(Calvin, Genesis 1. Part 29)

our mind to ask something, what according His Word is free to us.
  "There is not a man in the earth." They mean not that all the nations
are destroyed, as many explainers drivel, but because they are by fear
driven in the cave, leading a lonely life, they complain, that they are
cut off from any hope of marriage. And yes, being secluded from the rest
of the nations, they lived as if they were sent away to some separated
world. Might one object that they could ask husbands of their father,
then I answer, that it absolutely not a miracle, that they, beaten down
through fear, could not seek another medicine, than what was at hand.
For, they thought that they on that solitary mountain, locked up in the
den of a rock, had no more the least connection with the human race. It
could be (as I have reminded before) that some slaves dwelt with them.
This is even probable, for otherwise it was difficult to have wine in the
cave, when this was not taken with them on a wagon with the other foods.
Yet they say that there were no husbands for them, because they have an
aversion to a marriage with slaves.
  Further I mean, that the name "earth" in the first member, is put for
region or area, as if they said: This region has no more men left, who
could marry us after the custom of the entire world. For there is here a
tacit contrast between the whole earth and a certain part thereof. But
this is their first crime, that they, in a zeal to propagate the human
race, violate the holy law of nature. Next, it is wrong and wicked, that
they not flee to the Creator of the world Himself, to cure them from that
desolation, about which they were worried. Thirdly, they show their
negligence when they aim their hearts only on the earthly life, and not
worry about the heavenly life. Though I dare not to give security
concerning the time, which has elapsed between the destruction of Sodom,
and the unchaste intercourse of Lot with his daughters, yet, it is
probable that they, as soon as they had come in the cave, in aversion to
the solitude, have made up this scandalous and execrable plan. It could
not take a long time, that Lot lived in the cave, or there came lack of
food and drink. And like a sudden fear had carried away their father,
like a storm, likewise the daughters could not restrain themselves, even
for some days. Without calling upon God, or asking their father for
advice, they are carried away through a bestial instinct. Herein we see
how soon the deliverance and the punishment of the Sodomites has left
their memory, although both had always to be kept in their heart. Oh,
that this vice also among us were not so great; but we show too clearly
in both ways our ingratitude.

