I cannot understand the meaning of the word reproved in the following verse of the King James Bible:

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. - Gen. 20:16 AV

I looked to reprove up in dictionaries and found that this verb has negative connotations, meaning to condemn, to scold, to censure, etc.

Not sure about the meaning of the verse, I referred to another translation - English Standard Version - and it seems to have an apparently opposite meaning:

To Sarah he said, "Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated." - Gen. 20:16 ESV

According to this Sarah was vindicated, i.e. exonerated or absolved.

I wonder how these two translations of the same passage can be interchangeable. For what Sarah could be reproved and for what she could be vindicated?

I've read this thread, but it doesn't seem to provide a definite answer for this particular question and I hope some new opinions may emerge.

3 Answers 3


According to the KJV, Sarah is reproved/rebuked for misleading Abimelech by saying that her husband Abraham is only a half-brother. Abimelech himself claims in v. 5 that he had no intention of violating anyone's wife, and that he honestly believed that Sarah was not married. So according to the KJV, Sarah learns a lesson not to say anymore half-truths thereby causing kings to suffer from this. And according to Brenton Septuagint Translation, Abimelech himself rebukes Sarah for this:

And to Sarrha he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver, those shall be to thee for the price of thy countenance, and to all the women with thee, and speak the truth in all things.

The ESV's translation itself is misleading, because as the OP points out vindication is used in connection with crime or blame, but over here the purpose is not to vindicate Sarah from any crime, but to clear here from the suspicion that she was violated by the king. The sum of money given to Abraham was supposed to demonstrate to everyone that Sarah was left untouched. So the translation of the NASB: "and before all men you are cleared", is probably closer to the original meaning.

According to others, however, the sum of money was not supposed to absolve Sarah from any suspicion that the king slept with her (it is hard to see how the sum of money would prove anything) only to make things right and to restore some dignity to Abraham and Sarah's name which has been tainted. This is what I think the ASV has in mind with: "And in respect of all thou art righted." Since the king had to pay such a big sum to appease Abraham, their dignity would be somewhat restored, and the wrong would be rectified. This translation I think is the most accurate of all.

  • What's the Hebrew word and what do dictionaries say for it?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 22:39
  • 1
    @curiousdannii The Hebrew word is ונכחת whose meaning is unclear. You might compare this word to Gen. 31:37 where this root connotes "judge". Similarly in Job 6:25 it means "prove", and later in chapter 13:15 it means "argue". Or you may compare to Gen. 21:25 where it means "rebuke". This is probably where the KJV is coming from. See biblehub.com/hebrew/strongs_3198.htm
    – bach
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 18:10

My understanding of the countenance in this passage is behavior. Abimelech had paid the silver to free her name from the bad behavior. And to show Abraham some respect. Thus Abraham prayed for him and cleared his name.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 4:27

There is some debate over the meaning of the word "reproved" in this verse. Some translations, like the King James Version, seem to imply that Sarah was being scolded or condemned. However, other translations, like the English Standard Version, imply that Sarah was being exonerated or absolved. It is difficult to say definitively which meaning is correct without further context.

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