Discerning Righteousness from Unrighteousness I

On his blog, DeepStrength commented:

Abraham’s intent was to protect Sarah. It appears that God honored that rather than bring down Abraham for his sin there.

I saw this idea put forward in a thread at Dalrock’s too, but it is not supported by Scripture.

With Pharaoh:

10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. 11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” 14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.

And with Abimelech:

10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” 11 Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife. 13 And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”

Abraham’s thought was explicitly to protect himself. There is no mention or inference that he withheld the truth for Sarah’s sake. In fact, Abraham himself says it was a kind of trade: he gives Sarah kindness with marriage (provision, etc.) and she gives him the “kindness” of refusing to confess he is her husband. It’s probably too far to say that Abraham whored Sarah out, but he does go that direction.

Abraham, as a husband, is a kind of evil master who removes his protection from his prized servant when such protection is most needed! But because Sarah submitted to God by submitting to her husband, it is God who protects her in the houses of Pharaoh and Abimelech. It is not for the sake of Abraham’s righteousness, but because of Sarah’s, and Pharoah’s, and Abimelch’s, and because of God’s own righteousness. The only person who is presented as unrighteous is, in fact, Abraham; who (predictably) falsely projects his own unrighteousness (regarding Sarah) onto others. Understanding this is important when considering the elevation of Sarah in 1 Peter 3. It is a reiteration by example of Peter’s instruction that wives submit to unbelieving husbands just as Sarah submitting to her literally unfaithful husband and yet trusted in the Lord.

By withholding the truth, Abraham trangressed the (as yet ungiven) Ninth Commandment. He bore false witness against his neighbor–which threatened them with death!–upon whose land he was living and from whom Abraham profited.

Abraham is a rare scoundrel. The beginning of Chapter 12 God called Abram to Canaan and promising him to become a great nation. Abrams strikes out for Canaan, finds a famine, and so heads into Egypt. Five minutes after God’s promise, Abram is bearing false witness against Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s men, and Sarah. Years later in chapter 17 God again comes to Abram and again promises that he will father a nation. A year later Isaac is born. In between there, Abraham offers his wife to Abimelech. To further confound us moderns he did these things without telling a lie. He is a legalist of the first order, and an obvious ancestor of the Pharisees.

There is no call for anyone to do unrighteousness because those near us are unrighteous or unworthy. God chose and used Abraham despite his unrighteousness, and Sarah demonstrated righteousness by her own hand despite Abraham’s unrighteousness; which means without rebelling. Do not be fooled into thinking that only those who appear righteous are in the Lord’s hands as His tools.

Which brings us to the supposed conundrum of whether lying to Nazis to save Jews or lying to pedophiles to protect children is good. The answer is not “Yes” or “No”, but “Grace” and “Forgiveness”. The man who lies to (but does not bear false witness against) murderers and perverts protects both the victims and the perpetrators. Lying is to be avoided just as kings must avoid having too many wives or horses, but lying is not the same as bearing false witness against your neighbor; which is being anything less than truthful with the intent to bring them down. So lying to your Nazi countrymen with the intent to lead them into a deathtrap is unrighteous all around. Falsely swearing there are no Jews in your attic is more righteous —by virtue of love–than surrendering them, and anyone who loves the truth, you, Jews, or Nazis (as Christ did) will be quick to see and forgive.

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35 thoughts on “Discerning Righteousness from Unrighteousness I

  1. Pingback: The parable of the whore | Reflections on Christianity and the manosphere

  2. This strengthens Peter’s commands. The clear context of Peter is subjection to unjust authority (to the state persecuting Christians, to evil slave masters, and to unbelieving husbands). So Abraham being less than a perfect husband to put it mildly doesn’t create a get out of jail free card. Peter makes it clear that we are to imitate Christ here saying, “While being reviled he did not revile in turn, while suffering he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to Him who judges righteously.” Ultimately we submit to authority because of our trust in God. It’s an act of faith.