33. "And he perceived not." Though Lot not sinned knowingly, yet, because
his drunkenness was the cause of his sin, his guilt is diminished, but
not annulled. Without doubt the Lord has chastised his dissatisfaction in
this manner. This is something rare and strange, that his senses are so
under influence of the wine, that he, like a dead man pours out his lust.
Therefore I assume that he not so much is fuddled through the wine, but
that his excessiveness is beat by God through the spirit of ignorance.
And when God has not spared the holy Patriarch, how can we then think to
be unpunished, when we do the same excessiveness? Let we therefore
realize through this example, that the law of modesty is prescribed us,
in order that we eat modestly and moderately. Yet, there are some unholy
people, who consider Lot as the protector of their wickedness.
  Why do we not rather think to which horrible scandal he has decayed,
because he excessively used wine? We must, as I already have said, not
simply consider what the drunkenness drags along with it, and with which
other vices it is connected, but we must consider the punishment of God.
Therefore he willed openly spread this tragic crime, in order that the
drunkenness will be abhorred. Daily the Lord testifies by heavy
punishments, how much this vice displeases Him. When we see that
Abraham's nephew, the host of Angels, a man adored with extraordinary
fame of holiness, is defiled by unchaste intercourse, because he has
drunk too much, what will then happen to the guzzlers and the whores, who
daily drink themselves drunken? But we have at great length spoken about
this in the ninth chapter, what men can reread. Concerning the words,
when Moses says, that Lot did not perceive it, that his daughter lay down
and arose--some explain it thus that he saw no difference between a
stranger and his own daughter. But when he was not totally blinded, he
could in the morning, having slept out his intoxication, know that he has
had intercourse with his daughter. Some say, to diminish his guilt, that
he not so much is fuddled through much drinking, but that he was
depressed through sadness. But I retain this, that he, as he was endowed
with more splendid gifts, also deserved the more punishment, and that
therefore his reason was taken away from him, so that he, like a
unreasonable beast, lost himself in sensual lust.
  35. "And the younger arose, and law with him." This place teaches us
how dangerous it is, to fall in the snares of satan. For, who once is
caught therein, involves himself deeper and deeper in it. It is sure that
Lot has been a modest man, but either, that the daughters have overtaken
him while he was overcome with sadness, or that he allured by any other
means to excessive drinking, once being decayed to excessiveness, he is
again deceived the next day. We must therefore diligently resist the
first beginning, for it is nearly impossible that they, who are once
stupefied through its sweetness, totally lose themselves in the vices.
Therefore, men ought to be on their guard against stimulus to evil, as
deadly evils; and men ought to fear each flattering temptation as
something poisonous. And this circumstance deserves attention, that Lot,
among the Sodomites by the accumulation of crimes which nearly defiled
heaven and earth, was chaste and clean, like an angel.
  Whence did he keep such a cleanness in Sodom, else then through the
knowledge of the evil, that surrounded him, which made him worried and
careful? Presently, being safe on the mountain, satan besieges him with
new pitfalls. Through this example, the Spirit admonishes us to
watchfulness, that, when we think the least about it, an invisible enemy
stretches snared for us. Likewise has Moses told earlier that Adam was
deceived in Paradise. When we take care for ourselves, that will that
watchfulness make us being on our guard against all guiles of our enemy.
For there is nobody who not carries with him thousands of temptation to
his own deceit.
  37. "And the firstborn bare." This was a terrible blindness, that the
daughters of Lot, shaking off all feeling of shame, raised up a memorial
of their virtue, and through an eternal sign have exhibited their
dishonour before their posterity. To their sons, or better, two nation in
their persons, they give names, whence everybody can know that it was a
family, originating from adultery and unchaste intercourse. The eldest
boasts that she had obtained her son from her father, the other that her
son was born out close relationship. Thus both unashamedly spread their
crime, while they rather, through shame of their crime, had hidden
themselves in eternal hideouts. Not content with the infamousness in
their time, the propagate their crime into other times. Therefore, there
is no doubt that they, enchanted by satan, have forgotten all difference
between what is scandalous and honest. Paul says, Rom.2:5, that wicked,
after a long pleasure in sinning, are at the end deprived of all feel of
grief thereof. Such stupidity undoubtedly had caught those girls, because
they did not shame themselves to spread their dishonour everywhere.
Further, such an example of God's punishment is revealed us, in order
that we not allow any sin, and we will not lose ourselves in
licentiousness, but that we, through fear of God, spur ourselves on to

Chapter XX.

1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled
between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She [is] my sister: and Abimelech
king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold,
thou [art but] a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she
[is] a man's wife.
4 But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay
also a righteous nation?
5 Said he not unto me, She [is] my sister? and she, even she herself
said, He [is] my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of
my hands have I done this.
6 And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in
the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against
me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.
7 Now therefore restore the man [his] wife; for he [is] a prophet, and he
shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore [her] not,
know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that [are] thine.
8 Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his
servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore
9 Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done
unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and
on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to
be done.
10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done
this thing?
11 And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God [is] not
in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.
12 And 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.
13 And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's
house, that I said unto her, This [is] thy kindness which thou shalt shew
unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He [is] my
14 And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and
womenservants, and gave [them] unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his
15 And Abimelech said, Behold, my land [is] before thee: dwell where it
pleaseth thee.
16 And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand
[pieces] of silver: behold, he [is] to thee a covering of the eyes, unto
all that [are] with thee, and with all [other]: thus she was reproved.
17 So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife,
and his maidservants; and they bare [children].
18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of
Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.

