Abraham & Abimelech – Genesis 20

We come to a rather surprising event in the life of Abraham. We find Abraham being deceitful and living a lie. We see him faltering in his faith and trust in God. He takes matters into his own hands. Abraham is the believer. He is the one who should have the upmost integrity. However, in this case, it is t Abimelech who displays the greatest integrity. Warren Wiersbe writes, “If you did not know who Abraham was, and you read this chapter for the first time, which of the two men would you say was the believer? Surely not Abraham, the liar! It was not Abraham who showed integrity, and it was not Abraham whom God kept from sinning. What Abraham did was selfish, but Abimelech responded with generosity. If anybody reveals excellent character, it is Abimelech and not Abraham.”[1]

As we consider this event we learn some very valuable truths concerning the life of a believer that will help us in our daily walk with God.

Believers do sin. Too often we think that those who have been saved by the glorious Gospel of Jesus should live perfect lives. This assumption is certainly warranted. Those of us who have been transformed by the Gospel should no longer live in sin. We are new creations in Christ, we have been changed. Even though that is how we should live, the reality is that we still sin. “The Bible tells the truth about all people, and that includes God’s people. It does not hide the fact that Noah got drunk and exposed himself (Gen. 9:20–23), or that Moses lost his temper (Num. 20:1–13), or that David committed adultery and plotted the death of a valiant soldier (2 Sam. 11). Peter denied the Lord three times (Matt. 26:69–75), and Barnabas lapsed into false doctrine (Gal. 2:13). These things are recorded, not to encourage us to sin, but to warn us to beware of sin. After all, if these great men of faith disobeyed the Lord, then we “ordinary saints” had better be very careful! “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12, NKJV)”[2] The question that is obviously on our minds is, why? Why did Abraham sin? Why do we sin? What causes us to sin?

  1. Abraham had a sin nature. Abraham was human just like the rest of us. He was conceived of the seed of man. Look at Romans 5:12-14. When Adam sinned in the garden, the entire human race was cursed. From the moment Adam fell, sin was in the blood of man. Every person ever conceived inherits a sin nature. The reason Abraham sinned is the same reason we sin today, it is our nature.
  2. Abraham was in the wrong place. Verse one tells us that Abraham left where he was and journeyed toward the south. Why did Abraham leave? The Bible does not give us an explanation. Perhaps, he just needed a change of scenery. Perhaps, he was tired of seeing the destruction that came upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Perhaps, he was tired of worrying about Lot. Whatever the reason, Abraham left where he was and went into enemy territory. Abraham went to a place that was on the edge of the Philistine territory. Abraham did not go down to Egypt as he had done before (Gen. 12). He was still within the boundaries of the land God promised to give him, but his move put him in a dangerous position. [3] Essentially, Abraham let down his guard. When we sin it is often because we are in the wrong place. As Christians, we must constantly be on guard. If we let our guard down just a little bit, temptation and sin will overwhelm us like a flood. How do we keep up our guard? By taking heed to the Word of God. We must be in continual prayer and in the study of the Word. It is the Word of God that keeps us from sin. As the Psalmist said, “Hide God’s Word in your heart so that you may not sin against God.”
  3. Abraham failed to deal with the sin the first time. This was not the first time Abraham sinned in this way. This was familiar territory for him. Genesis 12:12-20 records the first time Abraham practiced such deceit. The problem was that Abraham admitted to his wrong doing but he did nothing to change. He did not learn his lesson. How often are we the same way? We fall into the same sin over and over again and yet, we never learn. “A lighthearted admission of sin is not the same as a brokenhearted confession of sin (Ps. 51:17). If our attitude is right, we will hate our sins, loathe ourselves for having sinned (Ezek. 6:9; 36:31), and despise the very memory of our sins. People who remember their sins with pleasure and “enjoy them again” in their minds have never judged their sins or seen how sinful their sins really are.”[4]

It is important to note that Abraham and Sarah did not necessarily lie. They simply told a half-truth. However, we need to understand that half-truth is just as deceitful as telling a lie. My friend, you cannot play with fire and not come out smelling like smoke. Even if what you do seems small, it is still wrong. Often, we make excuses for our sin. We think that is not as bad as other sins. We need to understand that sin is sin. It does not matter how small it may be, it is still sin.

There is a cost for our sin. Charles Spurgeon said, “God does not allow His children to sin successfully.” When we sin in this life, there will be consequences. You will not get away with it. There will be repercussions. When a believer gets out of the will of God, there will be consequences. Sin will cost you God’s best for you, it will cost you your character, it will cost you your testimony, it will cost you your influence, it will cost you God’s blessing. My friend, sin comes with a cost. You cannot get away with it.

Forgiveness and Restoration is available. “When believers sin, they are disciplined by God until they come to a place of repentance and confession. This discipline is not enjoyable, but it is profitable; and in the end, it produces happiness and holiness to the glory of God.”[5] In order to receive forgiveness and be restored, we must confess and forsake our sin. “The fact that God answered Abraham’s prayer for Abimelech is evidence that Abraham had confessed his sins and the Lord had forgiven him.”[6] When a child confesses their wrong to his parents and displays intentional repentance, the parent responds with acceptance and love. When we go before God and honestly and openly confess our sin and we follow-up on that confession by repenting of our sin, God will receive us and restore us.

The lesson we learn from this passage is that even the best of people will fall. However, the best of people will not stay in their sin, they will get back up.


[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). Be Obedient (p. 86). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). Be Obedient (p. 86). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). Be Obedient (p. 87). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). Be Obedient (p. 88). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[5] Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). Be Obedient (p. 91). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[6] Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). Be Obedient (p. 91). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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