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Abimelech King of Gerar

There is more than one Abimelech in the Bible, but he is most commonly referred to as the King of Gerar. He was in power when Abraham was traveling through Kadesh and Shur inside Philistine territory.

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As they entered Gerar, Abraham proclaimed his wife Sarah as his sister so that he would not be killed; after hearing this, King Abimelech had Sarah brought to his palace. But God came to him in a dream and told the king that Sarah was married and that he would die upon taking her. Standing up for himself Abimelech responded saying that he was innocent, had not laid a hand on her and had been informed that she was Abraham’s sibling not his wife. God allowed Abimelech to live upon returning Sarah to her husband.

abimelech
‘King Abimelech Restores Sarah to her Husband, Abraham, Flemish wool and silk tapestry by Frans Geubels, c. 1560-70, Dayton Art Institute’

First thing the next day Abimelech told his servants what he had dreamed and confronted Abraham for bringing ‘such great guilt upon his kingdom’. Abraham replied that he did not know there was any consideration for God here and that upon seeing his wife he would be killed to get her. He also condoned that he had not lied, ‘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.’ (Genesis 20:12)  Sarah was let go and Abimelech bestowed gifts to Abraham as compensation, also allowing him to live wherever he wanted in his lands. Abraham then prayed for Abimelech and his family.

A long time passed with Abraham and Sarah dwelling in the Philistine land when Abimelech and Phicol confronted Abraham with a violent disagreement at a well. Abraham approached Abimelech because of his servant’s attacks and the loss of his well. Abimelech pretended not to have known of the occurrences. After Abraham had given the king sheep and oxen along with providing proof of his ownership of the well an agreement was reached and they called the location of the well Beersheba.

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