Well welcome, and thanks for listening in. I am your host Randy Duncan and we are making our way through the book of Genesis. In the last episode, we wrapped up our discussion of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, so if you are interested in hearing that, just go to randyduncan.com, click on podcast tab. But, in this episode we’ll wrap up chapter 19, and also complete chapter 20. If you remember, we left off the last episode after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, with Lot changing his mind yet again and heading for the mountains, which is where we pick up the action.
30 Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. 31 And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” 33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose.
Lot leaves the city of Zoar, which, remember, he pleaded with God to spare, so that he would have a city to live in! Scripture doesn’t tell us why he is afraid to stay there. Maybe he sees the same things going on there as in Sodom and is afraid it will also be destroyed. Maybe word is out that Lot was somehow involved in the destruction of Sodom. We just don’t know for sure. But the irony is that he moves from the city to a cave, and he ends up going where the angels instructed him to go from the beginning, prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
Lot’s daughter here is most likely referring to the fact that all of their social connections were now broken, and so they now have no ties from which to arrange marriages, as was the custom. She also mentions that Lot is old, so perhaps she is even referring to the fact that he is too old to marry, and have male children that would grow up so each of the daughters could marry. Again, we are not certain of exactly what they were referring to. But we do know what they decided to do.
Let’s get our father drunk and have sex with him! Oh, that sounds like a good idea! What could go wrong with that? So that we can preserve our family line through our father. So Lot’s daughters act out the immorality of Sodom. In fact, we even see that later on, in Numbers 25, that their daughters continue in sexual immorality by seducing the Israelite men, resulting in the Israelites to go whoring after other gods, and causing God to once again intervene
So the plan is to get Lot drunk and then have sex with him. Why would they feel the need to get him drunk first? Because they knew Lot, to his credit, would never agree to go along with their plan.
And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose. Two times these verses tell us that Lot was unaware. Must have been some good wine!
34 The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” 35 So they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 36 Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. 37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. 38 The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day.
And so we end this chapter with Lot once again in a mess. From this point on, we don’t hear anything further about Lot. His part of the story is over. And his part of the story ends in a very ironic way.
You see, down in Sodom, Lot was willing to let the virginity of his daughters be forcibly violated and defiled by the men of Sodom without their knowledge or consent, in order to save lives. And now here, ironically, his daughters have lost their virginity to Lot himself, by forcing themselves upon him without his knowledge, in order to maintain life.
And the result of this produces the father of the Moabites and Ammonites, and begins the story of the bitter animosity between them and Israel.
In bringing chapter 19 to a close, just a quick thought. God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah has some parallels with the story of Noah.
Think about it. The story of the flood, and of Sodom and Gomorrah, both see acts of divine judgment from God on very wicked and evil societies. But during the destruction, the righteous people and their families are spared.
In both of the stories, God “rains” down his judgment from Heaven. With Noah, God sends the rain, and with Sodom and Gomorrah, God “rains” down fire and brimstone.
In both of the stories, either God or His angels close a door to separate the evil from the righteous. Remember, God closed the door to the ark, and God’s angels closed the door to Lot’s house after blinding the men of Sodom to keep them out.
And finally, both of the stories end with drunkenness and sexual immorality. Noah lay drunk and passed out in his tent when one of his sons, Ham, does something immoral, and perhaps sexual. And with Lot, again, he gets drunk, and has sex with his two daughters.
But more importantly I think, is the parallel in both stories, the message, that in the end, God will spare the righteous when he punishes the wicked.
And that brings us to chapter 20.
20-1 From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb (nay’-hev) and lived between Kadesh (kah-daysh’) and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar (gerrar- roll first r’s). 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
Now, if you’re thinking this sounds familiar, it should. Abraham has played this hand before, down in Egypt with Pharaoh. He told a half-truth, or half-lie, depending on how you look at it, to Pharaoh because he was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him and take his wife. Well, again, here is doing the same thing for the same reason. Nevermind the promises that God has made him. Disregard all of God has done for Abraham thus far. Abraham once again, seemingly out of a lack of faith, feels like he must resort to lying to Abimelech in order to save his life. I’ve got to tell you, I think if I was Abraham, I might exhibit a little more confidence and faith in God at this point. In fact, I woud probably have taken it a bit too far. I wouldn’t care who I came across or where I went. Because my immediate response would be, “Uh, guess who is on my team?” Guess who’s got my back? Guess who has made me promises? That’s right tough guy, God! So, if you have a problem with me, then you can take it up wth God! Maybe that’s why I wasn’t born during that era!
So Abimelech, thinking Sarah is his sister, sends for Sarah, and takes her into his harem. Again, just like last time with Pharaoh. Now, something to stop and consider for a moment is this. Abimelech sends to bring Sarah into his harem. But at this point, Sarah is 90 years old! What possible interest would Abimelech have in bringing a 90-year-old woman into his harem! Well, there are a couple of possibilities.
One, there is a rabbinic tradition that since God had promised she would give birth soon, her skin and her beauty had been rejuvenated. And this is not out of the question, because it would also be consistent with the miraculous nature by which God was renewing her vitality in order to give birth.
Another option for why Abemilech would have brought her into his household would have simply been to create an alliance with Abraham. This was a normal course of marriage in those days, and he would have potentially benefited economically.
3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”
Wow! That would get your attention wouldn’t it? So God comes to Abimelech in a dream, and brings him up to speed. He is charged with taking a married woman. And adultery was considered a great sin among many Semitic groups, and even evidenced in Akkadian documents and Egyptian marriage contracts.
Verse 4 says that Abimelech had not “approached” Sarah. That word approached used there is a euphemism for sexual relations. IOW, Abimelech had not had sexual relations with Sarah.
And so he says, Lord, will you kill an innocent people? So, there are a couple of interesting things going on here in that statement. First, notice what Abimelech calls God, “he calls him “Lord”. Now the actual word he uses there is Adonai, not the divine name of God, which is YHWH. So Abimelech knows there is a God, and even recognizes him, but he is not of the same type of faith as Abraham, he doesn’t have that personal relationship with him, he hasn’t been called by God to be a special people.
Second thing here, he says, “will you kill an innocent people?” That sounds exactly like what Abraham asked God regarding the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember, “Lord, will you kill the righteous along with the wicked? Well, we have learned over the last couple of episodes the answer to that question. But notice that Abimelech, just like Abraham did, is appealing to God’s justice.
After Abimelech makes his case to God that he was deceived by Abraham and Sarah, notice how God responds. It is easy to miss if you are just skimming through the story. After Abimelech says that “In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.”, God responds by saying, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.
Did you pick up on that? God said it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore, I did not let you touch her”. So it wasn’t the pure-hearted, good-intentioned Abimelech that did not touch Sarah…it was God who prevented him from doing so! Which implies that he would have if God hadn’t intervened! Now, exactly how God prevented him from doing so, we are not told. There have been many speculations, but honestly, that’s all they are, just speculations.
Another very important takeaway from this part of the conversation is this, notice exactly what God said to Abimelech when he said, “and it was I who kept you from sinning against me.” Against “me”. IOW, if Abimelech would have committed adultery with Sarah, his sin would not have been primarily against Sarah, or Abraham, but God. That should help us keep things in perspective.
If you remember the story of David and Bathsheba, where David has Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, killed so he can marry her and cover up his adultery with her and the fact that she is preganant with his child. Well God sends the prophet Nathan to David and calls him out on it. And after Nathan confronts him, what does David say? In 2 Samuel 12:13, David laments, I have sinned against the Lord.” Notice he didn’t say he had sinned against Bathsheba, or not to mention poor Uriah, but that he had sinned against God.
In Psalm 51, David says “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,…” And then he goes on.
The good news is that God does not kill David, the bad news is that he was about to pay a very, very heavy price for his actions
But the point here is that all sin is against God. When we are unholy, when we act against the will and character of God, when we miss the mark so to speak, we are sinning primarily against God. Sure, we don’t treat people as we should, and they get treated poorly, sometimes horribly, we cross people, we lie, cheat, and steal, rape, murder, and on and on. But even though other people get caught wronged, our sin is primarily against the perfect, holy, infinite Creator of the universe. And we are all guilty. And I think we most often fail to realize and appreciate the gravity of the situation we are in. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there is Good News, the gospel, and his name is Jesus.
8 So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” 11 Abraham said, “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.’ 12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. 13 And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, “He is my brother.”
Well, the dream certainly makes an impression on Abimelech. He gets early the next morning which speaks to his prompt obedience to God’s demand. He gathers his officials, gives them an update, and they are all very much afraid.
So Abimelech calls Abraham, looking for an explanation as to why he lied about Sarah. ‘Why have you done to us? How have I sinned against you to cause you to bring this upon us? What did you see that made you do this thing?
Abraham responds by saying “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.
Ironic isn’t it? Abraham was afraid that there was no fear of God in this place, and yet here is everyone in Abimelech’s camp, very much afraid. In Abraham’s defense though, he did just witness the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, where there were not even 10 righteous people. So perhaps his faith in humanity wasn’t exactly at an all-time high at this point.
14 Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” 16 To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.” 17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. 18 For the Lord had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
So Abimelech gives gifts to Abraham and Sarah. But he is not giving them out of a sense of guilt necessarily. He is giving them gifts out of his respect for their relationship to God, or perhaps as an attempt to appease God. And he is giving it as a sign and vindication that Sarah’s honor had not been violated.
I especially like one thing Abimelech says here. He tells Sarah, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver”. But I wonder how we are supposed to actually read this comment! Are we to read it as if Abimelech is calling Abraham her brother because she is unaware of what’s going on or God coming to Abimelech in a dream and warning him? Or, should we read this as Abimelech using the word “brother” sarcastically? Like, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver”. You know like he says “brother” while he is making the air quotes gesture
By the way, Abimelech gives them 1000 pieces of silver. Don’t just gloss over that. That was a huge sum of money! It was more than a common worker could expect to earn in a lifetime! In fact, a Babylonian laborer in those days would have had to work for almost 170 years to earn that much money!!
In wrapping up this chapter and this episode, I would just call your attention to the fact that just like it was in Egypt with Pharaoh, God once again rescues Abraham and Sarah, and not only rescues them, but blesses them with unexpected and undeserved riches. And you know, that sounds a little like what God does with all of us who place our trust and faith in Christ doesn’t it? He rescues us, and then, in heaven, will bless us with riches that we don’t deserve.
Thank you so much for listening in, and until next time, God bless!