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Genesis 20:9-16

Context
20:9 Abimelech summoned Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? What sin did I commit against you that would cause you to bring such great guilt on me and my kingdom? 1  You have done things to me that should not be done!” 2  20:10 Then Abimelech asked 3  Abraham, “What prompted you to do this thing?” 4 

20:11 Abraham replied, “Because I thought, 5  ‘Surely no one fears God in this place. They will kill me because of 6  my wife.’ 20:12 What’s more, 7  she is indeed my sister, my father’s daughter, but not my mother’s daughter. She became my wife. 20:13 When God made me wander 8  from my father’s house, I told her, ‘This is what you can do to show your loyalty to me: 9  Every place we go, say about me, “He is my brother.”’”

20:14 So Abimelech gave 10  sheep, cattle, and male and female servants to Abraham. He also gave his wife Sarah back to him. 20:15 Then Abimelech said, “Look, my land is before you; live wherever you please.” 11 

20:16 To Sarah he said, “Look, I have given a thousand pieces of silver 12  to your ‘brother.’ 13  This is compensation for you so that you will stand vindicated before all who are with you.” 14 

1 tn Heb “How did I sin against you that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin?” The expression “great sin” refers to adultery. For discussion of the cultural background of the passage, see J. J. Rabinowitz, “The Great Sin in Ancient Egyptian Marriage Contracts,” JNES 18 (1959): 73, and W. L. Moran, “The Scandal of the ‘Great Sin’ at Ugarit,” JNES 18 (1959): 280-81.

2 tn Heb “Deeds which should not be done you have done to me.” The imperfect has an obligatory nuance here.

3 tn Heb “And Abimelech said to.”

4 tn Heb “What did you see that you did this thing?” The question implies that Abraham had some motive for deceiving Abimelech.

5 tn Heb “Because I said.”

6 tn Heb “over the matter of.”

7 tn Heb “but also.”

8 tn The Hebrew verb is plural. This may be a case of grammatical agreement with the name for God, which is plural in form. However, when this plural name refers to the one true God, accompanying predicates are usually singular in form. Perhaps Abraham is accommodating his speech to Abimelech’s polytheistic perspective. (See GKC 463 §145.i.) If so, one should translate, “when the gods made me wander.”

9 tn Heb “This is your loyal deed which you can do for me.”

10 tn Heb “took and gave.”

11 tn Heb “In the [place that is] good in your eyes live!”

12 sn A thousand pieces [Heb “shekels”] of silver. The standards for weighing money varied considerably in the ancient Near East, but the generally accepted weight for the shekel is 11.5 grams (0.4 ounce). This makes the weight of silver here 11.5 kilograms, or 400 ounces (about 25 pounds).

13 sn To your ‘brother.’ Note the way that the king refers to Abraham. Was he being sarcastic? It was surely a rebuke to Sarah. What is amazing is how patient this king was. It is proof that the fear of God was in that place, contrary to what Abraham believed (see v. 11).

14 tn Heb “Look, it is for you a covering of the eyes, for all who are with you, and with all, and you are set right.” The exact meaning of the statement is unclear. Apparently it means that the gift of money somehow exonerates her in other people’s eyes. They will not look on her as compromised (see G. J. Wenham, Genesis [WBC], 2:74).



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