How do you respond when you discover someone lied to you?
Years ago, my sister and I received two female kittens from our grandparent’s farm to take to our home. My sister named the all-white kitten Cinderella. I named the calico kitten Charlie. But after enjoying them at our home for a short amount of time, we returned them to the farm. I do not remember why.
We would regularly visit the farm and call out for Cinderella and Charlie, seeing them scamper toward us.
I do not recall how much time had passed until one day she and I were sitting on the fence calling for the two cats when my sister suddenly blurted out a tractor had run Charlie over months ago.
My sister further revealed that everyone had been lying to me about this for some time.
How do you think I responded?
What does this have to do with Gen 26:9-11?
In Genesis 26:1-6 we learn that Isaac and his family intended to move to Egypt to flee famine in their region. God intervened with a renewal of the promises spoken to Abraham, Isaac’s father, being now officially given to Isaac if he would settle in Gerar and remain obedient to God. Isaac agreed to God’s instructions.
But then Isaac lied to the men of Gerar, saying Rebekah was his sister instead of his wife. (See Gen 26:7)
After residing there for a long time, the king of the Philistines observed an interaction between Isaac and Rebekah that revealed they were clearly husband and wife, not brother and sister. (See Gen 26:8)
Now read how the king of the Philistines responded to this deception discovery.
So Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, she is your wife. How then could you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought, ‘Lest I die because of her.'” 10 Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” 11 So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” (Gen 26:9-11 ESV)
When Abimelech questions Isaac’s motive for lying, what reason did Isaac give for his deception? (v. 9)
Compare verse 7 with Isaac’s response in verse 9:
When the men of the place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” for he feared to say, “My wife,” thinking, “lest the men of the place should kill me because of Rebekah,” because she was attractive in appearance. (Gen 26:7 ESV)
Why would Isaac, a guest in the region, edit his reason for lying about his relationship with Rebekah to Abimelech, the ruling authority?
What do verses 10-11 reveal about Abimelech’s morality?
Isaac’s father, Abraham, had lied about his relationship with his wife as well, not once, but twice. The first time was in Egypt with Pharoah (see Gen 12:12-20) and the second time, like Isaac, was in Gerar (see Gen 20). The Lord intervened on Sarah’s behalf each time to insure there would be no question that Sarah was innocent and to protect Abraham’s future heir, Isaac.
But Abraham’s response, when questioned by the Abimelech of his day, reveals an additional motive besides the self-protection reasons.
Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” 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.” (Gen 20:9-11 ESV)
Did you catch it?
Abraham told the ruler of Gerar that he lied, in part, because he saw there was no fear of God in that place. The ruler of Gerar responded by providing sheep, oxen, servants, land, and silver to Abraham, as well as returning Sarah to him. Then Abraham prayed for Abimelech and his family for healing, just as the Lord had promised. (See Gen 20:7 and 14-18)
Isaac lied as his father Abraham had, but not because he saw there was no fear of God in Gerar. Rather, Isaac’s only professed motive was self-protection.
Pharaoh and the two Abimelechs expressed outrage at being lied to, yet all gave gifts to Abraham or Isaac. The rulers of Gerar also provided land and protection for Abraham, Isaac, and their wives.
How intriguing to find that God’s chosen people made poor choices, yet God redeemed them and protected them through others who were not part of the distinct line of Israel that He was developing.
Back to the cat story:
After my sister revealed the truth of Charlie’s demise, I burst into tears and ran into the house to hide in the bedroom. Yes, I was sad about Charlie’s death, but I was more upset that my family had been lying to me about it.
The connection I see between my reaction when learning they had lied to me about Charlie’s death and today’s passage is Abimelech’s initial reaction to discovering Isaac had lied. Discovering the lie mortified Abimelech. Discovering the lie mortified me.
The hard part for me, though, is extending mercy to someone who has lied to me. It takes great effort for me to be like Abimelech was with Isaac. Some days I get it right, and some days I fail.
Have you ever discovered someone lied to you and you could not only confront them and extend mercy? If so, what helped you to extend mercy?
If you read last week’s post, you know I practiced some truth spinning of my own, like Isaac, when I attempted to make two dates on the same day many years ago.
Neither of my personal examples is on the same level as what Abimelech and Isaac experienced. But the harm that is done to our souls and to those around us is present whenever lies are involved.
Have you ever experienced a situation where you were more focused on your self-protection instead of trusting God? If so, how does this story of Isaac and Abimelech encourage you?
Share one thing in the comments from today’s study that makes you praise God!