  3. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a8.htm

    IV. RESPECT FOR THE TRUTH

    2488 The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional. Everyone must conform his life to the Gospel precept of fraternal love. This requires us in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it.

    2489 Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. The duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.283

  4. It breaks the commandment to use the Truth to cause harm, i.e. a greater evil.
    When the Devil tempted Jesus in the Gospel, everything he said was true! That is the danger, especially for women. They aren’t to be subtle arbiters of edge cases.
    God has commanded wives to obey their husbands.

    The simple way of drawing a line is the paradox: What if the husband orders the wife not to obey him? Does the wife obey the husband or God when it is clear she can only obey one or the other and not both.

    There is no authority for me to obey anyone except God and his commandments except for one of those commandments itself specifying I should obey a superior authority – some in civil matters, the church or pastor in ecclesiastical ones. A wife has no authority to obey her husband apart from God’s commandment to do so. Her job isn’t hard – it isn’t to agonize about what it the right thing, but merely to see if it is glaring neon sign sin. It is the husband’s job to agonize since he will be responsible if he asks the wife to do something sinful, even through negligence.

    How are the marriages where the husband orders “treat me as an equal” working out when the wife obeys completely?

    I give Abraham and Sarah the benefit of the doubt since it is before Moses, and before Jesus. Abraham had reason to fear, and that resulted in a fraud, that ended up (unintentionally – and the lack of intent is important) worse than if he told the truth. It is easy to speak after so much more scripture was written which lets us look more carefully and play philosopher with the details of the events. If we were there, knowing only what Abraham knew, we might do the same thing or some other variant.

  5. I can add one thing which might also clarify authority, obedience, and the commandments of God.

    It is far clearer and far more absolute that we are to honor and OBEY our parents. It is one of the 10 commandments. Nor is there any time limit – obey until you are adult. Or even Genesis where the children leave the parents and marry and become one, it never negates any obligation of obedience.

    So for husbands and wives, if your parents gave a command, do you obey it or not? Do you try to pick it apart, decide if it is valid, etc. or unilaterally obey it.

    Apply that standard to a wife obeying her husband.

  6. @tz

    It is far clearer and far more absolute that we are to honor and OBEY our parents. It is one of the 10 commandments. Nor is there any time limit – obey until you are adult. Or even Genesis where the children leave the parents and marry and become one, it never negates any obligation of obedience.

    The commandment is to honor; which as you said is timeless and at no age is it acceptable to dishonor one’s parents. Neither the ESV, KJV, nor Douay-Rheims say obey. The master of the house is the master of the house. That’s a good thing because it would be quite a pickle for a married woman, and there is a reason that the fathers of sons leave their homes, and that the fathers of daughters give them over to sons who have left their parents’ homes. Wives, however, are to explicitly obey.

    Apply that standard to a wife obeying her husband.

    I think I’ve shown that the standards are different. The difference could be compared to the difference in the military between honoring the rank of an officer with a salute, versus the expectation of obedience to a direct commander.

  7. This is a good topic to bring up, but I do think this is something that needs to be said. I do understand that you feel that Abraham was merely protecting his own life with regards to what he commanded Sarah to say. But, you may be overlooking 4 very important points.

    1) He was given a direct order to God to fulfill His will. I view it less of Abraham protecting his own life and more of him ensuring that God’s commandment would continue to be followed. If he had been killed, he would not have continued to the nation given to him, and God’s promise would have been nullified.

    2) He was indeed protecting the life of Sarah through his actions. Had he been killed, and Sarah been taken as a wife of one the kings of these nations, she would have eventually been turned to follow the rituals and teachings of those places rather than God. This has been the case of numerous people throughout the Bible who married and eventually turned away from God because their spouses did not worship God.

    3) He did not lie. Sarah is indeed his sister through only his father. He did, however, conceal the truth of the entire situation, something which isn’t forbidden. The truth of the matter was eventually revealed, however.

