Gen 12:9-20; Gen 20:1-18; Gen 26:1-12
Someone recently asked if lying is explicitly forbidden in Torah. We started talking about instances in Scripture where someone lied and it appears to be a good thing. Of course, the story of Abraham claiming Sarah as his sister came up. Abraham lied but was extremely blessed in the end! How is this possible?
This story is actually one account in a Biblical Triplet. In Genesis there are three accounts of a man claiming his wife as his sister. When read individually, it is easy to focus on the lies. But, when read as a whole, we see these stories are connected to tell a single story of covenant, blessing, and grace.
Taken as a whole, this story is found in Gen 11:29 – 27:29. Within this text a deeper pattern emerges: barrenness, covenant, traveling south, the lie, and punishment. This pattern is interesting in its own right, but the similarities and differences between the stories makes each that much more interesting!
At the beginning of each cycle, YHWH makes or renews the Abrahamic Covenant – the promise of land and seed. In each cycle, the man breaks the covenant with YHWH in some way.
Abram left the promised land for “greener pastures” in Egypt. Abraham tried to produce an heir on his own. The punishment at the end of each cycle is tied to these acts of self-reliance despite YHWH’s promise to provide. As a result, Abram is told his heirs will be slaves in Egypt. Abraham will be asked to sacrifice the true son of promise.
These patterns make it clear that Jacob’s deception of Isaac is the consequence of Isaac’s deception of Abimelek concerning Rebecca.
Barrenness is an important factor in each of the stories. There are three kinds of barrenness represented: barren land, barren women, and spiritual barrenness. Only YHWH can create life in a barren place and He has promised to do so. He can bring life to a barren womb. He can bring life to a barren wilderness. He can bring life to a barren soul. There is no other answer and we are asking for trouble when we seek answers in South (Egypt).
Also interesting is what happens to the deceived person in each of the stories. These details contain so much foreshadowing!
YHWH intervenes between Abram and Pharaoh by sending plagues upon Pharoah. Later, in the punishment against Abram, YHWH will again intervene between His people and Pharoah by sending plagues.
YHWH intervenes between Abraham and Abimelek because of the integrity of Abimelek’s heart. Later, when Abraham is asked to sacrifice Isaac, YWHW will intervene because of the integrity of Abraham’s heart by sending a ram to take the place of the promised son.
YHWH does not intervene between Isaac and Abimelek and He will not intervene between Isaac and Jacob. Instead, Isaac must experience the full consequences of his actions.
In each of the these events, “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Even Isaac’s sin is worked to good to produce Israel. However, remember Paul’s warning: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Forgiveness does not remove the consequences of our sin.
All three accounts mention the covenant. The patriarchs overcome three types of barrenness. And there are three blessings! These stories are about YHWH’s promise of provision and His steadfast love.
The provision of food and children are obvious in these stories, but what about spiritual barrenness? That answer comes about 2,000 years later – His Son! Messiah is The Way, The Light, The Bread, The Water, The Door, The Good Shepherd, The Resurrection and The Life! Messiah provides all the spiritual resources we need to leave the barren wilderness and enter a life full of blessing!
By looking at these stories as part of a whole chain of events, we see that the lie is not the most important event here. But it is very telling. Lying is not explicitly forbidden in Torah, but it does expose the heart.
Each of these men relied on themselves to provide in a time of need. They took matters into their own hands. The lie connects these stories thematically so we can find the larger pattern of a heart that does not wait on YHWH but trusts in his own self-reliance.
It does not matter what kind of barrenness we are facing – YHWH will provide. We do not ever need to take matters into our own hands – YHWH will provide. He will not provide because we are worthy. He will provide because He is gracious and His graciousness is forever!
Psa 103:17 But the mercy of YHWH is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children;
Rom 3:21-26 But now YHWH’s righteousness apart from the Torah has been revealed, to which the Torah and the Prophets bear witness— namely, the righteousness of YHWH through putting trust in Messiah Yeshua, to all who keep on trusting. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of YHWH. They are set right as a gift of His grace, through the redemption that is in Messiah Yeshua. YHWH set forth Yeshua as an atonement, through faith in His blood, to show His righteousness in passing over sins already committed. Through YHWH’s forbearance, He demonstrates His righteousness at the present time—that He Himself is just and also the justifier of the one who puts his trust in Yeshua.
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