Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 20

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 11


‘And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place.’

Genesis 20:11

The true fear of God was at that moment in Abimelech’s heart, and not in Abraham’s; it was Abimelech who was playing the faithful part, that of the child of the light and of the day; Abraham for the moment was the child of fear, darkness, and night.

I. Consider first the origin of the habit of harsh judgment. There are two main sources from which it springs. (1) The first a heathen Roman can illustrate for us: ‘With a great sum obtained I this freedom’ ( Acts 22:27-28). The thing has cost us much; we feel it is hard to believe that it can be widely shared. Abraham had made a terrible sacrifice to assure his calling. As for those easy, jovial, prosperous heathen, surely the fear of God was not there. (2) A second source of this harshness of judgment is the predominance in all of us of the natural aristocratic principle over the Christian principle of communion. Men naturally believe in election. But with rare exceptions, they naturally believe themselves to be the elect. It is hard indeed to believe that a private possession gains instead of loses by being shared by all mankind.

II. The histories of Scripture are a perpetual warning against narrow and selfish judgments of men. It is as if the Spirit had resolved that the virtues of those outside the pale should be kept clearly before the eyes of men. God is no respecter of persons, and He keeps hold in ways, of which we little dream, of the most unlikely human hearts.

III. The true Christian policy in judging mankind: (1) Let your personal fellowship be based on the clear explicit manifestation of that which is in tune with your higher life and Christ’s; (2) As for those who are without, believe that God is nearer to them than you wot of, and has more to do with them than you dream.


‘The best men are but men at the best; God takes us for worse, as well as for better; He knows that we are but dust. Note that the patriarch failed in his strong point—his faith. He feared for his life here as he had done on first coming into the land. Old sins have a curious tendency, like old stumps left in the ground, to sprout again.

There were natural religion and goodness in Abimelech, which were very attractive, and far exceeded what Abraham expected. Have a large charity! Believe and hope all things. There is more religion in the world than you suppose. It crops up in unexpected places, and men have dealings with God, who are altogether outside the pale of your religious life. God has dealings with such, but they need the help of those who are more perfectly instructed in the faith.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Genesis 20". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/genesis-20.html. 1876.
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