1. "And Abraham journeyed from thence." What Moses related respecting the
destruction of Sodom, was a digression. He now returns to the
continuation of his history, and proceeds to show what happened to
Abraham; how he conducted himself, and how the Lord protected him; till
the promised seed, the future source of the Church, should be born unto
him. He also says, that Abraham came into the South country; not that he
travelled beyond the limits of the inheritance given to him, but left his
former abode, and went towards the South. Moreover; the region which he
points out fell chiefly, afterwards, to the lot of the tribe of Judah. It
is, however, unknown what was his intention in removing, or what
necessity impelled him to change his place: we ought, however, to be
persuaded, that he had not transferred his abode to another place for any
insufficient cause; especially since a son, whom he had not even dared to
wish for, had been lately promised him, through Sarah. Some imagine that
he fled from the sad spectacle which was continually presented before his
eyes; for he saw the plain, which had lately appeared so pleasant to the
view, and so replenished with varied abundance of fruits, transformed
into a misshapen chaos. And certainly, it was possible that the whole
neighbourhood might be affected with the smell of sulphur, as well as
tainted with other corruptions, in order that men might the more clearly
perceive this memorable judgment of God. Therefore, there is nothing
discordant with facts, in the supposition, that Abraham, seeing the place
was under the curse of the Lord, was, by his detestation of it, drawn
elsewhere. It is also credible, that (as it happened to him in another
place) he was driven away by the malice and injuries of those among whom
he dwelt. For the more abundantly the Lord had manifested his grace
towards him, the more necessary was it, in return, for his patience to be
exercised, in order that he might reflect upon his conditions as a
pilgrim upon earth. Moses also expressly declares, that he dwelt as a
stranger in the land of Gerar. Thus we see, that this holy family was
driven hither and thither as refuse, while a fixed abode was granted to
the wicked. But it is profitable to the pious to be thus unsettled on
earth; lest, by setting their minds on a commodious and quiet habitation,
they should lose the inheritance of heaven.

2. "And Abraham said of Sarah his wife." In this history, the Holy Spirit
presents to us a remarkable instance, both of the infirmity of man, and
of the grace of God. It is a common proverb, that even fools become wise
by suffering evil. But Abraham, forgetful of the great danger which had
befallen him in Egypt, once more strikes his foot against the same stone;
although the Lord had purposely chastised him, in order that the warning
might be useful to him, throughout his whole life. Therefore we perceive,
in the example of the holy patriarch, how easily the oblivion, both of
the chastisements and the favours of God, steals over us. For it is
impossible to excuse his gross negligence, in not calling to mind, that
he had once tempted God; and that he would have had himself alone to
blame, if his wife had become the property of another man. But if we
thoroughly examine ourselves scarcely any one will be found who will not
acknowledge, that he has often offended in the same way. It may be added,
that Abraham was not free from the charge of ingratitude; because, if he
had rejected that his wife had been wonderfully preserved to him by the
Lord, he would never again, knowingly and willingly, have cast himself
into similar danger. For he makes the former favour divinely offered unto
him, so far as he is able, of none effect. We must, however, notice the
nature of the sin, on which we have touched before. For Abraham did not,
for the sake of providing for his own safety prostitute his wife, (as
impious men cavil.) But, as he had before been anxious to preserve his
life, till he should receive the seed divinely promised to him; so now,
seeing his wife with child, in the hope of enjoying so great a blessing,
he thought nothing of his wife's danger. Therefore if we thoroughly weigh
all things, he sinned through unbelief, by attributing less than he ought
to the providence of God. Whence also, we are admonished, how dangerous a
thing it is, to trust our own counsels. For Abraham's disposition is
right, while fixing his attention on the promise of God; but inasmuch as
he does not patiently wait for God's helps but turns aside to the use of
unlawful means, he is, in this respect, worthy of censure.
  "And Abimelech sent." There is no doubt that the Lord purposed to
punish his servant, for the counsel he had so rashly taken. And such
fruits of distrust do all receive, who rely not, as they ought, on the
providence of God. Some perverse men quarrel with this passage; because
nothing seems to them more improbable than that a decrepit old woman
should be desired by the king, and taken from the bosom of her husband.
But we answer, first, that it is not known what her appearance was,
except that Moses before declared her to be a person of singular beauty.

