Avimelech: “God” Ignored
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Once taught that Abraham and Sarah agreed to claim their status as siblings, a redundant lesson is not an acceptable interpretation in God’s perfect Torah. This case (Gen. 20) must teach of another personality: Avimelech. After seizing Sarah, God threatens Avimelech “in dreams of the night” to return Sarah or die, but he does not do so until the morning, and only after a long rebuke of Abraham, Sarah is returned. Why the two delays? In the dream, he claims to God his “innocence of heart”, and “purity of action” unaware of Sarah’s role as ‘wife’, not sister. However, God agrees only with the former claim. (Or Hachaim) Sifsay Chachamim note God’s reason to return Sarah is Abraham’s status as a prophet. Meaning, without Abraham’s status, Avimelech would have retained Sarah in forced custody, despite God’s threat. Startling. Further on, when repeating his dream, Avimelech’s people were “very frightened”. But why should they be, unless his people who “do not fear God” (20:11) believe dreams, deeming this just another, idolatrous manifestation.
Are we being taught of a personality, who although confronted by God, nonetheless, habitually lumps God into his preconceived categories of false deities? Although acquiescing, did Avimelech go so far as to ignore recognition of the true God, even having heard Him? I do not know, but the verses do point to Avimelech and his city Garar as a flawed civilization.