    4) It showed how unrighteous those nations were. If he had told them that Sarah was his wife, they would have coveted her beauty and murdered him to obtain it. And he was right about that. Prior to his actions, there wasn’t a fear of God in those nations.

    In all matters of righteousness, we must remember that any righteousness at all is of God. If Abraham had acted unrighteously during this period, he would have met a swift punishment and correction.

    We should also remember in Christ’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Christ described Abraham as comforting Lazarus due to his painful life, while the rich man burned. Abraham was not in a place of punishment, so we can surmise, that in the end, he lived righteously.

  8. I think you have the exegesis of these two stories incorrect.

    Here is the basic structure of both stories.

    Abraham says he is afraid his wife will be taken from him because of her beauty and the evilness of the rulers in the land.

    Evil ruler takes his wife.

    God punishes evil ruler and blesses Abraham while doing so.

    The way to view Abraham as the bad guy in this story is to believe the antagonist’s evaluation of the events and to ignore God’s own blessings and curses.

  9. 4) It showed how unrighteous those nations were. If he had told them that Sarah was his wife, they would have coveted her beauty and murdered him to obtain it. And he was right about that. Prior to his actions, there wasn’t a fear of God in those nations.

    That’s a possibility, but the text only describes it as Abraham’s perception of fear. Pharaoh’s response to the situation is reasonable: “Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife?”

    In contrast, in the next chapter, the narrator takes the time to point out “the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.”

    Also note that for Abimelech: “Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.”

    Does that sound unrighteous to you? The man appealed to his own innocence and God affirms that it was so.

    Abraham’s actions are not heroic, and it took divine intervention to prevent Sarah from being adulterated in both cases. It was possible that Abraham’s fear of Pharaoh/Egypt was rational, but there is little evidence of that the second time he got in trouble for the wife/sister gambit.

  10. @JW

    See SirHamster’s comment. There is no evidence to suggest that either Pharaoh or Abimelech would have killed Abraham for Sarah. In fact, they give him a lot–I mean: A lot!–of wealth. How does your exegesis square with the notion of kings so evil that they murder husbands of beautiful wives, but give exorbitant gifts to the brothers of spinsters?

    Pharaoh: I want to marry that beautiful woman. Kill her husband. Muhahaha!

    Egyptian Henchman: Sire, he’s her brother.

    Pharaoh: Oh. Well, why didn’t you say so? Give him some acreage, enough herd animals to establish a large farm, plenty of food for his big ol’ family, and a sack of treasure. Don’t forget the address. I want to send them a tent-warming card.

    Isn’t it more likely that the murder-for-gain sort would be more murderous than generous against both husbands and brothers?

  11. There is evidence for it. These were men that were willing to take a member of another man’s household. That they did not have sex with Sarah is of great importance. But do not forget the basic transgressing – they took a member of Abraham’s household. Note, it was not that Abraham *gave*; they took. They saw and they took. They saw what was pleasing to the eye and took it. That they did not have sex with Sarah was their saving grace.

    And as for squaring this, it is simple. By the custom of the day, one would negotiate for marriage with a father or a brother. By posing as a brother, Abraham could decline suitors. But men willing to take a woman out of the household of another man are men that are willing to kill that very same man. They saw no need to kill Abraham precisely because, in their viewpoint, he had not sexual stake in her and did not pose any threat to the progeny they planned to have with Sarah.

  12. As for the divine intervention. We ignore the basic result of it. The rulers are cursed by God and Abraham leaves blessed. The reading you have turns this result on it’s head and curses Abraham and praises the men God cursed.

  13. I’ll just join with Darlock and say outstanding. There are, as ever, two errors with Abraham:
    1.) Reading him as just a self-serving jerk (he wasn’t)
    2.) Reading him as pure as the driven snow (he wasn’t)

  14. David, a man after God’s own heart, murdered one of his own mighty men Uriah after he saw Bathsheba and her beauty. Righteous men can do evil things.