And it is possible that she was not much worn with age. For we often see
some women in their fortieth year more wrinkled than others in their
seventieth. But here another thing is to be considered, that, by the
unwonted favour of God, her comeliness was preeminent among her other
endowments. It might also be, that king Abimelech was less attracted by
the elegance of her form, than by the rare virtues with which he saw her,
as a matron, to be endued. Lastly, we must remember, that this whole
affair was directed by the hand of God, in order that Abraham might
receive the due reward of his folly. And as we find that they who are
exceedingly acute in discerning the natural causes of things, are yet
most blind in reference to the divine judgments; let this single fact
suffice us, that Abimelech, being a minister to execute the divine
chastisement, acted under a secret impulse.

3. "But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night." Here Moses shows that
the Lord acted with such gentleness, that in punishing his servant, he
yet, as a father, forgave him: just as he deals with us, so that, while
chastising us with his rod, his mercy and his goodness far exceed his
severity. Hence also we infer, that he takes greater care of the pious
than carnal sense can understand; since he watches over them while they
sleep. This also is to be carefully noticed; that however we may be
despised by the worlds we are yet precious to him, since for our sake he
reproves even kings, as it is written in Psalm 105: 14. But as this
subject was more fully discussed in the twelfth chapters let the readers
there seek what I now purposely omit. Whereas, God is said to have come,
this is to be applied to the perception of the king, to whom undoubtedly
the majesty of God was manifested; so that he might clearly perceive
himself to be divinely reproved and not deluded with a vain spectra.
  "Behold, thou art but a dead man." Although God reproved king
Abimelech, for the sake of Abraham, whom he covered with his special
protection; he yet intends to show, generally, his high displeasure
against adultery. And, in truth, here is no express mention of Abraham;
but rather a general announcement is made, for the purpose of maintaining
conjugal fidelity. 'Thou shalt die, because thou hast seized upon a women
who was joined to a husband.' Let us therefore learn, that a precept was
given in these words, to mankind, which forbids any one to touch his
neighbour's wife. And, truly, since nothing in the life of man is more
sacred than marriage, it is not to be wondered at, that the Lord should
require mutual fidelity to be cherished between husbands and wives and
should declare that he will be the Avenger of it, as often as it is
violated. He now addresses himself, indeed, only to one man; but the
warning ought to sound in the ears of all, that adulterers--although they
may exult with impunity for a time--shall yet feel that God, who presides
over marriage, will take vengeance on them. (Heb. 13: 4.)

4. "But Abimelech had not come near her." Though Abraham had deprived
himself of his wife, the Lord interposed in time to preserve her
uninjured. When Moses previously relates, that she was taken away by
Pharaoh, he does not say whether her chastity was assailed or not; but
since the Lord then also declared himself the vindicator of her whom he
now saved from dishonour, we ought not to doubt that her integrity was
preserved both times. For why did he now forbid the king of Gerar to
touch her, if he had previously suffered her to be corrupted in Egypt? We
see, however, that when the Lord so defers his aid as not to stretch out
his hand to the faithful, till they are in extreme peril, he shows the
more clearly how admirable is his Providence.
  "Wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?" The explanation given by
some, that Abimelech here compares himself with the men of Sodom, is
perhaps too refined. The following meaning appears to me more simple;
namely 'O Lord, although thou dost severely punish adultery, shall thy
wrath pour itself out on unoffending men, who have rather fallen into
error, than sinned knowingly and willingly?' Moreover, Abimelech seems so
to clear himself, as if he were entirely free from blame: and yet the
Lord both admits and approves his excuse. We must, however, mark in what
way, and to what extent he boasts that his heart and hands are guiltless.
For he does not arrogate to himself a purity which is altogether
spotless; but only denies that he was led by lust, either tyrannically or
purposely, to abuse another man's wife. We know how great is the
difference between a crime and a fault; thus Abimelech does not exempt
himself from every kind of charge, but only shows that he had been
conscious of no such wickedness as required this severe punishment. The
'simplicity of heart,' of which he speaks, is nothing else than that
ignorance which stands opposed to consciousness of guilt; and 'the
righteousness of his hands,' is nothing but that selfgovernment, by which
men abstain from force and acts of injustice. Besides, the interrogation
which Abimelech used proceeded from a common feeling of religion. For
nature itself dictates, that God preserves a just discrimination in
inflicting punishments.

