Abimelech, King of Gerar
Categories: Abraham and Sarah, Old Testament Kings
- Abimelech's name means, "father/leader of a king," or "my father/leader, the king."
- He is mentioned twice in Genesis. Both stories involve the sister/wife narratives. (See Genesis 20, 26).
- Some scholars believe the king in the second story was his son.
- Gerar was a Philistine city and area located in what is now south central Israel.
- According to Genesis, Gerar was halfway between Gaza and Beersheba.
- After Abraham told the king Sarah was his sister, the king took her into his palace.
- God came to Abimelech in a dream and said, "You are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a married woman."
- But Abimelech had not touched her. He said, "Lord, will you destroy an innocent people?"
- Abraham had told him directly, "She is my sister."
- Sarah confirmed it by saying, "He is my brother."
- Abimelech was completely innocent.
- God replied in his dream. "Yes, I know you are innocent. It was I who kept you from sinning."
- He was told to release Sarah to Abraham who would pray for his life.
- No harm would come to Abimelech, if he let her go.
- If he didn't, he would die, along with all those that were with him.
- When Abimelech awoke the next morning, he called all his servants and told them what had happened.
- Everyone was very frightened.
- Abimelech called Abraham and confronted him.
- He asked him, "What have you done to us?"
- He didn't know what he could have done to Abraham to cause him to treat him so badly.
- He asked, "What were you thinking of, that you did this thing?"
- Abraham said he was afraid. He thought the people had no concept of God, and they would kill him because of Sarah.
- Then Abraham added that she really was his sister. They had the same father, but different mothers.
- Abimelech "took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him."
- He told Abraham he could settle wherever he chose.
- In front of everyone he also gave Abraham 1000 pieces of silver showing that Sarah was completely vindicated.
- Abraham then prayed to God, and Abimelech and his wife and female slaves were healed and able to bear children.
- Previously, the Lord had closed all their wombs because of Sarah.
- Abimelech, with his army commander as witness, asked Abraham to swear that he would never deal falsely with him or any of his offspring ever again.
- Abraham agreed.
- But later, Abraham complained to Abimelech that his servants had seized a well of water.
- That was news to Abimelech.
- Abraham took sheep and oxen and made a covenant with Abimelech.
- By accepting the sheep Abimelech agreed that Abraham had dug the well.
- The covenant was made.
- They called the place Beer-sheba. "Beer" means "well;" "Sheba" could mean "oath" or "seven."
- Then Abimelech and his commander went back to the land of the Philistines.
- Genesis 26 describes a similar situation with Isaac who also went to Gerar due to a famine.
- God had instructed him to do this and promised to protect him.
- When he was asked about his wife, Isaac also said, "She is my sister."
- Yet, one day Abimelech looked out of a window and saw Isaac fondling Rebekah.
- He confronted Isaac about her being his wife.
- Isaac also said that he was afraid he would be killed because Rebekah was so attractive.
- Abimelech was very upset and warned all the people, saying, "Whoever touches this man or his wife shall be put to death."
- Isaac stayed in that land for a long time and became very wealthy.
- Then the Philistines stopped up all of Abraham's wells, and Abimelech asked him to leave because he had become too powerful.
- Isaac moved a distance farther in Gerar.
- Initially, wherever Isaac's servants dug new wells, the people quarreled with them.
- Eventually they were able to dig a well.
- Then they went to Beer-sheba. That very night the Lord appeared to him and repeated the promises that had been made to Abraham.
- Soon, Abimelech went to him, offering peace.
- In the morning they exchanged oaths, and Abimelech departed in peace.