Bible Society of South Africa

Giving and “taking” a woman – Day 3

Bible text(s)

Abraham and Abimelech

1Abraham moved from Mamre to the southern part of Canaan and lived between Kadesh and Shur. Later, while he was living in Gerar, 2he said that his wife Sarah was his sister. So King Abimelech of Gerar had Sarah brought to him. 3One night God appeared to him in a dream and said: “You are going to die, because you have taken this woman; she is already married.”

4But Abimelech had not come near her, and he said, “Lord, I am innocent! Would you destroy me and my people? 5Abraham himself said that she was his sister, and she said the same thing. I did this with a clear conscience, and I have done no wrong.”

6God replied in the dream, “Yes, I know that you did it with a clear conscience; so I kept you from sinning against me and did not let you touch her. 7But now, give the woman back to her husband. He is a prophet, and he will pray for you, so that you will not die. But if you do not give her back, I warn you that you are going to die, you and all your people.”

8Early the next morning Abimelech called all his officials and told them what had happened, and they were terrified. 9Then Abimelech called Abraham and asked, “What have you done to us? What wrong have I done to you to make you bring this disaster on me and my kingdom? No one should ever do what you have done to me. 10Why did you do it?”

11Abraham answered, “I thought that there would be no one here who has reverence for God and that they would kill me to get my wife. 12She really is my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not of my mother, and I married her. 13So when God sent me from my father's house into foreign lands, I said to her, ‘You can show how loyal you are to me by telling everyone that I am your brother.’ ”

14Then Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham, and at the same time he gave him sheep, cattle, and slaves. 15He said to Abraham, “Here is my whole land; live anywhere you like.” 16He said to Sarah, “I am giving your brother a thousand pieces of silver as proof to all who are with you that you are innocent; everyone will know that you have done no wrong.”

Genesis 20:1-18GNBOpen in Bible reader

1. According to the reading King Abimelech would only be guilty of a sin (punishable by God) if he had sex with Sarah because she was another man’s wife. The king could get away with “taking” Sarah if she had been Abraham’s half-sister (Gen 20:12) only, and not his wife.

If you could, what question would you want to ask:
(a) God
(b) Abraham
(c) Sarah
(d) King Abimelech

2. Abimelech, a king, had the power to ‘take’ any woman he desired and “make her his wife” – but not if the woman was already married. The only way a man could “take” another man’s wife was to kill the husband. Abraham, a newcomer in a foreign kingdom, knew that by making it known that Sarah was his sister, would make her sexually available to a man desires her, and there would be no reason for anyone to get rid of him. Abraham said to Sarah, “Wherever we go, tell everyone that I am your brother, “This is how you can show your love to me” (Gen 20:13b).
(a) Like the daughters of Abraham’s nephew, Lot, Sarah is “given” by a man she loves to be sexually exploited by other men. How does this exploitation of women’s sexuality make you feel?
(b) Can you think of any examples in your own context where women sacrifice their bodies and being for the sake of the men in their life?
(c) In light of this Bible study, what are your thoughts about the question “Who gives this woman to be married to this man”? asked in the marriage service after which the priest says, “receives the woman from the hand of her father” and passes her on to the groom?

Bible Society of South Africav.4.16.20
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