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Genesis 20:16-18

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Genesis 20:16
  • Genesis 20:17
  • Genesis 20:18

Genesis is a book about many beginnings. The beginnings of the world, the human race, sin and redemption, and the nation of Israel to name a few. In fact, the word Genesis from the Greek means “origin,” and in Hebrew it means “beginning.” The book of Genesis contains the events of the flood, tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the lives of the Patriarchs.

In the beginning, God created everything by simply speaking, “God said…and it was so” (Genesis 1:6-7, 9, 11, 14-15). This is not a scientific technical account of creation, but it shows a loving God creating a universe and mankind to rule it and fellowship with God. Man was formed especially from the ground and given the breath of life from God. The woman was made from the man’s rib (Genesis 2:7).

After man fell into sin, things began to spin out of control quickly. Cain murdered his brother Abel and the human race became so violent that God decided to destroy them all with a flood. God saved one righteous man (Noah) and his family in an ark filled with animals to deliver the human race from extinction. God chose Abraham and blessed a special group of people named “Israel.” God began to unfold a plan of salvation from a coming famine by sending Joseph to rule in Egypt. The failure of man in every circumstance is met by the salvation of God. We fail, but the good news is God saves us.


In chapter 20 Abraham moves to Gerar 40 miles west of Hebron near the sea coast. At Gerar Abraham and Sarah have another experience like the one with Pharaoh (Genesis 12:10-20). Sarah is identified to King Abimelech as Abraham’s sister, and he takes her. But, God intervenes and eventually, all is restored.


Abraham prayed for the king and his household. God healed Abimelech’s wife and maids so that they could have children.

Abimelech tells Sarah, “I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver.” Notice that Abimelech calls Abraham Sarah’s brother and not her husband. A thousand pieces of silver was a large amount at that time (Genesis 23:15-16, 33:1, 37:28). 

The word vindication means a covering of the eyes. It was to cover the offense and exonerate Sarah. The covering was provided by a payment for an offense against someone in order to make amends. Metaphorically, people’s eyes were covered so they could not see Sarah’s shame. By making this payment Abimelech was showing everyone that he intended no harm or wrong towards Sarah and Abraham and that his actions were well-meaning. In other words, the king was settling his debt with Abraham and Sarah. 

Since his offering was in good faith, no one should have a reason to criticize or discredit Sarah. In this way, she was exonerated or pardoned in the sight of others and the wrong had been made right. Her honor had been restored showing there was no sexual misconduct on her part. 

Abraham prayed to God to heal Abimelech and his household. The Hebrew word “palal” is the most common word used to describe the general act of prayer. It means to intercede or mediate for another (Numbers 11:2, 21:7; Deuteronomy 9:20,26; 1 Samuel 7:5; 1 Kings 13:6; Ezra 10:1; Daniel 9:4,20). 

Abraham prays for Abimelech, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, so that they bore children (verse 18). God, not Abraham, is the healer. These women had their fertility restored, so that they bore children. Numerous children were considered a great blessing (Genesis 17:20, 22:12, 26:24, 28:3; 1 Samuel 2:20).
The Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because Abimelech had taken Sarah. A fruitful womb was considered a divine blessing (Deuteronomy 30:9). This may be the manifestation of the penalty spoken of by God as “death” by a barren household (vv. 3,7). Through barrenness, their tribe and inheritance would die. The next chapter describes how God opened Sarah’s womb so that she may conceive and give birth to the promised child in her old age.

Biblical Text

16 To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; behold, it is your vindication before all who are with you, and before all men you are cleared.” 17 Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, so that they bore children. 18 For the Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

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