    It’s not that far fetched as it may sound that Pharoah or Abimelech would’ve killed Abraham for his bride.

  15. I am not saying that Abraham had no fault or that he was sinless.

    I am saying that the narrative of these two events is not in accord with what you present.

    I am hesitant to cut him off at the knees (https://dalrock.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/cutting-leaders-off-at-the-knees/) where Scriptures does not do so. Instead, Abraham leaves blessed. After your evaluation of him, I would hardly believe the he is the man that ought to walk away blessed.

    To call Abraham a scoundrel or evil master has absolutely no precedent in the Biblical account nor do any later Scriptural accounts treat Abraham in this way, not later in the law, not in the Prophets, in in the Gospels, not in the Pauline epistles.

  16. As for the divine intervention. We ignore the basic result of it. The rulers are cursed by God and Abraham leaves blessed. The reading you have turns this result on it’s head and curses Abraham and praises the men God cursed.

    The opinion that neither Pharaoh or Abimelech were murderous is hardly praise.

    You have a good point about force, but it was still a trade. Forcing a “fair” trade does not necessarily translate into a willingness to murder. Why make it “fair” then?

    The story does not compliment Abraham for his righteousness here; he uses a clever gambit based on the threats as he perceives it, and it does not work out for him.

    Pharaoh: “Wait, that beautiful lady is eligible?! I have a great offer for you – I’m going to make you my Brother-in-Law! Forget the formalities – here, have some extra slave girls! *wink* Oh, you’re just too polite. I’m sure you’ll love it after you have time to think about it.”

    A man afraid for his life would probably not interrupt with the truth: “Actually, she’s my wife and not eligible. I lied to your face because I think you’re murdering scum. Hope you’re still having a good day.”

    Do you think the point of the story is that we need to twist the truth in the face of fear until we end up in a situation outside of our control, so that God can then bail us out and then bless us?

    The story does not say God condemns Abraham’s actions, but you can imagine the worry and fear Abraham faced while separated from Sarah. The story leaves open the possibility this is self-inflicted harm – much like the conflict between Sarah and Hagar.

    Whether or not Pharaoh/Abimelech were willing to murder, the only stated reason for the scheme is Abraham’s fear for his own life; a scheme that did not work. God is the hero of the story, and God causes Abraham to be blessed in the presence of powerful kings despite that fear.

  17. @JW

    I am not saying that Abraham had no fault or that he was sinless.

    Good. Then we are agreed. What I have said is on some of those recorded instances.

    To call Abraham a scoundrel or evil master has absolutely no precedent in the Biblical account nor do any later Scriptural accounts treat Abraham in this way

    That simply isn’t true. This post is all written in the light of such a later Scriptural account (1 Peter) that sheds light on the Biblical account in Genesis.

    1 Peter 2 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.[…] 3 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct […] For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

    I highlighted Likewise because you should see that it is pointing wives back to the instructions to righteous Christian servants of evil masters. By this Peter means respectful and pure conduct may win over evil masters and husbands who do not obey the word, if anything can. Then he specifically parallels Sarah’s respectful and pure conduct in submission as a righteous wife/servant suffering under unjust rule, and parallels Abraham to husbands who do not obey the word and evil masters.

    Instead, Abraham leaves blessed. After your evaluation of him, I would hardly believe the he is the man that ought to walk away blessed.

    Abraham’s moments of unrighteousness can no more make him unworthy of God’s blessings than his righteousness makes him worthy of them. It was God who chose Abraham; not the other way ’round. Of Abraham it is rightfully celebrated that He obeyed the Lord, and He did: Whatever the Lord told Abraham to do, he was quick to see it through. That is the righteousness that God demands from us; not perfection.

    Furthermore: I do not understand why you are so quick to say that Pharaoh and Abimelech are evil. Every party in the story walked away blessed because they all feared God, and they all acted with integrity. Read the rest of the Abraham’s dealing with Abimelech. Abimelech is steadfast in his good treatment of Abraham and Isaac–who is his father’s son and also tempted the Philistines with his own wife.

