At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner. As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.” (Gen 12:10-13 NLT)
And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone spoke of Sarai’s beauty. When the palace officials saw her, they sang her praises to Pharaoh, their king, and Sarai was taken into his palace. Then Pharaoh gave Abram many gifts because of her—sheep, goats, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
But the Lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh summoned Abram and accused him sharply. “What have you done to me?” he demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ and allow me to take her as my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and get out of here!” Pharaoh ordered some of his men to escort them, and he sent Abram out of the country, along with his wife and all his possessions. (Gen 12:14-20 NLT)
The Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not it was God’s will for Abram to go down to Egypt. For that matter, the Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not Abram even asked. There was a famine in the land and so he left. Since scripture doesn’t tells us that God guided him there, I tend to believe that Abram went on his own. One bright spot in all of this is that scripture does say that he lived there as a ‘foreigner’, or as some translations put it – ” he sojourned there.” Abram didn’t intend to stay; only to live there until the famine ended.
As we trace his footsteps, we see that they led him down a slippery slope. There are at least three major consequences to Abram’s lack of faith. First there was the leaving and then there was the lying. (Well actually, it wasn’t a total lie; it was only a little twisting of the truth. According to Gen 20:12, Sarai was Abram’s half-sister. They both had the same father, but different mothers.) Later on in our studies we will also see the living. Abram’s decision to leave and to lie is going to have an impact upon the future and the way he and his nephew Lot, live. Thankfully, because this isn’t the final chapter, we know that it’s not the end of the story. Yet I am sure that it’s one part both Abram and God wished could have been left out.
Why did the Lord reveal to us this part of Abram’s life? For one thing, it happened. But perhaps also to help us realize that Abram was a sinner who needed salvation; just like the rest of us. Perhaps without a story like this, we might think that Abram somehow ‘earned’ the privilege to become God’s friend; yet he didn’t. Just like the rest of us, Abram was saved by his faith in the grace of God. This story also helps us to realize that although he was an old man in years, he was still a babe in his faith.
One resource I read while studying this passage was entitled, “A Faithless Man and a Faithful God.” That title makes me think of another passage of scripture –
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:8-9 NLT)
Thank you Lord for being my faithful Friend.