The folks who worship the Bible have a particularly difficult time explaining the stories of Abraham's and Isaac's lies to Abimelech, King of Gerar. Let's take a closer look at these two stories and see if we can make any sense out of them.
Let's look at the story of Abraham's encounter with Abimelech first: "And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. 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...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 has done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? 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." (Genesis 20:1-11) "And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phicol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all thou doest: Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me...And Abraham said, I will swear. And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away...Wherefore he called that place Beersheba (well of the oath); because there they sware both of them. Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba. (Genesis 21:22-32)
Now let's look at the story of Isaac's encounter with Abimelech: "And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar...And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of that place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon...And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us...And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac's herdmen, saying, The water is our's...And he wwent up from thence to Beersheba...Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar...and Phicol the chief captain of his army...And they said, We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee...And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac's servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged, and said unto him, We have found water. And he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beersheba (well of the oath) unto this day." (Genesis 26:1-33)
Did you notice all of the similarities in these two stories? Let's enumerate all of them, just to make sure:
1) Both patriarchs go to live in the land of King Abimelech of Gerar.
2) Both men tell the king that their wives are their sisters to keep from being murdered by the people of Gerar.
3) Abimelech asks both men, "What have you done to us?"
4) There is strife between the servants of the patriarchs and those of Abimelech over wells.
5) Both Abimelechs are accompanied to a meeting with the respective patriarch by the commander of their armies - a man named Phicol in both stories.
6) The men acknowledge that God is with the patriarch in both stories.
7) Both patriarchs conclude a treaty with King Abimelech at Beersheba.
That sure sounds like a whole lot of coincidence from my perspective. What do you think?
Could it be that the same story was applied to two different men? That sounds reasonable doesn't it?
"But that would make the Bible fallible wouldn't it?" some will protest. "Yes, yes it would!" is my response.
This story brings up one other very important point about these patriarchs: They apparently didn't have very much confidence or faith in God's ability to protect them while they sojourned in Gerar! Instead, we are told that they resorted to lying in an attempt to save their own skins. Moreover, if their lies had not been discovered, their wives might have been subjected to illicit sexual relations with strangers. Thus, whatever we believe about the disposition of this story, we must conclude that this is definitely not the kind of behavior that a Christian would want to emulate.