    In just a couple generations, the children of Abraham will sell their brother into slavery in Egypt. There Joseph will prosper and save the whole nation of Egypt from famine. And Egypt will take in the tiny seed of Israel (70 people [Gen. 46:27]) and then, 430 years later, that great ark Egypt will give a painful birth to a full-fledged Israel (600,000 plus women and children [Exod. 12:37-42]); even passing through Red waters.

  18. To say that Abraham is not sinless does not mean this particular account is to be read negatively. The fact that all have sinned does not mean particular narrative accounts are pointing to this fact. In so far as we want find fault here, what I find particularly egregious is that you find fault with the faultless one and refuse to blame the clearly guilty party. On that note…

    “Furthermore: I do not understand why you are so quick to say that Pharaoh and Abimelech are evil.” Because they took. If I came to your house and took one of your daughters, you’d call this kidnapping. Suppose you lived with your sister and I did the same, your reaction is that this would be evil of me. Let’s say I left you a check for a million dollars while doing so. Does the fact that I do the above and leave you with gifts change the fundamental fact that I took what was yours?

    “Do you think the point of the story is that we need to twist the truth in the face of fear until we end up in a situation outside of our control, so that God can then bail us out and then bless us?”

    No, I do not think this story is really about Abraham and his lie at all. I think it is about how God is going to work through Abraham. For no small reason do these two stories serve as a book end to the establishment of the covenant by which all nations will be blessed through Abraham’s seed. For a similar view from someone with far better credentials, see Bill Dennison’s treatment “Abraham: The Prophet” in http://www.kerux.com/doc/1302.asp.

  19. @JW

    what I find particularly egregious is that you find fault with the faultless one and refuse to blame the clearly guilty party.

    For which you have no basis. There is no evidence of either Pharaoh or Abimelech being husband killers except for Abraham’s stated fears.

    As a rule, I do not use commentaries, but I made an exception for you so that I might find out what others thought about the use of the word took. To me, that doesn’t mean they stole, or otherwise misappropriated Sarai. Since I don’t own any commentaries I used the ones on Biblegateway.com. Matthew Henry’s is famous of course, and there was also one called “Reformation Study Bible”. I did not find any evidence that took meant misappropriated. What I did find is that I and what I wrote here agreed with them both!

    SirHamster has repeatedly said: The hero of the story is God. God protects what is His, because it is His; not on account of the object’s righteousness, but for His own sake. Regarding Sarai Abram set out to mislead–to be false–from the beginning. Pharaoh and Abimelech, like any king, are tempted to take to themselves too many wives, but they feared and obeyed the Lord; not doing what David would later do. They dealt justly with the Lord’s anointed; contrary to Abram’s fears.

    As for Bill Dennison’s essay: I found it convoluted.

  20. I do not doubt God is the hero. But God can be the hero while Abraham remains honorable and Pharaoh/Abimelech antagonists. I take issue with you maligning Abraham and vindicating Pharaoh/Abimelech.

    You didn’t answer my question. Is taking someone out of your household ok, so long as I leave a gift? If so, then we understand Biblical morality very differently. If not, then why do you not join me in condemning Pharaoh/Abimelech?

    “There is no evidence of either Pharaoh or Abimelech being husband killers.” Well, one of Abraham’s fear was justified – that he was dealing with men that would take his wife because of her beauty. But the second part of his evaluation is just a bridge too far for you?

    In fact the pairing of language of beauty and taking has precedence in Scripture. And it does not point to understanding “take” in this context as some neutral word. “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was… pleasing to the eye… she took some.” The “taking” in Genesis three was not some morally nuetral act, nor is the act of taking by Pharaoh/Abimelech.

  21. @Jonathan

    You didn’t answer my question.

