Abimelech rebuking Abraham by Wenceslas Hollar...
“Abimelech rebuking Abraham”, by Wenceslas Hollar. Abimelech asks Abraham, “What has thou done unto us?” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.” ‘ ”  (Gen 20:13)

Today’s Passage: Genesis 20

The Main Players: Abraham, the man of God, and Abimelek, the King of Gerar.

The Setting: The lands of the western Negev, about 2000 to 1500 BC.  See “Gerar” in Bible Places, for a great photo essay on this region, then and now.

The Main Action: Abraham’s people settle in tents in the western Negev, in the kingdom of Gerar. Abraham, fearing that the “ungodly” people of Gerar will kill him on account of his beautiful wife, Sarah, tells her to tell everyone that she is his sister, saying that she’d do it if she really loved him. This spares Abraham’s life, but doesn’t keep Abimelek from taking Sarah for a wife of his own. God appears to Abimelek in a dream, to set the record straight.

What Does This Passage Tell Us About Real Love:

In order to answer this, we have to compare the actions of the “godly” person, Abraham, with those of the “ungodly” Abimelek:

Abraham’s Actions (based on fear):

  • moved to Gerar, in obedience to God
  • feared being killed, so told people in Gerar his wife was his sister
  • told his wife to also tell people she was his sister, as a sign of her love for him
  • confessed to Abimelek that he feared being killed by ungodly people who wanted his wife
  • rationalized his actions, saying Sarah was his sister, after all
  • prayed to God for Abimelek to be restored

Abraham doubted God’s protection, and, in fear, led his wife, Sarah, to deceive Abimelek, bringing curses upon the people of Gerar, and made excuses for his actions — he didn’t show love (obedience) for God, love (honor) for his wife, love (respect) for his host, or love (courtesy) for the people of Gerar.

Abimelek’s Actions (based on righteousness)

  • took Sarah as his wife unwittingly
  • honored Sarah
  • argued his innocence before God, calling God, “Lord
  • shared what God said with his officials
  • confronted Abraham with the truth and asked for an explanation
  • forgave Abraham, gave him gifts and his choice of the king’s land for a home
  • returned Sarah to her husband
  • gave Sarah gifts to clear her name

Although not one of God’s people, Abimelek heard and listened to God, followed His directions, forgave Abraham and restored the honor of Sarah, blessing them both — he showed love (obedience) for God (although not HIS god), love (honor) for Sarah (although not HIS wife), love (forgiveness) for his guest, Abraham (although Abraham had lied to him), and love (hospitality) toward Abraham’s people.


  1. Trust God to do what He said He will do, because He cannot lie (Titus 1:2);
  2. Remember that God can and will use whomever He wants to bless His children (even “ungodly” people);
  3. Never write off someone because you deem them “ungodly.” In many ways, Abimelek showed the meaning of TRUE love, more than Abraham did: obedience to God, honor toward spouses, forgiveness for those who have wronged us, hospitality toward others.