The Almighty’s Sense of Humor
So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife. Gen 20:17-18 (KJV)
Let us recall the context. Avraham moved his family from Mamre, where he encountered the three messengers, to Gerar. In Gerar Avimelech kidnapped the ninety-year-old barren Sarah for a wife and got into a trouble: he had to bargain his life with the Almighty. Elohim punished him, his wife, and all in his household with an illness Avraham had to pray over.
Now, we have a problem here. According to KJV, the illness Elohim placed on Avimelech, his wife and the servants was that their “wombs” were restrained and they could not bear anymore (KJV translators added the word “children” which is not in the Hebrew text).
The first problem with this translation is that Avimelech, who did not have a womb and obviously could not be able to bear “children”, was also affected with this illness. The second problem is that according to verse 7, this illness would kill him and all of his household with him. This illness appears to be the closing of Avimelech’s “womb” and also the “wombs” of his wife and servants. Does that make any sense? No, of course. No males die because they are “barren”. Even barren women do not die because of this. The problem here is the poor translation on the part of the KJV translators.
The Hebrew verb יָלַד yalad , rendered as “to bear children” actually means “to bring forth” anything that can be brought forth. Yalad can mean to bear children, but more literally and inthe context of the text means to bring forth.
The second word in question is the noun רֶחֶם rechem translated as “wombs” but literally means “bowels”.
So, we can correctly translate the above verse as,
And Avraham pleaded to Elohim, and Elohim healed Avimelech and his wife, and his female servants, so they can bring forth. For YHVH had quickly closed up all the bowels, of the house of Avimelech over the matter of Sarah, Avraham’s wife.
The Hebrew text literally states that their bowels could not “bring forth” whatever the bowels usually bring forth. In other words, Avimelech and all with him could not void. They were suffering from constipation. From the context we see that they could have died within few days if Avraham had not prayed for them. And this is what could happen if there is no voiding at all. That was their punishment. Death from abdominal pains can be really terrible.
However, Josephus gives us a slight different account in Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1, Ch 12:1.
ABRAHAM now removed to Gerar of Palestine, leading Sarah along with him, under the notion of his sister, using the like dissimulation that he had used before, and this out of fear: for he was afraid of Abimelech, the king of that country, who did also himself fall in love with Sarah, and was disposed to corrupt her; but he was restrained from satisfying his lust by a dangerous distemper* which befell him from God. *a viral disease that affects various animals, especially dogs and cats characterized by fever, vomiting, diarrhea leading to dehydration, and sometimes death.
Either way, whatever happened to Avimelech is bowel related, not procreation related. The Targum renders the phrase in question as and they were relieved; or their orifices (bodily openings) were opened, and they expelled that which needed to be expelled. As if they were born anew when they got relieved. Also, the rabbis explained every womb in v.18 as every [bodily] opening [from Gen. Rabbah 52:13].
Picture this: Avimelech and his wife with swelled bellies sitting on the toilet all day long in order to prevent any defilement of Sarah, the Almighty closed the delicate openings of their bowels causing them a “minor” inconvenience.
Tell me that YHVH does not have a sense of humor. We were taught to believe that Elohim is always vengeful and wrathful but He can have humor, as well; His kind of humor.