    I answered your question by showing you that its basis was unfounded, and it was–and still is–besides the point even before I pointed out the false premise.

    In fact the pairing of language of beauty and taking has precedence in Scripture. And it does not point to understanding “take” in this context as some neutral word.

    The word used for took is laqach. Laqach is used in the Bible 909 times. It is used when Eve took the fruit. It is used when Abram married Sarai. It is used when Noah fills the Ark. It is used to mean almost every form of “possess”; whether good or evil.

    Now, I and SirHamster have answered every one of your false attacks against my post with truth, forbearance and kindness. Yet you do not admit any of them, and you certainly haven’t thanked us for helping you.

    – The Bible does indeed show Abraham to have been motivated to surrender Sarah by fear and not for love.

    – Abraham actually is likened to an evil master in the Bible.

    – Abimelech claims to have acted with integrity and innocence, and God Himself affirms it.

    – I have showed that while Abraham said those evil kings do not fear God, the transcript of events shows explicitly that Pharaoh and Abimelech did fear God.

    – I have showed that it is a mistake to say that God blessed Abraham, but cursed Pharaoh and Abimelech; that in fact God blessed them all.

    – I have showed that recognition of Abram’s error in these specific instances in no way impugns God’s actions to bless everyone and indeed this shows the presence of Christ way back; for He loved them all while they were yet sinners.

    Instead of taking a step back from your assumptions that Abraham spoke the truth rather than spoke out of fear, you have contrived more false statements about me. You don’t even have the sense to pay attention when you write:

    [W]hat I find particularly egregious is that you find fault with the faultless one and refuse to blame the clearly guilty party.

    Watch yourself.

  22. You didn’t answer my question. Is taking someone out of your household ok, so long as I leave a gift? If so, then we understand Biblical morality very differently. If not, then why do you not join me in condemning Pharaoh/Abimelech?

    That may have been pretty good for their standards back then.

    Recall that Pharaoh/Abimelech are making Abraham their brother-in-law when they take him at his word that Sarah is his sister and an eligible lady. That would be considered a great honor to him. They are the leader with the highest status in their nation/tribe, and Abraham is a guest to their lands.

    Him refusing that honor and/or revealing the ugly truth after a “generous offer you can’t refuse” would have been insulting … and that may be the reason why Abraham failed to prevent the taking; his available actions were bound by his “clever” truth.

    Better alternatives:
    1. Tell truth from the beginning, rely on God for protection.
    2. Reveal actual truth when the “truth” led to Pharaoh/Abimelech’s inappropriate desire. Make reparations for the dishonor. Rely on God for protection from any violent blowback.

    Well, one of Abraham’s fear was justified – that he was dealing with men that would take his wife because of her beauty. But the second part of his evaluation is just a bridge too far for you?

    Because both men’s responses indicate that they consider wives off limits. While that may be a lie, God’s protection of Abimelech is evidence that his standards were sufficient to be innocent. (Though the warning to him to not keep Sarah indicates that there was temptation to lose it.)

    Finding something wrong on the part of Pharaoh/Abimelech does not make Abraham blameless. Knowing God considers Abraham righteous does not make Abraham’s every action right.

    We do not have the luxury of applying lower or easier standards to people we like; including Biblical patriarchs. Even Lot gets called righteous before/after incest. His incest is wrong, not righteous. Seeing Abraham’s dishonesty as dishonesty is not cursing him; it is applying an honest scale based on God’s standard so that we can better follow the straight and narrow.

    I think we’re agreed that we aren’t interested in imitating Abraham’s actions here. Whatever we think of his intentions, the actions did not produce very good fruit, and that is part of the lesson to us.

    Thanks for the Bible study discussion.

  23. “The Bible does indeed show Abraham to have been motivated to surrender Sarah by fear and not for love”

    The Bible does not say why Abraham allowed his wife/sister to be taken. That she was taken is what is recorded. It says he was motivated by fear of their motive that they would find her beautiful, take her, and kill him. He got two out of three correct and we debate on whether or not his opinion on the third is correct.

