Lenten Devotion: Lies

“Sarah and Abimelech,” Marc Chagall (1960)

“Sarah and Abimelech,” Marc Chagall (1960)

But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “You are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a married woman.” Now Abimelech had not approached her; so he said, “God, will you destroy an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ I did this in the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart; furthermore it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then, return the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.” Genesis 20:3-7

In the time of this story, the wrong that Abimelech might have done wasn’t to Sarah but to Abraham. Abraham owned his wife; she was his property. Had Abimelech committed adultery, even unwittingly, the “victim” of the crime would have been Abraham, not Sarah. This is a clear example of the importance of reading the Bible with the understanding that it was written in a much different context than our own. We can find truth and love in our sacred texts, but we must always remember that the writers never knew that their words would be read by people thousands of years later.

Abraham might have been willing to allow Sarah to be “sacrificed” for his own safety, but God was having none of it. God looks out for our best interests even when we don’t know what they are.

God, steady my feet that I may walk a righteous path. Steady my hands that I may do righteous work. Steady my heart that I may love in the right way. Amen.

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