Marah (Ex 15:22-15:27

Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea.  They went into the wilderness of Shur.  They went three days in the wilderness and found no water.  When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter.  That is why it is called Marah.  The people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’  He cried out to Yahweh.  Yahweh showed him a piece of wood.  He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.”

Now begins the desert journey as they are free from Egypt.  They went out into the wilderness of Shur, which is on the eastern border of Egypt.  Both Abraham and Hagar had visited here on their way to Egypt.   Three days later they arrived at Marah, a place of bitter water.  They could not drink the water so they began to complain to Moses.  Yahweh told Moses to take a piece of wood and throw it into the water, and the water would become sweet.  He did that and the problem was solved.

“There Yahweh made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test.  He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of Yahweh your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians.  I am Yahweh, who heals you.’ Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees.  They camped there by the water.” 

God said to them they would have to listen or he might bring the diseases that he sent on the Egyptians.  Then good news, they came to Elim, where there were 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees, so they camped there.  Elim has been identified as Wadi Ghurundel in the southwest Suez area.  Both of these places may have been pretty close to the Egyptian border.

Abraham at Gerar (Gen 20:1-20:20:18)

“From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb, and lived between Kadesh and Shur.  While residing in Gerar as an alien, Abraham said of his wife Sarah, ‘She is my sister.’ King Abimelech of Gerar sent and took Sarah.  But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, ‘you are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken.  She is a married woman.’  Now Abimelech had not approached her.  So he said, ‘Lord, will you destroy an innocent people?  Did he not himself say to me, `She is my sister’? And she herself said, `He is my brother.’ I did this in the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands.’  Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart.  Furthermore it was I who kept you from sinning against me.  Therefore I did not let you touch her.  Now then, restore the man’s wife.  He is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.’”

Abraham went into the region of the Negeb, which is almost the wilderness, south of Canaan on the way to Egypt.  He stayed between Kadesh, which will become the southeastern border of Palestine, and Shur, which is closer to Egypt.  In this area of Gerar, south of Gaza, they resided as aliens.  Once again Abraham pretended that Sarah was his sister, the second time he has used this lie. Now why would King Abimelech of Gerar think that this 90 year old pregnant woman was attractive?  Obviously this is an Elohist repeat of what happened in Egypt, when she was younger. King Abimelech wants to take Sarah as his wife. However, in a dream, God told him that she was a married woman. Abimelech pleaded that he was innocent since he had been told by her and Abraham that she was Abraham’s sister.  God said that Abimelech had integrity of the heart.  This is strange that it would have been okay to have sex with her if she was not married. He told him to return Sarah to Abraham, since he is a prophet and will pray for you to live.  But if you do not return her, you will die.

“So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told them all these things.  The men were very much afraid.  Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said to him, ‘What have you done to us? How have I sinned against you, that you have brought such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that ought not to be done.’ Abimelech said to Abraham, ‘what were you thinking of, that you did this thing?’  Abraham said, ‘I did it because I thought, there is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.  Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother.  She became my wife.  When God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, `This is the kindness you must do me. At every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.'”

The next morning Abimelech told his servants and they were afraid.  Then he called Abraham and asked him why he had done this to him.  Abraham responded that he did this trick because there was no fear of God in this place and he feared that they would kill him.  This is the second time he justified this lie.  He pulled out his trump card by saying that Sarah is his half-sister, since they have different mothers but the same father.  This might explain the sterility of Abraham and Sarah. Terah, who had three sons, Abram, Nahor, and Haran, also had a daughter from a different woman, but that is not mentioned in the genealogy of Terah.  Clearly the father of Abram had multiple wives or concubines.

“Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him.  Abimelech said, ‘My land is before you.  Settle where it pleases you.’  To Sarah he said, ‘Look, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver.  It is your exoneration before all who are with you.  You are completely vindicated.’  Then Abraham prayed to God.  Then God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.  For Yahweh had closed fast all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.”

King Abimelech said okay and gave Abraham his wife back with slaves, sheep and oxen, and a 1000 pieces of silver.  He told him that he can settle anywhere he wanted to live in Gerar.  Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech as well as his wife and all the female slaves so that they were able to bear children, because their wombs had been closed.