“The way a book is read — which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book — can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it…. Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.”
~Norman Cousins

Writing is where we truly learn. Join the Journey.

I read from my scriptures (book), but you can find scripture reference here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Abraham blesses Abilemech Genesis 20

A cursory reading of this story tends to make you believe it is a lesson on telling the truth, but I found so much more.  I like how the story shows us that when two humble parties meet, the Lord will help them both find the truth.

What is the first question that hits you when you read the first verses? For me it was why would Abilemech want Sara? Wasn't she near one hundred years old? The answer comes at the end of the story when we learn that the wombs of Abilemech's house had been shut. (20:18) I believe that Abilemech wanted Sara not for her beauty but for the possibility of her bearing him a child. Such irony.

Here is a timeline to help you see the movement of events in the story. They are important because it helps you understand that Abilemech's part in Abraham and Sarah's story occurs within the timeline of the year that Sara was to become pregnant with Isaac. Gen 17:21 is the promised blessing given to Abraham and Sarah before the arrival of the three wise men.

"The Fear of God is not in this place"

The Philistine people were known enemy to the Israelites. Although Abraham and Sara's story marks the beginning of the Israelite people, the fear of the unknown was still a real threat. Abraham and Sara had formed a plan to protect themselves from certain death or slavery when dealing with unknown culture. The times were tumultuous and certainly their approach was not unreasonable. For Abraham, it was about survival. In explaining his position to Abilemech, he says how he perceived that "the fear of God is not in this place." 
Abraham was entering a foreign land where he was unsure of how his traveling entourage would be received. Past experience in Egypt and certainly elsewhere had taught him that if presented as married there would be little regard for the husbands life and the wife would be kept as chattel. If however they were presented as siblings respect for the family would be considered and the siblings would find safety in the new land. The woman may still be at risk of violation or slavery but the male sibling would at least be spared from execution. To protect themselves against the unknown nature of their hosts, Abraham entrusted the help of the Lord. (consider Egypt)

"The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"

When called to bear witness in a court of law, witnesses are sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is to ensure the clarity that the whole truth will bring and to guard against 1/2 truths (or 1/2 lies) or even embellished truths that might mislead. This civil tradition is one that helps society keep the peace.  But what about Abraham, a prophet, telling a 1/2 truth. In doing some research on this chapter, I did a google. I was surprised to discover that most people believe that Abraham told a lie in his telling of the 1/2 truth. They claim that as a prophet he knew better. I disagree. 

 God's Law 

God had promised Abraham that his seed (through Sarah) would number as the sands of the sea. As Sarah's 1/2 brother (by marriage) it was his familial responsibility to ensure her safety. As husband and wife it was their responsibility to ensure one anothers safety. There are many unjust or unsound laws that are not the best choice for every life situation.  Clearly Abraham's telling of a 1/2 truth until the whole truth about Abilmech was revealed to him was justified. One could argue that as a prophet he would be privy to needed information about his enemies. Maybe. But I say that as a prophet he acted in wisdom when he chose to protect his family from those whose heart he did not know. And he did not commit a crime of passion, of murder, or of stealing. In order to protect what God had given to him, he had withheld  all of the truth until he was assured that the people with whom he was to deal with would respect all of the truth. 
The real beauty of this story is that by not lying. (Abraham did not lie) he was able to win the friendship and trust of Abilemech who also was in need of the Lord's blessings. By not lying, Abraham was able to allow the Lord do his work and help Abilemech see the error of his actions. By having Abraham tell Abilemech only what needed to be told the Lord was able to speak to Abilemech through a dream and convince him of his mistake. In essence Abraham was able to bear witness of the Lord to Abilemech and convince him of the Lord's love for him.  This was possible because Abilemech was already humble and was seeking wisdom that would help him bring children back to his household.   The Lord was able to work through both parties that were equally humble and teach Abilemech the gospel and help him understand Abraham’s role as a prophet.

The question to consider is how might the story have ended if Abraham had told the whole truth: that he was both brother and husband to Sarah? How might have Abilemech reacted? Would he have cared that Abraham was Sarah's brother once he heard that he was her husband? How desperate was he to have a woman who could bear him a child? 

Both learned the lesson of how the Lord respects those who are obedient to him. Both received blessings because of the integrity they granted to one another.

Abilemech Received 
  • A warning from the Lord 
  • A dream from the Lord 
  • A greater understanding of God's ways 
  • The blessing of meeting a prophet of the Lord 
  • A blessing from the Lord's Prophet 
  • The wombs of his household opened - children were born 
  • Renewed faith
  • The whole truth - from the Lord - but only after his integrity had been established.
  • The proof that the Lord considered him a "righteous nation"
  • Opportunity to be obedient to his dream and God's instruction 
  • A witness to the power of Abraham's God 
  • Self Discovery as to his own integrity (true intentions)
  • Oppotunity to bear witness what happened to him and the willingness to do what is right
  • Confrontation with Abraham 
Abraham Received 
  • His wife back 
  • A friend and follower in Abilemech
  • His faith renewed in the Lord's protection of him 
  • Clear paternity for Isaac - no question reguarding Isaac's paternity 
    • Consider that if Abilemech had taken Sarah how it would have thwarted the Lord's blessing to Abraham
  • Cattle 
  • The opportunity to testify and teach Abilemech
  • Free rent on Abilemech's land 
  • The opportunity to bless Abilemech with fertility 

I believe that this story is a good example of how the Lord loves all of his children. By giving Abilmech a chance to prove his willingness to obey, he is able to bless both nations with fertility. 

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