[Gen 12:10-20 KJV] 10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine [was] grievous in the land. 11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou [art] a fair woman to look upon: 12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This [is] his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. 13 Say, I pray thee, thou [art] my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. 14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she [was] very fair. 15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. 17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. 18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What [is] this [that] thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she [was] thy wife? 19 Why saidst thou, She [is] my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take [her], and go thy way. 20 And Pharaoh commanded [his] men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.
Troublesome times sent Abram and Sarai to Egypt. It was a famine in the land of Canaan, so they ventured to Egypt for help. Realizing how beautiful his wife was, Abram feared the Egyptians would kill him for her if they knew she was his wife. So, to save his own skin, he asked her to say that she was his sister. This text troubled me for some time. At first I felt like Abram was asking Sarai to lie. Surely he would not do that. Indeed, he did not do that. We see in Genesis 20:12 that Sarai is actually his half-sister. They have the same father but different mothers. So, he wasn’t asking her to lie, but why then did he need her to represent herself as his sister rather than his wife? The sages teach that Abram knew Sarai would be safe because he saw an angel with her but not one with himself. They tell us that Abram’s plan was to say she was his sister because an orphaned girl goes under the care of her brother. It was customary in those times for a suitor to pay a dowry for their future bride. Abram was going to set the price much higher than any suitor could afford to pay. However, I am not certain that he thought the Pharaoh himself would be interested in her. Indeed, the men of Egypt found Sarai very beautiful and desirable. They could not wait to tell Pharaoh about her. She was whisked away to Pharaoh. Pharaoh treated Abram well because of Sarai, giving him sheep, oxen, donkeys, and male and female servants, and female donkeys and camels.
God Protects Sarai
[Gen 12:17 KJV] 17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.
Here the great Rabbi Rashi explains that the angel was with Sarai and when Pharaoh or any of the men tried to come to her in an inappropriate manner she would say, “Smite him!” and the angel would. Rashi explains that the plague which came upon Egypt was impotence. It was here that I began to wonder, how did Pharaoh determine that Sarai was Abram’s wife and this was the reason for the plague? For this answer, I again turn to the sages. Rabbi Yitshak tells us to look again at the Scripture. He confirms that angels were present during this time. He said the angels told Pharaoh, “this plague is because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.” That was how Pharaoh knew. So Pharaoh confronted Abram for telling him that Sarai was his sister and he had his men escort Abram and Sarai and all that belonged to them out of Egypt.
Application for Today
As we read this account in Genesis we not only wonder why Abram did these things, but we wonder what this example has to do with us. How can this help us in our walk with God? To answer this question, let’s look at some symbolism:
- Canaan represents merchant and wealth; a level of spiritual bounty and closeness to God. Canaan represents those times when our spiritual relationship with God equals that of a spouse; a developed relationship where we feel passionately in love with God.
- Egypt (Mitzrayim) represents constraints; limitations; a level of limited spirituality with severe boundaries holding us back. It teaches us that even in difficult times we still have an inborn relationship with God at a sibling level where the innate love, although not as passionate, is still present and accessible. – Chabad
I venture to say that we all have days where we feel like we are walking through this life alone. We know God exists, but is He present with us? I think back to times early in my marriage, communication wasn’t that great, both my husband and myself were still practically babies growing up together. And there were times our disagreements reflected this immaturity in us. We argued and quarreled like brother and sister rather than husband and wife. We had gone down to Egypt, the mitzrayim of our immaturity was taking its toll on us. The mitzrayim of finances stretched us at times to feeling like very distant siblings, brothers and sisters who weren’t the least bit close. However, every time we endured the struggle, we came out stronger and headed back to Canaan. Each time we entered Egypt, I looked for God. Where was He? Had He abandoned me? I needed to vent. I wanted some of those angels Sarai had. But you see, I had different angels. I was blessed with a praying mother and grandmother who encouraged me to fight for my marriage, to protect the borders of that marriage, and to get my head out of the clouds and come back to reality. My angels weren’t there with a sword bringing plagues, they were there with Scripture in hand praying for my marriage, for my husband and me.
It’s easy to see God in Canaan. Everything is good. We are talking and happy; but when the trials of life smack us around, we lose sight of Canaan and we become as siblings with God. He hasn’t left us, but we have forged a little off the path. We have to go down to Egypt, descend a little ways, in order to return stronger in our relationship with God.
Famine is time when our sensitivity to God becomes dull, but godliness is inborn in our being. We are born with an essence of God. We only need to seek Him to find Him.
Father, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, thank you for never leaving us or forsaking us. Thank you for being with us when we are in Egypt just as when we are in Canaan. Thank you for showing us these events of Abram and Sarai to help us understand our relationship with You, for letting us know that even when we feel out of touch, You are there with us. Thank you for the trials and tribulations we endure which bring us closer to You. Please help us see Your wisdom in each trial we face. Help us remember that once we descend to Egypt, we will ascend again to Canaan and with extra blessings from the experience. Please protect us from our enemy in these trials just as You protected Sarai. May we be an empty vessel who is filled daily with Your presence. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever. Amen