Abraham and Abimelich & The World of Patriarchs

Hands OutWhere is Abraham now?  And what about the kid You promised him?

Again, Abraham lies and says that Sarah is his sister, rather than his wife, in fear of losing his life.  Abraham didn’t exactly lie he just didn’t disclose all the facts, Sarah is his half-sister.  Sarah is over 90 years old, but she’s still good looking.

“And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.

And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.

But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman, which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife. 

But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? 

Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.

1. stone mask
This stone mask from the pre-ceramic neolithic period dates to 7000 B.C. and is probably the oldest mask in the world. A mask is an object normally worn on the face, typically for protection, disguise, performance or entertainment. Masks have been used since antiquity for both ceremonial and practical purposes. They are usually worn on the face, although they may also be positioned for effect elsewhere on the wearer’s body, so in parts of Australia giant totem masks cover the body, whilst Inuit women use finger masks during storytelling and dancing.

And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. 

Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.

Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid. 

Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us?  And what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? Thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.

And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? 

And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake. 1

And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.

And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.

And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and women servants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife. 

And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee. 

And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.

So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bear children. 

For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife” (Gen 20:1-18).

2. The Patriarchs
Who Are the Patriarchs and Matriarchs?

The forefathers and foremothers of the Jewish people.

The Patriarchs, or avot (אבות) in Hebrew, refers to three generations of foundational figures in the Book of Genesis and Jewish tradition: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The Matriarchs, or imahot (אמאהות) in Hebrew, refers to the Torah’s four foundational women: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.

Abraham and Sarah were the parents of Isaac, who, with Rebecca parented Jacob. With his two wives Rachel and Leah (and two handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpah), Jacob fathered 12 sons and at least one daughter.

Of his sons, Rachel gave birth to two: Joseph and Benjamin. The 12 sons would go on to form the 12 Tribes of Israel. Israel is the name Jacob is given after he wrestles with an angel.

The three Patriarchs, and all but one (Rachel) of the Matriarchs, are believed to be buried at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, a city in the southern West Bank (a region also known as Judea).

The site is also known as the Cave of the Patriarchs or Cave of Machpelah and — to Muslims — as the Sanctuary of Abraham. It is holy to Muslims, as well as to Jews, and a synagogue and mosque are both located there.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs has been a flashpoint for violence between Israelis and Palestinians at numerous times, most famously in 1994 when Baruch Goldstein, an American-born Israeli Jew, opened fire on Muslim worshipers there, killing 29 people.

Having absolute faith in God isn’t always that easy.  It’s not hard to believe that He’s who He says He is, but it takes patience to believe that He’ll take care of problems, especially if you want Him to do something for you. 

But God takes care of us when the time is right, He’ll never let us down (Deut 31:6, Josh 1:5, and Heb 13:5).

1 As you can see that if your heart is right with God then He’ll take care of you.  Abraham’s faith was strong, but it’s obvious that at times his faith failed. 

If he had absolute faith in God he would’ve told King Abimelech that Sarah was his wife.  If you call on God only when you’re in a bind, He may not hear you (Is 59:1-2), and He certainly won’t let anyone use Him (Gal 6:7-8). 

The World of Patriarchs

The familiar figures of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph emerge out of the mists of Israel’s earliest memories.  Genesis 12-50 traces the journeys of these ancestral forefathers as they sought a land promised by God (Gen 12:1; 15:7).  Their migrations carried them from Mesopotamia to Egypt on several occasions, although the focus remained on Canaan, the land that their descendants would eventually possess.

We’re completely dependent upon Genesis for our knowledge of these great biblical figures since not a single reference to the patriarchs has been discovered outside the Bible.  This is not surprising, this is not surprising, given the emphatic biblical affirmation that God chose His people from the least of all the peoples on the earth (Deut 7:7).

Israel’s ancestors came from the peripheral edges of history even though they were at the theological center of God’s redemptive plan.  Yet this historical anonymity makes it difficult to place the patriarchs within their proper milieu.  Several scholars believe Genesis 12-50 reflects the Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 B.C.) and place the migrations of the patriarchs within this period.

After the collapse of urban civilization, powerful states reappeared beginning about 2000 B.C.  In southern Mesopotamia the city-state of Ur had already gained control of the surrounding territory.  Ur-Nammu, greatest king of the 3rd Dynasty of Ur (ca 2113-2006 B.C.), erected a great ziggurat (temple tower) and encouraged art and literature.

The power of Ur ebbed under increasing pressure from new groups of people who came into Mesopotamia and changed the political landscape.  Particular important were the Amorites, a Semitic people perhaps originally from the fringes of the Syro-Arabian Desert west of Mesopotamia.  Tribally oriented and seminomadic, moving with small herds of sheep and goats, these Amorites gradually penetrated Mesopotamia, overthrowing the rulers of city-states and establishing Amorite dynasties at Isin and Larsa.  During a span of 200 years (2000-1800 B.C.) the Amorites dominated most cities in Mesopotamia.

3 ancient near east 2040 1550 map

By 1800 B.C. two powerful Amorite states – Mari and Babylon – controlled affairs along that Euphrates River.  Zimri-lim, king of Mari, built a palace comprised of 250 rooms covering an area 200 x 120 meters.  Within this palace archaeologists discovered 24,000 tablets inscribed in Akkadian.  These tablets contain valuable information on social customs of the Middle Bronze Age and give some indications of how prophets functioned outside Israel.


By the 1700s B.C. Babylon became the center of a kingdom that controlled most of central and southern Mesopotamia.  Hammurabi, 6th king of the 1st Amorite Dynasty of Babylon (1792-1750 B.C.), was the most important ruler of the Old Babylonian Kingdom.  He conquered Mari and established a modest empire a modest empire that included southern and central Mesopotamia.  His famous law code, now in the Louvre Museum in Paris, indicates high levels of social and cultural refinement.

4. The story of Noah’s Ark
The story of Noah’s Ark is not just a Biblical story. Noah was known under a different name in India, among ancient Egyptians and Native Americans, just to mention a few cultures. The life of Utnapishtim and the Babylonian Flood Story are described in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Just like Noah, Utnapishtim is the survivor of the Deluge. Gilgamesh is the semi-mythic King of Uruk best known from The Epic of Gilgamesh (written c. 2150-1400 BCE) the great Sumerian/Babylonian poetic work.

The court at Babylon fostered the writing of great epics adapted from earlier Sumerian prototypes.  The Gilgamesh Epic, or “Babylonian Flood Story,” has been especially intriguing to biblical scholars because of its literary parallels with the flood recorded in Genesis 7-8.  The Enuma Elsih recounts the exploits of the great Babylonian god Marduk who prevailed over the primordial monster Tiamat and created the world.

After Hammurabi, the power of Babylon gradually ebbed.  Nippur and Isin were lost to Babylonian control shortly after Hammurabi’s death.  A Hittite raid by Mursilis I about 1595 B.C. brought an end to the 1st Amorite Dynasty of Babylon.  Babylon entered a dark age for the next 400 years, during which the Kassites dominated southern Mesopotamia.

5. Chart

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