This is the second part to last week’s post, Abram’s Call, Genesis 1-9. In summary, Abram obeys God by journeying to Canaan (Shechem). He then sets up camp between Ai and Bethel where he worships God. But when a severe famine strikes, Abram detours to Egypt: a land of plenty for both food and good land for his flocks.
You may read Genesis 12:10-20 here: Bible Gateway
Why would God call Abram to a land of famine?
Some commentators say this was a test of Abram’s faith, which Abram passed with flying colors. Instead of questioning God in the face of difficulty, he used his intelligence to temporarily move and wait for new opportunities.
Other commentators suggest Abram lacked faith that God would supply his needs in the midst of a famine. Although the Bible doesn’t comment either way, God clearly protected Abram and worked through his mistakes.
Verses 10-20 sound like an ancient soap opera. And though Abraham is a hero of faith, we glimpse a crack in his faith shield.
In fear of Pharoah noticing Sarai’s beauty (his wife)—and killing Abram—he devises a half-lie. Seventy-five year old Abram instructs Sarai, who is also his half-sister, to say she is only his sister if questioned. Beauty in those days was viewed differently than in our time and culture.
Medieval commentators suggest that what Abram hopes to get out of being Sarai’s brother is the right to receive and deny all suitors’ requests to be Sarai’s husband, in this way protecting her from adultery or bigamy. However, Abram is also acting in fear to save his life.
As if on cue, Pharoah does notice Sarai and takes her into his household. He also showers Abram with provisions of gifts: sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, menservants and maidservants (12:15-16).
However, this arrangement is short lived. God inflicts Pharoah and his household with serious diseases. After pinpointing when and where his troubles began, Pharoah summons Abram and confronts him with the truth. For absolute truthfulness was a central feature of Egyptian ethics.
Abram appears to get away scott-free as Pharoah sends Abram, Sarai, and all their gifts away with just a scolding. But Layman’s Commentary Bible observes: “Everything Abram receives in Egypt later causes him trouble. Because of the great wealth he acquires from Pharaoh, Abram and Lot choose to separate (13:5-6). Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant who Pharaoh gives to Abram, brings division and sorrow with far-reaching consequences (16:1-16).”
Food For Thought
- Have you ever told a half-lie only to find it spiral out of control? I’ve found that half-lies usually make matters worse.
- “Faith is holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.” – C.S. Lewis
Next week I’ll pick up on Genesis 13, Abram and Lot Separate. Have a great week!