Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Gerara; at a greater distance from the devoted country of Sodom. (Haydock)
Ver. 2. He said to the king, and to all others who made inquiry, as it was his custom, whenever he came into a strange land, ver. 13. He was encouraged to do this, by the protection which God had shewn him in Egypt. — Took her, against her will, as Pharao had done. (Haydock) — Though she was ninety years old, and with child, her beauty was still extraordinary, the Rabbin think miraculous. At that time people lived above 120 years; so that at the age of ninety, she would only be about as near the end of her life as our women are at forty; and we often see people sufficiently attracting at that age. (Calmet)
Ver. 3. Abimelech. This was an usual title of kings in Chanaan, and a very good one, to remind them and their subjects, of their obligations, (Haydock) as it means “my father the king.” The behaviour of the prince shews, that as yet all sense of duty and knowledge of the true God was not banished from the country. (Calmet) — Shalt die, unless thou restore the woman, whom thou hast taken by force; on whose account I have already afflicted thee, (Ver. 7, 17.) and thus prevented thee from touching her. This testimony was more requisite, that there might be no doubt respecting Isaac’s legitimacy. (Haydock)
Ver. 5. He say, &c. The pronouns in Hebrew are printed very incorrectly. — He is my sister; and she, even he, said. (Kennicott)
Ver. 6. Sincere heart, abhorring adultery, but not altogether innocent. (Menochius)
Ver. 7. A prophet. One under my particular care, to whom I reveal many things. — He shall pray for thee. Behold, God will sometimes grant, at the request of his saints, what he would deny even such as Abimelech or the friends of Job. Is not this sufficient encouragement for us, to have recourse to the intercession of the saints? And can any one be so foolish as to pretend this is making gods of them, and shewing them an idolatrous worship? (Haydock)
Ver. 8. In the night, (de nocte) or “as soon as it began to dawn.” (Septuagint)
Ver. 9. Why, &c. He expostulates with him in a friendly but earnest manner. — A great sin, or punishment, (Menochius) ver. 18, and exposed me to the danger of committing adultery. Abraham might have answered, this would have been his own fault, as he could not have done it without offering violence to Sara, in whose chastity he could confide. Having an opportunity here to vindicate himself, Abraham speaks freely, which he was not allowed to do in Egypt, chap. xii. 20.
Ver. 12. My sister, or niece, according to those who say she was daughter of Aran, who thus must have had a different mother from Abraham; (Menochius) or, as we rather think, Sara was truly his half-sister, born of Thare by another wife. His adding truly, seems to restrain it to this sense; and we know that in those countries, marriages of such near relations were allowed, though not when both had the same parents. Why should we not, therefore, believe Abraham, who certainly knew the real state of the question, and who would not tell a lie, rather than seek for improbable and far-fetched solutions? Said, who lived eight hundred years ago, mentions the name of Jona, Abraham’s mother, as well as that of Tehevita, who bore Sara to Thare. The Hebrews, in general, give this explanation. (Calmet) — By calling Sara his sister without any addition, Abraham intended that the people should conclude he was not married: therefore he did not say she was his half-sister, as this would have frustrated his design, if, as St. Clement of Alexandria, asserts, such might and did marry under the law of nature. (Haydock) — Philo observes, the Athenian legislator, Solon, sanctioned the same practice, which was followed also by the Phœnicians. (Calmet)
Ver. 14. Gave, by way of satisfaction, for having detained his wife; as also to shew his respect for him who was a prophet. (1 Kings ix. 7.) (Haydock)
Ver. 16. Thy brother, as thou hast agreed to call thy husband. — Pieces, or sicles of silver, worth a little above 2s. 3d. each; total £113 sterling. — A covering, or veil, to shew thou art married, and prevent thee from being taken by any one hereafter. It was to be so rich, that all might know her quality. St. Paul (1 Corinthians xi. 5, 15.) orders women to be covered. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. Healed. It is not known how God afflicted Abimelech; but the women could not be delivered during the short time that Sara was detained: on her being set at liberty, they bore children. (Menochius)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Abraham sojourneth in Gerara: Sara is taken into king Abimelech’s house, but by God’s commandment, is restored untouched.
1 Abraham removed from thence* to the south country, and dwelt between Cades and Sur, and sojourned in Gerara.
2 And he said of Sara his wife: She is my sister. So Abimelech the king of Gerara sent, and took her.
3 And God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and he said to him: Lo thou shalt die for the woman that thou hast taken: for she hath a husband.
4 Now Abimelech had not touched her, and he said : Lord, wilt thou slay a nation that is ignorant and just?
5 Did not he say to me : She is my sister: and she say, He is my brother? in the simplicity of my heart, and cleanness of my hands have I done this.
6 And God said to him: And I know that thou didst it with a sincere heart: and therefore I withheld thee from sinning against me, and I suffered thee not to touch her.
7 Now therefore restore the man his wife, for he is a prophet: and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: but if thou wilt not restore her, know that thou shalt surely die, thou and all that are thine.
8 And Abimelech forthwith rising up in the night, called all his servants: and spoke all these words in their hearing, and all the men were exceedingly afraid.
9 And Abimelech called also for Abraham, and said to him: What hast thou done to us? what have we offended thee in, that thou hast brought upon me and upon my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done to us what thou oughtest not to do.
10 And again he expostulated with him, and said: What sawest thou, that thou hast done this?
11 Abraham answered: I thought with myself, saying: Perhaps there is not the fear of God in this place: and they will kill me for the sake of my wife:
12 Howbeit, otherwise also she is truly my sister,* the daughter of my father, and not the daughter of my mother, and I took her to wife.
13 And after God brought me out of my father’s house, I said to her: *Thou shalt do me this kindness: In every place, to which we shall come, thou shalt say that I am thy brother.
14 And Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and servants and handmaids, and gave to Abraham: and restored to him Sara his wife,
15 And said: The land is before you, dwell wheresoever it shall please thee.
16 And to Sara he said: Behold I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver, this shall serve thee for a covering of thy eyes to all that are with thee, and whithersoever thou shalt go: and remember thou wast taken.
17 And when Abraham prayed, God healed Abimelech and his wife, and his handmaids, and they bore children:
18 For the Lord had closed up every womb of the house of Abimelech, on account of Sara, Abraham’s wife.
1: Year of the World 2107.
12: Genesis xii. 13. and xi. 29.
13: Genesis xxi. 23.