Abraham the Liar
We often think about Abraham as the father of faith. He is the one we all point to as a great example of faith to follow. And he is, when he is at his best. However, at his worst, he was a liar.
I felt that. Someone, somewhere flicked me on the back of the head for calling Abraham a liar. But he was, even if he was speaking half truths. In Genesis 20, he is up to his old tricks again.
“and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.” — Genesis 20:2 NIV
There goes Father Abraham, hiding behind his wife Sarah, just giving her over to King Abimelek. Acting out of fear like nephew Lot. Instead of trusting God with his life and his family, he goes and does this. Again.
I must admit, this really strikes me as frustrating and confusing. After all, isn’t the Bible full of heroes?
However, he gives Sarah over to the king, treating her like property. And of course the king accepts her into his house. And yet, something different happens this time.
God Steps In
But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.” — Genesis 20:3
God steps into the dreams of the king and warns him of Abraham’s wrongdoing. God and Abimelek have a conversation in this dream. Abimelek pleads of his innocence in the matter and God give him a choice to return Sarah and confront Abraham.
And, like a wise king, he does as God says.
Abraham and Fear
Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ — Genesis 20:11
Because his wife, who is well along in age, is so beautiful Abraham was afraid they would take her and kill him. Instead, he lies. They take her and he is spared as part of her family. He lies to save his own skin. Again.
However, there is something important to note. Sarah is his half sister. So he isn’t telling a flat out lie. He is omitting truth which isn’t truthful. And so, while he is telling a partial truth, he may feel very justified to do what he is doing.
How often do we do this before the Lord? Tell a half truth in order to save our bacon?
Abraham Rewarded for Being A Liar?
The last part of this chapter is very confusing to me. In the end, Abimelek gives Abraham flocks of livestock, tons of silver, and sends Abraham on his way. It is almost as if he is rewarded for being a liar. In my early years, I might have taken this chapter as an free pass to being a liar.
What I know now is that all those goods Abraham received were a penance offering to God for Abimelek’s actions. He was giving them to Abraham because he was so clever at deception. Abimelek was making sure that God would not come back and destroy his nation.
And it just so happens, Abraham is the one who receives these gifts in order to build the nation of God’s people. Slowly, over generations, they will grow into the people of Israel. Abimelek plays a role in establishing God’s people.
One Takeaway For Myself: Dreams
God spoke to Abimelek in a dream. And it is a converation. Not just a series of events that happen and then Abimelek thinks God gave him a dream. I have often wondered if this is a way God speaks to people still today. And while I haven’t done an exhaustive study, I have heard enough stories to know that God does still reveal himself to people in dreams.
This is important for us to remember. No matter our circumstances God will reach out to us and provide us with a revelation of himself. He will speak to us or show us important things he wants us to know in our dream.
And while this particular chapter is an unfortunate lapse of character for Father Abraham, we find that God is actively working for the good of his people and communicating with people who revere God.
A Chapter A Day
This is a continuation of a series where I share what I am learning or reading in the Bible. I am starting with the book of Genesis and working my way through. You can follow along or go back and read other passages in the series: