From Genesis 12-15
There is a famine. Egypt is the only place with food around. Abram has to go to Egypt to get food. But Abram fears what they will do to him when they see how beautiful his wife Sarai is. What can he do? Should we find fault with Abram for his chosen course of action?
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
God had given several great promises to Abram earlier on in the chapter. He even renewed his promise to give him offspring. Abram has turned into a bit of a wanderer. Having traveled to several places on his way to the Negeb.
10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. (Gen 12:10)
Abraham realises there is a famine. So using his common sense, he goes to find food.
He goes to Egypt, but there is a problem. Abraham has been to several places. He seems acquainted with people, their customs and how they are likely to behave. He believes these people have no fear of God and will kill him because his wife Sarai is beautiful.
11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live.
13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” (Gen 12:11–13)
Abram fears the Egyptians will kill him so they can take his beautiful wife for themselves.
What were Abram’s options?
There is a famine. Egypt is the only place with food around. Is he asking Sarai to lie? No. Sarai is his sister. His half-sister (Gen 11.31). But he’s not telling them all the truth either.
Abram fears what they will do to him when they see how beautiful she is. Should we find fault with Abram for his chosen course of action? Consider this story about a drowning man. Likewise from Augustine.
‘Now it is part of sound doctrine, that when a man has any means in his power, he should not tempt the Lord his God.’
Given his circumstances Abram is taking a course of action he believes will preserve his and Sarai’s life.
14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
17 But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. (Gen 12:14–17)
Abram’s actions demonstrated a large amount of faith that Sarai would be kept safe.
As Abram expected, the Egyptians took her. He is not killed. Rather he profits from it and is given cattle and servants. The LORD is still with him. He is making sure he and Sarai are protected (cf. Gen 20.3).
18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had. (Gen 12:18–20)
Pharaoh realises the reason for the plagues. He criticises Abram for not telling him she was his wife and lets her go. Abram walks away with his wife and he received many blessings through the incident. The LORD is with him and will soon afterward renew his promise with Abram.
The LORD doesn’t bring up what happened when they meet (cf. Gen 13.14-18). As if nothing was wrong.
When Abram uses the same ploy again in Genesis 20, the LORD tells Abimelech to ask Abraham to pray for him.
Its hard to know what people are really thinking sometimes. Whether their actions are directed by faith or doubt.
Sometimes appearances are misleading. God sees the inner reality.
Many years later the the prophet Samuel will seek a replacement king for Saul. Initially they saw one prime candidate. But the LORD had other plans (1 Sam 16.6-7). Isaiah will predict the coming of the suffering servant, the messiah. He also said their was nothing in his appearance that would attract others to him (Isa 53.2-3).
Abram is called ‘the man of faith’ by Paul (Gal 3.9). It may be easy to condemn his actions here, judging him by mere appearance without knowing what is going on in his heart. Or knowing his motives or how he demonstrates his faith in God.
6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”
10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Mt 26:6–13)
The disciples condemned the woman for what she had done. Its so easy to condemn a person’s actions if you don’t know what’s going on in their heart.
Jesus sees behind what people are doing and looks into their heart.
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