Genesis 12:11-13; 20:2, 13. “As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarah, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.’” . . . . For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, ‘She is my sister. Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her… And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, ‘He is my brother.’”
Exegesis and Application
Abraham is willfully lying in Genesis 12 and 20. His son, Isaac, is willfully lying in Genesis 26, Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, is willfully lying in Genesis 27, Abraham’s great grandsons, Simeon and Levi, are willfully lying in Gen. 34:23, and Abraham’s great, great grandsons are dispersed throughout the land of Israel in Gen. 49:5-7. There are, of course, great and noble character traits in our patriarchs but the fact that they lied repeatedly and for personal gain stain their characters, and make them human like us. The Trans-generational lying habit of Abraham’s family finds its warning in Exodus 34:7b: “Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (cf, Ex. 20:5; Nu. 14:18; Jer. 32:18) Later, the Babylonian exiles return to Jerusalem and celebrate the feast of the booths as they pray and “confess their sins and the iniquities of their ancestors.” (Neh. 9:2) There is much to confess for the descendents of Abraham.
Sin travels in the family and bad parents foster bad children and bad grandchildren. A stark report of bad parenting is given us with the example of Eli and his two worthless sons, (“sons of Belial”) Hophni and Phinehas. (1 Samuel 2:12) Eli was an absentee dad who neglected the godly training of his boys. (2: 13-14, “the iniquity of Eli’s house”) 1st and 2nd Kings and Chronicles are filled with other biblical examples of bad parenting leading to lousy children and grandchildren, so the point to be made is that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
1) Christian journalist, remember this Abrahamic lesson as you report on the activities of prominent persons in our society. Be skeptical of the reported attributes of the children of famous sinners in our country. It takes a great deal of time and commitment to raise godly children in our culture and if the parents are spending their time lying, cheating and stealing their way to prosperity and power, their children and grandchildren are picking up life’s lessons from such activity. Ask the questions.
2) Christian journalist, don’t make the mistake that Old Testament commentator John Skinner makes when he wrote, “It is assumed that in the circumstances, lying is excusable. There is no suggestion that either the untruthfulness or the selfish cowardice of Abraham was severely reprobated.” Baloney! Abraham was a lying dog and so were his sons. He needed to repent and change his ways, and instruct his boys to do likewise.
3) Christian journalist, don’t underestimate the staying power of lying. Once you begin to lie, even under understandable circumstances, it is an addictive habit to break and those closest to you see you doing it. Commit yourselves to being truth-tellers to those who have every reason to believe you and to expect honesty from you.