What does Genesis 20:18 mean?
ESV: For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
NIV: for the LORD had kept all the women in Abimelek's household from conceiving because of Abraham's wife Sarah.
NASB: For the Lord had completely closed all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
CSB: for the Lord had completely closed all the wombs in Abimelech's household on account of Sarah, Abraham's wife.
NLT: For the Lord had caused all the women to be infertile because of what happened with Abraham’s wife, Sarah.
KJV: For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.
Verse Commentary:
The previous verse reveals that in response to Abraham's prayer for their healing, God restored the ability of Abimelech's wife and his female slaves to bear children. This verse concludes that God had closed all the wombs of all the women in the house of Abimelech because of Sarah. She had been taken in as a wife, by Abimelech, who was deceived by a lie told by Sarah and Abraham (Genesis 20:2–3).

This established two points that are important when interpreting this incident. First, Sarah must have been in Abimelech's household for a while before God appeared to him in the dream. She had to be there long enough for it to become apparent that the women of the household could not bear children. That's not something one can realize in a few short days, or even weeks.

Second, this shows us once again that God exercises complete control over fertility, giving and withholding children as He sees fit. Psalm 127:3 indicates that children are a gift from the Lord. He sometimes withholds them in judgment, as He did here, or until the time is right, as will happen with the birth of Isaac in the following chapter. At still other times, He withholds children without explanation or condemnation. In all cases, His people are called to trust the Father's timing, His grace, and His love.
Verse Context:
Genesis 20:1–18 describes what happens when Abraham once again moves to a new place and insists on lying that Sarah is merely his sister and not his wife. Abimelech, the king of Gerar, takes Sarah as one of his wives. He is soon struck with an illness and visited in a dream with a warning from God that he will die if he doesn't return Sarah to Abraham and if Abraham doesn't pray for him. Sarah is returned untouched, Abraham prays, and all are healed.
Chapter Summary:
Here, Abraham practically duplicates one of the oddest episodes in his earlier life. As he did with the Egyptians in Genesis chapter 12, Abraham moves through a new area and claims that Sarah is his sister. The king of Gerar, Abimelech, takes Sarah for one of his wives, but he is soon struck ill. God appears and tells Abimelech he will die for taking a married woman. Abimelech insists he did not know and has not slept with Sarah. The Lord says that if he returns her, and if Abraham prays for them, all will be healed.
Chapter Context:
After the dramatic events of the previous chapters, Abraham moves south of Gaza to Gerar. As he did in Egypt, he claims that his wife is his sister. The king of Gerar, Abimelech, takes Sarah as his wife, but is soon struck ill and never approaches her. The Lord offers to spare Abimelech and his household if he will return Sarah and if Abraham will pray for them. Sarah is returned. All are healed, including all the women who have been unable to bear children. In the following chapter, Sarah herself will finally bear Abraham a son—an outcome God safeguards through His actions in this chapter.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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