Genesis 20 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 20. Abraham and Sarah at the Court of Abimelech at Gerar (E)
The incident recorded in this chap. resembles in its general features that recorded of Abraham in Egypt, Gen 12:10-20, and that recorded of Isaac at Gerar, Gen 26:6-11. In each case the patriarch, fearing for his own life, represents his wife to be his sister. The foreign prince desires to make the patriarch’s wife one of his own harem. He is prevented from so doing. The truth is divulged. The patriarch’s wife is restored, and the patriarch himself is enriched by gifts or by compensation. In each case the heathen prince acts honourably. As compared with J’s story in Gen 12:10-20, it has been claimed by Stanley Cook that “E’s story of Abraham at Gerar in Gen 20:1-17 displays a great advance in morality; the sin of adultery is condemned in the most emphatic terms, and it is regarded as a capital offence. The stress here laid upon the iniquity marks a stage in ethics comparable only with the Decalogue, where adultery is prohibited, and with the Deuteronomic code (Gen 22:22), where also the penalty is death (stoning; cf. Eze 16:40; Eze 23:47; Joh 8:5) 1  .” But it is very doubtful whether E and J can be so widely separated. Admission to the harem was not marriage.
 Laws of Moses and Code of Hammurabi, p. 106.
This chapter is the first continuous narrative taken from E, the Elohist or Ephraimitic source of the prophetic narrative. In its vivid narrative E resembles J. But it possesses its own distinctive features of language and style. See Introduction.
The fulfilment of the promise is again postponed, while the narrative records a last peril to faith and honour.
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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".