    “Abraham actually is likened to an evil master in the Bible.”

    He is not. Sarah is held up as a model of obedience to her husband. The point of this passage is not to hold Abraham up as a model of an unbelieving husband.

    “Abimelech claims to have acted with integrity and innocence, and God Himself affirms it.”

    Yes, this is true only in so far as it goes… The act of taking Sarah was a huge offense. Abimilech even admits his offense, “To Sarah he said, ‘I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you.'”

    Each hosuehold was afflicted by a curse from God prior to Sarah being returned (Gen 12:17 and Gen 20:17). In the account with Pharoah, Abraham leaves with the gifts that Pharoah initially gave him. In the Abimilech account, he further blesses Abraham.

    “I have showed that while Abraham said those evil kings do not fear God, the transcript of events shows explicitly that Pharaoh and Abimelech did fear God.” For the account of Pharaoh, I see no reference to his fear of God. I see him wanting his curse to end. As for Abimelech, his story ends on a much happier note.

    “I have showed that it is a mistake to say that God blessed Abraham, but cursed Pharaoh and Abimelech; that in fact God blessed them all.” He did curse them. After it was all over, maybe we can agree that all parties were blessed. But the stories clearly state that the house of Pharaoh and Abimelech fell under God’s curse (Gen 12:17 and Gen 20:17).

    God’s evaluation of the story is more normative for me than our reading. My initial summary of the account remains quite accurate. Men take from Abraham. God curses those men. Men seek redemption through Abraham. Abraham’s intercession on their behalf lifts their curse. To turn this around and make it a story about Abraham’s lie and how noble/innocent these rulers are seems to miss God’s own evaluation and judgement of the events.

  24. @ Cane

    Great post, as usual, brother.

    Gents,

    I highly encourage you to sit down with the beverage of your choice and read Abraham’s story all the way through in one sitting. Sometimes we need to go through the Scriptures with a fine toothed comb. Sometimes we need to take them in one entire story at a time.

    What stood out to me reading Abraham’s story is his growth in faith. He started out trusting God so little that he thought he needed to help God accomplish his plan by deceiving kings and employing a surrogate. By the end of the story, Abraham trusted God so much that he was willing to sacrifice the son God promised him.

    It’s encouraging, because it highlights what God expects of us – growth (increasing maturity), not flawlessness.

  25. Very good perspective on this story. In the plainest reading of the Word, Abram acted out of fear which was likely motivated out of the all-to-human desire to stay alive. His fear is clearly in character for a man who had not fully come to grips with the promise that God gave him, meaning his faith in the truth of God’s promises had not fully taken hold of him at this point in his life.

    Recall that Issac was not born until Abraham was 100 years old. Basically it took the stubborn man that long to fully grasp the promise and act on it (ahem). So his behavior in Egypt is not shocking. In fact, I dare say anyone of us would behave similarly in the same situation. (Well I guess that depends on what the wife looks like).

    In the end, God did what He does. He remained faithful to the faithless.

  26. @JW,

    I think you are confusing “flawed” for “evil”. Abraham is definitely the first but not the latter. As a man he is a well worth calling a saint. He lived in a far more turbulent time than mine and, I feel, was justifiably afraid. However, we are called on to be courageous and hear Abraham stumbled. He violated something very sacred by giving up his wife.

  27. I’ll keep this short – I don’t want to get sucked into it again.

    One of my frustrations is Christian’s not using Scripture’s language as their own language – even in relatively tiny details. I will not say, as you do that Abraham gave up his wife. Scripture says his wife was taken. You may equivocate and want to tell me they mean the same thing. Give and take do not mean the same thing. For whatever reason, Scripture tells us that Sarah was taken. It may be that it was a relatively benign affair with Abraham’s implicit consent or it may have been – as I tend to think – more akin to kidnapping. Scripture on this is silent.

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