6. "Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart." We
infer from this answer of God, (as I have lately remarked,) that
Abimelech did not testify falsely concerning his own integrity. Yet,
while God allows that his excuse is true, He nevertheless chastises him.
Let us hence learn, that even they who are pure, according to human
judgment, are not entirely free from blame. For no error may be deemed so
excusable, as to be without some deteriorating admixture. Wherefores it
is not for any one to absolve himself by his own judgment; rather let us
learn to bring all our conduct to the standard of God. For Solomon does
not say in vain, that 'the ways of men seem right to themselves, but the
Lord pondereth the hearts,' (Prov. 21: 2.) But if even they who are
unconscious to themselves of any evil, do not escape censure; what will
be our condition, if we are held inwardly bound by our own conscience?
  "I also withheld thee." This declaration implies that God had respect,
not only to Abraham, but also to the king. For because he had no
intention of defiling another man's wife, God had compassion on him. And
it frequently happens, that the Spirit restrains, by his bridle, those
who are gliding into error; just as, on the other hand, he drives those
headlong, by infatuations and a spirit of stupor, who, with depraved
affections and lusts, knowingly transgress. And as God brought to the
heathen king, who had not been guilty of deliberate wickedness, a timely
remedy, in order that his guilt should not be increased; so He proves
himself daily to be the faithful guardian of his own people, to prevent
them from rushing forward, from lighter faults to desperate crimes.

7. "Now therefore, restore the man his wife." God does not now speak of
Abraham as of a common man, but as of one who is so peculiarly dear unto
himself, that He undertakes the defense of his conjugal bed, by a kind of
privilege. He calls Abraham a prophet, for the sake of honour; as if he
were charging Abimelech with having injured a man of great and singular
excellence; that he might not wonder at the greatness of the punishment
inflicted upon him. And although the word prophet is properly the name of
an office; yet I think it has here a more comprehensive import, and that
it is put for a chosen man, and one who is familiar with God. For since
at that time, no Scripture was in existence, God not only made himself
known by dreams and visions but chose also to himself rare and excellent
men, to scatter abroad the seed of piety, by which the world would become
more inexcusable. But since Abraham is a prophet, he is constituted, as
it were, a mediator between God and Abimelech. Christ, even then, was the
only Mediator; but this was no reason why some men should not pray for
others; especially they who excelled in holiness, and were accepted by
God; as the Apostle teaches, that 'the fervent prayers of a righteous man
avail much.' (James 5: 16.) And we ought not, at this day, to neglect
such intercession, provided it does not obscure the grace of Christ, nor
lead us away from Him. But that, under this pretext, the Papists resort
to the patronage of the dead, is absurd. For as the Lord does not here
send the king of Gerar to Noah, or to any one of the dead fathers, but
into the presence of the living Abraham; so the only precept we have on
this subject is, that, by mutually praying for each other, we should
cultivate charity among ourselves.
  "And if thou restore her not." Hence we are to learn, the intention of
those threats and denunciations with which God terrifies men; namely,
forcibly to impel those to repentance, who are too backward. In the
beginning of this discourse, it had been absolutely declared, 'Thou art a
dead man;' now the condition is added, 'Unless thou restore her.' Yet the
meaning of both expressions is the same; though at first God speaks more
sharply, that he may inspire the offender with the greater terror. But
now, when he is subdued, God expresses his intention more clearly, and
leaves him the hope of pardon and salvation. Thus is the knot untied,
with which many entangle themselves, when they perceive that God does not
always, or instantly, execute the punishments which he has denounced;
because they deem it a sign, either that God has changed his purpose, or
that he pretends a different thing by his word, from that which he has
secretly decreed. He threatens destruction to the Ninevites, by Jonah,
and afterwards spared them. (Jonah 3: 4.) The unskilful do not perceive
how they can escape from one of two absurdities; namely, that God has
retracted his sentence; or that he had feigned himself to be about to do
what he really did not intend. But if we hold fast this principle, that
the inculcation of repentance is included in all threats, the difficulty
will be solved. For although God, in the first instance, addresses men as
lost; and, therefore, penetrates them with the present fear of death,
still the end is to be regarded. For if he invites them to repentance, it
follows, that the hope of pardon is left them, provided they repent.

