“Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, so that they bore children.  For the LORD had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.” Gen. 20:16-17

Abraham prays for Abimelech as God said he would in v. 7.  Rabbi Benno Jacob asked why this prayer was necessary, and says it was to ensure Abraham and Sarah were entirely vindicated.  I would add that perhaps God wanted to give Abraham a chance to repent of his own action in the process, as Abraham may have been wondering “Why does God want me to pray for Abimelech?  For he was innocent, and I was really the one who was in the wrong”  And thus by God’s kindness we are led to repentance.

As with Pharaoh in Genesis 12, we see again that Abraham’s assessment of the moral state of the people was off.  (see my previous posting A Word on Pharaoh )  Abraham said in v. 11 “surely there is no fear of God in this place...”  But yet we see just a few verses earlier when Abimelech told his court about the dream he had that “all the men were greatly frightened.” (v. 8).

Many common translations inform us that “the LORD had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech” as punishment on Sarah’s account (v. 17).  These translations may be lacking however, in that we see God healed Abimelech, who obviously has no womb, as well.  The general opinion of antiquity seems to be that impotence was upon the men of the household.