individuals outside the visible Church.

2. A proof that men are not necessarily free from guilt because their consciences fail to accuse them.

3. A good sign of true contrition, viz; the acknowledgment of sin when it is pointed out.


1. With the prince.

2. With the patriarch.


1. That God's dealings with sinning men are always adapted to the peculiar characters of their respective sins .

2. That God never chastises men, either by affliction or rebuke, for his pleasure, but for their profit.

3. That God never pardons sin without bestowing blessing on the sinner.


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