Questions From Readers
● In the 1956 Watchtower series of articles on marriage, paragraph 36 on page 596 says: “If a person forgivingly takes an erring mate back again it should be without collecting such [woman] damages.” When the Philistine king Abimelech returned Sarah to Abraham, may not the money that Abimelech then gave to Abraham be considered “woman damages”?—Gen. 20:14-16.
The scripture cited reads: “Following that Abimelech took sheep and cattle and men slaves and women slaves and gave them to Abraham and returned to him Sarah his wife. Further Abimelech said: ‘Here my land is available to you. Dwell where it is good in your eyes.’ And to Sarah he said: ‘Here I do give a thousand silver pieces of money to your brother. Here it is for you a covering of the eyes to all who are with you, and before everybody, and you are cleared of reproach.’”
According to the Bible account, Sarah was not an erring mate. Abraham did not deliberately lend her out to King Abimelech to commit adultery with his beautiful wife Sarah that he might thereafter collect what is called “woman damages” from Abimelech as her violator. Abraham was not setting an example for polygamists today who keep a number of concubines for the express purpose of prostituting them, just to collect “woman damages” over and over again on the same concubine.
By letting King Abimelech take Sarah away from him Abraham was trying to protect his own life. Had it been known that Sarah was his wife, Abraham might have been killed by the Philistines in order that they might take Sarah forcibly away from him for the sexual pleasures of King Abimelech. Sarah was the half sister of her husband Abraham and he and she had agreed that in this enemy territory in Canaan she should always say that he was her brother so that there would be no reason or excuse to kill Abraham in order to get his wife. So King Abimelech took Sarah away on the understanding that she was merely the sister and not the wife of Abraham.
In a dream God informed King Abimelech that he had taken Abraham’s wife but that God had not allowed Abimelech to touch her. God now commanded Abimelech to return Sarah to Abraham because Abraham was God’s prophet and Abraham would then make supplication to God for Abimelech that he might keep living and that the women of his household might bear children again.
The sheep and cattle and men slaves and women slaves that King Abimelech gave to Abraham after returning Sarah were not as a payment to him for having used his wife in a sexual way. Abimelech gave this gift as a compensation to Abraham for having temporarily deprived him of his wife. Neither were the thousand silver pieces of money that Abimelech gave to Abraham a sort of “woman damages.” King Abimelech told Sarah that this money was a gift made to her “brother” to cover her in the eyes of everybody who became informed of this affair, to show that she was innocent in the matter and that she was cleared by the king himself of all reproach against her as a moral woman. Abraham did not accept this money as “woman damages” for Abimelech’s having used his wife immorally. Had Abraham prostituted his wife Sarah in order to gain “woman damages,” God would not have said to Abimelech that Abraham could come to him in prayer and supplicate him to heal Abimelech so that Abimelech’s wife and slave girls might become pregnant again.—Gen. 20:6, 7.
Thus the Bible is cleared of any precedent for prostituting one’s wife in order to make money by her immorality.
Hence if a Christian husband forgives his wife for her adultery and takes her back to himself again, it should be solely because he has mercy upon her and not because he is reaping any financial gain through her immorality. Thus he clears himself before God and man, showing that he was not consenting to or conniving at the immorality of his wife in the hope of material gain thereby. He cannot, therefore, be disfellowshiped from the congregation because of the immorality of his wife. With a clean conscience he can go to God in prayer and pray that God will heal his wife spiritually and help her be a faithful wife thereafter.