8. "Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning." Moses teaches how
efficacious the oracle had been. For Abimelech, alarmed at the voice of
God, arose in the morning, not only that he himself might quickly obey
the command enjoined upon him but that he might also exhort his own
peep!e to do the same. An example of such ready obedience is shown us in
a heathen king, that we may no more make excuses for our torpor, when we
are so little profited by the Divine remonstrances. God appeared to him
in a dream; but since he daily cries aloud in our ears, by Moses, by the
prophets and by the apostles, and finally, by his only-begotten Son, it
were absurd to suppose that so many testimonies should avail less than
the vision of a single dream.

9. "Then Abimelech called Abraham." There are those who suppose that the
king of Gerar did not make a complaint against Abraham; but rather
declared his own repentance. If, however we fairly weigh his words we
find confession mixed with expostulation. Although he complains that
Abraham had acted unjustly, he yet does not so transfer the blame to him,
as to free himself from all fault. And he may, with justice, impute part
of the blame to Abraham, as he does; provided he also acknowledges his
own sin. Let we therefore know, that this king did not act as hypocrites
are in the habit of doing. For, as soon as ever a pretext is furnished
for inculpating others, they confidently absolve themselves: they even
esteem it a lawful purgation for themselves, if they can draw others into
a participation of their crime. But Abimelech, while he complains that he
had been deceived, and had fallen through impudence, yet does not,
meanwhile, scruple to condemn himself as guilty of a great sin, 'It is
not,' he says, 'through thee, that I and my whole kingdom have been
prevented from falling into the greatest wickedness.' No one therefore
may exonerate himself from blame, under the pretence that he had been
induced by others to sin. It is, however to be noted, that adultery is
here called a great sin; because it binds not one man only, but a whole
people, as in a common crime. The king of Gerar could not indeed have
spoken thus, had he not acknowledged the sacred right of marriage. But,
at the present time, Christians--at least they who boast of the name--are
not ashamed jocularly to extenuate so great a crime, from which even a
heathen shrinks with the greatest horror. Let us however know, that
Abimelech was a true herald of that divine judgment, which miserable men
in vain endeavour to elude by their cavils. And let that expression of
Paul ever recur to our memory, 'Be not deceived; because of those things
cometh the wrath of God upon the disobedient.' (1 Cor. 5: 9; Eph. 5: 6.)
It is not without reason, that he makes this sin common to the whole
nation; for when crimes are committed with impunity, a whole region is,
in a certain sense, polluted. And it is especially notorious, that the
anger of God is provoked against the whole body of the people, in the
person of the king. Hence, with so much the greater earnestness and care,
must we beseech God to govern, by his Spirit, those whom he has placed in
authority over us; and then, to preserve the country, in which he has
granted us a dwelling-place, exempt and pure from all iniquity.

10. "What sawest thou that thou hast done this thing?" By this question
the king provides against the future. He thinks that Abraham had not
practiced this dissimulation inconsiderately; and, since God was
grievously offended, he fears to fall again into the same danger. He
therefore testifies, by an inquiry so earnest, that he wishes to remedy
the evil. Now, it is no common sign of a just and meek disposition in
Abimelech, that he allows Abraham a free defense. We know how sharply,
and fiercely, they expostulate, who think themselves aggrieved: so much
the greater praise, then, was due to the moderation of this king, towards
an unknown foreigner. Meanwhile, let us learn, by his example, whenever
we expostulate with our brethren, who may have done us any wrong, to
permit them freely to answer us.

