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Genesis 20:1 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.

3But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”

4Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”

Why was God so harsh to Abimelek?

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    I do not read this as God being harsh on an innocent king and his nation. The comment from God is a threat that IF Abimelek did marry Sarah he would be punished with death. Thus, God warned the king. – Dottard Sep 3 '20 at 3:02
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    I do not see it as harsh. God is giving a warning and God is disclosing a hidden fact, so that the correct conduct may be chosen. No, he would not destroy an innocent nation. Why do you think he would ? – Nigel J Sep 3 '20 at 5:02
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God is God. God is who he is in the Bible.

  1. Abraham was favored by God. God had chosen him. Abraham walked with God. Abimelek did not have that close relationship with God.
  2. In the eyes of God, no nation is completely innocent. We all deserve death.
  3. In God's mercy, God warned Abimelek, so that he and others would not be killed.

Genesis 20:6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.

God took this personally. Still in a sense, God was nice to Abimelek. In another sense, God was harsh to him because

Zechariah 2:8 whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.

There is no doubt here that compared with Abimelek, Abraham was favored by God. One may say that this is unfair. Well, favor is a theme that runs through the entire Bible. Favor is not fair from human's point of view.

There is another example in Exodus 10:2

that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.

Ultimately, the harshness is for His glory. God is God.

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