Chapter 20: We've seen this before, but in Egypt. Abraham tells the people in a new place that Sarah is is sister and the ruler takes her...and then finds out it was really his wife and now he is in trouble with God. This time, Abraham and Sarah are traveling and end up in Gerar. Again, Abraham tells them that Sarah is his sister and Sarah says that Abraham is her brother. An unclear amount of time passes and then God comes to Abimelech (the local ruler who took Sarah) in a dream and tells him that he has taken Abraham's wife. Abimelech replies with a "Woah, she said she was his sister and I haven't touched her...how was I supposed to know?" God says, "OK, I'll let you off the hook this time because you haven't touched her, but give her back to Abraham." So, Abimelech pays off Abraham in a very similar fashion as the Pharaoh (animals, silver, servants, etc.) and God lifts the curse he placed on Abimelech's women (he shut their wombs).
Abimilech asks why Abraham lied to him and he responds that it was neither a lie nor truth. He is actually a half brother to Sarah, so she is both his wife and sister. Therefore it was not a lie. Abraham continues that he did not want someone to kill him for his wife.
Now this all seems a little strange to me, and it seems that Abraham and Sarah have a pretty good con going on. Go into a new town, have say Sarah is his sister, have her get taken, have God get mad and curse the people, get Sarah back, and finally get lots of stuff as a pay off for the misunderstanding. Whatever the case, Abimelech then tells Abraham and Sarah to pick a place in his lands and take it.
Chapter 21: Sarah has Isaac as promised. He is circumcised, grows, and is weaned. Abraham throws a feast for Isaac and Hagar's (remember, she had Abraham's kid earlier?) son started mocking Issac. Sarah is torqued off by this and tells Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael packing so that Issac will be the sole heir. Woefully, Abraham sends the two off into the wilderness with just a loaf of bread and a jug of water. God tells him not to worry as Ishmael will be a father of his own nation as well.
Naturally, things do not go well for Hagar with a son and only some bread and water in the wilderness. When the water is gone, she gives up on life, and throws her son under some shrubs to cry and die where she doesn't have to see it. She prays to God and then is answered by finding a well with which to give him water. This is all very confusing, because as best we can tell from prior evidence, Ishmael would have been in his mid-late teens at this point. Was he really that old when Hagar left him under a shrub? Or are the stories somewhat out of order? Anyway, the well was in a place called Beersheba...although it may not have been called that when this story actually takes place because we would hear about the well at Beersheba being named later in the chapter.
Back to Abraham...Now Abimelech comes up to Abraham and basically tells him, "I know you are a man of God, I know you will be of great power, so let's make a deal....I've always been good to you, so you should promise that you will never turn on me or my sons or my son's sons." Abraham proceeds to say that he hasn't always been good to him as his men had taken a well away from Abraham. Abimelech denies knowing anything about it and claims innocence of the incident. So Abraham gets 7 ewes and tells Abimelech that they will be witness to the fact that the well in question was in fact dug by Abraham and that it is his well. Abimelech says OK and all is fine and dandy. They name the place Beersheba (is this the same well that Hagar was saved at?), Abraham plants a grove of trees and decides to go traveling with his family some more....hopefully not to tell more people she is his sister (which will be kind of hard now that they have a kid together).
...more to come....