Sin Committed in Ignorance

By Teena Myers

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 20[1]

God had been talking about a son Sarah would bear for 25 years. The year Abraham turned 99, God appeared to him with new and exciting information. The child would be born the following year, and they must name him Isaac. Abraham did not believe God and suggested Ishmael as a suitable candidate. But God wasn’t interested in a human plan. God returned before the year ended. Again he told Abraham the time the promised child would be born. This time Sarah laughed in unbelief and then lied about it.

God confirmed the time of Isaac’s birth twice. Yet Abraham did not believe God would keep his word. He still felt the need to protect himself from death with a lie. After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, he moved to Gerar and told King Abimelek that Sarah was his sister. The king took Sarah to be his wife

We don’t know how Pharaoh learned Abraham lied. But we know how the King Abimelek learned the truth. God told the king Abraham and Sarah had lied to him and made him aware of the consequences if he did not return Sarah to her husband.

Abimelek knew God had destroyed four cities for being wicked. Concerned, his would be the fifth. He pointed out what God already knew, and reminded God he had done nothing wrong. His conscience was clear. His hands were clean.

Then Abimelek learned why he had not satisfied his lust with Sarah. God kept him from sinning because he acted with a clear conscience. Then God gave Abimelek a choice. Return Sarah to her husband or die. If he returns Sarah, Abraham will pray for him and God will honor his prayer by forgiving the sin committed in ignorance. If Abimelek kept Sarah, the offence would no longer be innocent. Abimelek and his entire family would die.

Abimelek exhibited a great deal of humility when he allowed someone who lied to him and complicate his life to pray for him. Abraham had lied, but not with malicious intent. He lied because he was afraid to die. For the second time, Abraham learned that his fear was unwarranted.

It is important to note that Abraham’s prayer did not prevent death. No amount of prayer can save someone who knows the truth and chooses to do wrong. Abimelek saved himself from death when he repented and returned Sarah to her husband. Abraham’s prayer only removed the barrenness produced by a sin committed in ignorance.[2]


[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Genesis 20:17

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