11. "And Abraham said." There are two points contained in this answer.
For, first, he confesses that he had been induced by fear to conceal his
marriage. He then denies that he had lied for the purpose of excusing
himself. Now, although Abraham declares with truth, that he had not
concealed his marriage with any fraudulent intention, nor for the purpose
of injuring any one; yet he was worthy of censure, because, through fear,
he had submitted, so far as he was concerned, to the prostitution of his
wife. Wherefore, much cannot be said in his excuse: since he ought to
have been more courageous and resolute in fulfilling the duty of a
husband, by vindicating, the honour of his wife whatever danger might
threaten him. Besides, it was a sign of distrust, to resort to an
unlawful subtlety. With regard to his suspicion; although he had
everywhere perceived that a monstrous licentiousness prevailed; it was,
nevertheless, unjust to form a judgment so unfavourable of a people whom
he had not yet known; for he supposes them all to be homicides. But as I
have treated, at some length, on these subjects, in the tenth chapter; it
may now suffice to have alluded to them, by the way. Meanwhile, we come
to the conclusion, that Abraham does not contend for the justice of his
cause before God; but only shows his earnestness to appease Abimelech.
His particular form of expression is, however, to be noticed; for
wherever the fear of God does not reign, men easily rush onwards to every
kind of wickedness; so that they neither spare human blood, nor restrain
themselves from rapine, violence, and contumelies. And doubtless it is
the fear of God alone, which unites us together in the bonds of our
common humanity which keeps us within the bounds of moderation, and
represses cruelty; otherwise we should devour each other like wild
beasts. It will, indeed, sometimes happen, that they who are destitute of
the fear of God, may cultivate the appearance of equity. For God, in
order that he may preserve mankind from destruction, holds in check, with
his secret rein, the lusts of the ungodly. It must, however, be always
taken into the account, that the door is opened to all kinds of
wickedness, when piety and the fear of God have vanished. Of this, at the
present day, too clear a proof is manifest, in the horrible deluge of
crime, which almost covers the whole earth. For, from what other cause
than this arise such a variety of deceptions and frauds, such perfidy and
cruelty, that all sense of justice is extinguished by the contempt of
God? Now, whenever we have a difficult contest with the corruptions of
our own age, let us reflect on the times of Abraham, which, although they
were filled with impiety and other crimes yet did not divert the holy man
from the course of duty.

12. "And yet indeed she is my sister". Some suppose Sarah to have been
Abraham's own sister, yet not by the same mothers but born from a second
wife. As, however, the name sister has a wider signification among the
Hebrews, I willingly adopt a different conjecture; namely, that she was
his sister in the second degree; thus it will be true that they had a
common father, that is, a grandfather, from whom they had descended by
brothers. Moreover, Abraham extenuates his offense, and draws a
distinction between his silence and a direct falsehood; and certainly he
professed with truth, that he was the brother of Sarah. Indeed it appears
that he feigned nothing in words which differed from the facts
themselves; yet when all things have been sifted, his defense proves to
be either frivolous, or, at least, too feeble. For since he had purposely
used the name of sister as a pretext, lest men should have some suspicion
of his marriage; he sophistically afforded them an occasion of falling
into error. Wherefore, although he did not lie in words, yet with respect
to the matter of fact, his dissimulation was a lie, by implication. He
had, however, no other intention than to declare that he had not dealt
fraudulently with Abimelech; but that, in an affair of great anxiety, he
had caught at an indirect method of escape from death, by the pretext of
his previous relationship to his wife.

13. "When God caused me to wander." Because the verb is here put in the
plural number, I freely expound the passage as referring to the angels,
who led Abraham through his various wanderings. Some, with too much
subtlety, infer from it a Trinity of Persons: as if it had been written
The gods caused me to wander. I grant, indeed, that the noun "Elohim" is
frequently taken for God in the Scripture: but then the verb with which
it is connected is always singular. Wherever a plural verb is added then
it signifies angels or princes. There are those who think that Abraham,

(continued in part 30...)

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