A Question I Was Asked:

Wasn't Abram Contemptible At Times?

The Question:

Reading Genesis 12:10-20, I am wondering what is the learning point or "message" here. The passage clearly states that Abram, to save his own skin, sacrificed his wife's body to the Pharoah of Egypt and told a lie as well. How is that not contemptible? Would appreciate your view on this.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us look at this:

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, "I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you." When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. "What have you done to me?" he said. "Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!" Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had. (Genesis 12:10-20, NIV).

The point is, Abram was still learning at this time; he was striving to obey God but - like many of us - he was very imperfect. He was also still very affected by the Mesopotamian culture which he came out of; in that society women were purely seen as the possessions of men and were for the pleasure of men with few rights of their own (in contrast, women in Egypt did have more rights and enjoyed certain privileges). Abram pretty much knew (since Sarai was obviously exceptionally beautiful), that she would be seen and her beauty reported to the Pharaoh, so - on a purely human, carnal level - one could say that he was only being sensible, but the Lord showed him that it was unthinkable to offer his wife to another man in exchange for favours and privileges. This was one of many hard lessons which Abraham needed to learn.

It is doubtful that Abram intended his wife to remain as one of the Pharaoh's wives, or concubines, and perhaps he had already hatched a plan to snatch her back when he was due to leave Egypt but, probably for a short period of time, Sarai did indeed become one of the Pharaoh's women. It does seem a little strange to us today that Abram behaved in such a way but we must understand that we all have lessons to learn before God can effectively use us.

The message? Several actually. Lying might sometimes appear to be the best option but it never is; if one chooses to walk with God, it must be all the way. Even today, some want to obey God in this area or that area but rarely in every area of their lives. Abram lacked faith that God could protect him against the wiles of Pharaoh at the time, yet Abraham finally learned his lessons and today is the outstanding Old Testament example of faith.

Robin A. Brace. April 5th, 2013.